The year 2000 was anticipated with much trepidation by world leaders, global agencies, merchants of religion, technocrats, scientists, journalists, business moguls, the rich and the poor and others. Some pundits even predicted that Armageddon would occur in 2000. Some even forecast great changes in that magical year. Even some United Nations agencies came up with goals targeted to be achieved by the year 2000 such as health for all 2000, water for all 2000, house for all 2000, and other fanciful slogans. It is also with such great trepidation that George Orwell wrote his most ambitious book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which he forewarned would be a failure. To Orwell, “every book is a failure.” Despite the Orwellian melancholy and fears, Nineteen Eighty-Four was a huge artistic success.
The year 2000 came, Nigeria and many African countries were found wanting in achieving some of the set goals. From 2000 the UN set the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with target date of 2015, which Nigeria did not meet. Then came the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which has health, education, water, roads, and housing components. Without achieving the MDGs, it is doubtful that Nigeria and some unfortunate African countries still grappling with poor leadership will ever attain this lofty goals. The year 2023 is a special year in the political history of Nigeria. There is nothing so magical about 2023. What makes it so special is that Nigerians will witness an election like no other in view of the fact that the stakes and expectations of Nigerians are so high concerning the poll. It is no longer business as usual because Nigerians, especially the youths, have decided to take their destiny in their hands and will participate in that election which is expected to be like no other in the annals of the country.
Despite what some politicians are saying about the 2023 poll, it will definitely be different. The large turnout of youthful voters during the continuous voter registration and the growing number of registered voters are all indications that the 2023 election will be a watershed in our democratic evolution. Nigerians look up to 2023 as a year of great political change, a paradigm shift from the status quo ante and a departure from our decrepit past and the inauguration of a new order. The decaying and crumbling past must be allowed to rest in peace. As Frantz Fanon admonished in his classic, The Wretched of the Earth, “each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it,” this generation of Nigerians will discover its mission and also fulfil it in 2023.
The 2023 movement is not about ethnicity or religion or even class struggle, it is about the survival of the motherland. It is about saving the soul of Nigeria. It is about the destiny of our children and their future in this politically encumbered and emasculated land. Hunger knows no tribe or religion, insecurity knows no ethnic group or religion, poverty afflicts all irrespective of your tongue or creed. If we allow this great country famished by our corrupt politicians to sink, we shall take part in that ominous sinking.
The 2023 election is not about where the president comes from. It is not about his height or manner of dressing, it is about competence and character. It is much about who can fix the dying country. It is about who will save the country from total disintegration and impending anomie. The election is about the revamping of the comatose economy, decrepit health and education sectors and the festering insecurity and incipient official corruption. Nigeria is in disarray simply because of bad leadership. The election is perhaps a referendum on whether Nigeria will be or not and where it is heading. It is about the future of the black race and whether Nigeria will further the destiny of the black race or not. At independence in 1960, Nigeria held great promise for Africa and the entire black race. Our forefathers dreamt of an emerging black power, they envisioned an egalitarian society and a balanced federation. Their vision for the country has been overtly betrayed by inept and corrupt leadership, leaders that utterly lack the moral compass to navigate the affairs of the highly endowed country.
The tragedy of Nigeria, the so-called giant of Africa, as captured by Fanon is that “during the struggle for liberation the leader awakened the people and promised them a forward march, heroic and unmitigated. Today, he uses every means to put them to sleep, and three or four times a year asks them to remember the colonial period and to look back on the long way they have come since then.” Some of our leaders still behave in the manner of this leader portrayed by Frantz Fanon.
The 2023 is not for absentee leaders, it is not for aloof leaders and leaders who look aside while the country is burning. We must resolve to put in leadership people with experience and ability to do the work. The presidency is about work, work and work. Aso Rock is not a resting place for tired legs. It is not a hereditary palace where kings reign. It is the seat of power of the president of Nigeria. The next occupant of the Villa must be willing to tackle our problems, mounting debt said to be over N40 trillion, rising inflation put at 20.5 percent, growing number of children outside the school system put at 20 million. In 2023, we need charismatic leaders, sacrificial and servant-leaders. We need leaders who are willing to die for the country. We need digital leaders and leaders who will regard all parts of Nigeria as his constituency. A leader who is ready to unite the country with less emphasis on religion and ethnicity. In ‘Africa Is People,’ taken from Chinua Achebe’s The Education of the British-Protected Child, the master storyteller narrated his experience at the 25th anniversary of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris in 1989, where he told the audience full of economic experts that “what was going on before me was a fiction workshop, no more no less! Here you are, spinning your fine theories, to be tried out in your imaginary laboratories. You are developing new drugs and feeding them to a bunch of laboratory guinea pigs and hoping for the best. I have news for you. Africa is not a fiction. Africa is a people, real people. Have you thought of that? You are brilliant people, world experts. You may even have the best of intentions. But have you thought, really thought, of Africa as a people?”
As we move towards the election, do our politician treat us as a fiction as illustrated by Achebe or not? And if they treat us as their guinea pigs and manufacture all types of drugs to cure our national ailments, let them remember that Nigeria is people. You should remind them that the voters are no guinea pigs. They should not treat us as mere statistics or that we do not matter. Our politicians must start treating us, the electorate, and indeed all Nigerians, as human beings and not experimental guinea pigs. In other words, the politicians must stop trampling upon the masses and treating them with utter disdain and neglect once they are in power. As the campaigns will officially commence on September 28, let the politicians campaign with decorum and a high sense of decency.
They should promise only those things that they can achieve within four years. The nation’s problems are already known. Their duty is to tell us how they are going to fix them. It is not about poetry or long speeches. In all, let them remember that Nigeria is people, Nigeria is not a fiction. May we not fail in 2023, our year of hope, and redemption.
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