President Muhammadu Buhari has rightly identified the nation’s numerous challenges and expressed his resolve to tackle them “head-long” in his May 29, 2015 inauguration speech. He promised to fix the economy, tame the monster of corruption, tackle the Boko Haram insurgency and other forms of insecurity, sustain the rehabilitation of the Niger Delta, improve power supply, tackle unemployment, provide infrastructure, enthrone power devolution and set the nation on the path of prosperity. He also appealed to the other arms of government and the citizenry to cooperate with him in achieving these daunting tasks.
These are good agenda. But Nigerians know that this nation has never been short on policies and promises. Nigerians know that every previous government – civilian and military – made the same promises but ended up fulfilling them in their breach. Indeed, the missing link has always been implementation -lack of political will and resolve to implement set policies-. For instance, National Development Plans from independence to date have not yielded any meaningful dividends.
As a newspaper, we believe that the six core issues that will deliver the desired change are evolving the right policies, building strong institutions, assembling the right personnel, adopting appropriate methodology, finding the courage to deliver them and adopting the principle of fairness. We also share the position of management experts that results answer to a mixture of resolve, strategic planning, targets setting, setting timelines, periodic evaluation and review of performances. There is no doubt that previous governments failed on these scores, thus throwing the nation into unnecessary strain since independence. This is the gap that the Muhammadu Buhari administration must strive to fill.
There is a need for the Buhari administration to have a realistic and achievable blueprint on every issue which will state the policy direction, set targets and apply timelines. This blueprint should dictate person specification — persons who have the expertise, experience and strength of character to implement the policy. These appointees will have to report to the President and his team who will assess and review as appropriate. To achieve this, the President is enjoined to attach portfolios to the names of ministerial appointees to Senate for confirmation so that relevant questions can be asked to determine the suitability of the nominees. The previous practice of sending names of ministerial nominees to the Senate without portfolios for confirmation delivered nothing but mediocrity. For a nation that has suffered from leadership crisis, comatose economy, crass unemployment, corruption, among other vices for 55 years, including 16 years of unbroken democracy for the first time, delivering Change to a sceptical and hopeless citizenry will not be a piece of cake.
Change attracts numerous enemies, people who are averse to the alteration of the status quo that has been beneficial to them. There is the army of nay-sayers as well as a coterie of sycophants whose interests are injurious to the leader’s and national interests. There is also the citizenry who are in a hurry to reap the benefits of their votes. A government that covets real change cannot be friends with any of the parties. Real change agents are firm, business-like but fair. They make unpopular and tough but realistic decisions that deliver enduring results. President Buhari should avoid being pushed to play to the gallery. Indeed, embarking on populist policies to garner popularity will be missing the point.
While it is good to fix and diversify the economy, tackle insecurity and dislodge corruption, it is better to evolve a home-grown economic policy that will stand the nation out and put it on the path of prosperity as China did. And this should play a pivotal role in choosing the Minister of Finance. The Finance Minister should be a professional and a tested hand in the chosen economic policy, among other requirements. The nation has witnessed misery since the First Republic was sacked in 1966 because, after the discovery of oil, diversification policy was abandoned and the economy has even standing on one leg. President Buhari should find the courage to diversify the economy. The starting point is to get the National Assembly to revoke all anti-investment legislations that make it impossible for the states to exploit the mineral resources under their soils. Efforts should be made to return the nation to the old days when textile and manufacturing industries provided jobs for millions of Nigerians and served as a plank for the economy.
The Federal Government would need to evolve a strategy for dealing with the hydra-headed security challenges ravaging the nation. And this goes beyond dealing with the problem in isolation. Fixing the economy, empowering the people and providing employment for teeming unemployed Nigerians are ancillary issues to taming the insecurity monster.
The Buhari administration should endeavour to separate politics from governance. This calls for fairness to all. The anti-corruption war should be doggedly pursued with fairness. The principle of sacred cows which turned the anti-graft agencies into arms of the government in power should be discarded. While President Buhari has a duty to ensure that the principle of separation of powers is adopted, the leaderships of the legislature and the Judiciary should buy into the new-found change and ensure that bad eggs are shown the way out. The real owners of change are Nigerians. There is no doubt that Nigerians voted President Buhari into power because they were tired of the status quo that got the nation nowhere. They must therefore be ready to pay the price. Change comes with sacrifice. There is no magic wand to deliver immediate prosperity. Enduring change has to be systematic, thorough and persistent.
The change we need is the one that is enduring and people- and not government, class or region specific. It is one founded on good governance, institutions and equity. When good governance and strong institutions are enthroned, the common ills of ethnicity, tribalism, religious bigotry, selfishness, class differentia, among others, that have adversely shaped the nation’s political landscape will no longer define our common identity. When good governance and strong institutions rule the nation’s political landscape, Nigerians will be united to vote the people that have the capacity to sustain their interests no matter who they are, where they come from and the religion they profess.