The transition to a new government is underway. Public affairs commentator Abiodun Ladepo, in this open letter to President-elect Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, sets an agenda for the incoming All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.
Let me quickly jump in front of the oncoming bandwagon in offering my congratulations. I know you do not have too much time for niceties because much has been left in the Augean Stable for you to clean up. Let me be one of the first to offer my two kobo on how you should begin the art (for, in Nigeria, it is indeed an art) of governing us for the next four years. My advice is neither in chronological order nor even in any order of preference. But most of it stems from lessons learned in the huge fall from grace to grass of your immediate predecessor, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Declaration of Assets
Even before your official swearing in ceremony scheduled for May 29th, go ahead and declare your assets as you promised. Do it publicly. In fact, find some money and buy space in a few national dailies and online media outlets and declare your assets. I am sure your Vice, Professor YemiOsinbajo, will follow suit. Nigerians know both of you are not stupendously rich, so no need to worry about having to explain how you came about your assets. Then go ahead and make it (in private, of course) a requirement for all your ministerial, judicial and heads of MDA appointees, to also declare their assets.
Please look beyond the APC for a combination of brains and brawn. Make deliberate efforts to find talents in other parties (believe it or not, there are good people even in the PDP) and appoint them to, not just inconsequential positions, but key positions that will task their intellect and vigor. Look beyond active politicians for skilled people because many of them want to serve and can serve very well but for myriad reasons, could not participate in politics. Spread your appointments across the nation as fairly as possible. I know the southwest practically elected you (the north had always been with you) and you will be pulled by those of us from the southwest to reward us and not marginalize us like Jonathan did. But you are president for the whole country. Beam your searchlight on the east, south-south and all over the country and look for talents. If you try hard, you will find talents in the states that voted against you. You will find talents among Nigerians living abroad. You have to demonstrate the level of maturity that Jonathan lacked and show the world that you are not vindictive. How nice would it be if you could askNuhuRibadu to be Minister of Interior, in charge of the Police, Immigrations, Prisons, Civil Defense and Customs? These are parastatals that have become cesspools of corruption and need someone of Ribadu’s incorruptibility, energy, patriotism and attention-to-detail to lead. How about RajiFashola for Ministry of Works or Ministry of Justice? You get my drift?
Nigerians trust you and to some degree, trust Osinbajo. But that is not the same and will, of course, not be the same for your appointees. You cannot single-handedly eradicate corruption in Nigeria. In fact, no one can eradicate corruption from any country. You can only do your best to reduce it to the bare minimum. To this end, you must return transparency and independence to the EFCC and ICPC. Once nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate to serve for a specified term, the chairpersons of both organizations should only be removable by (a simple majority) legislative impeachment. This removes the EFCC from Executive control and allows every political party to have a say in how it does its job. Please ask your political appointees to sign an undated Resignation Letter before you appoint them. This will serve you well in the future if they misbehave and you need to sack them. All you would need to do is put a date on their Resignation Letter and ACCEPT their resignation. This letter serves to keep them on their toes. I have heard other members of your party (and specifically Prof. Osinbajo) promise to not go after those who have perpetrated corruption before your election. I hope that is not true. Nigerians expect you to go after those who stole the future of their children. No, you should not allow this to consume you and detract from more important things. Nonetheless, we cannot afford to let them go scot-free. They must pay, if only to serve as deterrence to future thieves.
You must overhaul the judiciary as a matter of urgency. The process of litigation in Nigeria is too long, too tedious, too expensive and too prone to abuse that justice is often delayed and thus often denied. Please embark on the construction of more courtrooms, upgrade the infrastructures of the existing ones, improve the welfare of judiciary workers and build more prisons to house those convicted in your new, expedited process.
This is too fat. You have to demonstrate to Nigerians that you are going to live by example. All those billions of naira usually allocated for food in Aso Rock need to be drastically cut down. Everybody working in or visiting Aso Rock is already being paid handsomely. They can pay for their own food. Make the cafeteria in Aso Rock a pay-for-your-own-food establishment for everybody. Cut down on the number of people traveling out of town and out of country who collect estacodes and allowances for doing practically nothing on such trips. Then invite the Senate leader and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and ask them to lead their respective legislatures in taking drastic cuts both in salaries and in other emoluments. Nigerians find it unconscionable that a Senator earns more than the President of the United States. Your predecessor was too compromised to have the moral authority to ask the legislators to take a pay cut. You do not have such a problem. They – the legislators – are looking for motivation, direction and purpose. You must provide that leadership.
I don’t need to tell you that this is the nation’s jugular. Fortunately, you are probably the most knowledgeable about this sector out of all who have governed Nigeria. So, there is very little anybody can tell you about this that you do not already know. You must appoint persons of absolutely unquestionable character to head this Ministry and the various parastatals that support our oil industry. Your Minister of Petroleum must believe in refining our oil within our country. And so that person must commence the construction of new refineries and the repair of old ones. If you have to borrow money to do anything, this is one sector you must get going almost right away. By the time your party comes to ask for our votes in 2019, we must be paying far less at the pumps than we are currently paying and exporting finished oil products to neighboring countries.
I take you at your word that you will revive the moribund Nigeria Airways by first deploying most of the aircraft in the currently bloated Presidential fleet to the national carrier. It has been a national embarrassment that the Giant of Africa has been unable to manage its airline. Remember that what killed Nigeria Airways was corruption (from ticketing fraud to spare parts fraud and) general poor maintenance record. Your new Nigeria Airways must be peopled with crack professionals and technicians – people who take aviation safety and customer service seriously. On the railways, you will agree with me that the situation whereby people and merchandises headingfrom Abuja to Ondo, Ile-Ife, Sokoto, Ado Ekiti, BirninKebbi, Akure, Benin City, Ogbomosho, Oyo, Jalingo,Yola, Damaturu, Dutse, Calabar, and many more key townscannot even contemplate taking the train. Train tracks do not pass through these places! And the tracks we have are single tracks that force trains to wait for each other for hours at trains stations. These were the tracks betrothed to us by the colonial masters and we are yet to improve on them. Please start building new tracks and get rid of those archaic, used locomotives with which your predecessor “transformed” us back to the Stone Age. Remember, a viable rail system will ease the pressure on our roads as large goods such as petroleum tanks and containers will find it cheaper and faster to use the railways.
Like NNPC, this is another sector about which nobody can lecture you. As the Boko Haram quagmire has shown us, there has been gross corruption or negligence or incompetence of all of the foregoing in the Ministry of Defense dating back to before your predecessor. Things just got past him more because he knew next to nothing about this sector and he was too incurious and too afraid to ask questions. Luckily for us, you know what is going on and nobody can accuse you of being too afraid to ask questions. The ranks of our military leadership, the officer corps, has been politicized and bastardized to the point that they have lost credibility with Nigerians. The respect and adulation normally enjoyed by the military has been erased and replaced with scorn and derision. People now see the military as a bunch of willing tools in the hands of politicians; a rag-tag bunch who will scamper off the battlefield with tails tucked between their legs at the sound of Boko Haram’s Hilux trucks. You have to restore the dignity of the Nigerian military. Heads have to roll. In fact, heads that have left the service but responsible for the rot in the military must be recalled and set rolling. You must set up a panel of former military officers, aided by a crack team of accountants, to look into the books of the military and find all the missing trillions – the reason our military lacked weapons and other equipment when called up to defend the country; the reason why thousands of our citizens were easily massacred by terrorists; the reason why we lost parts of our country to a Boko Haram and the reason why our country became the butt of jokes in international military circles. You must reorient the military to the path of professionalism – training for war in peacetime as if they are at war; training them in some of the best countries in the world and with some of the best militaries in the world; equipping them with the most modern war-fighting equipment; taking care of their welfare and that of their family and building for them infrastructures that befit the status we want them to occupy in the world. If you have to reduce the size, please do so. Remember, size is not might. Most advanced nations have moved away from large, slower military to smaller and more mobile, more nimble forces. That is the direction we should be headed. We should be building a smaller but more lethal force.
There are too many unintelligent personnel parading themselves as intelligence operatives in our country. Like the military, they too have been co-opted into serving the whims and caprices of the government of the day. And they do not know what they are doing. I make this last statement boldly, confident that I know what I am talking about. Our intelligence organizations should complement the efforts of the law enforcement agencies and the military. In fact, they should be integral parts of those organizations and should not, themselves, be exempted from being scrutinized. You need to infuse the DMI, the NSA, the DSS and all the others with well-trained (internationally well-trained) professionals who can teach basic and advanceintelligence gathering, packaging and dissemination to the end user. The gun-toting, sunglasses-wearing and suit-decked so-called intelligence personnel are just collecting pay checks. Where, for example, is the Boko Haram leader? Where are the Chibok girls? How are weapons getting inside Nigeria – and I mean heavy weapons? How are fighters getting inside Nigeria and how are they getting re-supplied? You need to overhaul this sector.
Please send a bill to the legislature prohibiting all government officials from using government money to fund any aspect of medical care they receive abroad. They can exercise their inalienable right of free movement, but Nigeria should no longer pay for anybody to receive treatment abroad. In the mean time and while the bill snakes through the legislature, use your executive powers to deny requests for overseas medical travels that involve the use of government funds.
Clearly, your biggest challenge is electricity. This is the giant killer that has “killed” those before you. If you fail in everything above and succeed in stabilizing electricity supply, increasing its generation and distributing it effectively, your name will be written in gold. This will task your brain and sap your energy the most. Every sinew of your being must be engaged when you appoint people to solve this very huge problem. With the talents that abound within our country and outside, with the resources at our disposal, you can eradicate our dependence on all sorts of generators. With stable electricity, you won’t need to create too many jobs as Nigerians will create jobs by themselves.
Your Excellency, I know you have a full plate and you are no spring chicken. That is why assembling a team of very qualified and able people from across the country and the Diaspora will make your job easier. All you need to do is provide the motivation, purpose and direction and they will execute.