Nigerians must know that 2019 is the pass into whatever kind of future they desire for their country. Let no one be deceived, countries, like human beings also do, reach points of elasticity; that point at which they can no longer contain stuff contrary to their well-being and everything snaps.
Quite alright, Nigerians pride themselves with some near universal resilience, but were the ruling elite a little more perceptive, they would notice the signs that the people are reaching a breaking point, and that the country is actually on the edge of a precipice, have been with us for quite a while.
There was a time you could take a bet with that Nigerians would never lend themselves to suicide killing. The crime of killing has of course been since creation. After all in spite of the ecclesiastical covering that they both had, Cain murdered his brother, Abel, very early in the story of the creation of man. Some men and women, even in Nigeria, have found reasons to terminate the lives of other people forever, but a time existed that no one contemplated that any one born in this country under God could one day sacrifice their own life in the bid to kill another person. That bubble has since busted on our faces.
With the emergence of the Boko Haram insurgency in 2009, suicide killing would account for the death of tens of thousands of our compatriots. Not only that, it has become so bad that volunteers are no longer restricted to adults and children who may have succumbed to indoctrination or duress by leaders of the insurgent group, some parents have been noted to voluntarily surrender their children for deployment into this journey of no return that seemed alien to Nigeria. The foregoing bears all the signs of impending disaster which Nigerians should depend on no one but themselves to reverse.
Take the Boko Haram issue for an instance. The perpetrators of the insurgency have sure put a garb of religion on the criminal endeavour but a thorough interrogation of the operations will show that there have been as many victims of the Islamic faith as there have been Christians. A jihadist organisation in the mode that Boko Haram wants to sell itself would not target mosques and kill innocent faithful of the same faith it claims to propagate. That fact gives the idea away as a confused one encouraged by a country which has abandoned its duty of care.
What Nigerians should therefore seek in candidates they would elect into office in the 2019 elections is the communication of concrete plans on how to take Nigeria out of the woods of despair.
It is unfortunate that unlike what we had in the Second Republic when the mere mention of the names of political parties not only told of their ideologies but key points of their manifestos, today’s political parties are six and half a dozen with differences only in their names and insignias.
The people themselves divorced from the essential responsibilities of each political party to provide programmatic agenda distinguishing it from others and speaking to the developmental needs of that society, have found some ultimately unhelpful primordial criterion for the selection of those they elect.
So, since 1999 when Nigeria returned to civil rule, electoral choices are largely made on the bases of personalities and primordial affinities like religion and ethnicity. Neither politicians nor their political parties have had to show any manifest course of action to rescue the country out of the assorted troubles that it grapples with and those problems get compounded by the day.
Social factors that would have contributed to the escalation of the Boko Haram insurgency, for instance, are the suffocating level of poverty in the country, the rate of youth unemployment as well as the volume of out-of-school children whose minds are impressionable and susceptible to the manipulation of proponents of the insurgency.
Concerning the out-of-school children in particular, Executive Secretary of Universal Basic Education, Hammid Bobboyi, last week hinted that there are 13.2 million out-of-school children in Nigeria. This number grew from 10.5 million quoted in 2015, a clear indication that the absence of a plan to tackle the out-of-school children problem has worsened it in three years. If things go on this way, the number of out-of-school children would have gone up in another four years and Nigeria will most definitely have more than the Boko Haram insurgency to deal with.
So, as the February elections approach, Nigeria would do well to seek clear answers from politicians about how they plan to take off millions of these children off the streets and put them in school sustainably. Nigerians must ask questions about how every Nigerian child would have basic education and how those who desire to pursue further education will not be hindered by the state.
Now, serious countries do not just educate their children for the sake of it, education must be purposeful and tied into the development plan of the country. Anyone canvassing votes in 2019 should have an idea of what the country’s educational priorities should be and exact destination it would take the country.
Nigeria’s leader post-2019 should be able to sell an agenda for the overhaul of the health sector to improve access, quality of healthcare, personnel and equipment should be in focus. While the Federal Government would argue that the primary and secondary legs of health care delivery are outside of its purview, leadership at the national level must show passion and motivate the states and local governments to live up to expectation. The one leading the country into the future should have a well-spelt-out idea of how to end the unacceptable level of medical tourism even at the level of those leading the country.
And then the Nigerian economy needs attention. There should be a clear path for the diversification of the economy. The country’s near total reliance on the commodities of extractive industry as a major source of export and revenue earning remains unsustainable and ill-advised. This is not just because of their volatility but the fact that they remain cesspools for corruption. So, what is the one aspiring to lead Nigeria going to do about increasing the country’s contribution to the world’s knowledge base? How should the country explore the potential of the creative industry to its economic advantage? What is the role that the country’s burgeoning human capital such that what looks like a demographic advantage will not soon become the country’s undoing.
And then, there is the very important issue of national integration. No matter what Nigeria achieves on the economic plain, it will remain limited by the level of disaffection and distrust that currently exists amongst its ethnic nationalities. Nigeria’s next leader must be able to assure every single countryman that he can aspire to become anything anywhere he finds himself in the country.
If anyone was in doubt of the power of the average Nigerian to determine the future of the country, these elections again celebrate the citizen’s democratic right. Nigerians should exercise this discretion by asking the right questions and not getting swept by unhelpful sentiments which condone incompetence and put the country at risk.