The 2023 elections are near and nigh. Day by day, Nigerians have listened to different public declarations from political figures contesting for the number one seat of Nigeria. Judging by their political and financial capital, some aspirants are contenders and some are “pretenders” – borrowing beer-parlour lingo. But what really should define a presidential aspirant is the quality of their economic plans for the people they seek to govern.
Historically, pre-election years are when the country runs on overdrive. Politicians heat up the polity as they openly see to the character assassination of their rivals whilst jostling for primary tickets and preaching on why it is the turn of their geographical region to rule. Always politicking – while leaving out the most important thing Nigerians deserve to hear – their economic plans and policies.
Nigerian politicians are quick to run smear campaigns but shy about running issue-based campaigns. Issue-based campaigns that centre on key indicators such as foreign exchange policies, subsidies, import substitution and export plans, taxation, employment, inflation, revenue, security, education, healthcare, electricity among others. These areas need to be debated to examine if they deserve to be the President of the largest nation in Africa. Any other agenda run is tin-eared and tone-deaf to the travails of Nigerians.
Exchange rate: Presidential aspirants need to tell us about how they want to halt the depreciation of the naira, and if they would continue pegging the currency or floating the naira to encourage business and foreign investment in the country?
- Will their government loosen capital controls and enable easy repatriation of foreign investors’ money.
- Are we going to float the naira? Implement managed float or a hybrid?
- Are we going to lift the ban on 41 items that have been in place since 2015?
Subsidies: Another issue that should be campaigned on is the controversial removal of oil subsidies.
- This is a recurring debate where the government has to choose between removing oil subsidies, embracing higher petroleum prices, and making higher investments in other sectors of the economy in healthcare, education, and infrastructure.
- Or keeping the subsidies in place, watch citizens enjoy lower prices and make lower investments in other sectors of the economy.
- Do they have the political will and capital to go for the former choice which has been touted as the better choice by analysts and experts?
- How will they manage the agitation of the Labour Union and the imminent industrial strike actions that would follow suit?
Exports: Other key areas that aspirants should focus on are exports and another source of revenue for Nigeria besides oil.
- The Nigerian economy has been held hostage by oil and with revelations by key stakeholders that most of our oil is being sabotaged by thieves – there needs to be urgent focus on how to fix this leakage and proffer solutions to increase our non-oil exports.
- How do we deal with militancy and oil theft which has drastically reduced our revenues?
- In addition, what policies do we implement to encourage non-oil exports and eliminate the snags at the ports that negatively impact the ease of doing business at our ports?
- How do we better channel export guarantees and incentives for exports?
- The population is growing but the country’s revenue does not seem to be following suit – how do aspirants address this?
Taxation revenue: has been one of the highlights of the current administration, however, there is room for improvement.
- How does Nigeria increase her tax revenue? Vertically or Horizontally?
- Increasing taxes on the rich to bridge the gap between social classes or widening the tax net so everyone pays their fair share of taxes.
- But incoming aspirants have to prove to the electorate that they would enjoy the dividends of taxation to end tax apathy. Accountability is a two-way street.
Unemployment: A major area aspirants need to address is employment. Across all political campaigns, the word “youth” is echoed and has become clichè.
- Because the youth make up the majority of the voting population, politicians tend to sing their songs as they believe it would be music to their ears.
- However, that ship has sailed, Nigerian youths want clear action plans on how they would be empowered to earn decent wages. But for wages to be decent, it has to withstand inflation. How do aspirants help Nigerians to bring inflation to a single digit?
- The United States inflation target is 2%, can aspirants provide a pathway to how Nigeria can achieve a similar target?
Inflation: Would it be feasible to tackle the components of inflation?
- Food makes up close to 60% of inflation in Nigeria. How can aspirants assure Nigerians that they can be fed cheaply?
- How do they intend to use arable lands to grow their own food without interruption from bandits and killer herdsmen who have terrorised farming territories?
- How can they solve the security problem that is prevailing in the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern agitated regions?
Revenue: How will the incoming President checkmate the excesses of all the government revenue agencies?
- How can Nigerians just pay the intrinsic costs for a service and go home without being extorted?
- How can they fix the madness at the Ports, Ikoyi Registry courts or at Immigration offices? Nigeria needs solid institutions that would outlast Presidents.
- Will the government consider restructuring the civil service by implementing the provisions of the Oronsaye report?
Education: is a major thing the new government needs to invest in more.
- Education is a catalyst for any developing economy. How are more women going to be educated and empowered?
- Studies prove that the power of girls’ education on national economic growth is undeniable: a one percentage point increase in female education raises the average gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.3 percentage points and raises annual GDP growth rates by 0.2 percentage points.
Healthcare: Policies on healthcare and electricity should be on the front-burner of campaign strategies as both sectors need heavy investment.
- Can Nigeria run a properly run public health care service like the British NHS?
- How can we meet the minimum world bank recommended budget allocation to healthcare?
- How will the government stimulate investment in healthcare sector saving the country billions of dollars in outflows from medical tourism?
Electricity: And in electricity, can we finally have effective and efficient GENCOs, DISCOs, and Transmission companies? These are the questions Nigerians want answers to.
- Will the government consider a major overhaul of the current power sector industry model?
- How do they get the sector participants to recapitalize and increase the spate of investment required to move the sector forward?
- What is their take on the status of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN)? Should it be privatized?
There are many more issues around the economy that a presidential aspirant needs to answer. There is Ease of Doing Business, foreign investment promotion, focus on services and manufacturing, transportation policy etc.