Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, has released a manifesto titled “Our Pact With Nigerians: Creating A New Nigeria.” The 62-page manifesto document focuses on seven thematic areas centred on the industrial revolution: institutional reforms, security, production, infrastructural development, human capital development, and robust foreign policy.
While all these themes seem to proffer solutions to Nigeria’s perennial challenges, questions are being raised about the feasibility of Obi’s manifesto being able to actually “manifest.” Therefore, this article reviews the manifesto and its pros and cons.
The manifesto highlighted Obi’s plans to:
“Move Nigeria from consumption to production and embark on comprehensive legal and institutional reforms and practicable restructuring measures to fight corruption; ensure the enthronement of the rule of law; and decisively tackle all forms of corruption.”
Currently, Nigeria consumes far more than it produces, which is premised on her dependence on imported produce, which has invariably affected her foreign income. With Obi’s plan to prioritise production, Nigeria will witness growth in her foreign income. However, one might argue that the presidential candidate’s plan to increase output could be a fantasy considering the country’s current structural limitations.
Again, Peter Obi’s resolve to fight against corruption should be commended, considering the prevailing corruption wave across the country. Leaders have made similar promises in the past without results. It seems to have become a common saying among the aspirants, but time will tell.
The manifesto also mentioned Obi’s plan to “improve access to finance, particularly for MSMEs, youths, and women, to reduce unemployment and insecurity significantly.” According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria has an unemployment rate of over 43 per cent.
Hence, there is a need for a radical approach to ensure an upgrade in the lives of Nigerians. The proposed plan by Obi to improve access to finance is the right way to go. The only cause for concern is the availability of funds to execute this.
For instance, as seen in the 2023 budget of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, 43% of the entire budget would be financed by debt. So it simply means that Obi will have to borrow more money to sustain the economy, or he will abandon his plan to finance SMEs.
The manifesto highlighted the need to “ensure that our diversity will be leveraged to give women and youths, the aged, and persons with disabilities an unfettered voice in governance and a renewed sense of patriotism and faith in Nigeria.”
According to a report by the Gender Strategy Advancement International (GSAI), women’s participation in Nigeria’s politics is at 6.7 per cent in elective and appointive positions, which is way below the global average of 22.5 per cent.
Obi should be applauded for prioritising this, considering women’s marginalisation. And, of course, intentional efforts should also be intensified to ensure more youth are involved in politics.
The manifesto further revealed his plans to “leapfrog Nigeria into the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) through applying scientific and technological innovations to create a digital economy.” Naturally, many youths would be interested in this promise, as they have been at the receiving end of policies affecting the actualisation of a digital economy.
From the ban on Twitter to the outlawing of cryptocurrency, the Nigerian government has not been spared harsh criticism for its insensitive policies on technological innovations. However, Peter Obi’s promise could be a light at the end of the tunnel for many of those affected.
Obi also plans to “build expansive and world-class infrastructure for efficient power supply, rail, road, and air transportation, and a pipeline network, through integrated public-private partnerships and entrepreneurial public sector governance.”
While this is commendable, one begins to wonder if Obi knows the state of the Nigerian purse. The Buhari government has consistently borrowed funds to execute capital projects. Is Obi planning to borrow more, or how does he intend to convince the private sector to partner with him on this seemingly unrealistic journey?
The manifesto also emphasised the need to “enhance the human capital of Nigerian youths for productivity and global competitiveness through investment in world-class scholarship and research, quality healthcare, and entrepreneurship education.”
Nigerians have suffered from constant strikes by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities and medical practitioners. Obi’s promise to invest in world-class scholarship would sound interesting to all educational and health stakeholders. If elected, his commitment to this promise would be integral to the success of his administration.
With reports of Nigerians being unfairly treated in some parts of the world, Obi’s promise of “conducting an afro-centric diplomacy that protects the rights of Nigerian citizens abroad and advances the economic interests of Nigerians and Nigerian businesses in a changing world” becomes necessary.
Nigeria has lost its respect in the court of nations, as it sometimes appears that the foreign diplomacy between Nigeria and other countries is weak. Therefore, there is a need to strengthen our foreign policy. The political will of Obi to get this done should, however, be backed by action if he emerges.
Nigerians will decide! Either Peter Obi, Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Kwankwaso, or any of the other presidential candidates would be the next Mr President if the majority of Nigerians so decided.