By Paul Ejime
Elder Statesman and former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku has called on Nigerian politicians and their political parties to eschew personal abuse and attacks in their campaigns for the 2023 elections
“…they should instead lay out in their manifestos the policies and plans they have for rescuing the country and its citizens from their current miserable state,” Anyaoku said in remarks at the 2022 edition of the Good Governance Lecture series named after him, which was hosted this year by the Oyo State government in Ibadan, on the 20th of October.
He also urged the electorate “to examine the political parties’ manifestos and cast their votes on the basis of their choice of the related individuals,” describing the 2023 national elections as “a watershed in Nigeria’s political history because the results will be crucial in determining whether we can attain the country of our dreams.”
Chief Anyaoku said “the people to be elected to leadership in 2023 must make their priority the revamping of our present governance system,” noting that “a return to the true federalism of few viable and autonomous regions which our founding fathers agreed and bequeathed to the country remains …a sine qua non (indispensable) if we are to successfully tackle the challenges now confronting our country.”
He listed the challenges as “insecurity, divisiveness, massive corruption, and socio-economic development including in particular inadequate infrastructure, education, health and youth unemployment,” and enjoined the electors “to vote only for candidates who will commit themselves to prioritising the widely desired restructuring of our present governance architecture.”
Chief Anyaoku has consistently argued that the current 36-state governance structure and the 1999 national Constitution would not deliver true federalism in Nigeria.
Instead, he has advocated for about six autonomous federating units and devolution of power from the centre to the units under a new constitution.
This year’s annual Chief Anyaoku lecture series, organized by the Youth Affairs International is themed Imperative of Good Governance in Nigeria.
The key note speaker, Prof. Ayo Olukotun, Director at the Oba S.K. Adetona Institute for Governance Studies, at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, said “It is not clear how and why Nigeria got into the mess it currently is in, but it at least has the option to return in 2023 to far less murky and marshy terrain than it is in now.”
Speaking on 2023: Resurrecting the Good Governance Agenda, he noted that “Returning to good governance will now happen, hopefully, in circumstances of emergency, including the continuing war on terror with associated costs and with a financially straitened economy struggling to service hefty debts while struggling to maintain governmental apparatus.”
Prof Olukotun argued that “after borrowing to service our debts, we will have to keep borrowing to pay salaries, to build infrastructure, to maintain health and education. This shows how really desperate the economy has become and makes one wonder whether like the fictional Rip Van Winkle who slept for several years and, on waking up, expected that the world would have remained the same; those who had the charge to run our economy were not fully aware of the consequences of their actions.”
According to him, “It cannot be said that the trauma Nigerians are going through are a result of careful, calculated and qualitative decision-making. Somewhere along the line, those who were expected to have taken responsible decisions may very well have dropped the ball.”
On security, Prof Olukotun acknowledged that while, “security forces are combining to smoke the bandits and terrorists out of their dens, presumably, to clear the ground for the peaceful holding of the rapidly approaching 2023 elections. What is not clear, however, is whether that spirited action could not have been taken a year or two ago before several of these groups occupied communities and territories, becoming more formidable and more daring, while we appeared to look on hopelessly?”
He said “It would have been tidier and nicer if the current offensive for which the security apparatus deserves kudos had been undertaken before more direct attacks on the Federal Capital City and threats to the President put the nation on tenterhooks.”
“If Nigeria will find its way out of the enveloping woods,” Prof Olukotun counselled: “we must turn the forthcoming elections into a vote for good governance rather than allow the country to drift further into uncertainty and the failure to apply techniques of state building, political order as well as take decisions which will secure not just our future but that of our off springs.”
To avoid “a dreadful scenario,” he said there “must be a reset of leadership in Nigeria via the auspices of good governance.”
This year’s well-attended Chief Anyaoku Lecture series was chaired by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
Previous editions of the lecture were hosted by Lagos, Anambra, Delta, Ogun, Edo, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi States.