The elections are here again and politicians are out in the field crisscrossing the country canvassing for votes from the electorate using fair and foul means to outwit one another. The history of politics in Nigeria since the First Republic (1960) indicate that mudslinging rather than issue based campaigns has been the norm. It is not sixteen years since the return to democratic rule. Regrettably, the content and quality of the ongoing political campaigns have remained hollow. Rather than canvass support on how they intend to tackle the numerous challenges confronting Nigeria, politicians have resorted to mudslinging, ethnicity, sectionalism and outright hate campaign against opponents. The political gladiators are so naïve, selfish, desperate and out of touch with the true aspirations of majority of Nigerians.
Hunger, poverty, disease, deprivation, hopelessness, do not recognise religion, tribe, north, south, east and west. The Nigerian voter is more interested in how politicians intend to tackle the challenges of insecurity, corruption, poverty, the economy, unemployment, food security, collapsed public infrastructure, housing deficit among others. So far, neither the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) nor the All Progressive Congress (APC)- the two major political parties have presented to the Nigerian electorate a concrete plan on how to tackle these problems. President Jonathan who is seeking re-election has not being convincing as how he intends to tackle these issues either, if given a second term. The smaller political parties have simply been swallowed by the sound and fury of the two giants.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party claims to have done extremely well and as such deserves a second term to complete its transformation agenda. However, it is worth pointing out that even within the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, urban slumps have sprung up, refuse collection, solid waste management, inadequate housing have remained a huge challenge. Primary and Secondary schools within the F.C.T are over crowded and lack basic facilities. The satellite towns despite proximity to the seat of power lack basic amenities such as water, electricity, roads and housing. Indeed, women and children spend hours scooping water from virtually dried up streams in competition with animals. The situation in most Nigerian cities and rural areas is not different.
Against this background therefore, it is in the best interest of politicians to come up with concrete plans on how they intend to tackle the numerous problems confronting Nigeria. The Nigerian voters of the February, 2015 general elections are politically enlightened. They are united by frustrations of failed dreams and aspirations. Therefore, attempts by desperate politicians to divide and rule them along religious, tribal and sectional divide will fail woefully.
Nigeria is beautiful country blessed with abundant human and natural resources. At Independence, the country was known for its agricultural products such as cocoa, palm kernels, rubber, groundnuts etc. However, with the discovery of oil, agriculture became relegated to the background in preference to the black gold. Successive governments initiated programmes such as Operation Feed the Nation, Green Revolution, with a view to increasing food production to feed its fast growing population. The various River Basin Development Authority established for the purpose of enhancing food production have not perform as envisaged.
Regrettably, most Nigerian farmers are still using Stone Age agricultural implements in the 21st Century. Government rhetoric on diversification of the Nigerian economy through mechanisation of the agricultural sector has not led to increased food production. Neither has government at all levels been able to create jobs for the large number of unemployed youths through agriculture.
As a result, Nigerians have become beggars looking for what to feed on. With the general elections just around the corner the “chubby cheeks” politicians have capitalised on the high level of poverty and hunger to distribute rice to Nigerians. This has often resulted to stampede and loss of lives. Indeed, Nigeria has witnessed the ugly trend severally. For example, during the 50th Independence anniversary celebration, the First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan on 30th September 2010, at Abuja International Conference Centre distributed rice to the Nigerian poor. In the course of the exercise, there was a stampede leading to loss of lives. The police threw tear gas on the surging crowd to no avail until the gates to the Centre were locked. A similar incident took place at Samson Siasia Stadium on 14th November 2014. The rice distributed by the First Lady was said to have even expired. In another incident, eleven people reportedly lost their lives in a scramble for free rice in Ilorin, Kwara State during Eid el- Kabir celebration. Also, Unemployed youths of the University of Uyo, Uyo City Polytechnic and Akwa Ibom State College of Education lost their lives while struggling for a share of N15 million promised by the State Governor Godswill Akpabio. It is most unfortunate that desperate political “Do Gooders” who have mismanaged public funds resort to these false acts of charity without regard to the safety of lives.
With the 2015 elections around the corner, politicians have tried to outwit one another in the so-called acts of charity as witnessed recently during the 2014 Christmas festivities. Politicians have deliberately through their inaction improvised the people so as to exert control over them. The high level of poverty and hopelessness makes it easy for politicians to manipulate and control the people for selfish reasons. This state of affairs is a threat to national security, free and fair elections. The question is for how long will the poor continue to lose their lives in attempt to receive handouts from politicians. The solution lies in good governance. It is only through good governance that critical issues of extreme poverty, hunger, corruption, unemployment, and insecurity among others; would be tackled.