What Nigerians Need to Hear From Presidential Aspirants



Vanessa Obioha critiques the recent public declaration of intent by some presidential aspirants

The recent declaration of  Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of his intention to run for the presidency caused an uproar. Not necessarily because of his plans to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari — it has been whispered for long — rather his inability to sell himself properly to Nigerians. 

Osinbajo in his declaration speech enumerated his achievements working with the president. From visiting the troops fighting the insurgency to other areas where Nigerians struggle to make a living. His speech was tinged with empathy and humility as he emphasized that he knew the hopes, aspirations and fears of Nigerians.

When it came to his plans for the nation, Osinbajo rolled out a list full of transformation in the health, education, economy, governance, judiciary, agriculture, and technology sectors as well as unifying Nigerians. 

His speech was no different from what many aspirants have promised. For instance, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator Bola Tinubu who has been touring the country to get support for his presidential ambition promised to make Nigeria one of the best countries in the world. To achieve this, Tinubu stressed areas like electricity, manufacturing and oil and gas resources among others. 

For Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State who is also pursuing the presidency, it’s about creating jobs and turning Nigeria into a producing nation. Obi also seeks to unify Nigeria, given the ethnic discord reverberating all over the nation.

Positioning himself as a youthful leader to lead the nation, the governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, brought the promise of creating 20 million millionaires by the year 2030 using the South east model of apprenticeship.

Nyesom Wike who is peculiar for his style of governorship in Rivers State bragged about being the right candidate to wrestle power from the ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC).

His predecessor  and current Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi on his part is leveraging his experience in governance to bring about the desired change Nigerians desperately need 

Considering the struggles Nigerians have endured from politicians, aspirants for the upcoming national elections, particularly those running for the presidency will have to do more than mention reforms in the basic areas of development.

No doubt, Nigeria still suffers a dearth of basic infrastructural development such as health, education, roads, and water, among others. To be found wanting in these areas after more than 60 years of independence is a bad report of our leaders. For so long, Nigerians have prayed for a saviour that will deliver them from the poverty and backwardness in the country. Too many times, they have been swayed deceptively by politicians who climbed podiums with loudspeakers blaring sweet words and their smiling faces hanging on poles. They were led each to believe that change will definitely come. But the script remains the same: show them you care and you will have them eating from your palms. 

Apparently, Nigerians’ ‘mumu don do’ as the veteran singer Charly Boy once put it. Nigerians are no longer swayed by the long and stiring speeches. Even concise sentences hardly make an impact. The reason for this is not far-fetched. Nigerians are tired and hungry. They are tired of the same old story with little or no difference. They are tired of the catchphrases and the symbols. An average Nigerian just needs food on the table. Whereby in the past, he was content with instant gratification, nowadays, he longs for a well-stacked barn that can last his generations.

To be fair, an average Nigerian”s need is  not overwhelming. They simply desire the basic needs of life. Access to potable water, good roads, stable electricity, affordable and qualitative health, an enabling environment for their businesses and more jobs. However, these needs continue to elude them due to bad leadership. Therefore, they are gradually becoming unwilling to compromise their future  by asking for better. 

A smart aspirant will quickly key into this as witnessed by some of the aspirants recently. They will buy into the emotions of people by showing empathy or urging them to examine each aspirant keenly before entrusting their votes to them.

The Nigerians of today desire more than words or promises. They want to see the evidence. An aspirant like Obi is one of the favoured presidential candidates for two reasons: he is from the South-east, a region that is yet to occupy the Number One seat in this new dispensation; and secondly because of his track record in Anambra during his governorship days. While this may be sufficient to an extent, Nigerians should go beyond listening to what these aspirants plan to do but how they will do it. It is now a case of show, not tell.

If an aspirant is planning to reform the power sector, for example, it is not enough for him or her to say they are going to do it. But how are they going to do it? What models can they point to for reference? What is their depth of knowledge of the situation? Have they been confronted with similar issues? Can they give examples? Have they figured out the best way to tackle the situation? What manpower will be needed to execute his plans? These are the kind of answers Nigerians need to get from presidential aspirants.

As the political stage gets filled up with interesting characters, Nigerians need not only to look at their track records and their pedigree but their capacity to handle the pressures on the country and steer it in the right direction.


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