By Olabisi Deji-Folutile
Nigeria’s political space has been bustling with life since the visit of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to the seat of power to announce his presidential ambition. Ever since that visit, the political atmosphere has worn a new look. National discourse now centres on politics and the media are filled with all kinds of narratives. The cacophony of noise from spin doctors and social media warriors has been deafening.
Yet this is just the beginning. The tempo will naturally increase in the days ahead as we continue the countdown to 2023. If we had complained of low performance of our leaders in the past, things will get worse going forward. Most likely, politics will take the centre stage until the 2023general elections. We can confidently predict that it’s going to be a bye for now to governance just because we are in a pre-election year. This is sad but that is how we roll in this part of the world.
Meanwhile, in the midst of these noises are other voices that nobody seems to be interested in hearing. The Academic Staff Union of Universities has said that it will embark on a strike in February except the federal government fulfils its agreement with the union before then. The union is holding on till February because of the intervention of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) which promises to mediate between it and the federal government. The bone of contention is government’s failure to fulfil its agreement with the union. Students are already becoming agitated. Some of them took to their Tweeter handles on Tuesday to lament their lot. One of them said he gained admission in 2016 with the hope of graduating in 2020, this is 2022, yet there is no guarantee that he will leave school this year.
This is the lot of many Nigerian students in federal government universities. There is no point rehearsing the problems in our education sector. Rather, let’s focus on the latest frenzy of political activities in the country and the reaction of some Nigerians to the usual spins of our politicians’ doctors. So far, it appears not many Nigerians seem to have understood the modus operandi of politicians. Amazingly, those that one thinks should know better are the ones in the forefront of defending politicians and speaking for them. Honestly, except one is paid to launder a politician’s image, which is a legitimate business by the way, I don’t see any reason why anyone should be defending any politician in this country.
The most pathetic argument I have heard so far is the justification of the so-called political structures that have impoverished this country till date. I have heard both the literates and the illiterates among us using the yardstick of some politicians’ structures to determine their suitability for the job of a president. I have thought about this measurement scale and still can’t understand how having a good structure correlate with good governance. Agreed, politicians need structures and strategies to capture votes and win elections. But politicians in developed countries usually address issues around societal needs and base their campaigns on how to make life better for their people which is what I think we should emulate if we are truly interested in seeing a clear departure from our ugly past.
Should issues like tribe, religion, political structures be the dominant points of discourse in our politics today. Shouldn’t we be focusing on getting capable hands that could deliver good governance for the people? So far, we have shied away from addressing critical issues of governance while bickering over unnecessary things. Governance according to the UNDP is the system of values, policies and institutions by which a society manages its economic, political and social affairs through interactions within and among the state, civil society and private sector. Who among our political gladiators and their campaigners is directing conversation along this direction now? Who is talking about the economy, the insecurity that is ravaging the country, etc, the few ones that are doing that are loners. They don’t have the horde of social media influencers that can deafen our ears with their noises. So, they are barely heard.
Before we get to the point of no return, I think this is the time for Nigerians to ask whoever wants to govern them the plans they have for the people. These plans should be tangible and measurable not the usual bogus and vague promises that have no substance. Whoever wants to govern the people should tell us how they intend to get the funds to run this country since the country is already overburdened with debts. Education is also important to the nation’s development and growth, same for health and other sectors of the economy.
How are these politicians planning to revamp Nigeria’s educational system? What specific programmes are they bringing on board? How do they intend to ensure smooth and unbroken academic calendar in our higher institutions, for example, going by the level of unfulfilled financial agreements with different unions in these institutions, what is their funding arrangement? What are their plans towards improving research and development? These are some of the specific questions they must provide specific and logical answers to. If you want to continue to run free university education, how do you plan to generate funds for the project aside what is on ground? So many issues are important than all these mundane things that people are talking about now. Naturally, politicians would want to get things done their own way but as a people, it is our responsibility to bring them back on course.
To avoid electing a sickly president, we can insist on our leaders subjecting their full health details to public scrutiny. We can insist that they must access health care in Nigeria when they fall sick. I know that we may not get all we want from them when they eventually get to power, but at least we could have a clear cut yardstick for measuring their performance and fidelity to their promises. We need to focus on the things that matter.
The minister of education, Adamu Adamu has said that polytechnics should seek ways of expanding their sources of income by reaching out to philanthropists. I agree. This is a major source of funding for many higher institutions in the developed world. Companies endow chairs and fund monumental projects and researches. It is one of the ways we can expand the streams of revenue in our institutions and provide scholarship, grants, etc for students. How is Nigeria’s next president planning to drive this kind of process?
What are our plans for ridding our universities of obsolete equipment and what training programmes are we going to put in place to enhance the quality of our teaching staff. I was privileged to have a chat with a very experienced surveyor in this country recently. He told me that some Nigerian institutions are still looking for equipment used in the 60s to teach their students in 2022. Imagine this in this age and time.
This is the time for the Nigerian youths to take advantage of their numerical strength and queue behind a candidate that will make a difference in their lives. That is one of the ways we can make progressive changes in this country. More than half of all voters, 51.1 percent are between 18 and 35, according to INEC. Nigerian students should do something about their destiny now. They can form a critical mass as they did during the #Endsars movement and be a part of the decision on who becomes Nigeria’s next president.
Thankfully, the process of obtaining the voter’s card is still on. Only 84 million Nigerians registered to vote in 2019 in a population of over 200m. Less than a third of that probably cast their votes in the 2019 elections. Now, the Independent National Electoral Commission has commenced the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR). It started in June last year. The exercise is in its third quarter now. But as at last Monday, 17th January 2022, only a total of 8,260,076 eligible Nigerians had either commenced the online pre-registration, completed the registration physically or applied for transfer to new voting locations, replace their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) or update their voter information records as required by law, according to INEC.
The Commission has been publishing weekly progress reports of the exercise. INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, has urged political parties to continue to encourage eligible voters who have not registered to do so. But the truth is people have to be proactive in registering to vote. You can’t continue to wait for the corrupt, selfish and insensitive political elite, the kind that we have in Nigeria, to persuade any eligible voter to register when they rely on rigging to win in elections. After all, they already have their winning structures. So, it is high time the youth put their destiny in their own hands.
If the Nigerian educated elite failed to lead the way in this current political dispensation, then their education is meaningless. People joke a lot about Nigeria being a country where thugs write electoral results for professors to read and the educated being led by the uneducated. We recruit first class graduates to run our companies but make school cert attempt the minimum qualification for a president. Who does this and make progress? We need to change this narrative!
Olabisi Deji-Folutile (PhD) is the editor in chief, franktalknow.com and member, Nigerian Guild of Editors. Email: bisideji@yahoo,co,uk