Finally, tomorrow comes, By Bolaji Adebiyi

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Without a doubt, this is the longest electioneering in the electoral history of Nigeria. The politicians entered the fray in early 2022, with Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, for instance, announcing his aspiration on 10 January after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari. 

But it was between May and early June of that year that the presidential flagbearers of the 18 political parties emerged, and traversed the country canvassing their programmes with the people. To be fair, at least the four frontrunners, Tinubu, Peoples Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar, Labour Party’s Peter Obi, and New Nigerian Peoples Party’s Rabiu Kwankwaso, have made substantial efforts to reach the people and familiarise them with their intended governance policies. 

Of course, there have been critiques of the substance of their campaign. The essentially academic people and perennial cynics contend that the electioneering has been full of platitudes that offer little or no details of the candidates’ plans to revive the economy, secure the country, fight unemployment and corruption as well as fix the rising social strife in the country. Maybe they are right in the sense that the leading candidates lack the gift of the gab with which candidates in foreign lands galvanise the process and rev up the people. 

However, what they cannot successfully take aware from the political gladiators is that they have in their own way attempted to engage the people through rallies, town hall meetings with various professional groups, focus group conversations and media engagements. Several nocturnal meetings were held with political and religious leaders who superintend over large congregations with a view to winning their support. 

So, after eight months of pre-campaign consultations and six months of official electioneering, it is safe to say that a fair opportunity has been offered to the people to make a choice tomorrow. The challenge though is the circumstances of the general election, which may question the basis of the people’s choice. The situation on the eve of the poll is that of hunger and anger activated by the collapse of the implementation of a monetary policy suspected to have political undertones. 

One of the objectives of the policy is to block politicians that are suspected to have accumulated wads of Naira in warehouses to purchase votes during the impending polls. Whether the mop-up and virtual confiscation of the populace’s cash both at hand and the banks would achieve the desired aim remains to be seen. But what is walking naked on the streets across the nation is the debilitating suffering of the vast majority of the people, including the otherwise rich and wealthy. 

Unable to access even the lowest denomination of the nation’s currency to do the basic things of life, including feeding and commuting to work, it is doubtful if the people who would cast their ballots tomorrow would do so without being susceptible to other forms of inducement. Or, how do you tell a hungry man not to accept a gesture of food from a helping hand even if it is intended to comprise his belief? 

Yet the poll is so crucial to the continued survival of the country that a wrong choice must not be made again. With a comatose economy that has bred 33.5 per cent unemployment, 28 per cent inflation, N448/$ exchange rate, weak external reserves of $37 billion and a 33.5 per cent poverty rate; coupled with an acute security challenge, Nigeria needs not just a miracle worker but also a deliberate visionary leader who can help Nigerians to straighten out their country. 

Incidentally, though the choice isn’t much because those with the political machinery to win a national election of this nature are not much, the frontrunners are familiar faces. Tinubu had been governor of Lagos State for eight years, Atiku had been vice-president of the federation for eight years, Obi had been governor of Anambra State for eight years, and Kwankwaso had been governor of Kano State for eight years and was also a federal minister for four years. 

All but Atiku had the opportunity to showcase their leadership qualities as the chief executives of their states. Their records of stewardship are not only in the public domain but have also been subjected to scrutiny for several months. Even Atiku who was a deputy to President Olusegun Obasanjo was associated with some of the policies of that administration even if he fell out of favour in the last lap of its tenure. 

The media too have not done very badly in its task of projecting the candidates even if it is facing its own existential battles with the dull economy that had dwindled its access to patronage. Safe for the broadcast sector, the media, particularly the print has not done great in this election cycle. A cursory look at the pages of most national dailies would reveal scanty political advertisements. But overall, most of the media, safe the usually unrestrained excesses of social media, have attempted a fair reporting of the activities of the dominant candidates. 

So, the people have sufficient information before them to make a choice if only hunger will make them think straight. Of the 93.4 million registered to vote in the election, 87. 2 million collected their permanent voter’s card. An impressive number, hoping though that they will turn out to vote. They have little or no reason not to step forward as the Independent National Electoral Commission has promised electoral justice, assuring the nation that the people’s votes would count. The security agencies with the police in the lead, and the military, as well as paramilitary forces giving a helping hand, have promised to secure the process. 

President Buhari too has said for the umpteenth time he intends to leave behind a legacy of electoral fidelity. May the people, therefore, have the clarity of mind and the courage of their conviction to make the right choice for themselves and the future of their children. Good luck to all the contestants! 

Adebiyi, the managing editor of THISDAY Newspapers, writes from 

Source: First published on THISDAY Newspapers

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