October 7, 2022


….the mighty delegates across all parties need to understand the huge responsibility on their shoulders over the next few days. It is they who will determine the quality of the candidates that Nigerians will be asked to elect. It is they and not Nigerians, who will determine the country’s future. It is they who will determine if the 2023 elections will restore hope or be the final blow that will knock this country out.
Over the next few days, a tiny percentage of Nigerians, called party delegates, would have the big task of deciding who will occupy elective political posts in the country after the next election cycle, including perhaps the most important of those positions – that of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
And yet, Nigeria is supposed to be a democracy. A system of government for the people by the people, underpinned by the cardinal principle of one man, one vote. Except that through a  rather self-serving party structure put together by the country’s politicians, some votes now matter more than others. Those of delegates!
While it is true that in order to avoid chaos, political parties must find a structured way in which to decide their party flag bearers, the current system used by the leading political parties in Nigeria does not encourage internal party democracy. So, even membership of the two leading parties in Nigeria, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), does not guarantee that one will have a say in determining who represents one’s party at the polls. Those decisions would be taken for party members and therefore, by extension, the rest of Nigeria’s citizens by the mighty delegates.
In theory, some level of democracy exists in the way these delegates emerge. There are two categories: those who are elected and those who are automatic delegates. The latter are political office holders who are card-carrying members of their political parties and the former are picked through elections conducted by party officials at the ward level. Already the conduct of some ward congresses have been questioned.
In Borno State, for example, Mrs Aisha Umar, contesting for the Jere Federal Constituency House of Representatives, has written a petition to the leadership of the APC alleging that no election took place and that under the guise of consensus, “the party leadership in Jere, in total disregard for party guidelines and basic procedures for electoral contest…is seeking to impose a unilaterally compiled list of delegates.”
Mrs Umar’s case is not an isolated one. Every four years we witness the spectacle of a pretence of democracy among political parties, when in reality a handful of people made up of governors, party officials and political godfathers determine who ends up as a party delegate. And  these are not just issues that concern the fate of political parties at the polls; they impact all Nigerians. The failure to enshrine internal party democracy and a truly transparent process through which party officials and party delegates are elected has had a huge impact on the quality of elected political leaders in Nigeria at all levels.
There is little doubt that the country suffers from a leadership deficit and has done so for some time. These electoral processes which begin at party levels, throw up candidates without the requisite skills and character to lead at national, states and local government levels, with dire consequences for the country. By the time Nigerians get to the polls, they are often asked to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea. It isn’t that much of a choice, truth be told.
Overall, the threats facing Nigeria appear to be existential. They are so serious that even the most capable, competent and courageous leaders and government would be challenged with the arduous task of finding solutions. So imagine if in 2023, Nigeria is again faced with less than stellar choices. What if we are forced to choose between leaders that are incompetent or those who are corrupt or even those with both qualities?
The outcome of this failure – an inability to elect qualitative leadership – is self-evident.
Insecurity is now widespread across the country but it is particularly endemic in the Northern region, which, and this is no exaggeration, has become a killing field, with hundreds kidnapped for ransom and or murdered on a regularly basis. And these incidents occur with very little in the way of consequences for those perpetrating these heinous acts. Increasingly, the South-Eastern part of the country is also facing rising violence against citizens by armed and dangerous non-state actors. Terrorists are now de-facto, presently, fully engaging in their nefarious activities in three, if not four geo-political regions of Nigeria, and the states are clearly struggling to contain them.
The economy is also doing very badly. A continued reliance on the oil sector for foreign exchange earnings, unbridled corruption, a lack of accountability, and a myriad of other issues, including fiscal indiscipline, have all combined to ensure rising inflation and growing poverty among Nigerians.
The recent energy crisis has exacerbated the  pressure of eking out a living on already overburdened citizens. An oil and gas producing country of two hundred million people, which has, in the last few decades, spent billions of dollars trying to power the country, is today, shockingly, not able to generate – or even distribute – more than 5000MW regularly.
Power shortages are costing Nigeria some $28 billion, according to the World Bank. Citizens in Africa’s biggest economy continue to plunge into poverty. According to the latest data from the World Poverty Clock, Nigeria has over 70 million people, representing 33 per cent of the population, currently living in extreme poverty. This means they live on less than the equivalent of one dollar, ninety cents a day or one thousand naira. In fact, according to Business Insider Africa, real data shows that the poverty levels are much higher and that up to 53 per cent, for example, more than half the population, is living below the poverty line.
The impact of this is to further exacerbate crime, even in seemingly stable regions like the South-West. Nigeria is simply not working for the majority of her citizens.
Little wonder then that the prognosis for the country, by many respected analysts, is bad. The immediate homegrown challenges we face, many of which are self-inflicted, also make Nigeria particularly vulnerable to global problems, like terrorism and climate change.
…it is also true that perhaps the most compelling reason for Nigerian politicians to do anything is self-interest. This self-centredness appears to be perhaps the only thing that moves Nigerian politicians to act and so, in bare terms, they need to understand that they are also running out of time and runway. The cow is almost dead, it needs to be revived and healed. So, it is in THEIR interest too that Nigeria works. 
Overall, the threats facing Nigeria appear to be existential. They are so serious that they would challenge even the most capable, competent and courageous leaders and government would be challenged with the arduous task of finding solutions. So imagine if in 2023, Nigeria is again faced with less than stellar choices. What if we are forced to choose between leaders that are incompetent or those who are corrupt or even those with both qualities?
It is within this context that the almighty delegates across all parties need to understand the huge responsibility on their shoulders over the next few days. It is they who will determine the quality of the candidates that Nigerians will be asked to elect. It is they, and not Nigerians, that would determine the country’s future. It is they who will determine if the 2023 elections will restore hope or be the final blow that would knock this country out.

Think about the Nigeria you want for your children? What if they are kidnapped? So you have the money to pay, what about the impact of the trauma they experience before you pay their ransom? What if they are in a serious accident? Can Nigerian hospitals stabilise them long enough before the air ambulance whisks them to foreign hospitals?
How sure are you that they won’t get hooked on tramadol and meth and the myriad of illegal substances being imported and manufactured here in Nigeria? So, you have already ensured this won’t happen because you set up home abroad? Are you satisfied that they will never know home, or they ever be proud of it and may end up living in exile forever?
This is, of course, a simplified look at some of the one thousand and one reasons why delegates should opt for a functional Nigeria, but it is also true that perhaps the most compelling reason for Nigerian politicians to do anything is self-interest. This self-centredness appears to be perhaps the only thing that moves Nigerian politicians to act and so, in bare terms, they need to understand that they are also running out of time and runway.
The cow is almost dead, it needs to be revived and healed. So, it is in THEIR interest too that Nigeria works. They can do this if those they put on the ballot paper of each and every political party are capable. That way Nigeria will have a chance, regardless of which party wins elections. To do otherwise is to ensure that Nigeria moves closer to fulfilling all the negative prophecies made about her and that would be a crying shame because the country has all the ingredients it needs for greatness.
We have known this for a while, it is now time for our almighty delegates to manifest it.
Kadaria Ahmed is a Nigerian journalist, media entrepreneur, television host and executive director at DM Nigeria Limited, Lagos.
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