A fortnight ago, over 90% of the Nigerian voting electorate who went out to cast their votes in the presidential elections actually voted for the wrong persons. As awkward as this assertion will sound to Nigerians who voted for the three front-runner candidates, the truth of the matter is that none of these candidates will have offered Nigeria the drastic change she yearns for and this is something Nigerians must come to terms with if they are really desirous of quenching their problematic thirst for a Messiah.
Only a discerning mind will fathom that all the leading candidates in the just concluded elections were well-packaged frauds that were nowhere close to the personalities that their supporters, followers, and admirers projected. Regardless of their perceived strengths and positives, the truth is that the only reason they desperately wanted to be President was to add their names to the list of Nigeria’s former leaders.
All four leading candidates namely, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi, and Rabiu Kwankwaso, going by their postulations showed they understood the problem of Nigeria, however, a critical look at their personalities, skillsets, and age will show that they clearly lack what it takes to deliver on the job they are applying for.
It is pertinent to establish here that the task that will be at the door, staring the incoming President of Nigeria in the face is twofold; resetting the country’s unworkable structure and providing astute leadership. In succinct terms, the core challenges confronting Nigeria today are reducible to just two factors which are parochial leadership, and a dysfunctional structure that is almost unworkable. Nigeria’s failure to tackle them head-on has left the country as a mere geographical expression. And just as a former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo recently submitted, Nigeria, till date was still a country and not yet a nation. And one can only help but agree with him.
It has been established that everything rises and falls on the doorsteps of leadership, it will be right to assume that the structural crisis being faced by Nigeria was caused by horrible leadership, and it will take a true, dynamic, and visionary leader to reset Nigeria and commence the transition of the country to nationhood. The truth is that these men; Tinubu, Atiku, and Obi do not in reality possess these attributes, and the earlier Nigerians get used to that reality, the better for them and their quest to enthrone good leadership in the country.
It wouldn’t be fair to blame Nigerians for their failure to make good calls at this point in time. The truth is that they have seen enough bad leadership that any flash of improvement will seem like Eldorado. Over the last eight years, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led-APC government had rather unsuccessfully grappled with the country ’s economic, social, and political challenges and only succeeded in making the country’s condition much worse than the party met it in 2015. Things were so bleak that its candidate in the 2023 election who has now succeeded in rigging himself into power, Bola Tinubu had to rely on his acclaimed performance as Lagos State Governor of over 15 years to sell his candidature.
The hopelessness that was unleashed by Nigerians by the APC government is the sole reason many Nigerians found discerning their left to their right an uphill task. But again, what benefit will it be to Nigerians to finally discard Buhari, only to replace him with Buhari ‘Pro Max?’
None of the leading Presidential candidates will have performed exceptionally well when compared to Buhari because Nigeria’s federation to begin with is skewed right from independence. This contrived imbalance was however fairly contained by the seeming true federalism practised in the first republic, which allowed the four regions to take care of their growth and development. However, the military incursions into the country’s governance space transformed the country from a thriving federal system to a unitary system, with almost all the powers meant for the development of the federating units tied in the exclusive list of the unitary 1999 constitution. Unlike what obtains in functional federal systems, power, security, railways, ports, LG and state assembly autonomy, solid minerals, and so on are all on the Exclusive List that is reserved for the Federal Government of Nigeria. This was what turned the country into a unitary system in a federal environment with over 250 ethnic nationalities bunched together by sheer force and hence nothing is working.
This makes Nigeria federal only in name. For example, the claim that the power sector has been privatised is also a ruse since the federal government is still holding 100% of transmission, one of the three components of power, and 40% of generation, yet another component. In a federal system, federating units generate their electricity and distribute it, and yet, this is not permitted in Nigeria.
On security, of all 26 countries of the world practising federalism, only Nigeria runs a centralised police system. No surprise that security has failed woefully in Nigeria, with terrorists and bandits running the cities and operating freely and attacking even the federal capital territory.
These are the problems and to unbundle them will require more than rhetorics as sufficiently dished out by the leading candidates who were in a fierce competition as to whose mantra of ‘New Nigeria’ was more passionate. To think that they are the same members of the old Nigeria that were planning to do away with leaves so much to be desired.
The bitter truth is that none of the three leading candidates has what it takes to resolve the country’s dire condition because they all lack the intellectual dynamism, leadership acumen, and political acumen needed to overhaul the dysfunctional structure from unitary back to federalism as the numero uno priority. Doing these will take quite a lot including deep negotiations and statesmanship. Only a younger, vibrant leader with no association with the past can deliver on that mandate because it evidently meant destroying all groups and common interests for the overall benefit of the country.
One has carefully followed the positions being canvassed by the three major candidates to see who is positioned and committed to the restoration of federalism. APC’s candidate has never said anything in that direction. Tinubu has rather harped on continuing from where President Muhammadu Buhari stops, and Buhari has resisted all attempts to move Nigeria away from its present unitary structure to federalism. Apart from archiving Jonathan’s Confab report, Buhari has also rejected the El-Rufai committee report on restructuring. Tinubu saying Emilokan and promising to continue from where Buhari stops simply means there will not be such deep and radical constitutional change under his watch as President.
For Peter Obi, he made some ambiguous statements signifying his inclination to restore Nigeria to federalism through the devolution of powers. However, like Tinubu, Obi has avoided the word – restructuring – like a plague, ostensibly not to alarm regions of the country benefiting from the present skewed unitary structure that has crippled the country.
In the case of Atiku Abubakar despite being bolder and more audacious in putting forward the need to deliberately move the country back to federalism, a careful look at the elements in his party and by extension his kitchen cabinet will show that such a promise was only a mirage.
It is pertinent to stress that restructuring Nigeria simply means renegotiating and rebasing the country completely. Resetting Nigeria simply means restructuring, and restructuring means restoring Nigeria to federalism. If still in doubt, restoring Nigeria to federalism or restructuring simply means returning the powers enjoyed by the regions to the states of the federation that are today the federating units. None of the leading candidates were willing to do this, hence they clearly did not have anything to offer the country.
If Nigerians want to make something meaningful out of their country, they must understand that it is time for the youth to govern the country because it is only the youth that clearly understands the plights of the people and hence can take drastic steps to fix them. Nigerians must stop electing over 60-year-old politicians into Aso Rock who clearly do not have anything to lose. Nigeria is supposed to be a great country but the dearth of leadership has ensured that the sleeping giant has remained on the ground. Nigerians must employ the services of critical thinking going forward.