Veteran Nigerian journalist and former presidential aide, Reuben Abati has submitted that ahead of the 2023 presidential elections, the major candidates are not focusing on issues affecting the nation.
He opined that rather than focus on national issues and challenges, the politicians are bent on attacking each other.
Abati made the submission in a lengthy article shared on his Twitter account on Monday where he reacted to the recent interview granted by the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar on Arise TV.
He lamented that most of the top contestants have nothing tangible to offer in terms of solutions to Nigeria’s many challenges while the few others that appear like they may have a solution for the challenges have been muscled out of the race.
Abati also lamented the impact of social media glorification of less important issues while major issues are left unattended.
He argued that it is important for those seeking the presidential seat to convince Nigerians and put forward ideas on how to resolve issues facing the country and its people.
The former presidential media aide lamented that rather than defend their manifestoes before Nigerians, the presidential candidates have found it easier to launch ego attacks, painting the picture that they are not really ready to lead the country but only out to achieve personal ambitions.
In his words, “the multiple reactions that have attended the Arise News interview with PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar simply show the lack of preparedness at the highest levels in this country. Nobody is talking about ideas. The reactions have been about peripheral issues, not ideas. Arise News sat with Atiku for a whole hour and raised issues ranging from politics to economy, relationships and other matters Nigeriana.”
“The Nigerian social media mob took up editorial duties that is entirely not their business as they focused on sponsored and teleguided BS and in their sponsored frenzy, they failed to look at key issues.”
Light In Darkness
Abati praised popular columnist, Farooq Kperogi for succeeding in avoiding the bandwagon of jumping on irrelevant issues in the analysis of the Atiku interview.
According to him, “The only exception in this regard would be in my view, Farooq Kperogi, the scholar and columnist, who resisted and cleverly avoided a habitual tendency to be unkind to other people’s efforts. He focused on bigger issues.”
Wike Should Talk and Stop Threatening
Continuing, Abati said: “but what came from the other communities, that is, the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Tinubu Campaign Organization, the Obidient movement supporting Peter Obi, and the Wike Camp, were the usual diatribe about ego: my candidate is better than yours, you lied against me.”
“Within 48 hours, the whole thing degenerated into an ego game. Wike is threatening to talk later and reveal mountains of truth. He should stop threatening. If he has anything to say, let him go ahead and do so forthwith. Tinubu’s people have called Atiku a liar on the subject of Muslim-Muslim ticket. Atiku says he wants Tinubu in a one-on-one, one hour debate to settle the matter once and for all. Tinubu, we are told, has a memory loss issue.”
Atiku, Tinubu Focusing On Irrelevant Issues
Abati tackled the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar and his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Bola Tinubu for avoiding national issues/governance to focus on trivial matters.
He said: “I won’t be surprised if the two candidates start talking about whose wife is more beautiful and who can still crack the best fires in the other room, or who is richer, or more energetic. The Tinubu group picked on the smallest issues in the Atiku conversation, talking about Abraham Lincoln, the politics of running mates, whereas there are more important issues about the economy, privatization, national security, education and health.
“The way the Nigerian process is going, nobody will talk about what concerns the people. The politicians will share money on or before election day, and given the arrest of persons during the recent Ekiti and Osun Gubernatorial, off-cycle elections, the political bandits will find smarter ways of buying votes, and the ordinary people will find new ways of collecting electoral bribe. It is safe to say that there is no tested, effective law in place yet that addresses this challenge.
“So, why are ideas no longer relevant in Nigerian politics? Most of the 18 Presidential candidates have no manifesto. For more than two weeks, the Tinubu Campaign Organization, after rejecting a document that was widely circulated threatened to release a manifesto. Nobody has seen that manifesto yet. What we see are reactions to rival political candidates on peripheral issues. More serious candidates who could have been on the ballot ironically have since been pushed out of the race. Where is Kingsley Moghalu for example? And why is Omoyele Sowore being treated like a student unionist? And why has Peter Obi been reduced to a social media sensation? Ideas, Ideas, ideas. We can’t get anything concrete. Nobody listens to ideas, because the ones that are ready to promote them are not given the opportunity to do so. Those who try to generate ideas, outside partisan boundaries, are treated badly.
“In 2015, it would be remembered that the APC in seeking to wrest power from the ruling PDP tried to construct its gambit around ideas: security, the economy and fight against corruption. In 2019, the ruling party sustained the same mantra and asked for an opportunity to complete what it started. In 2022/2023, the main gladiators are terribly distracted.
“Yet, the major issue in Nigeria’s democracy – federal and state levels today, should be ideas and specific performance. Since the beginning of this campaign, the main candidates have discussed nothing but religion, ethnicity, personal health, clothing, and personality.
“The 2023 campaign has been dominated by personal ambition and expectations and trivia. Many of the presidential candidates that have emerged do not even have manifestoes. Nobody knows what they stand for or what they intend to do, not even what they understand about the task ahead. Titles are fashionable in Nigeria. Power is desirable. The allure of position and influence is magnetic. Nigerians would jump at anything along this spectrum. They want titles, not responsibility.
“This is why I think the reaction to the Arise News conversation with Atiku Abubakar veered off from the centre to the periphery. There are issues indicated in that conversation and alive in the public domain that have been conveniently ignored.
“NNPC has just been unveiled as a new, commercial entity, in an industry that accounts for 80% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. What do the Presidential candidates intend to do about that? Nigeria has a debt to revenue ratio crisis, with debt service cost exceeding revenue by about 119% per cent? The national grid continues to collapse and function epileptically. Inflation is as high as 18.6%. There is unemployment in the land. Food inflation as well. Life is so insecure, terrorists are threatening to abduct the President, Senators and Governors and either kill them or sell them into slavery, and they sound very serious about that objective. Yesterday, they even made an effort to engage the Presidential guards in Abuja. The country also faces a serious foreign exchange crisis – it is so bad that even bread makers are threatening to go on strike because they cannot access forex and raw materials. The aviation sector is down. The nation’s currency has lost everything including its integrity, the big question is how to save it. In real terms, this country is on the way to Venezuela if not Sri Lanka or Lebanon. These are important issues that should engage the attention of those who want to rule the country. But the space has been taken over by spokespersons writing platitudes and reticent candidates who piggy-back on the dominance of their parties and abdicate responsibility without negotiating the issues and a proper assessment of the chaos that is upon us. The country’s destiny seems postponed. This trend must change. Every Presidential candidate should be shown the video of yesterday’s UK Prime Ministerial debate between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.”