Will the 2023 Election Be Different?

In 2019 I failed an election in Canada. I contended against powerful forces who had enormous financial resources. The campaign was tedious because I was dedicated to my cause and wanted to convince everyone who cared to listen to my message that I was the best candidate.

I successfully convinced both middle class and low income citizens that I was the best guy for the job. I received endorsements and donations from people who had not known me until they stumbled upon my platform on newspaper pages, on the campaign website, or via a brochure.

I was exhausted financially, physically, and mentally when the campaigns ended. I lost. It was painful. Very painful.

I have done a critical appraisal of that experience. So I write as someone who had failed an election in a society where politics is practically driven by both ideas and money.

When it comes to the 2023 elections in Cross River, I chose to remain silent. Yes. Silent.

Politics is money, and power is not given to wishful thinkers. It is wrestled with money and ideas. But money gives voice to ideas.

In the western world, ideas can win hearts and minds in your favor. But money will take your message to the nooks and crannies of society.

In a society like Nigeria, especially Cross River where I come from, ideas are displaced by the hunger to satisfy physiological needs. Those who throw money around will always receive the blessings of the hungry. They will continue to have an upper hand in political leadership even if they lack the capacity to lead.

The hungry aren’t just the poor. They include highly educated people who compromise their integrity for personal gain. They include professors who manipulate election results for personal gain. They include lawyers and judges who pervert justice for personal gain. They include students who mobilize for politicians to satisfy their hunger for food. They include young people who betray their future.

And predictably, hunger will continue to silence reason because it dictates the lens through which we experience political leadership.

Until such a time that citizens are educated about the power of their votes and the importance of voting based on ideological convictions, we will not have the kind of leadership that is needed to leapfrog our development.

The Collapse of Higher Education in Nigeria

There was a time when American citizens who received their undergraduate education at Ivy League universities found Nigeria as the ideal destination to pursue graduate studies.

I stumbled upon the LinkedIn profile of Dr. Judith Asuni, who had published some of the most insightful and policy relevant research on the armed groups in Nigeria’s oil region. I only realized today that she’s an American citizen who received her Bachelor’s degree at the prestigious Cornell University before pursuing graduate studies at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. That she left Cornell to pursue graduate studies at Ibadan, revives interest in Chinua Achebe’s book “There Was A Country,” a compelling and persuasive narrative of our varnishing country.

Like Ibadan, several other schools have historically attracted foreigners into Nigeria to pursue higher education. Until the early 2000s, the University of Calabar and The Polytechnic, Calabar, in Nigeria, had hundreds of Cameronean, Gabonese, and Togolese students on their campuses. To these cohort of students, studying in Nigeria was like studying in Europe or North America. The quality of education was good.

Today, you can hardly find a foreign student in any Nigerian university or college. Instead, what’s happening is reverse development. What is needed to move Africa forward is quality education.

Once African leaders recognize the importance of quality education and take drastic measures to reform their dilapidated universities and colleges, the migration trend that creates the so-called “brain drain” syndrome will reverse automatically in Africa’s favor. The African diaspora intellectuals, I believe, are patriotic citizens who love their continent and would be encouraged to give back.


Scholar | Author

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">inspire my students to think critically about the multidimensional causes of conflict and the processes of conflict resolution and peacebuilding, building upon rigorous research and my life experience.I inspire my students to think critically about the multidimensional causes of conflict and the processes of conflict resolution and peacebuilding, building upon rigorous research and my life experience.