Five Challenges Buhari Should Tackle Now by Martins Oloja
President Muhammadu Buhari, the leader of the most populous black nation on earth, may not be well aware of what most of the citizens are saying at this time about his administration and how far they think he can take Nigeria.
It is indubitable that most president’s men tell any president-in-council what they think he would like to hear. Presidential aides and even most cabinet members are not known to be ready to tell the president any inconvenient truth that can strain relationship. What is more, our leaders at all levels like sycophants and mediocrities to be around them.
But despite overt hostility to even groundswell of opinion and wise counsel, I think we should continue to wish our leaders well by advising them on what we think they should do for our public good.
We should not be weary in doing good, despite their poor attitude to reading and listening. That is why I would like to join good people who have been suggesting some priorities to our leaders, especially since the build-up to the 59th anniversary of our independence early this month.
Our leaders may not be aware but there is a sense in which we can claim that there seems to be an emerging elite consensus that the country is headed in the direction of trouble and there is no glimmer of hope. Now, Op-ed pages are full of relevant articles more than ever before on the state of the nation. Retired writers are re-firing with some old intensity and good colloquium interviews on the state of the shaky nation are appearing in the mainstream and social media again.
Our leaders may not have noticed the return of voices of reason and courage, but they are here again on all platforms – in print, sounds and videos. It will therefore serve political leaders well to begin to monitor what the people are saying on radio, television, in print and on all digital platforms.
Specifically, we are running a unitary system of government nurtured by a presidential system of government. And so only one man is in charge of the whole country at this moment. His name is Muhammadu Buhari. He needs our prayers and suggestions. He should, therefore, listen to what the people are saying across media platforms at this time. This is no longer a time to blame the previous administrations. The honeymoon is over. This is a time to build a legacy. This is a time to think as a statesman, not a time to think about saboteurs and opponents. It is a critical time. He needs barely one year to disrupt some models of complacency and inefficiency even in the presidential bureaucracy.
That is why I have compiled some FIVE critical issues that will be sure difference makers, after all.
One is not losing sight of the president’s efforts in fighting corruption and insecurity in the land. But is it not quite apparent at the moment that insurgents in the North East have not been technically defeated, after all? Haven’t we noticed that banditry has become the most lucrative business in the country and security agencies have become helpless? If the federal might in Abuja cannot secure Abuja-Kaduna expressway from rampaging bandits for more than a year now, what more element do we need to claim that the security and intelligence agencies may have lost their mojo on the president’s watch?
Besides, has the anti-corruption project of the present administration been a clear success story by any perception index?.
One would have considered it a success story if the war on corruption has curbed official corruption in the country. The perception index on corruption hasn’t been favourable as the monster has been growing luxuriantly like my father’s yam tendrils in this rainy season. Let’s examine some curiosities on this score: Stories of sack of the head of presidential bureaucracy, the SGF over corrupt grass-cutting around internally displaced people’s camps in his region, suspension of head of the federal civil service of the federation over corruption charges are clear pieces that the enemy called corruption has been thriving since 2015 too. What of suspension and curious recall of head of national health insurance scheme over corruption inside the not-so-successful health insurance scheme and absence of essential drugs and basic equipment at the State House Clinic within the presidential villa? How do we classify two strong letters from the chief executive of the state security service to the senate that the arrowhead of the anti-corruption warfare, the EFCC Chairman, should not be confirmed because of evidence of corruption in the service records of the acting Chairman of the agency? How should we take unbridled growth in the subsidy racket from about 700 billion naira in the previous administration to about N1.4 trillion naira in this administration? A former National Security Adviser, (NSA) has been in detention since 2015 over allegation that national security funds were diverted for 2015 general elections campaign by the previous administration. But have there not been serious allegations of diversion of public funds for the 2019 elections? How did former ministers and heads of agencies standing trials in courts find their way back into office and the cabinet of the president fighting corruption? There are more curious cases, in this connection. But are these not clear pieces of evidence that the anti-corruption war of the present administration hasn’t been quite successful, after all?
Last week, stories of attempts at cutting cost of governance filled only some front pages and digital platforms. But the day the story came out was another evidence of avoidable increase in the cost of governance. That same day, the president approved six appointments for the office of the First Lady. The appointments included two embarrassing pieces: One Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the First on Media and Publicity was among the new six officers. And curiously, the Director of Information in the Office of the First Lady signed the statement on the appointments. What is the Office of the First Lady doing with a Director of Information and Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity at the same time at the time of cutting cost? These are little foxes that are spoiling the vines in an era of fiscal responsibility and cost cutting.
Despite all these strange developments in this administration that came in with so much promise in 2015, we should continue to suggest ways out of the logjam we have in now.
That is why I would like to suggest that our leader should focus on these five critical issues that may turn out to be the defining moments for the administration.
They are LAGOS, HEALTHCARE, EDUCATION, CIVIL SERVICE REFORM, PIGB and FEDRALISM.
It may be strange to most people why attention to Lagos should be critical to the administration. It shouldn’t be. Lagos is the economic capital of West Africa, not just Nigeria. The state of transportation infrastructure along the economic routes – from the only two working seaports in the country – to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is so tragic that it requires more than what Lagos state government alone can cope with. Lagos is locked down at this moment and Nigeria’s economic progress is also locked down. The president needs to visit Lagos now and see the decrepit routes to the Seaports and he will see why most Nigerian importers have preferred Benin Republic’s Seaport. There is need to freeze partisan politics at this moment. The president and his cabinet members need to hold an emergency cabinet meeting in Lagos where he may declare a state of emergency on the same Lagos that a Head of State General Murtala Muhammed promised on 3rd February 1976 would remain a fedral ‘Special Area’ for strategic reasons. Doubtless, Lagos
is too important to be left to Lagos State Government alone at this time.
This should be another top priority to Nigeria’s leader. The reasons are quite clear. The president has been receiving medical treatment in the United Kingdom. His wife too just returned from a fairly long medical leave in the same United Kingdom. These are very expensive tours. So, not just as a part of cutting cost of governance, it will be in the interest of the Buhari administration to ensure that before the 2013 exit date, there should be at least six world-class hospitals including teaching hospitals where our people and our leaders can receive medical care. This should be underlined as a reproach to be removed immediately.
CIVIL SERVICE REFORM
Unless the president pays more attention to a comprehensive reform of the federal civil service, his anti-corruption agenda on all fronts will continue to suffer reverses. He should read a recent article by a retired federal permanent secretary, Dr. Goke Adegoroye (serialised by ‘The Guardian’ and ‘Daily Trust’), and build on that foundation even as he dusts up the widely quoted Oronsaye 2013 Report on cutting cost of governance and efficiency in the public service. There is need to reform the federal bureaucracy now.
This is a sector the president should not ignore too. There have been enough documents and colloquia on how to revive this sector. He needs to pay attention to this beyond a declaration of an emergency. If he can organise all APC state governors to put this on their priority list too, it will help. Attention to this sector will cut cost of sending our children to schools abroad. Review of curricula at this time is imperative to meet the demand of this present age that social technologies disrupt daily. Education quality is regarded as the only weapon of country and global competiveness.
This is the conclusion of the whole matter. Again, the president should freeze politics that has underdeveloped us, in this regard. Our leader should note as many serious citizens and editorials have been suggesting every week that the present structure of Nigeria will continue to hold us down. The current unitary system that makes all 36 state governors to depend on the centre for survival every month will continue to ruin our path to progress. We will never get out of debt trap unless this convoluted federation is restructured to enable resources in different states to be developed by states where they are located. It is obvious, for instance, that internal security arrangement that does not legalise state police structure will continue to fail. In the main, PMB will be the greatest president ever if we can mark Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary next year with some legal devolution of even some powers to the states. That will be power to the people too to demand responsibility and accountability from our governors.
Oloja is a Columnist with the Guardian Newspapers