A Nigerian political economist and leader of the Labor Party, Professor Pat Utomi, has raised concerns about the alleged growing lack of civility and intolerance ahead of the 2023 general election.
Utomi, who is the Coordinator of the BIG-TENT Coalition of Political Parties, Social Movements and Civil Society Organizations for Obi-Datti, made this known at a press conference on Friday in Lagos.
The former presidential candidate and founder of the Center for Values in Leadership said the nation’s democracy was being threatened by an escalating situation in which opposition parties were denied public facilities to hold rallies in some states ahead of the next general elections.
“The experience of many who understand the essence of democracy and who are participating in the current elections suggests a significant level of collapse of civility, growing fascism and polarization of the country by politicians who are unwilling or unable to focus on the issue. .
“Since our return to democracy, a consortium of academics and pollsters from us and across Africa have been surveying and examining attitudes towards democracy and elections in Africa. They have offered us longitudinal data on society’s willingness to political life.
“Unfortunately, the data has shown a continued decline in confidence in the democratic order in Nigeria.
“This trend may only be reversed with new excitement from the Obidient movement, which has seen almost 13 million new voters register to vote in 2023 in Nigeria,” he said.
Describing Nigeria’s democracy as the collapse of civility, Utomi said a situation where some state actors used public funds to oppress the opposition called for the need to save democracy from their enemies.
According to him, his campaign experience has also seen owners, religious centers and traditional institutions intimidated for allowing the opposition to use some of their facilities to hold rallies.
“My experience with the 2023 campaign, while marked by a sense of hope for enthusiasm for the organic momentum of the Obi/Datti movement, is that there has been a drastic decline in civility by many politicians and a crystallization of division. towards painting that Nigeria may be being pushed into a class war that could destabilize our sub-region and push us into anarchy.
“It is imperative that we move to reduce incivility in our democracy.
“Our democracy has been in decline for some time. When we see a terrifying threat, it’s important that we speak up. I have seen a terrifying threat of bigotry,” she said.
Utomi, a former head of the Lagos Business School, urged Nigerians to vote against political parties that bully other parties or prevent democracy from working in 2023.
According to him, there is a need for Nigerian citizens to hold public office holders to account.
The professor said that as a presidential candidate in 2007, he visited every state in the federation campaigning without intimidation, describing current events in contrast.
“The classic example includes preventing the opposition from using public places for rallies, destroying opposition posters and billboards, and intimidating landlords from renting buildings to the opposition.
“The experience in Delta has been the most outrageous where even the Churches and traditional rulers describe the government as so vengeful that they couldn’t risk allowing the opposition to use their facilities.
“This compares so badly to my campaign experience in 2007 when a governor from an opposition party thought our cars couldn’t survive on the roads and gave us the use of government house SUVs.
“Or even the experience of the 1960s when Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief HO Davies would go out campaigning for their two different parties and at night one would go to the other’s house and pick them up to go play tennis and have a glass of beer afterwards.
“Unless we can restore our democracy to rational public conversation or what Waziri Ibrahim would call ‘politics without bitterness,’ the polarization of politics can be everyone’s undoing,” he said.
According to him, it is therefore important that the Nigerian people save their country by making sure to keep people who lack character out of politics.
Stating that 2023 marked his 50 years of active activism since 1973, Utomi said citizens were just waking up to their duties, “but I don’t think they’re doing enough.”
He added that despite INEC stopping Rolling Voter Registration too soon, more than 12 million Nigerians were able to register to participate in the elections.
“If INEC hadn’t stopped registration, I’m sure we would have gotten about 20 million new registered voters,” he said.
Denouncing the decline in security, Utomi called for the decentralization of the nation’s security.
He said: “We can have multi-layered policing that will make the police more effective. Why don’t we have a proper conversation about this instead of name calling?
He condemned the nation’s economic challenges, describing them as self-inflicted.
Utomi said that if the nation shifts from consumption to production, the country’s situation will change.
He Nigerian News Agency reports that the Big Tent coalition is led by the Labor Party’s presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, and his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed.