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2015: The Hottest Issues



Simon Kolawole
You would be forgiven for thinking there are no concrete issues, bordering on policies and programmes, to discuss ahead of the 2015 elections. All we have been hearing is how power must return to the North or how “our son” must continue in office. I did lament last week that regional sentiments appear to be the key factor in our elections. I concluded that it is not enough to say “Vote out Jonathan” without telling us the better alternative on offer, neither is it enough to say “re-elect Jonathan” without giving us the justification. Go beyond the surface and you will realise that many people are supporting Jonathan purely out of sectional sentiments – while many are opposed to him for the same reason! It seems that is the way we are wired here.

But our history also shows that ethnic champions don’t always have their way. We have seen Northerners massively voting for Southerners, and vice-versa. In 1993, Bashorun MKO Abiola mauled Alhaji Bashir Tofa in the North, although the election was eventually annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida.

In 2003, President Olusegun Obasanjo defeated Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in most Northern states, winning 10 out of 19. In 2007, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua won landslide across Southern states. This gives me hope that there is still some flexibility in our seemingly formed pattern of electoral behaviour. We now have to take it further by forcing the politicians to discuss policies and programmes rather than dialects and tribal marks.

I was one of those excited by the coming together of opposition parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC) because, even though I am a die-hard proponent of multi-party democracy and a sympathiser of small parties, I believe that in federal elections, we need two broad coalitions, or, if you like, two big parties. My reasoning is a bit simple: I want to be able to compare and contrast alternatives. On every policy position, I want to see where the ruling party stands and what alternative the opposition is offering – even if theoretically. If the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is saying students must pay for tuition in order to fund quality education, I would want APC to prove free education is not synonymous with poor quality. That’s my excitement.

As all eyes are now focussed on 2015, I can easily identify three “hot” issues that should shape the debate. The first – you guessed right – is power.

The PDP government has been fiddling with this critical infrastructure for ages and we still don’t have regular supply. The strategy it has adopted is outright privatisation. The power utility has been broken into three pieces – generation, transmission and distribution companies. Generation and distribution are now privatised. The Jonathan government has handed over the privatised entities to the investors. I would love to know: how else would the APC address this matter and banish darkness once and for all? I am still waiting for the APC position on this, beyond the promise of generating 40,000 megawatts which the PDP has also been promising us for ages, anyway.

The second issue is security. I don’t think there has ever been any time in our history that we have faced this mountain of security challenges. We are caged by a kidnapping pandemic refusing to abate; pipeline vandalism is jeopardising the free flow of the economy; crude oil theft is digging huge holes in the national treasury; unemployment fuelling violent robberies; and there is the little matter of terrorism, which has led to the deaths of thousands of innocent Nigerians and security agents. The explanation of the Jonathan administration is that these are new challenges that cannot be tackled overnight, and that we needed to build a new security architecture which takes time. Special units are being created in the security agencies, and a state of emergency has been imposed on some states. What would the APC do differently to deal with this insecurity, especially terrorism? How would this alternative work? We need to know.

The third issue, and certainly the major clog in our wheel of progress, is corruption. Without the mismanagement and looting of our resources, I am very certain that there would be more decent roads, more hospitable hospitals, better equipped schools, abundant potable water and less poverty in the land. I am a bit different from many Nigerians who think corruption starts and ends in Aso Rock. I believe corruption is everywhere – federal, state and local governments. It is slowing us down terribly. Why are the anti-graft agencies not very effective? Why are the bar and the bench frustrating corruption trials? How may the judiciary become more alive to its responsibilities? APC should come up with its own antidote to graft.

I know somebody is reading this and laughing and saying, “You are wasting your time, Simon. Nigerians don’t vote based on issues.” I agree, but I refuse to give up. Even if it is only 1% of voters that care about these issues today, they should let their voices be heard. Perhaps 1% can grow to 10% in the future, and maybe to 90% someday. Even in a tight election, which I expect in 2015, 1% could decide the outcome. So we should never give up. Sensitisation is part of the democratisation process. Rome was not built in a day, remember?

And Four Other Things…


Are we ready to fight corruption? Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, is almost certain to escape any punishment for the bullet-proof scandal. Jigawa Governor Sule Lamido and his sons have, meanwhile, come under the radar over N10 billion public funds allegedly laundered through his companies’ accounts. Expect the usual Nigerian response: it is because Lamido is opposed to Jonathan; it is because he is in G7; it is because he is a Fulani man; it is because he is from the North. It always works. Are we really ready to fight corruption? Really ready?

Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State hardly talks, but when he does you have to listen to him. He has said Boko Haram insurgents are better equipped that our security forces. “Until the country’s security outfit is fully equipped with more superior arms, equipment and reinforced manpower, we may have slim chances of winning the fight against terrorism,” he declared, while insisting that emergency rule is not the cure. Is it true that we send our soldiers into harm’s way with inferior weapons? We need an answer from the authorities.

Maybe the time has come for us to be less pessimistic and become more optimistic about the prospects of democracy in Nigeria. Anambra State voted yesterday to elect the successor to Governor Peter Obi, and the general reports were that it was peaceful and orderly in most parts of the state. The odd issue of logistical logjam still surfaced, but, by and large, it was an election devoid of fire and brimstone. As we expect the result today, I congratulate the Anambra people for their maturity. Hope I’ve not spoken too early…

This has been a very rewarding year for Nigerian football – we won the Africa Cup of Nations, the U-17 World Cup and have now sealed our qualification for the 2014 World Cup by beating Ethiopia 2-0 in Calabar yesterday in a less-than-convincing manner. I don’t intend to ruin Super Eagles’ party – but the hardest part of the job is yet to come. Going to the World Cup to make a mark is the only thing that can satisfy our hunger. If we do not do very well, there will be nothing special about our qualification.

Simon Kolawole Live!: By Simon Kolawole, Email[email protected]

Article culled from Thisday

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