Presidential candidates, campaigns and their manifestos

They all promise hope, but…

With some of their rallies looking like comic scenes from soaps on Africa Magic Yoruba or Africa Magic Hausa or Africa Magic Showcase, the front-running presidential candidates (All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Tinubu; the Labour Party, LP, Peter Obi; the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso; and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar.

Then, there are two other parties, African Democratic Congress, ADC, Dumebi Kachikwu; and the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Adewole Adebayo who turned campaign rallies into uninspiring activities where they are either pouring invectives on opponents or making gaffes that are unintelligible.

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And, whereas their manifestos are long on promises but suspect in executable strategies, they all assure Nigerians that they will provide a good life. Even the ousted PDP and the present shambolic APC are also promising Nigerians a better life. This report will endeavour to situate Nigeria’s present woes within the praxis of what the candidates are promising and what contemporary realities suggest.

On Friday, December 17, 2010, Tarek el-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, “in response to the confiscation of his wares and harassment and humiliation inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides”. This set off the Arab Spring of 2011. Why is this important to this discourse? It is because Nigeria’s economy has been shrinking, with over 133 million people living below the poverty line and the attendant hardship continues to create consequential challenges in every sphere. There have also been stories of suicide in Nigeria, occasioned by the inability of some to meet economic demands.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s Naira redesign policy which was intended to rid the system of illicit funds, stash funds, and sanitise the election of Saturday, is hurting many Nigerians today. Worse, in a polity of clashing socio-economic and political interests, some political leaders, starting with Buhari himself, have engaged in contemptuous conduct against the Supreme Court, some state governors (like Nasir El-Rufai) are suddenly issuing counter directives against the President and Commander-in-Chief’s instructions, while some candidates have been inciting the people.

Unfortunately, time seems to be running out and the economic blueprint of the leading candidates is vital to a possible revamping of the Nigerian economy.

In WHY NATIONS FAIL, THE ORIGINS OF POWER, PROSPERITY AND POVERTY, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, we are made to understand that “inclusive economic institutions that enforce property rights, create a level playing field and encourage investments in new technologies and skills are more conducive to economic growth than extractive economic institutions that are structured to extract resources from the many by the few and that fail to protect property rights or provide incentives for economic activity. Inclusive economic institutions are in turn supported by, and support, inclusive political institutions, that is, those that distribute political power widely in a pluralistic manner and are able to achieve some amount of political centralisation so as to establish law and order, the foundations of secure property rights, and an inclusive market economy.

Similarly, extractive economic institutions are synergistically linked to extractive political institutions, which concentrate power in the hands of a few, who will then have incentives to maintain and develop extractive economic institutions for their benefit and use the resources they obtain to cement their hold on political power”. Therefore, creating wealth for all and revamping Nigeria’s economy, can only be achieved if there is elite consensus in that direction, no matter how well packaged manifestos of the leading candidates are and no matter the sweet talk they make at campaign rallies.

The tragedy for Nigeria is that all the front runners have been and are still guilty of engendering elite division, which is the bane of Nigeria’s development. It is that lack of elite consensus that they package for the common man as shared concern for their suffering.

They all give hope

Francis Bacon said “hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper” (Works of Francis Bacon, Vol 7 (1859) ‘Apophthegms contained in Resuscitatio’ no 36).

Now, put in context, the manifestos of the four leading candidates, in all fairness and on the surface, promise hope. But since the devil is always in the details, it is for Nigerians to examine, with a fine tooth comb, the content, context and objectives of the manifestos.

Atiku’s presentation espouses Where We Are, What To Do, The Principles and How To Get It Done. Hinging his manifesto on his five-point agenda – on education, restructuring, economic prosperity, security and unity, while also making useful references to successes of the PDP administration between 1999 and 2007. It is presented in three broad parts covering the economy, human capital development and governance.

Kwankwaso does something similar in another way. He talks about his Pledge to Nigerians, an uncommon commitment to deliver, and makes projections. He is of the belief that frugality will lead to economic recovery while not discounting the place of security and unity. He takes on 27 issues which cover everything under the Sun.

For Peter Obi, it is about context and what We Will Do. He is bold and sometimes revolutionary. Just as he has been speaking in public about the need to pull people out of poverty, his manifesto makes some suggestions that are new but may have to contend with systemic challenges. Obi focuses on seven areas with sub-themes.

In Tinubu’s manifesto, he talks about Goals and Solutions, focusing on 17 areas of interest; but re-affirms that he would build on the current successes of the Buhari administration. He takes on all issues and offers what he considers as the best solutions.

Then, there is the candidate of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, Dumebi Kachikwu; and the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Adewole Adebayo. Both of them have been saying revolutionary things to get the voters on their side. Omoyele Sowore, Kola Abiola and Hamza Al-Mustapha’s names pitch them in the consciousness of Nigerians as recognisable persons, but not in terms of hundreds of thousands of votes to be garnered.

There is a singular tread that runs through all the manifestos: A promise of a better Nigeria.

Curiously, they are all friends and the only streak of divergence can be located in the seeming marginal difference in approach.

As for what they promise, it is almost the same thing – unity, enhancement of national security, economic recovery and the enthronement of a polity of possible equals.

Only a secure environment engenders development

In the last seven years, for instance, according to Nigerian Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations of the United States of America, 53,418 Nigerians lost their lives to one form of insecurity or the other. A breakdown of the figures is as follows:


2,170 deaths (Ekiti – 109; Ogun – 507; Ondo – 340; Osun – 198; Oyo – 310; and Lagos – 706).

South South:

3,688 deaths (Akwa Ibom – 373; Bayelsa – 350; Cross River – 685; Delta – 720; Edo – 463; and Rivers – 1,097).


2,271:(Abia – 249; Anambra – 613; Ebonyi – 562; Enugu – 273; Imo – 574).

North-Central, including the Federal Capital Territory:

8,593 (Benue – 2,771; Niger – 2,572; Plateau – 1,709; Kogi – 654; Nasarawa – 320; FCT, 317; and Kwara – 250


23,106 (Borno – 18,213; Adamawa – 1,853; Yobe – 1,375; Taraba – 1,335; Bauchi, -169; and Gombe – 161.

North West:

13,590 (Katsina – 2,037; Zamfara – 5,6164; Sokoto – 872; Kaduna – 530; Kebbi – 331; Kano – 149; and Jigawa – 55.

The Federal Government of Nigeria disputes these figures. However, disputing the figures will not make the perception that insecurity has dealt and is still dealing a nasty blow to almost all facets of Nigerian life. The runaway food inflation in Nigeria today is traceable to the raging insecurity in the country as farmers continue to stay away from their farms. What is indisputable is the fact that in some states of the country, terrorists extort money from farmers before they can even harvest what they have planted. Some are forced to pay heavily to even access their farms. Once, there was an embarrassing, near-reckless response from the presidency when some farmers were butchered in Borno State. The presidency, while not saying so directly, almost blamed the farmers for not seeking security clearance or protection from the military before attempting to access their farms where terrorists massacred them. On the investment front, it is the same tale of woes as some parts of the country are not considered attractive to investment. So, security is important and the candidates also recognise this fact.

The curse of structure

Renowned professor of politics, Jonah Isawa Elaigwu, explains how Nigeria got into this bind; “under the inspiration of successive military governments, the objective of subsequent Nigerian constitutions has been to strengthen the central government. As a matter of fact, a number of factors led to the centralization of political power under military rule, making it easy for subsequent constitutions to be designed in favour of the central government. These factors include: (1) the nature of military legislation, which made it easier to issue decrees taking over the functions of the subnational units; (2) the civil war, which gave emergency powers to the federal government to take over the functions of the subnational units – powers that were not reversed after the war; (3) the creation of more subnational states (now thirty-six), which weakened the resource base of the states; (4) the increase in petro-naira, especially through profit taxes that accrued to the central government; and (5) globalization, has resulted in the strengthening of centralization, at least in the Nigerian case. Nigeria has had a number of constitutions since 1914 – about nine, not all of which were promulgated or implemented. Under colonial rule Nigeria had, in effect, six constitutions: the 1922, 1932, 1946, 1951, and 1954 Constitutions, along with the Independence Constitution of 1960. After independence, Nigerian governments authorized the writing of five constitutions: the 1963, 1979, 1989, and 1995 draft Constitutions, along with the 1999 Constitution of the current Fourth Republic”.

The first step to breaking the shackles of stagnation would be to amend some sections of the 1999 Constitution.

Although many have argued that a good-hearted leader can deliver good governance with the constitution as it is, the counterpoise to that is that a whimsical approach to governance has never been sustainable. So, what happens when a despotic individual takes charge? What about the institutions of governance? Built on rule of law, they would deliver on their mandates and create an environment where progress is made.

There is a general consensus among Nigerians that things cannot continue like this. Yet, consciously or subconsciously, successive administrations continue to do the same thing while expecting different output and outcomes. The buzz word, RESTRUCTURING, readily comes to mind in the face of responsibilities and roles assigned to the tiers of government – federal and state and local government – in the 1999 Constitution as amended. What do the candidates plan to do to change the governance paradigm with a view to steering Nigeria off this course of retrogression? How do they plan to amend the 1999 Constitution to allow for flexibility in governance operations to engender genuine growth and development in the face of this deceitful unitary document which calls itself a federal document?

Interestingly, some of those who occupy offices at the federal level do not see any need to devolve powers to the states. While some in the state do not want power to be devolved to the local governments. Being beneficiaries of the skewed structure, some elected public office holders pay lip service to the issue. Calls to members of the National Assembly to legislate, either through enactment or amendment, on some economic and political issues that require restructuring or realignment for effective governance and progressive outcomes have almost always fallen on deaf ears. The latest attempt to cause power to be devolved through local government autonomy was rebuffed by the states.

Yes, the leading candidates have something to say about what needs to be done. They would not be the first. It is the political will to see it through that has always been lacking.






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