There is need for better engagements between the presidency and the people, writes Adewale Kupoluyi
President Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been re-elected during the last presidential election across the country. No doubt, the poll was highly competitive considering the desire of the main opposition party; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to reclaim power that it lost to APC after an uninterrupted rule of 16 years. PDP has since rejected the outcome of the election and is instituting a legal action challenging Buhari’s victory.
The federal government can be said to have recorded remarkable success in some areas such as waging war on corruption, fight against insurgency and insecurity, virile foreign relations and bringing prudence into public sector finance. The Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy alone has been able to rake in N8.9 trillion into government coffers. Many Nigerians are however still of the opinion that the Buhari administration has performed below expectations. It would suffice to say that as the federal government consolidates on its modest achievements, there is the need to really work harder.
To begin with, the incoming administration should put in place, a functional cabinet made up of credible, experienced and committed persons, to constitute the Executive Council of the Federation. This time around, Buhari should avoid a repeat of what happened in 2015, where it took him about six months to assemble members of his cabinet, which was eventually dominated by old and recycled politicians. This should not be. The president should look beyond party considerations in choosing eligible Nigerians. It is widely believed that the failure of the president to timely appoint qualified candidates into respective offices could largely be responsible for why his government could not achieve much.
In making the appointments, the president should be wary of sycophants and the so-called Aso Rock cabals; be conscious of the pluralistic nature and diversity of the country, to ensure balance as much as possible. One of the main criticisms of the Buhari administration is the perceived lopsided nature of his appointments that tend to favour northerners. Filling of positions based on ethnicity, religion and tribal sentiments should be jettisoned because it is at variance with national unity, cohesion and meritocracy. Nigeria is endowed with many intelligent, capable and resourceful men and women that can turn around the fortunes of our ailing nation within a short time, if given opportunity. I do not agree with the clamour that only card-carrying members of APC should be given appointments. Although, majority of the appointees could come from the ruling party, technocrats from other parties and non-party structures should form part of the new cabinet.
Good governance is a function of the quality of leaders; hence, nothing should be left to chance in picking the right leadership for the nation. The president should communicate better in the new dispensation by rending periodic stewardship. There is need for better engagements between the presidency and the people in general. This vacuum, which featured in the last dispensation, should be avoided. Unethical practice of keeping the people in the dark about the health status of the president, who is a public officer, is an example of bad public communication.
The incessant killings, destruction of property and farms by herdsmen should be curtailed. In Nigeria, herdsmen have turned themselves into terrorists with minimal resistance from our security agencies. This is unacceptable. President Buhari should prove critics wrong, who feel that his poor handling of the herdsmen-farmers clash could mean tactical support for the heartless group. His re-election should spur him to totally nip the malaise in the bud. Sustained efforts should also be deployed to fighting Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East. It is imperative to exhibit sincerity and genuine sense of effort to end the continued bloodbath whereby innocent people are either being maimed or killed. The existing counter-terrorism strategies should be pro-active and focus more on intelligence. Our porous borders aiding insecurity should be looked into. The huge resources committed to fighting insecurity can only yield positive results when all stakeholders stop paying lip service and are truly ready to put a stop to the carnage. This deserves urgent attention by the president.
The epileptic power supply across the country should be addressed. Poor electricity negatively affects economic production as many manufacturers continue to battle with high cost of providing alternative source of energy. Genuine and capable private sector operators should be encouraged to come on board while government should get less involved in electricity generation, distribution and transmission. The fusing of the ministry of power, works and housing together should be unbundled because the structure is not making the desired impact. The Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005 should be revisited in relation to decentralisation of power in the country. Buhari should ensure the completion of the over 5,000 kilometres federal roads and the 5,000 kilometres of standard gauge rail lines as well as the Second Niger Bridge.
In view of the declining global prices of oil, government should diversify the monolithic economy towards non-oil production by opening up the country’s ailing economy to attract huge foreign investments and reducing public debt. Under Buhari’s watch, the economy should have a clearer focus and direction. Agricultural production should be given a boost through highly-subsidised farming, access to cheap funds by farmers and small-scale investors, improved storage system and provision of attractive incentives to unemployed young people to go into agriculture. The high rate of unemployment in the land remains a source of worry to all. This ticking time bomb should be accorded the seriousness it deserves in the next few months.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had recommended that at least 15% of the national budget should be set aside for health. Government should abide by this benchmark through improved health sector funding and expanding the scope of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), to accommodate a significant proportion of the populace from the current level of less than 5% access by mostly federal civil servants and scope covered by NHIS while access to expensive drugs by common man should be increased. Education at all levels should be given its pride of place through enhanced funding and honouring all signed agreements with parties.
In the fight against graft, the government should record more successes by securing convictions. Anti-corrupt agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should be adequately funded to engage the services of sound prosecutors, to reduce losses of high profile cases on technical grounds. As at last year, the EFCC recovered over 400 mansions as well as N794 billion, £1.1 million and $261 million from corrupt practices. Prosecution of corruption cases should not be lopsided; irrespective of political, ethnic and religious affiliations of those concerned. Similarly, the federal government should also improve its human rights record by obeying all pending court decisions.
In line with the intention of APC to pursue the restructuring of the country; this should see the light of the day. By that, contending issues would have been resolved like the viability of the presidential system, state police and regionalism, among others. Finally, the president should leave an amiable legacy by embarking on reforms that would strengthen our electoral process so as to drastically reduce violence and malpractices. He should walk his talk and make the people happy by fulfilling his re-election promises. However, his inaugural pledge in 2015 is still fresh in the memory, assuring that “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”. He should live up to expectations and work assiduously with his new team in turning around the nation.
––Kupoluyi wrote from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta