GOVERNANCE - 01 NOV 2017

Our 2019 Elections

Our 2019 Elections
President Muhammadu Buhari at the Opening Session of the 25th AU Summit

The next electoral cycle is within distance. Primaries for state and federal offices will hold next year, with the general elections following in 2019. 

Tha National mood? Well, the inability of Nigerians to determine the government in power has left us jaded about the electoral process. Now, we just pray and hope for the best.

Perhaps we should not be so cynical; we have changed an incumbent government and chances are, we can do so again. Admittedly, changing governments does not solve the problem if we consistently face mediocre choices.

Even with this, there is a lot to be said for our ability to remove those we deem unfit and try again. In line with this, a thought experiment on the issues Nigerians should consider is overdue, and we shall attempt to go through some key issues for the 2019 elections. 

 

National Identity

In the current climate of Biafran agitation, settler-indigene clashes, and a growing 'restructuring' movement, we are due a new narrative that addresses our fractured identity.

This requires a practical focus on how to make Nigeria work as a diverse collection of ethnic groups. All the issues of community and identity in Nigeria trail back to the amalgamation of 1914, the various colonial constitutions from 1922 to 1956 and the 1960 federal structure with federating units and a weak central government.

Things have changed since then, and today's narrative romanticises the view that stronger states would curb the evils a powerful central government. History argues against this as the agitations within other sub-regional ethnic (or minority) groups did not subside when the regions were not so reliant on the centre.

To be sure, there are things we have tried. For instance, in a direct response to the effects of the civil war, the National Youth Service Scheme sought to unify ethnic groups by posting graduates to states other than their originating ones. 

The years have passed, but the distrust remains with us. Programs like these were meant to unify Nigeria in the same way the quota system or federal character were intended to avoid marginalisation. None of these has been overly successful

The leaders we choose in 2019 will do well to focus on the way our tribes fit into our national consciousness, and the effect that has on 'unity in diversity'. 

All this points to a middle ground. Our best option may be something we have not yet tried.

 

Healthcare

According to the World Health Organisation, life expectancy in Nigeria is 53 for males, and 56 for females and total healthcare expenditure per capita is around $217. We have had an outbreak of Monkeypox, Meningitis, Cholera, Hepatitis E and Lassa fever, all in 2017.

These figures do not even account for the informal health sector. To get a realistic picture of the situation, it is worth visiting a rural public hospital or hearing the horror stories from rural centres about men, women, and children dying of treatable or curable diseases.

One crucial issue in this area is how we manage rural healthcare. Most healthcare services and facilities are concentrated in urban areas. The net effect of poverty, lack of infrastructure, poor nutrition, poor education and unemployment is that most diseases and ailments appear spiritual in rural areas. Worse, there is little data to gauge our deficiency in this area. 

Some of the moves by the present government, such as the home-grown school feeding scheme, an effort to tie nutrition to school enrolment in rural areas, are indirect approaches that ought to be widened to improve healthcare services. And more direct action would be welcome.

Our 2019 choices will need to make this a priority and tie these different threads into better healthcare provision. There can honestly be no talk of our strength in numbers, our economic potential, or our potential for industry if people are dying everyday. It is not only moral issue; it is an economic one. Healthier nations create more wealth

 

The Economy

Economic prosperity is still at the centre of Nigeria's future. We all know the well-rehearsed approach to economic planning in Nigeria: build infrastructure, privatise, attract FDI, provide funding for entrepreneurship, increase wages, build a knowledge economy, and address the balance of trade. Nowadays, add getting Nigerians to pay taxes.

These are the issues for the economic teams across states and the FG to answer, but the results must be felt on the streets. For the average Nigerian, this means the prices of essential goods need to go down, and job opportunities must go up. No more capital flight and no more tax evasion. We do not need a socialist plot to take from the rich and give to the poor (although the problem with this is less apparent) but a leveller economic playing field where social mobility is possible would be a welcome social order.

It is vital that we listen to what candidates say about what they will do with the Nigerian economy and how they will do it. “Jobs for all” may look good on posters but what does it really mean? Will it be a new bureaucracy targeting four hundred thousand jobs a year like the current N-Power scheme? Or something different?

Is that a sustainable model or is it just a palliative program to fight off the worse effects of poverty? What about long-term investment in building a revenue-generating economy and not a welfare state we need to borrow to fund?

Our leaders should not only show us the carrot, but we must ask, where is the stick? What would be the real cost of your well-meaning social program? They must have plans that match borrowing with revenue results and not a debt-ridden future.

Looking back, these issues are neither new nor special.

But progress is needed. Every decision we make at the ballot box will be vital to our collective future. Every four-year cycle is taking us closer or further away from being the nation we all hope we can be. We need to think about this. Come 2019, we must choose wisely.

Forri Banu

Forri Banu

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