2023 and Obaseki’s Legitimate Fear

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By Dan Onwukwe (danonwukwe7@gmail.com)

Approaching an election year, in a season of hard power and poisoned politics, it’s not out of place to begin to think the unthinkable.

Sometimes, there’s a legitimate fear to envision in one’s mind what may happen if something happens.

That’s the power of the mind. You don’t throw the hammer at the person who imagines or harbours such fear.

The imaginary phantasm of a social unrest could even be overpowering when you begin to create the likelihood of a governing party that has compiled the most dismal record of performance in history contemplating being reelected after its present tenure has run its full course.

How to respond to such possibility after the party has run down the country, and left the citizens in the worst state imaginable, troubles the mind. The outcome could be horrifying.

That’s exactly the disturbing imagination that gripped Godwin Obaseki, the Governor of Edo state, last week. It was like fire in his bones.

He couldn’t hold it. Speaking at the inauguration of state PDP Campaign Council, Gov. Obaseki was reported to have warned: “Nigeria will break up if the APC and its Presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu wins the 2023 general elections, God forbid”.

According to him, no right thinking person will vote the APC and Tinubu, because in his words, “my heart is beating (because) nobody has done the kind of damage that the APC has to this country”

As one cliché says, never allow snake bite you twice. Obaseki has legitimate reasons to express this cold and sickening fear over APC and a probable Tinubu presidency.

Recall that Tinubu was a busybody during Obaseki’s re-election campaign two years ago. He declared himself Obaseki’s number one public enemy when he spent millions in a media broadcast, blackmailing Obaseki and urging Edo voters to reject him at the polls.

But, Tinubu got the opposite of what he asked for. “Edo no be Lagos”, the voters responded. The rest is history.

Obaseki was reelected in a landslide. If Tinubu could do that as an ordinary politician in Lagos, the question is: what happens if he becomes President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria?

Viewed from different contexts, the central message in Obaseki’s fear can be framed this way: Are you really better off today than you were seven and a half years ago of APC in power at the centre?

Truth be told, seven and a half years of APC in power is like pins on the lips of millions of Nigerians. It has been so painful that a day longer after May 29, 2023 will be like been in a hangman’s noose.

Tinubu has made the point several times that he foisted Buhari presidency on Nigeria, and by the same measure, he’s vicariously liable for the misery that the administration has visited on Nigerians.

Therefore, it is no longer an argument whether the cup is half-full or half-empty. Nigeria under APC government is like an orphan completely abandoned.

Anger and disillusionment are telling on all faces. Hardship of the extreme is now the canvas to paint the situation in Nigeria. It’s a hole we have been dragged into by poor and wicked leadership. Extreme difficulty is one excuse that history never accepts.

For example, Living in Lagos where Tinubu is the lord and master, is one difficulty that should not be allowed to happen in the other states of the Federation.

As I write, it’s like hell living in Lagos. Agberos(touts) are almost taking over Lagos, extorting money at will from people. It’s a foretaste of what will happen if their Baba becomes President. That’s the point Obaseki was making.

The problem here is self-interest, not Nigeria’s interest. That’s also the point the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi made at the party’s campaign rally in Lafia, Nasarawa state capital, last Saturday.

He reminded Nigerians that the presidency “is not a retirement home for the aged, the sick, tired and weak people”. Indeed, the presidency is the hardest job anyone can give his brain.

It is, to paraphrase Obi, a ‘seat of power for the energetic and vibrant people’ to live and proffer solutions to the challenges of immediate sort that confront the country. It’s for leaders who are ready and patriotic enough to do the job. It’s not an entitlement.

Prof Banji Akintoye, leader, Yoruba Nation Sef-Determination Struggle, spoke in the same vein last week, when he told The Punch newspaper that Tinubu’s ambition was for “personal interest” (Emilokan), and nothing more.

He said he would not vote for him, and urged others to do same next February.

The question is: Can Tinubu look into his soul and find comfort in the performance of APC and the achievements of the man he claims he made President?

You see, in every democracy, the ruling party can only infuse democracy with a new intensity of participation if the President can show competence and performance in the issues that call for his attention.

Prove of competence, effectiveness and record of performance are key attributes that can fill a leader with a genuine self-confidence. In the absence of these, nothing will work.

In other words, any political party seeking to retain power must come with a record of performance before the voters. That’s why elections must offer valid choices.

As another general elections near, and despite President Buhari’s recent self-assessment, disillusionment with the APC has become endemic.

The nation is on the brink. No doubt, the stakes are much higher this time around than they were in 2015 and 2019.

No campaign will be credible and acceptable without records of performance that the people can see and feel. It’s not unkind to say that the last seven and a half years of APC in power represent an awful lot of misery never seen before at least since after the civil war. This is the truth. The evidence is there.

Questions will be asked: how have we faired as a people under this administration? Insecurity has squeezed everyone to a corner.

Abuja, the nation’s capital was in a sort of lockdown last week because of terror alerts. Under this government, Nigerians are divided down the middle, more polarised than ever before.

The economy is already in distress like a company under receivership with a public debt of N42.84 trn(or 23.06% of the GDP), a record of unemployment and inflation rate never seen in over 17 years, production has contracted, cost of food items, energy crisis are soaring, plus a judgement debt of $716 million repayment.

This translates to a bitter fact that confronts the next President. It’s a booby trap from Day one.

The reality is that Nigeria is maimed and broken by the APC. It is no longer a nation of our fathers’ dream.

If Nigerians are ready for the truth simply spoken, about how our lives have been badly run these seven and a half years, we need a change of leadership, away from the APC.

That’s why the Presidential election on February 25, 2023 is about leadership and character of our country and the vision of the future.

That’s what bothers Governor Obaseki, and everyone else who cares about Nigeria’s survival.

In all the areas the APC made promises, it delivered little. If you think insecurity is one area this government has the worst record of performance, you may not be wrong.

On the economy, the record is woeful as well. Recall, in May 2015, President Buhari inherited an economy, which the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) described as the preferred destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa.

It stood at $35.25bn. What has happened now? It has gone down to $11.55 between 2016 and 2020. According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the Buhari government could only manage to attract $698.7 million of FDI last year, the lowest in ten years.

Today, cash crunch is killing small businesses. The national currency is in a free fall. Exchange rate has plummeted to N740/$1 as of last week. There’s fear that $1 may spike beyond N1000 by year end. It was N199/$1 in 2015.

Poverty rate is at its highest. Question: where is the foundation the President promised in his 2020 “New Year Letter” to take 100 million Nigerians out of mass poverty in the next 8 years? External debt stood at $7.73bn in 2015.

Today, it’s over $40bn. New national debt after borrowing will be N50.8trn, according to 2023 budget estimates. Debt servicing has risen to over N5tr from N1.53trn recorded 2020.

Nigeria has a budget deficit of N8.85trn. Yet, the President is still on a borrowing binge. The storm clouds are gathering. With a judgement debt of $716 million that awaits the incoming administration, default repayment is looming with its unpleasant consequences.

Obaseki’s worry is real and revealing. It’s time to take back Nigeria.

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