The long-awaited campaign season is here with us. The campaign for the 2019 general elections officially kicked off on Sunday, November 18, 2019. The kicking off of the campaign heralds the election circle when politicians promise what they know they cannot do or even have the powers to do. It is the time when candidates can agree for almost anything just to get the people’s votes. It is therefore the time for the electorates to ‘shine their eyes well well.’
The smooth talking politicians who have perfected the act of telling lies should not deceive the electorates, again. Some of these politicians are so good in deceiving the people that some of them can sell ice to the Eskimos. Nigerians must therefore be vigilant. They must ensure that their choices are made based on the understanding of the issues at stake.
The problems facing Nigeria are enormous and challenging. And only the best of leaders who are patriotic and averse to corruption can come close to tackling them effectively. These are some of the issues troubling Nigerians in the past two decades which various governments have not addressed adequately; Nigeria has the second highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS pandemic in the world, and the highest Mother-to-Child HIV/AIDS transmission in the world; Out of the one million Nigerians under HIV/AIDS treatment using anti-retroviral drugs, Nigerian government is treating only 60,000 Nigerians, leaving the rest 864,000 to the United States government and other international donor agencies.
The challenge at present is that the United States and other donors are reducing their funding of the treatment. Therefore those who are angling to lead us in 2019 must tell us how they are going to close the funding gap. This is important because if the US totally withdraws from funding HIV/AIDS treatment nearly a million Nigerians will die.
Still on the health sector, many of our hospitals have remained, ‘mere consulting’ clinics without drugs and other necessary equipment for the diagnosis of diseases. With poor public health facilities, Nigerians are forced to use the more expensive services of the private hospitals while government officials and other rich Nigerians embark on health tourism abroad thereby levying a huge financial burden on the nation’s scarce foreign exchange. The electorates should interrogate how those seeking their votes are going to address the health care problems with timelines.
Most Nigerians will agree that our roads are in terrible state. However, the roads are categorized into federal, state and local government roads. The electorates must interrogate candidates on how they would raise funds to rehabilitate or build new roads to address the transportation need of the people, without overdependence on revenue from oil. They should be made to show sustainable way of funding road projects at all levels in the country.
Nigerians should also be inquisitive on what those seeking their votes intend to do about the poor state of education in the country. Nigerian public schools are in terrible state. The schools lack adequate infrastructure, while teachers/pupils ratio are the highest in the world. With dilapidated infrastructure, high teachers/pupils ratio, needless to say that most of the schools are not conducive for teaching and learning.
The sad part of the situation we found ourselves is that there are Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) funds lying fallow in the banks waiting for counterpart funding from states to access it and provide infrastructure in the states’ schools, but most state governments are not taking advantage of this opportunity because of corruption. The electorates should demand to know what incumbent governors seeking reelections have done to access the fund and improve the state of education in their states.
Incumbent governors that have failed to access the UBEC funds do not deserve reelection, because they have shown disregard to education development in their states. Similarly, Nigerians should also reject other candidates who have no blueprint on how to effectively utilize the UBEC funds to improve education in the states.
The tertiary education sector is not faring any better. It is characterized with strikes by academic and non-academic staff unions of universities, which has affected the quality of their graduates. They are also characterized by decaying infrastructure and lack of equipment necessary for research and learning. Little wonder, there is no Nigerian university in the top 500 universities of the world. The electorates should interrogate the presidential candidates on what they would do about the federal universities, while those aspiring to be governors should be asked for their blueprint for repositioning the states’ universities. This is no time to cast votes based on sentiment. It is time to vote for only those who have the capacity to deliver on promises.
No country can increase its productive capacity without power. The power sector in Nigeria has gone through metamorphosis, from 1951 when the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) started to NEPA, PHCN and now GENCOs and DISCOs, yet the story remains the same; more darkness than light. Who will bell the cat? That is what Nigerians should be searching for in 2019. Are we to trust those who privatized the power sector with no positive results or are we to embrace those trying to make the most out of a bad situation? Or better still, are we to look for entirely fresh ideas different from what we have presently? These are the choices before Nigerians.
The security of lives and properties are guaranteed by the constitution, but successive governments have failed in this important responsibility. While the activities of the Boko Haram may have been reduced drastically in the past three and a half years especially in the North East, which is the epicentre of its activities, the activities of other non-state actors like kidnappers, bandits, militia herders etc have wasted many lives and made life unbearable for farming communities and rural dwellers.
The security of life and property is the most important of all the responsibilities of government, thus should be of concern to the electorates as they cast their votes.
The level of food importation in Nigeria is unacceptable and had been a drain on the nation’s scarce resources. The solution is for us to produce most of what we eat. This can only be possible if the farmers are empowered with all that they need to improve their productivity. Nigerians should vote for those who will sustain the recent gains on the agricultural sector and not those who would flood our markets with all manners of imported foods.
Nigeria is said to be the most urbanising country in Africa. With more urbanisation, millions of rural dwellers are drawn to the towns and cities, which have grown as centres of opportunity. Also, with the urban explosion come the challenges of providing decent accommodation for the people.
Presently Nigeria is said to have 17 million housing deficit. This has made accommodation very expensive and beyond the reach of the average Nigerian. Nigerians must therefore demand from those seeking their votes what they intend to do in this regard if elected in 2019. Nigerians must ask questions before they cast their votes. Nigerians should choose wisely.
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