By Damilare Adeleye
The growing number of presidential aspirants ahead of the forthcoming general elections may easily intrigue the appetite to know if Nigerian politicians are genuinely making call to serve and save the country from the current shambles. Despite the humongous one hundred million naira for the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) nomination forms, aspirants which have officially declared are more than seventeen. Similarly, the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has at least seventeen aspirants who have purchased the party’s N50 million presidential forms to jostle for the presidential ticket of the party. Undoubtedly, these patriotic individuals have unchallenging right to run for any positions in the country inasmuch as the prerequisites, as contained in the constitution are met, and have the resources to run the electioneering. However, the rising number is suspiciously raising some awareness among the Nigerian people.
When asked, one of the presidential hopefuls, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, told journalists at the State House, Abuja on Tuesday that the higher number the more the merrier. Besides, our democratic disposition allows every eligible citizen to contest any positions in the country, and there is no restriction of number to that constitutional provision. Politics is a playing field for anyone interested in the game, but Nigeria itself is not a game.
According to the recent report from the World Poverty Clock (WPC), Nigerian was ranked as the second world poverty capital with over seventy million people living in extreme poverty. Similarly, data from global sources pegged the rate of unemployment in Nigeria at 33.3 per cent of the overall population with many who are youths. And, over the last decade, the incessant security challenges have become unabated, and the economy has persisted on fluctuation. These are daunting challenges which these aspirants should take cognizant look before their quest to become the next president of the country. As a matter of concern, radical steps and pragmatic solutions should be proffered to these challenges during their various declarations.
Though, while many among the magnitude of these presidential hopefuls have established to consolidate on the achievement and foundation which the current administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari has attained, and others from the opposition party have unequivocally stated to reinstate the glory of the country lost in the hands of the ruling party. It is now imperative for the average Nigerian populace to take critical scrutiny on these aspirants in their number, to ensure the emergence of competent and capable leader. Their plethora of unending promises are not enough, their body language towards national issues, past records in governance and leadership position, cultural and religious morality, and educational background, among others should also be the parameters to scrutinize these aspiring individuals, and even when some become candidates.
As this moment, Nigeria truly needs a radical and transformational leader who is ready to confront the nation’s problems without bias or prejudice to any group or individual. We are in urge for someone who will critically take the bull by the horns against non-state actors who are wreaking havoc on the lives of innocent citizens on a daily basis. We are in demand for the right person who will well-manage our economy, socio-cultural and political diversities; and not the cohort of those who will only fend on our public treasury, lavish with our common wealth, leaving the masses to languish in the state of penury.
It is sad that at the time when the political space is tense as everyone is busy towards the 2023 general elections, our public universities are shut, and average Nigerian students are on the streets protesting against the strike action of academic universities unions (ASUU, SSANU and NASU). This should be a frontline concern for the presidential contenders. Unfortunately, those primarily saddled with responsibilities of managing the affairs of our education sector are among the increasing number of presidential optimists.
To end, the back-to-back declaration for presidency by politicians is, certainly, making the race interesting for mass participation. Nevertheless, the mantle of presidency is not a mere office for retirement. It is a sensitive office with the most tedious duties and responsibilities whose effectiveness count on our national lives. Therefore, it is crucial for we, the electorate, to remain vigilant on the politicians during this period to avoid being sidelined again after the elections!
Damilare Adeleye writes from Lagos State University.