‘Seun Ibukun-Oni, Patrick Kelechi – Ahead of 2023 presidential campaign, leading candidates of the various political parties yesterday at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Annual General Conference in Lagos took turns to project their programmes to Nigerians.


Top on the burning issues, the presidential hopefuls spoke on include: economy, insecurity, the lingering university lecturers’ strike as Nigerians ask for issue-based campaigns ahead of the 2023 elections.


The candidates who spoke on the topic, “Democratic Transitions in 21st Century Nigeria: 2023 and Beyond,” are those of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar; Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, and the vice-presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Kashim Shettima.


Other presidential candidates present at the event are Adewole Adebayo of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Dumebi Kachikwu of the Africa Democratic Congress (ADC), and Professor Peter Umeadi of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).


The NBA conference was the first time all of the presidential candidates would be assembled in one place after the primaries which ended in early June.


The presidential candidates have a tough job selling their ideas to Nigerians on how to turn things around even though campaign is slated to begin on September 28.


With inflation rate at 19.6 percent, unemployment rate at 33.3 per cent, and population at over 200 million, the number of unemployed Nigerians is over 66 million, which is more than the population of Ghana (31.07 million), Cote D’Ivoire (26.38million) and Togo (8.279 million) put together. According to data sourced from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment rate has been on a steady rise since the first quarter of 2015.


Speaking at the event, Shettima, who represented the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, said their ticket is the best because of their skill set, capacity, and past achievements in office.


He said, “He is a city boy, I am the golden boy. In Jim Ovia’s words, competence is what people are assessed by. We have mentored men who have excelled in all aspects of human endeavours.


“I urge lawyers to be resolute, firm, to make bold, informed decisions, not emotional decisions. Align with the visions of APC candidates; we’ll create a Lagos experience all over the country. Make informed judgement, and vote for competence and capacity. Asiwaju is the man to beat.


He went on: “When Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu became governor of Lagos State in 1999, there was only one ambulance in the service of the Lagos State Government, now Lagos is earning N51billion every month as its internally generated revenue.


“Lagos is the third largest economy in Africa and the world is in transition. What is important is a Nigerian leader of the next dispensation must be a leader who has a mastery of financial management capabilities and someone who understands Nigerian psychology and someone who appreciates and understands the complexity of the Nigerian nation.


“Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has established an excellent track record for performance. He has mentioned men and women who are excelling in different fields of human endeavours and the world is changing and the trajectory of global growth facing Africa and Nigeria will make or mar that transition.”


According to him, in these days when other parts of the world are talking about artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, etc., Nigeria needs a leader with the requisite skill set and understanding of the global economy to shepherd it in this age.


Speaking about himself, he said, “In the history of Zenith Bank, no one, I dare say, apart from the legendary Ada Umeji, grew faster in the history of Zenith than my humble self.


“I urge my friends here to be rational, firm and have the boldness and courage to make informed decisions, not emotional decisions. Here we are on the threshold of making history. In the United Kingdom, a young man of Indian descent is about to become the Prime Minister,” Shettima stated.


Atiku on his part said that one of his major goals in vying for the 2023 general election is to unite Nigerians to fight insecurity.


Speaking on his five-fold plan for the country if elected, the former vice-president said, “Since the return of democracy, Nigeria has never been in such a critical situation as we find ourselves now. The problems of poverty, insecurity, unemployment, etc, are enormous but what is important is how to tackle them.


He also spoke about his plan to manage the economy by abolishing the multiple exchange rate and devolving more power to the states.


The PDP presidential candidate also hinted that he would hand over federal government-owned universities to the federating units, a comment which he later denied.


He said, “I argued with a university professor from Federal University, Lokoja. He said he read in my policy document that I intended to devolve, in other words, to return education to the states. How dare I do that?


Also speaking at the event, the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, stated that the 2023 election will not be about religion or tribe but character and competence in leadership.


Obi said Nigeria’s woes had gotten so bad that the 2023 election would not be about religion or tribe but about who has the character and competence to deliver the country from its current mess.


He said, “Nigeria is in a mess. We got here simply because of the cumulative effect of bad leadership. The coming election is not about tribe or religion but character and competence. We need a bold transition from a highly insecure state to a highly secure state.


On his part, the Social Democratic Party candidate (SDP), Adebayo urged voters to respect the truth of what is going on in Nigeria. He lamented that the country’s crude oil is being stolen by the government.


He also urged participants of the conference to be suspicious of every statistic being thrown around, particularly by old politicians.


The APGA candidate, Umeadi, called for respect for the ballot and the need to have a free, fair credible election.


ADC candidate, Kachikwu, on his part, said solutions are desperately needed to the problems facing the country. He stressed the urgent need to recruit more people to fortify the existing security architecture.