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Issue-based politics and economic development in Nigeria

Politics is the process of choosing public leaders that manage the affairs, especially the security and economy, of nations through periodic elections. 2023 will witness general elections in Nigeria. In all countries, security and economy (the avenues for pursuing the welfare of the people) are the major issues on which manifestoes of political parties are built. The democracies of most African countries are not yielding the expected dividends because the electorate usually vote for ‘what-is-in-it-for-me’ and not ‘what-is-in-it-for-the-nation.’ Since 1999, when we started another experiment on democracy (representative government), Nigeria is not yet referred to as a developed or promising nation. The graph of time versus development has been nose-diving to the origin.

Nigeria kept its abysmal performance and continued to be at the bottom of the annual Global Infrastructure Table produced by the World Economic Forum annually. In the 2021/2022 table, Nigeria was in the 123rd position out of 186 countries surveyed. The 2023 elections are about putting an economy manager as President of the country. Nigeria loses N2.7bn per day as the production of crude oil falls below one million barrels per day. Nigeria is unable to meet its Organization of Petroleum Producing Countries’ crude oil production quota of 1.826 million barrels per day, as it produced a paltry 927,000 bpd in August 2022, as revealed by OPEC in its September report. Oil and gas still remains a major source of revenue for the country, therefore, a successful leader in the next dispensation must be a good wealth manager.

Nigeria has a vast arable land, which is a comparative advantage for the country in agriculture. The lack of electricity in the country has made Nigeria to be poorly industrialised. Some industries relocated from Nigeria to neighbouring countries because of the shortage of electricity supply. A serious government must look for ways of ensuring that there is adequate production and supply of electricity in the country. The state of education in Nigeria is at a record low. The security situation in the country is terrible. It has really affected the economy as people can no more embark on inter-state journeys to transact their businesses. In 2021, the unemployment rate in the country saw no significant changes and was around 9.79 per cent.

The annual inflation rate in the country accelerated for the 10th straight months to 21.3 per cent in October, 2022 from 20.77 per cent in September and 20.5 per cent in August, 2022. This led the World Bank to recently list Nigeria among the top 10 countries in the world with the worst inflation rates. The health facilities and medical professionals’ remunerations are poor in Nigeria. Between June 10, 2021 and September 30, 2022, the General Medical Council in the United Kingdom licensed over 1,000 Nigerian-trained medical doctors to practise in the UK. The states of roads, both intra-state and inter-state, are nothing to write home about. Food prices are increasing every day as an average Nigerian cannot feed on three-square-meal a day despite the country’s vast arable land.

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The poverty level of the people is high and the standard of living is poor. In its latest “2022 Poverty and Prosperity Report,” the World Bank stated that many extremely poor people in the world are in Nigeria followed by the Republic of Congo. Extreme poverty is described by World Bank as those living on less than $1.90 a day. In a country where the minimum wage is about $20.00 per month, it is definite that a lot of people will be living on $0.66 per day. The climatic change and weather variability have made flooding an incessant calamity of late in Nigeria! The housing situation is terrible with the average Nigerian not living in an adequate house. There are more slums and squalid settlements than decent communities. Waste management is terrible and transportation is a disaster!

To get a good leader in 2023, people should adopt issue-based politics. The electorate should be interested in the manifestoes of politicians, especially those manifestoes that state how motorable roads will be provided; how food adequacy will be ensured; how there will be stable electricity and how employment opportunities will be created. Researchers have shown that free qualitative education is the fastest way to reduce poverty levels in African nations. Voters should be ready to engage candidates contesting for elections on the plans that they have in mind to improve the quality of education and pay living wages to teachers. Corruption is a major factor inhibiting development in Nigeria. Voters should study the background of contestants and vote against those who have a record of corruption.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “the concepts of corruption and good governance have a two-way causal relationship with each other and feed off each other in a vicious circle. The lack of good governance principles and structures provides a greater opportunity for corruption. Corruption, in turn, can prevent good governance principles and structures from being put in place, or enforced. The violations of the principles of transparency, accountability and rule of law appear to be most closely associated with corruption. In the end, corruption and poor governance are security challenges that undermine democracy, the rule of law and economic development.”

The core elements of good governance include transparency, integrity, lawfulness, sound policy, participation, accountability, responsiveness, and the absence of corruption and wrongdoing. It is the duty of voters to engage contestants on these developmental issues.

  • Oyedele, a social commentator, writes from Lagos

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