Analysis with Dr Sunday Olawale

As the 2023 campaigns hot up, parties have hit the campaign trail. Public affairs analyst, Dr Sunday Olawale in this interview takes a look at what the gladiators have been presenting before Nigerians.

Politicians are out with their train to canvass votes, how best can the political climate be described?

The political situation can be described as interesting and terrifying. It is interesting because the words, gestures, drama, comedy and acrobatics manifested by the contestants and their allies are entertaining. These make the atmosphere very stimulating. On the other hand, the political climate is terrifying because of the prevailing insecurity occasioned by political thugs and footsoldiers unleashing fear and terror on opponents in different regions of the country.  In the final analysis, the political climate has not largely departed from the age-long crudity and stomach infrastructure. If there had been an improvement in people’s standard of living, the observed abnormalities would have been minimized.

To what extent have the campaigns been issue-based?

The issue-based campaign has slightly improved from what it used to be in yesteryears. All the candidates spoke about their manifestos either sincerely or otherwise.  However, some of them are not civil by raining insults and abuses on their opponents and calling them unprintable names. This is unbecoming of ideal political campaigns. One feels that subsequently, heavy penalties should be meted on politicians that exhibit such oddities.

What are the cogent issues that should be the focus of attention?

The cogent issues that should be focused on in the present-day Nigeria political campaigns are as follows:

* Security: This should be the utmost priority because life, welfare and development are not guaranteed when insecurity prevails. Already, precious lives and unquantifiable property have been destroyed by herdsmen, bandits, terrorists and foreign mercenaries.  The country has been enmeshed in a spate of insecurity for the last two decades without respite. This is a big issue for the campaign.

*Improved economy: It’s no news that Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world while the citizenry is wallowing in poverty, misery and penury. Therefore, any serious politician should focus on how to tackle poverty headlong.

*Education: There is the axiom that no nation can be greater than the quality of its education. Looking at our country, all the pillars of education are in shambles. Policies are not faithfully implemented. Teachers are not well-paid. Infrastructures are inadequate or dilapidated. Education has almost become a commodity solely for the highest bidders. Strikes have become an anthem in public tertiary institutions. There are complaints from employers that many graduates are unemployable. Some countries overseas also discriminate against the products of our higher institutions. Agreements and MoUs will labour unions in institutions of learning are breached with impunity. Brain drain has become an epidemic. The list seems endless.  These are issues for a political manifesto.

*Political Restructuring: There is agitation against injustice and marginalization in different parts of the country. The best thing is calling a national conference where the felt grievances of non-state actors would be addressed. 

*Civil service: it’s glaring that civil service is no longer what it used to be. There’s a need for reformation.

*Revival of agriculture: It is glaring that many people have abandoned agriculture and shifted attention to white-collar jobs, while the youths focus on internet fraud otherwise called yahoo. Instead, agriculture should be made appealing to the young and old if the nation should overcome the ravaging plagues of unemployment, underdevelopment, criminality and insecurity.

*Health: Health is wealth, but many people can’t access and afford health services these days. There must be a genuine effort to reposition the health ministry and services in that regard.

*Pension and gratuity: Many retirees are regretting their services to the nation because they are denied or made to suffer for years of meritorious service. They’re treated shabbily before being paid their entitlements after years of zero remuneration. This should not be.

* Social security: The state should take care of senior citizens like what is obtainable in the developed world.

*Rebranding the Armed Forces: There have been various reported cases of brutality and extrajudicial killings by the armed forces against civilians. This is another big issue.

Any marked difference between current campaigns and past ones since the inception of democracy in 1999?

There’s a degree of improvement between current campaigns by parties and past campaigns since the inception of democracy in 1999. For instance, there’s a decrease in the horror being meted in the past compared to this period. Again, technology has made troublemakers to be conscious of the fact that they can be monitored, caught and prosecuted unless the state is involved in their criminality. Superficially, the redesign of currency seemed to have weakened money politics and vote-buying, that is,  if the state does not have a vested interest in particular contestants.  But something that rubbishes the observed gain is the constant attack on INEC facilities and personnel, security agents and civilians alike by “unknown gunmen”. It’s quite unprecedented in the history of elections in the country. That means, if the citizenry and stakeholders do not have a sense of security of life and property, the current political experiment may turn out to be the worst in the history of the nation looking at such indices as security, turnout, fairness, credibility integrity and acceptability. To compound the already tense situation, artificial fuel scarcity is biting hard throughout the nation. This is a bad omen for the much anticipated peaceful, free, fair and credible elections.

Simeon Ugbodovon

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