Presidential and national assembly elections over, focus is now on President Muhammadu Buhari’s next level agenda, writes Olawale Olaleye
It was not a surprise that the path to the February 23 presidential and national assembly elections was paved with tension and apprehension and eventually resulted in serious violence in many parts of the country. Some of the projections ahead of the elections had suggested that the elections, particularly, the presidential bout would be tight and tough and indeed, it turned out so.
That may just be the end of the first phase of the struggle for the nation’s top job. It’s been signed, sealed and delivered with the declaration of Muhammadu Buhari as the president-elect. However, the controversial outcome of that phase had birthed yet the second one, albeit not unexpectedly and that is the legitimate right of the opposition to challenge the outcome.
Presidential standard bearer of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar had already gone to court, having declared the elections as the worst in the history of the country, comparable to none, he added.
But whilst the nation starts to follow through with the drama of the pending legal fireworks, it is trite to pay attention to the current challenge, which is, looking up to the promises of the ‘next level agenda’ as propounded by the duo of Buhari and his lieutenant, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
Although the president had given an insight into his second term in office, when he said “my last lap of four years will be tough”, that may not have entirely the inherent idea behind the next level.
Buhari, who spoke while hosting the Federal Executive Council (FEC) explained that his second term would be tough, because Nigerians are easily forgetful!
He reckoned insisted that the next four years of his government would face the economy very squarely because of the huge unemployment rate bedeviling the country, which he said had become a huge problem to everybody.
Suffice it to say, however, that in 2015, the change movement rode to power on the tripod of Security, Economy and Corruption, which screamed CHANGE. The narrative at the time suited the mood of the nation and sold like wildfire.
There was no debating the nation’s deteriorating security situation, not made easy by staggering corruption, which resulted in an otherwise struggling economy. Therefore, cashing in on the situation was not only smart at the time; it was the only route to Aso Rock.
But because the government hardly did well in those three boxes in the first term, the need for a change, of course, became imperative since it could not run confidently and effectively on its own record.
Ahead of the elections penultimate Saturday, the government and ruling party ran on five agenda, captured in its document titled the “next level”. They are one, jobs; two, infrastructure; three, business, entrepreneurship development; four, Human Capital Enhancement Services – Healthcare, Education and five, political inclusion.
Although a few of these projections already sit well with some of the key performance indicators of the government in the nearly four years that it’s been in power, the need to expand and contour them to suit the new thinking is the focus now.
This much the president-elect alluded to in his acceptance speech at the All Progressives Congress (APC) secretariat. He sought a reunification of the country by urging his supporters not to gloat over the PDP defeat, which is already being challenged, and at the same time promised inclusiveness in the coming dispensation.
His words: “I thank the millions of Nigerians, who voted to re-elect me as your president for the next four years. I am deeply humbled and profoundly grateful to you for judging me worthy of continuing to serve you and for your peaceful conduct.”
While noting that the elections were relatively peaceful, he affirmed that troublemakers in a handful of states attempted to disrupt an otherwise orderly process, and maintained that the security agencies would bring to justice all those arrested in the process.
“I am very sad at the grievous loss of lives during these elections. Security agencies will step up their efforts to protect voters in the forthcoming State elections,” he said, adding that, “I would like to commend our security agencies, as severely overstretched as they are, for handling the difficult task of securing the country during the election period.”
In appealing to his supporters not gloat or desist from humiliating the opposition, Buhari said, “I will like to make a special appeal to my supporters not to gloat or humiliate the opposition. Victory is enough reward for your efforts”, even as he thanked both the “Domestic and International observers for contributing to the success of our elections and for their interest in our country and our developing democracy.”
In his many promises, he reiterated that “The new administration will intensify its efforts in Security, Restructuring the Economy and Fighting Corruption. We have laid down the foundation and we are committed to seeing matters to the end. We will strive to strengthen our unity and inclusiveness so that no section or group will feel left behind or left out,” he stated.
Fair or not, the first round of the elections is over in spite of its many and staggering imperfections, but going forward, the need to heal the country of her bitter division and properly position her within the development challenges and needs have become inevitable.
Importantly, it is pertinent to stress that the dust so far raised by the outcome of last Saturday’s election is not in haste to settle, the reason government must look beyond the immediate distractions and hit the ground running without any inhibition, knowing full well that the next four years would be tough.