The period preceding the presidential elections was greeted with intense and unrestrained emotions, outright bigotries and zingers from political opponents and supporters alike, so much that discussing issues that really matter was out of the table.
Public pundits who tend to raise their voices or pen down their thoughts on the challenges ahead got their ideas or pressing questions drowned amidst fierce online arguments. Discussing the manifestoes of the parties of the major contenders took the back seat while bickering on variables like the contestants’ age, health, religion, region, and ethnicity became the front burner across many platforms.
As the wave of the electioneering is beginning to disappear and the elections have been won and lost, I think we can start to ask the president-elect, where do we go from here? His job has been well cut out for him. And it will definitely not be an easy ride, and we need to be realistic.
Contextually, should subsidy finally go or stay? Should education at tertiary institutions be subsidised or commercialised? How do we push the country towards a knowledge-based economy? How will the poor access quality basic and tertiary education? How do we fund deficits in the power sector to make industries wake up? Can we change the security architecture? Should state police be created? Should we continue to maintain two chambers in the National Assembly? And how do we source the fund to run the government? To what extent should we play politics with governance? Can all these and many more be done in 8 years? The questions are many.
The election and its aftermath exposed the fragile unity between the regions and religions that made up this geographical space called Nigeria. Therefore, as a matter of urgency, the President-elect should hit the ground running by reaching out to aggrieved regions and their leaders by assuaging their real or imagined fears and grievances.
The problems of the country are too enormous to be dragged back by agitations and the feelings of being left out. Therefore, an inclusive government and approach to governance have never been this necessary.
Just when President Muhammadu Buhari was about to claim victory over Boko Haram and insecurity in the North East, unprecedented spates of killings, kidnappings and banditry reared their ugly heads in Northwestern Nigeria.
A huge swathe of land became inaccessible, many major roads were deserted, farming nosedived, and a humanitarian crisis ensued. With these problems, many people found themselves in the yolk of poverty. Others became homeless, and fangs of hunger rendered many others dead.
The security structure is in dire need of an overhaul. Community policing, intelligence gathering, using a non-kinetic approach and the continued procuring of more weapons cannot be over-emphasised. The procuring process of these weapons should be monitored to evade financial abuse by unpatriotic elements in security management.
Personnel on the front line serving the country should also be motivated. A situation where underperforming service chiefs are rewarded with tenure extensions or a slap on the wrist should end with President Buhari.
Furthermore, I think decentralising the Police Force is necessary to curb the spread of insecurity across the country. State police is an idea that could be floated and established while strong laws preventing sub-national governments from abusing it should accompany such establishment.
Successive governments have failed to face and address the epileptic power supply problem headlong. A humongous amount of public funds have been infused into the power sector only to purchase more darkness for Nigerians. We had intermittent national grid failure with President Buhari. Many Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) depend on the power supply to fester as many others have yet to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and cashless policy shocks and effects.
The state of the economy is scary. Unemployment has increasingly become high; inflation rates are biting hard; economic growth is sluggish; the country’s debt burden upsurged; the gap between the poor and rich has widened; and the conservatism of the Central Bank was thrown to the dogs by Governor Emefiele thereby making monetary and fiscal policies blurred.
These indices have been detrimental to the security and well-being of the citizens and their businesses. Therefore, the President-elect has a considerable responsibility to close the gap between the rich and poor through job creation, effective wealth distribution, social protection programs with measured outcomes and strengthened fiscal policies.
Only a few among the unlettered in Nigeria don’t know this word. Even those who cannot speak English have a name for it in their language. It is obviously no longer sustainable, as we even borrow to close budget deficits. However, oil is the most critical ‘social safety net’ for the poor in Nigeria; a tweak in its price is greeted with snag, suspicion and impoverishment.
The distrust between the leaders and the led has reached a crescendo, and the oil sector is marred with irregularities so much that we are not even sure of the amount of our domestic oil consumption. Therefore, critical infrastructure needs the money channelled into the subsidy to enhance economic diversification and gradual departure from over-reliance on oil.
And an excellent way to allay the masses’ fears that the money derived from the lack of subsidy might be squandered is through involving vital stakeholders like the Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress, civil societies, sub-national governments, community leaders, and other relevant bodies. A comprehensive Key Performance Indicator or milestone should be developed and tracked by these stakeholders, and a project implementation and result delivery unit on the side of the Federal Government.
Another problem the President-elect will carry forward from President Buhari and even presidents before him is the ASUU-FG debacle that has refused to succumb to any pragmatic solution. Fake promises and insincerity on the side of the Federal Government and dogmatic or unbending approach on the side of the Academic Staff Union of Universities have made it impossible for the two to reach a sincere, realistic and practicable solution on the way forward.
Plus, we are still battling corruption. Padding in the budget, red tape in the civil service, inflation of contracts and other forms of abuse of public office for personal gain are still with us. Corruption has basically been cancer eating up the already meagre and dwindling resources meant for economic growth, nation building and stability.
Corruption will not disappear overnight, but with the help of technology, building strong institutions and strengthening existing ones like the Judiciary will go a long way in minimising it.
The issues mentioned above and many more are parts of the conversations we should naggingly keep having with the President-elect, who will be sworn in as the President come May 29, 2023.
We should be less tendentious in doing so, but we should never relent in holding our leaders — presidents, governors and other elected or appointed public officers —accountable as humanly possible. The era of lack of communication and the body language that being our President is like doing us a favour should end with President Buhari.
I wish the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, successful days in office. May Allah grant him firm political will and a competent team to drive good policies and push the country towards greatness. Let the conversations continue.
Abubakar Suleiman writes from Kaduna and can be reached via [email protected]
CONVERSATION WITH PRESIDENT- ELECT, OR EVEN WITH THE PRESIDENT.
Those who belong to the same party with president – elect ought to have had numerous interactions with him. But that is an assumption. Many are there who never came near the president-elect, talk less of engaging with him. Of certainty a president in his office is not accessible to the poor.
Ideally, citizens should engage with the president through their legislators.
To avoid that many legislators avoid their constituencies, re-surfacing only when new elections are around the corner.
Three groups can help change Nigeria for the better: NLC, MAN, AFAN and ASUU.
But by their antecedents they won’t. Their preference is to always blackmail governments for their selfish interests.
Abdullahi Musa writes from Kano.