Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has said Nigerian politicians can win elections in 2023 without exaggerating the nation’s problems or stripping it naked in front of the global community.
Fashola made the remark Thursday in Lagos during a keynote address at The Niche annual conference.
The theme of the conference was: “The 2023 Elections and the Future of Nigerian Democracy”.
Fashola said, “We can win elections without exaggerating our problems.
“We can do this by providing credible service and thoughtful solutions.
“We can win elections without stripping our country naked in front of the global community.
“We can do this by ‘enhancing’ Nigeria’s possibilities and not by widening its fault lines.
“Elections and democracy should represent for us a celebration of ideas and choices that bring out the best in us and the best in our country.”
Fashola, a former two-term Governor of Lagos State, said democracy heralded freedoms including freedom of speech but many indulged in heckling, online trolling, hatred and verbal abuse in person in some cases or talked about ethnicity or religion.
The minister urged Nigerians to understand that choices have consequences as the nation moves into another election cycle in 2023.
According to him, shortly after the announcement of the 2019 general election results declaring victory for President Muhammadu Buhari, and while the opposition petition in the Electoral Tribunal was still pending, Nigerians started talking about 2023.
Fashola said that instead of focusing on what was going to happen in the lives of Nigerians following the new term in 2019, some Nigerians were already thinking about the upcoming elections.
He said Nigerians should end all hype ahead of the elections but focus on how democracy, especially the 2023 elections, could make life better and the country greater.
He said: “As we are 20 days away from the official start of campaigning for the 2023 general election, the 2022 annual conference, 170 days away from the first of the February 2023 elections, provided a potential platform for many possibilities.
According to Fashola, Nigerians must remember that democracy is simply concerned with popular participation in choosing a leader or a group of leaders.
He added: “Democracy does not guarantee that the leader or those leaders will or will be able to deliver what we want.
“Conversely, what do we really expect from those we elect and what do they promise to do before they vote, and what have they done for us? Did we vote for or did we collect tricycles, sewing machines, generators, etc. ?
“If we did, can we legitimately expect that the budget these things were purchased from will also provide health care, medicines and diagnostic equipment in our health facilities?
Fashola said the electorate must understand what are the actual constitutional roles of legislators, local government chairpersons, governors and the president, saying most Nigerians are unaware of the provisions of the constitution and their responsibilities.
The minister, who noted that Nigerians were staying in government, said many critics of the government had failed to provide an alternative to the challenges facing the nation.
Fashola added: “Elections are only part of the democratic process; and this requires not only that the winning party play its part in forming and running the government, but that the opposition as watchdog, and government in waiting, have an equally important role to play in enriching the process .
“Governing in power is not easy, and I dare say that the opposition is even more difficult.
“Let’s ask ourselves when was the last time that an opposition party prepared and detailed an alternative budget to that of the party in government.
“It is true that we hear criticism of what the party in government does not do or does not do well; but when I ask, do you remember an opposition party offering a credible, alternative solution to what the party in government has done wrong? »
Fashola said Nigerians must demand a practical alternative ahead of the 2023 general elections in order to sustain the future of democracy.
According to him, Nigerians should focus on the type of people they will elect in the states and federal constituencies because it is these people who will determine many things that will affect them.
He said the media’s responsibility in forming opinions remained enormous, urging them to do more by focusing on conversations that would affect the majority of potential voters such as the issue of education, access to health care, water and electricity, among others.
Earlier, the President of the occasion and former statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai who spoke on, “Nigeria at crossroads, the post 2023 challenge,” said that Nigeria was currently at a crossroads.
Yakasai, a human rights activist and former liaison to the late President Shehu Shagari, said, “There is an overwhelming consensus that political leadership under the current federal system is less than optimal.
“Democratic government which should ideally serve the people and build enduring institutions had only succeeded in creating a generation of oligarchs and political entrepreneurs running the country as a private enterprise and not as a federation responsible for welfare. of more than 200 million people.”
He denounced that although Nigeria is endowed with resources, many Nigerians were living in poverty, among other challenges, calling for political will to reverse the trend.
In his address, Eze Chidume Okoro, the Royal Father for the day, said the greatest gift the current administration should bequeath to Nigerians is to ensure that the 2023 elections work and that Nigerian votes are counted.
Okoro, the former vice chairman of the Imo State Council of Traditional Leaders, said, “We have the opportunity in the upcoming elections to change the narrative if the votes count.”
News Agency of Nigeria reports that some of the notable Nigerians inducted into the Niche Hall of Fame included Professor Remi Sonaiya, Professor Kingsley Moghalu, Professor Anya Anya, Dr Christopher Kolade, Fashola and Yakasai.
Sonaiya, speaking on behalf of the award recipients, congratulated The Niche on the recognition, promising that the recipients would live up to expectations.
Earlier in his opening remarks, Ikechukwu Amechi, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Acclaim Communications Limited, publishers of The Niche newspaper, said that when the newspaper debuted in April 2014, the editorial policy was consistent with his mission.
Amechi said, “TheNiche will always anchor its position on the need for social justice, equity and respect for human and community rights.
“The newspaper will be uncompromising against all forms of discrimination and subjugation whether by tribe, gender or religion.”
He said the timing of the conference itself was also deliberate because from September 28, exactly 20 days after the day of the conference, campaigns would begin according to the Independent National Electoral Commission schedule and six months after that, the Nigerians would go to the polls to elect new leaders in what promises to be back-to-back elections.
He said the idea of the conference was therefore to remind Nigerians in advance that elections have consequences.
Amechi said: “Undoubtedly, Nigeria is at a crossroads politically, socially and economically.
“The decisions that the more than 96 million registered voters make in February 2023 will determine the direction the country takes from now on.
“This conference, our modest contribution to nation building, is one of many interventions in the coming weeks that will hopefully help point the way in the best interests of Nigeria.”
NAN reports that speakers at the conference hosted by Prof Anthony Kila were Prof Victor Chukwuma, Dr Dakuku Peterside, Martin Oloja and Ene Obi.