The 2023 general election kicks off in a matter of hours with the presidential and National Assembly elections. Eligible Nigerians from across the country will troop out en masse with their Permanent Voter Cards as their weapon to a new set of elect leaders who will preside over the affairs of the country at the federal executive and legislative arms of government for the next four years.
In the last three to five years, many Nigerians have had to leave the country in droves in search of greener pastures in what is popular referred to as ‘japa’. The japa syndrome among the Nigerian populace, especially the youths, represents the mass exodus of Nigerians abroad. The trend has evolved over time to represent a way of escape for Nigerians from a life of misery and systemic uncertainty to secure a better life for themselves and their families.
Although many have confessed that life on the other side is not all rosy, all eyes, both at home and abroad, are on today’s presidential election, as its outcome could determine whether or not the japa trend will further escalate or depreciate in hopes that something good can finally spring up for the betterment of Africa’s most populous country.
Speaking with on the eve of the elections, some Nigerians in Diaspora, who shared their japa experiences, raised similar reasons that led to them taking the decision to leave the country ab initio. Some of which included a working system; Provision of basic infrastructure; Insecurity and police brutality; High level corruption and unaccountability, among others.
But in fresh interviews, many have shared their expectations from the forthcoming presidential poll and how it could affect their decision whether or not to return home.
A United Kingdom-based Nigerian artiste, Rela, said, “The election tomorrow (Saturday) is an important one for us abroad. We are watching closely and also doing our part to ensure that our loved ones vote for a candidate that can truly make a difference.
“If we could guarantee our own safety and the same earning power that we enjoy abroad, we will be back home sooner than later. We truly hope that Nigerians would vote in someone that can stop the japa loop by beginning to make Nigeria more attractive for the youths to remain in the country.
“Obviously, if we begin to see an upward spiral of positive things happening in the country, then this will encourage a couple of us to come back. People are increasingly realising the harsh realities of being abroad, and that it’s not all rosy and glittering, so we are hoping and praying that a candidate with a compassionate heart for the people emerges so that we can be encouraged to gradually start to relocate back home.”
Another UK-based Nigerian, Mo, said, “I hope a lot of Nigerians come out to vote. I hope they vote for competence and not greed for every seat that’s being contested. I hope Peter Obi wins the presidential seat. And I hope it all goes free and fair.
“Although returning back to Nigeria is not an immediate plan, if there’s a significant difference in the country from what we left it, it’s a start for us to consider moving back.”
While a Canada-based Nigerian, Kenneth Osadalor, said, “I’ve stayed in Canada for over nine years and I’m a citizen now, but I can tell you that Nigeria is the best country in the world. All we need is one good leader at the centre. Just one leader that can influence like 15 others to do the right thing and actually serve. If we have 15 governors plus a President that is upright, righteous and does the right thing, I’m certain that a lot of us will move back to Nigeria immediately.”
Half-way around the world, a Nigerian based in Hong Kong, Nsikan, said, “If Peter Obi wins, I don come back follow him family do thanksgiving. On a serious note, I hope it (the election) will be free and fair. But we know the Independent National Electoral Commission is ‘rigged’ already. I’m just hoping for peaceful transition because it appears that it is #EndSARS 2.0 at a national scale.”
While Chioma Euguene said, “I’m really hoping the elections are peaceful and honest. I’m hopeful that the right man wins.
“If we as a nation can get it right, I personally will return more often for visits but completely moving back to Nigeria is a no for me. It will be nice to see Nigeria become a stable and sane country with leaders that at least value the lives of fellow citizens, treat them as human beings, accord them basic human rights, and provide them with basic amenities they need to survive and thrive as a people.”
This position that was also corroborated by a Nigerian nurse in the UK, Ade, who said, “I will visit more frequently if we make the right choice (today) and home is called home again.”
For the first time in Nigeria’s modern history, there aren’t two major contenders for the seat of the presidency, vying for a chance to take over from the incumbent President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
The APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, 70, running for the presidency for the first time, was a former two-term governor of Lagos State, between 1999 and 2007.
The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, 76, running for the sixth time, was a former vice president to President Olusegun Obasanjo and a former governor of Adamawa State.
While the underdog in the scene that has managed to shake up the Nigerian polity in less than a year after declaring his ambition, the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, 61, was a former two-term governor of Anambra State, who has managed to win the youths over to his side with his ‘consumption to production’ rhetoric and promise to “take back Nigeria”.
In only a matter of hours, a new President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will emerge. As the world watches as a new chapter in our history and democracy unfolds, may the best man win. And may the election be peaceful and birth a new Nigeria that will give hope to its millions of youths all over again.