Africa’s biggest democracy, Nigeria, is currently facing her toughest test since the 1967-1970 civil war where millions of Nigerians lost their lives. We are battling corruption more than ever in our history, terrorism (insurgency and banditry), secessionism, a debt crisis, police brutality, among other things. Because of this, many will argue that Nigeria is a failed state or is very close to becoming one. But while the country might be facing unprecedented troubles, it is still not too late to use our collective effort to turn around the country’s fortunes.
Nigeria is blessed with huge oil and gas deposits as well as solid minerals. It generates a quarter of Africa’s gross domestic product and it is the home of Nollywood, the leading film industry on the continent. One in six sub-Saharan Africans is a Nigerian. The country has also produced very prolific people, including writers Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, World Trade Organization head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as well as African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina and Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina Mohammed.
Despite these many positive things, Nigeria has a particular problem – its leadership. When one examines the way the country has been led throughout the colonial to post-colonial era, one might agree with Obafemi Awolowo’s description of Nigeria as “a mere geographical expression”. What the former statesman had sought to convey was that the country was struggling to fully embody what it means to be a nation. Its lack of good leadership, many believe, has contributed to most, if not all, other issues facing the state.
Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, neither the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) nor the All-Progressive Congress (APC) party has been able to set the country on the path of unity and stability. In fact, the situation seems to have got progressively worse. How did Nigeria get to the point where farmers cannot go to their fields because they fear being kidnapped or killed? The Naira is losing its value every day, many children are dropping out of school daily and the country has the most people in the world who are living in extreme poverty.
The 2023 election campaign will kick off this year with the two major political parties, the APC and PDP, leading the way. On the ruling party side, the APC’s potential contenders include Vice-President Yemi Osibanjo, party national leader Bola Tinubu and Kogi state Governor Yahaya Bello. The candidates for the PDP remain the former Anambra state Governor Peter Obi, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Sokoto state Governor Aminu Tambuwal, and former Senate presidents Anyim Pius Anyim and Bukola Saraki. The list looks similar to that of 2019, but what Nigerians might find disheartening is that almost all the listed potential candidates have been accused of corruption, specifically embezzling public funds.
The main question of the Nigerian people is which of these potential candidates can unite the nation regardless of religious and ethnic differences, end terrorism, curb unemployment and corruption, and improve the economy. For many, in order for there to be equity and fairness, the presidency should go to a Christian southerner – especially someone of the south-eastern people of the Igbo extraction – since the current president is a Muslim northerner. They believe this could unite the country in light of the push for secession of the Igbo-controlled Biafra region.
To the young people that make up more than 70% of the Nigerian population, let us rise and shun voter apathy. All Nigerians must ‘take the bull by the horn’ in deciding who can lead this oil rich country to the ‘promised land’. Let us not forget how these leaders reacted during our struggle against police brutality, their track records, and charges. May we never be deceived again. We must unite as a country irrespective of our religion or ethnicity to decide our future and that of our unborn children. If we do not, we will forever live in this precarious situation.
Finally, I encourage the international bodies to pay attention to Nigeria, especially by providing support against election malpractices to ensure the rightful winner is declared. A destabilized Nigeria will always result in a destabilized Africa; therefore, we must ensure the stability of the nation. The 2023 election will be a deciding one for the country and should provide a tiny gleam of hope that change will come.