My dear five friends, and the 54 other presidential candidates, I encourage you to set new standards in political campaigning in our dear country. Please engage Nigerians on issues-based campaigning on our key problems – insecurity, unemployment, poor health facilities, water and sanitation, ethnic and religious bigotry, etc. Make clear propositions for problem solving.


Maybe my time has come when I can begin to boast that my friends are in power. Five of my good friends, all of who are brilliant economists, are contesting for the presidency and all of them have developed impressive blueprints to grow the economy, eradicate poverty and create millions of jobs for our restive youth. Two of them were former deputy governors of the Central Bank, Kingsley Moghalu (Young Progressive Party) and Obadiah Mailafia (African Democratic Congress). The third was a vice president of the World Bank, Obiageli Ezekwesili (Allied Congress of Nigeria). Number four is Tope Fasua of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party and the final one is Sina Fagbenro-Byron of Kowa Party. These are people I have discussed and debated with over the years and I know that they all have deep passion and commitment to Nigeria. They have all reflected deeply on our country’s economic malaise and have developed programmes that that would place Nigeria where it belongs – the path to economic development. Had they discussed with me before venturing into politics, I would have advised them to work together and bring out a single candidate that could be the Third Force Nigerians have been looking for over the past three years.

They are not the only ones seeking to be the leader of the Third Force. Among the 59 presidential candidates that have emerged, we also have Omoyele Sowore of SaharaReporters (African Action Congress), former governor Donald Duke (Social Democratic Party) and the serial presidential attempter, Pastor Chris Okotie of the Fresh Democratic Party. The idea of the Third Force emerged about three years ago, as many young and sincere Nigerians began to feel that after 16-years of disastrous PDP rule and the widespread view that the All Progressives Congress had not lived up to the expectations of Nigerians, there was the need to seek a new leader who is younger, motivated, has a clear vision for the country and would provide the type of leadership we deserve. For two years, multiples of initiatives emerged, hundreds of meetings took place and billions of WhatsApp messages were exchanged, but at the end the numerous groups could not build synergy and a common purpose. Their analysis of the Nigerian dilemma and prescriptions to solve it were similar but they could not build the organisational platform to achieve the stated objective. Neither could they find ONE inspirational leader to move the project forward.

As it is well known, one of the biggest challenges in all political systems is devising rational criteria and an effective strategy for the recruitment of good leaders. Democracy, in itself, is not always very useful in this regard. Citizens sometimes choose leaders because they like their racism and tribalism or because they like the fact that they steal public funds and share (a bit of it) out. Of course, in Nigeria, we often refuse to even allow the people choose their bad leaders themselves, as we saw in a lot of the party primaries that took place a few weeks ago. Manipulation of the party machine, violence, money and security agencies were used to impose candidates in the various political parties. We are yet to learn the lesson that there are terrible consequences for allowing bad leaders to emerge.
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My dear five friends, and the 54 other presidential candidates, I encourage you to set new standards in political campaigning in our dear country. Please engage Nigerians on issues-based campaigning on our key problems – insecurity, unemployment, poor health facilities, water and sanitation, ethnic and religious bigotry, etc. Make clear propositions for problem solving. But please avoid facile and puerile non-feasible solutions, such as ‘I would produce millions of good jobs every year and end violent conflicts in my first year in office.’ Our problems are deep and they would need time to be solved. What we need to know from our candidates is their analyses of our problems and their strategies for resolving them. If my friends don’t make it this time, the field would be occupied by two well-known faces of Fulani men in their seventies, in spite of all the efforts of the “not too young to rule” campaign.

Muhammadu Buhari’s ruling APC programme is entitled the “Next Level” and makes the argument that they have laid the foundational work for national development, which they argue is not often visible nor glamorous but is vital to achieving the kind of country we desire: “Judging by the prior depth of decay, deterioration and disrepair that Nigeria had sunken into, we are certain that these past few years have put us in good stead to trudge on the NEXT LEVEL of building an even stronger nation for our people. We have worked hard to fulfil our promises – and while the road may have been difficult, over the last three and a half years, we have laid the foundations for a strong, stable and prosperous country for the majority of our people.”

Both programmes promise to provide millions of jobs, improve infrastructure, rapidly grow small-scale enterprises and eradicate poverty. They are both well-written and presented in a readable style. What is important now is to begin a serious analysis of the feasibility of each one achieving its set objectives on the basis of the reality on the ground.


The PDP has presented what they call the Atiku Plan and he promises, as follows:

“- My plan will give Nigerian workers a living wage.
– My plan will give Nigeria’s youth a world-class education.
– My plan will empower Nigerian women, reduce maternal mortality and increase their financial stability.
– My plan will cater for the elderly, so our people are not afraid of growing old.
– My plan will invest in our failing infrastructure.
– But above all, my plan will help create jobs because in my many travels across our great nation the one consistent thing I hear wherever I am is that our people need jobs.
– Today we will begin the process of sharing our policies that form my plan to create jobs, restructure the polity, and Get Nigeria Working Again.”

Both programmes promise to provide millions of jobs, improve infrastructure, rapidly grow small-scale enterprises and eradicate poverty. They are both well-written and presented in a readable style. What is important now is to begin a serious analysis of the feasibility of each one achieving its set objectives on the basis of the reality on the ground. The candidates need to be seriously interrogated on the basis of their past records and the strength of their plans for our collective future.

foraminifera

A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of PREMIUM TIMES.