It is no longer news that we are in the campaign season that will culminate into election in February, 2019. As expected, different people with interest in the election have been coming out to sell themselves to the electorates on whom their fates are hinging, albeit with a touch of the ‘selectorates’ influence. These selectorates although small in number still wield their power in the country even though they are at a numerical disadvantage against the electorates. For a long time, it is this class of people who decide who wins in both low and high positions. But election is gradually moving away from one which the selectorates decide on in their closed doors to an issue based one where people question aspirants about what they want to market themselves by -manifestos. It is in line with this, I believe, the aspirants are coming to win electorates over to their side.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) tagged her own presidential manifesto as the Next Level. Albeit a good title, it has generated many talk bothering mainly on the performance of the government of the day. For many, any level the APC would take Nigeria to after 2019 is a path to self destruction where the country may never recover from. But there are still some hopefuls in the prospect of the current APC government who are willing to give the Next Level manifesto a chance. For many people in the latter group, President Muhammadu Buhari has not anything for which he should not be re-elected. Besides, his main contender, Atiku Abubakar, is not in anyway better. And when it comes to choosing between two devils, it is advisable to choose the lesser one. For pro-Buharist, President Muhammadu Buhari is better than his opponent. In fact, they have said that the election would be a walk in the park for the president in the next election. It is with this intent that I examine what is contained in the Next Level that APC is promising now in the areas that concern security and education.
According to the manifesto, Nigeria was a nation at war and they thumped their chests about delivering on their promise to secure the territorial integrity of the country. This submission is questionable especially in the face of the recent Boko Haram insurgents attack on Nigerian soldiers in Melete leading to the death of about 118 and 153 unaccounted for. In fact, the Rescue Team sent to Melete came under attack by the insurgents leading to further deaths as reported by Premium Times on November 25, 2018. This type of massacre was not even experienced during Goodluck Jonathan’s term as the president when the insurgents were the ones in control in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. This attack was by the same sect that the government claimed had been “technically defeated.”
The Melete attack is one of out of many in recent times. It is true that the spate of Boko Haram insurrection in the North East has reduced. However, the insurgents are far from being defeated, either technically or otherwise and it is unsafe to also say that the territorial integrity of the country has been secured in the face of raging Boko Haram attacks. The APC government should not thump its chest that the North East is now a safe place. If truly the country’s territories are secured, it then raises the question of how the Boko Haram fighters got their arms and ammunitions into the country, the ones that they could use to kill over a hundred soldiers within those secured territories. The rising reportage on Boko Haram activities on the pages of national dailies shows APC’s claim as untrue. This attacks are gradually gathering momentum. With the Melete attack, it seems we are losing to the insurgents already. Despite the gravity of the attack, it is surprising that the Chief of Army Staff is still holding his position. If not for anything, he should have resigned for losing that number of men in a day.
For now, President Muhammadu Buhari and APC should not thump their chest and announce their successes in the area of security to deafen our ears that daily hear of one attack or the other on innocent lives in the country. They should also be reminded that limiting the activities of the killer Fulani herders across the country as a mere clash between the herders and local farmers is the highest form of conspiracy against unhidden truth. With the activities of both Boko Haram insurgents and Fulani herdsmen, there’s no secured territory anywhere. Instead, what we have are porous borders that every Tom, Dick and Harry could pass through and wreak havoc on innocent Nigerians as Boko Haram insurgents and Fulani herdsmen.
If the APC would be interested in editing their Next Level manifesto, they should include how they would forestall further killing of over a hundred soldiers in a day by Boko Haram insurgents. Perhaps, they should also include the meaning of “technical defeat.”
That President Muhammadu Buhari and APC mentioned that the education sector needs overhauling is good. We all have seen how education in Nigeria has taken a downward spiral in recent history of the country so much that certificates issued by our educational institutions are x-rayed elsewhere to be sure they are what they said they are. The glories of our universities have gone to those of neighbouring countries.
Remodelling the government schools as mentioned in the manifesto is a pointer to the fact that the government is looking at the direction of Nigerians under the school age. For those who grew up in rural areas, the unpleasant state of many government schools poke the eyes. However, I was expecting to see that alongside remodelling 10,000 schools every year and retraining teachers to impart science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, President Muhammadu Buhari and APC would state their plans on getting the 13.2 million out-of-school children back to school. Remodelling of schools is not as good as taking these huge number of children under the school age off the streets so they could have a better life and affect the society positively. This perennial issue of million of out-of-school children in the country needs urgent attention. As it has been proven, education is a great tool for driving change. The country needs her citizens to be educated and the government has a huge role to play, both in ensuring that children of school age are in school and the numerous illiterate adults are at least able to read and write. Simply remodelling the schools without plans to make education attractive to disinterested people is simply nothing.
As part of the overhauling that they mentioned, I was expecting to see plans on how to fund government universities to aid research and advancement in science and technology that would make our universities stand at par with their counterparts elsewhere where education is given priority above politics. Apart from this proper funding of the universities, a good remuneration for lecturers would address the incessant strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Perhaps their greatest intervention in the education sector would be the use of coding, animation and robotics to interpret school curriculum if the party is allowed to continue in power. For example, coding will allow the students to learn computer programming the fun way from a younger age. It would also teach them acts such as courage and resilience whilst also equipping them for problem solving. But coding cannot achieve its desired result without computers and constant power supply. While many countries of the world have advanced in robotic engineering and other areas of science and technology, it is worth noting that there is no renowned robotics company like OMRON or FANUC in Nigeria. Again, it is without prejudice to mention that the internet connection in Nigeria is not the best we have in the world. This would definitely slow the workings of the coding down in many places outside the urban centres. Thus, how to make this work is a question only the writer of the manifesto would be able to provide answers to. With myriad of failure that is trailing their extant manifesto, implementation of these things remains questionable. Besides, in a country that prides itself as a home of epileptic power supply, how they would go about the coding, animation and robotic education is a question they should provide an answer to in their manifesto.
ON A FINAL NOTE
I hope President Muhammadu Buhari and APC would take note that it is not enough to promise to get something done without providing practical ways on how it would be done. Saying is good, but doing is better. And if the party knows what’s good for them, they should come out with a fact sheet to show their stewardship in the months that they have spent ruling the country and not coming out to say they never intended to change the country in four years. They have a greater problem campaigning to people than do the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other political parties contesting the election because they are in power and more questions would continue to be asked in areas they boast of successes and where they obviously failed. It would be good for APC to revisit the manifesto and check again the area they believed they have recorded success. The manifesto is not so much different from the extant one that is bedeviled with many unfulfilled promises to the electorates. The sooner APC realize that election is gradually moving away from the circle of the selectorates, the better for them. As an advice on a platter of gold, the party should come out with a comprehensive list of their achievements in office and how they bear on the life of a common man on the street who needs the government more than those in the selectorate class. Truly, there is hardship in the land unless APC wouldn’t admit it the same way they believed Boko Haram had been technically defeated.
May God bless Nigeria and may he guide us to make the right choice at the coming election.
Segun Ogunlade writes from University of Ibadan, Ibadan.