The campaign for presidential and National Assembly seats officially kicked off Wednesday, Sept 28, in Nigeria. By Section 94(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, a campaign in public by all political parties “commences 150 days before polling day. INEC has projected that 95 million voters would participate in the February elections.
Security and economic crises have caused unprecedented hardship for many of the more than 200 million citizens of Africa’s most populous country (Nigeria). Despite being one of the continent’s top oil producers, Nigeria is grappling with a 33% unemployment rate and a 40% poverty rate, according to the latest government statistics. The country is also battling an insurgency by the Boko Haram in the North-east, as well as armed violence now spreading across parts of the North-west and South-east regions.
Our country is regarded as the poverty capital of the world; there is a serious crisis in the education and health sectors. Despite repeated promises by succeeding governments, corruption is still pervasive, and the majority of our young people are jobless and losing hope while the security challenge is multiplying.
How will the candidates deal with these challenges? How will they get the country out of the woods? How do we address the perennial Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strikes that have practically destroyed tertiary education in Nigeria? These are the issues of the day that Nigerians would want them to address.
To the extent that the essence of political campaigns is to help the electorate in making the right choice, that can only happen if there is a contestation of ideas on critical issues (not on religion, ethnicity, certificates or who is more corrupt than the other). Besides, this time around, Nigerians deserve more than the usual distribution of consumables and the procurement of musicians, comedians and dancers to entertain crowds in the name of political rallies.
However, those who aspire to leadership must understand that when campaigns are vicious, chaotic, polarising and bloody, products of such outcomes cannot deliver the public good. What is, therefore, paramount is to ensure that the rules and regulations governing the campaign season are binding on every participant and that all critical stakeholders play fair. The candidates should speak to the issues that affect ordinary Nigerians. And they should tell us how they will address those challenges.
Mustapha Bashir Dungus,
Maiduguri, Borno state