As INEC battles to publish the approved names of the contestants in the 2011 Nigerian elections while trying to avoid the landmines of politicking and legal fireworks, the era of sentiments and intra-party politicking will now give way to campaigns and debates across issues and party lines. Yes, debates. I think it is high time we got off the vote-by-the-party bandwagon that has always traversed the Nigerian political terrain. This is the time that really addressing the issues challenging the potentials of the purported Giant of Africa needs to come to the fore. Before anything, we need to agree that we, citizens of the nation, have not enjoyed the best of times. There is a general agreement both internationally and locally that Nigeria needs to wake up to its responsibility before the window of its opportunity for greatness closes. These are the challenges the incoming president must be able to tackle and which we must keep in mind as we begin to assess the aspirants. What problem must the next president solve?
Infrastructure: if there is one problem organizations and businessmen are complaining about, it is the problem infrastructure. Doing business in Nigeria requires a lot of guts:; the willingness to generate your power and water, the courage to deal with the risks of courage and transportation and they savvy to still make profit with dealing with multiple taxation and imported products. The number of casualties on our death traps, those sacrificed on the altar of incompetence is enough for any nation to demand a strong commitment from our next president
Identity: Who exactly a Nigerian is and what defines us. People have called us all sorts of names: the most corrupt, hardworking, happiest, resilient, group of scammers…. We have been told who we are, but we, ourselves, have never defined ourselves. The next president must help (re)define the Nigerian identity; he must move us away from the issues of ethnicity and religion which have been used to divide us, and he must ensure that the Nigerian character and dream supersede any other thought or latent intent in the heart of every Nigerian.
Education: The recent statistics from the different levels of national education sector reveal that things have sunk to frightening dimensions. The stakeholders are failing in every respect. Not only do the schools not have the capacity to accommodate students, the students themselves hardly qualify for admission. We need a president who values education over organizing sports tournaments and national award ceremonies. Interestingly, most of the people vying for the presidency are intellectuals with the acumen to deliver results.
Corruption: It is unarguable that the behemoth of corruption plays a role in our being reduced to a state of economic dwarfism. How else can one explain that a nation representing one of the richest countries in terms of mineral and natural resources is one of the poorest in terms of the number of people living below $2 a day? We also have thrown a lot of money at our problems without that translating into a better life for the average citizens. Today, we need a leadership with the courage to reverse the tide of regression. We need a leadership capable of plugging the leaking purse of the nation. We need people who the lust and pleasure of power will not derail. Nigeria needs a leader who will get the job done. As we wait patiently for the debates that will bring the issues of the Nigerian nation to the fore, we await the emergence of bold and courageous leadership that is ready to tackle the cobwebs on our road to greatness.
What one problem must the next president solve?