...as efforts by previous administrations to turn things round have failed.
May 29 takes a new form in election years, especially when the baton changes hands from one President to another, or even one political party to another. With the situation of things in the country, tomorrow should not be a day for so much pomp and pageantry, wining and dining. It should indeed be a day for sober reflection on the state of the nation and the way forward.
Few indices of development show that the country is making so much progress. Maternal mortality, infant mortality, multidimensional poverty, inflation, poor electricity supply and even social cohesion remain major challenges – in all, Nigeria has a poor record to the point of being rated the poverty capital of the world.
It is good that the new President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has promised to hit the ground running. He is not oblivious of this fact. He said he fully understood the position of things. Governance in a presidential system reflects so much on the personality of the President – how prepared is he; how disciplined is he; how firm could he be and his philosophy of life.
When the late Professor Chinua Achebe said the problem with Nigeria was leadership, he hit the nail on the head. The country has hardly been blessed with progressive, transformational leaders since independence. Most of the leaders have functioned more as dealers, and those who were not “fantastically corrupt” were unable to rein in their men.
Indeed, when Achebe wrote the “Man of the People” after the First Republic to depict all-round corruption by leaders of that era, he had no idea what was coming in years ahead, both under the military and the civilian governments. Yet, no one has been able to trace the loot in the government then to the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa. The same could be said of President Shehu Shagari of the Second Republic.
The buck is now on the desk of President Tinubu, who has as first assignment the choice of men and women to assist him in running the ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government. He must locate people of unimpeachable character, who share his philosophy in setting the ship of state sailing. Then, having set his priorities, he has to once again sell his agenda to the people.
Then, he has a duty to tackle the insecurity that has almost done the state in. In the North East, insurgency subsists, even though tamed to a large extent. But in the North West states of Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and even Kebbi states, banditry is the order of the day. The bandits raid homes and communities at will. Schools are regularly violated and the traditional institution has been compromised to the point that one, in Zamfara, turbaned a prominent member of the ‘club’. Soldiers and military officers are said to be supplying information to the men of the underworld.
The new President has given insight into what he would do, including mass recruitment of men into the armed forces, reform and beefing up the number in the Nigeria Police Force and equipping all the security forces adequately. He has promised to leverage technology in fighting the war that has turned many to refugees in their own country. The war against brigands has not been limited to the far North. In the North Central, Niger, Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau and Kogi states have been regularly raided by these men with the state appearing helpless.
In recent times, areas of the Federal Capital Territory bordering Niger State have not been spared. The criminals were so audacious that they sacked the Kuje Prison on July 5, 2022, to free their men awaiting trial for mass murder. Bloodletting in the land must stop if the confidence of the people in their government to secure their lives and property is to be restored.
As James Carville said while advising former United States President Bill Clinton in 1992, we could use the phrase: “it’s the economy, stupid”. To say that the Nigerian economy is in the doldrums is an understatement. With the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), a state agency putting multidimensional poverty at about two-thirds of the people, the new President has his work cut out for him.
He may not have a magic wand. He is not expected to come up with a miracle. All jaded policies of the Buhari administration such as the Conditional Cash Transfer by which a pittance of N5,000 handout is given some of the most vulnerable in the society, the market money and similar policies should be recalibrated to stimulate rather than stagnate the economy. In their place, a better-thought-out programme meant to move the mass of the people out of the poverty bracket must be put in place.
It is good that he has already sounded the note that the subsidy on petroleum products, especially Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) would be removed very soon despite the implication for the people. But what has to be done must be done in view of the fact that about N7 trillion would have been expended on the subsidy. What informed people await are the palliatives that would cushion the effect on the people and the sincerity that would attend the implementation.
It has also been pointed out that the multiple windows of foreign exchange leave room for manipulation and round-tripping. In the interest of the economy, this must stop. Even the industrialists who are touted major beneficiaries of the Import and Export windows have decried the policy as they had to fall back on the parallel market to purchase their raw materials.
Then, there is the electricity supply. It is shameful that despite the promise by successive governments to ramp up generation, transmission and distribution, including the partial privatisation of the distribution and generation sectors, nothing positive has come out of it all; yet billions of dollars have been pumped into the sector. We still supply less than 5,000 megawatts to households of more than 200 million Nigerians, and industries. This, experts have said, must change if we are to give a boost to the economy, empower industries to employ the teeming unemployed youths who, of recent, have been finding their way out of the country in search of greener pastures.
It’s not only about the economy. The President must find a way of connecting with the people. He has to regularly communicate with them and sell his government’s policies and programmes to them. The government must be transparent in all its dealings.
The new president has projected a track record during his stewardship of Nigeria’s flagship state of Lagos. Many expect him to show his acumen in running the country.
We look forward to how long it would take him to make key appointments, restructure agencies of government and come up with a blueprint for general restructuring of the Nigerian federation to conform to the template adopted by other plural societies.
Arise, Nigerian compatriots. Obey the clarion call of the country. It is a call on all to rally round the government, give it a chance to prove itself, in the interest of all. It is a country of great potential, but these potentials in mineral and human resources must be converted into actuality. It is the only way forward.