The change Nigerians want by Femi Orebe


In a 3-part article: Periscoping  The ideal APC presidential candidate, which graced these pages between Sunday, 21 September and  12 October, 2014, and  in which I concluded that Nigeria needs General Muhammadu Buhari, the president-elect, more  than he needs Nigeria. I also quoted The Nation’s columnist, Gbogun gboro, as observing that Nigeria is now one of the foremost contributors to poverty in the world and that according to a World Bank Report, it will by 2030 be one of the main contributors to global poverty.

I followed that observation up as follows: ‘No thanks to a kleptomaniac PDP government which, rather than deal decisively with corruption prefers to romance it, serially dropping corruption charges against its members. Although the government has been touting its annual growth average of over seven percent, I think it needs be told that with the country’s dilapidated infrastructure and over dependence on oil, massive youth unemployment and, with between 60-70 percent of the population living below the poverty line, there is absolutely nothing for the Jonathan government to gloat about despite those voodoo statistics by the likes of TAN’.  Concluding, I wrote: ‘fifteen years after the PDP  took over the reins of government, Nigeria  now generates far less than the 4000 MW of electricity it generated in 1999 after having most of the 20 billion dollars it allegedly  spent on the sector stolen. It will be interesting to see which sane people would vote more of the same at the 2015 elections, and thereby consign Nigeria to purgatory’.

Please come with me briefly to see the comments of some well connected Nigerians who did not agree with my views, going by their publicly stated positions:

Buhari will die before the election –Fayose

Buhari is brain dead –Mrs Patience Jonathan

If APC survives till October 2014, call me a bastard –Doyin Okupe

Mark my words, it will not happen for Buhari to rule Nigeria –Doyin Okupe

If APC wins, I will go on exile – Bode George

Buhari can never win in Yoruba land – Gani Adams

Jonathan will shock APC with defeat –Femi Fani Kayode

If Jonathan loses, we would set Nigeria on fire –Asari Dokubo

We instigated the 6 weeks’ postponement so that Jonathan can win –Faseun

I will deliver one million votes to Jonathan in Ondo State –Mimiko

We shall deliver the South West vote to Jonathan –Afenifere

Tinubu is no longer a force in the South West –Odumakin.

Now all these would have been hilarious if they were not uttered in moments of excessive arrogance of power by persons you will reasonably call advisers to President Jonathan and those he, unfortunately, depended upon for victory.

And while at this, even as President Jonathan may have saved lives, limbs and property by his telephone call to the president-elect, it would need some effort to convince many Nigerians that the call was not induced by the likes of Washington and London on the grounds that Nigeria might descend into an orgy of bloodletting if the election was called.  I suspect this was what led to the proactive telephone call. I say this because the president has shown severally that he is only a skin-deep democrat.  Here is a president who did not utter a single word when a rogue parliament took over in Ogun State under Gbenga Daniel just as he has not deemed it right to caution Fayose under who the same has now subsisted for four months in Ekiti. Worse is the many references both Fayose and Obanikoro made  to him as the master mind of the army-led  rigging of the Ekiti governorship election of 21 June, 2014 as a bewildered world has come to know from the Captain Sagir Koli’s secretly recorded  Ekitigate tapes.  For the sake of posterity, it is important that these things be put in proper perspective

Given that the president-elect had  once opined that the PDP has, since 1999, presided over our country’s decline, leaving  Nigeria divided and  polarised  as never before; this by an unthinking government hell bent on ruling and stealing everything, it is obvious that the change he and the party  envisage must be  a total rescue mission of a country already  humbled by insecurity, corruption, an economy  worse than he inherited  in ’84,  massive unemployment, a  shambolic  electricity, a ballooning cost of governance; a  decrepit  road infrastructure especially in the Southern parts of the country,  a declining  standard of education and a people whose circumstances is worse than that of Europeans coming out of World War 11. The task is therefore daunting but Nigerians are trusting General Buhari to hit the ground running.

Security concerns should immediately concentrate his mind because, without peace, we cannot claim to have a country and given that Boko Haram, which has accounted for over 15,000 deaths, is only the worst of the demons of insecurity tormenting our country, urgent steps must be taken to tackle insecurity. The administration must, therefore, aggressively continue the current push against Boko Haram in conjunction with our neighbours.  Multilateral strategic assistance should also be sought from friendly overseas countries with hands-on experience in the fight against terror just as our men under arms must be adequately kitted and properly looked after. If the outgoing president could not deliver our Chibok girls before he exits on May 29, President Buhari must consider it a top priority of his government. With the help of hindsight, it is gratifying to know that the era of graft in our armed forces will be a thing of the past the minute General Buhari takes over as Commander-In-Chief.

That corruption has become a way of life in Nigeria is beyond doubt and government must approach it from two ends: a long term, fundamental re-orientation of the citizenry to the ends that corruption diminishes us all, and a short run that must be punitive. All proceeds of corruption must be retrieved; all scammers –oil subsidy, pension etc must be listed, publicly displayed and made to return every penny stolen. Impunity must stop and everybody held accountable for his/her actions.

It is no longer rocket science tracing the proceeds of corruption. It has become one of the major ways the world is now confronting terror. Once they pay up, cases against them should be withdrawn as we profit nothing by their going to jail. We need the billions, even trillions, to upgrade infrastructure in all facets of the Nigerian economy.

Concerning the economy, a friend, Biodun Adu, a London-based consultant gynaecologist, has suggested that the starting point should be the sale of at least nine of the eleven planes in the presidential fleet. Nigerians expect to see the back of the coordinating minister and, ipso facto,  what Dele Sobowale  of Vanguard  describes  as  Mrs Okonjo-Iweala’s “ abandonment  of  planning and forecasting for mere allocation of revenue and (mis)management of the Excess Crude Account”.

From my layman’s point of view, the incoming government should do everything to increase the quantum of electricity available in order to stimulate economic activity at all levels. To begin to chip off from the huge unemployment numbers, government must immediately discontinue statutory allocations to revenue generating agencies and use savings there from to almost double the staff strength in the police and immigration. Skill acquisition centres should immediately be established to retrain the hundreds of thousands of our graduates of higher institutions and enterprising ones amongst them should be given seed money to start off their own small scale businesses.

Working harmoniously with the APC majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the government must ensure that it cuts to a reasonable level, the embarrassing allowances our legislators are paid. This must be reduced by about 60 percent while retaining the salary which was fixed by the RMAFC. It is mandatory on the Buhari government to reduce the cost of governance in the country. At the beginning of its second year, the government should begin serious work on restructuring the federation. It should set up a committee of not more than 33 experts – 5 from each geo-political zone and 3 from the FCT – and task it with the responsibility of coming up with recommendations that should be approved, after appropriate constitutional amendment, only through a national referendum. The committee, in my view, should have at least 12 months to do its work, with the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference serving as its primary working paper. The committee should, however, expand the recommendations to arrive at a true federal system, anchored on the principles of fiscal federalism. Space constraint does not permit discussions on how to revive our education, make suggestions on a welfare programme for the elderly as Dr Kayode Fayemi did in Ekiti but now, unfortunately, cancelled; as well as proffer ideas on a robust youth policy. Without a shred of doubt, Nigerians can rest in the sure belief that the Buhari government shall work for them as the president-elect has promised. It is a new day in Nigeria. The change is here.


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