By Casmir Igbokwe
One Igboman resident in Kano called to mock me recently. The man calls from time to time to lecture me on why Ndigbo, including me, must support President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress. In his view, Buhari would never lose the 2019 presidential election and the Igbo should support him to make their journey towards the Presidency in 2023 smooth. From my writings, it was obvious I did not heed his advice. And Buhari was said to have won the election.
The man pooh-poohed me, “Your man (Atiku Abubakar) has failed. When I told you that Buhari would win, you didn’t listen. I thought that learned people like you were wise … Now, you people have failed. Ntooor!”
I laughed. What my unsolicited adviser and his ilk fail to understand is that it is not about supporting or not supporting Buhari. It is about the survival and general wellbeing of Nigeria. Clearly, Buhari did not do well in his first term. And I cannot see a pit and fall into it because of some pecuniary gains. Such selfishness is partly what has kept Nigeria in limbo since independence.
At his inauguration on May 29, 2015, President Buhari told Nigerians that he belonged to nobody and he belonged to everybody. We clapped for him. We said, now we have a good President. Events of the past four years were to prove eventually that we still have a long way to go. May 29, 2019, will soon be here. We will go through the ritual of another inauguration. Flowery speeches and promises will be made again. Some people will hail and shout “Next Level”!
That is if Buhari and his APC succeed at the election petitions tribunal. The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, is currently challenging the outcome of the election at the tribunal. Whether it is Buhari or Atiku, the task ahead is enormous.
First, there is urgent need to galvanise every segment of Nigeria. Since after the civil war, never in the history of the country have we been as fragmented and divided as today. Some groups like the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have been agitating for self-determination. The new president should douse this type of tension by initiating the restructuring of the country. Such restructuring should be done in such a way that no segment of the country feels cheated in the scheme of things. There should be equal opportunities for every citizen and regions or states should be allowed to develop at their own pace.
This restructuring could even start with the appointment of ministers and heads of security and other government agencies. Nepotism clearly defined the last dispensation. Almost all heads of security agencies come from a particular section of the country. This negates the federal character principle and should be corrected immediately.
Besides, there is too much concentration of power in the centre. That is why the struggle to occupy the Aso Villa in Abuja is usually very fierce. There is need to devolve this power to the regions or states, as the case may be. Let the centre concentrate more on defence of the country from external and major internal aggression.
The Federal Government should set an example with Benue, Borno, Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, Zamfara and some other states in the North. In fact, protection of life and property is the major duty of a government. The Buhari administration failed in this main task. Never again should there be such senseless killings of innocent citizens as had been witnessed in places earlier mentioned.
Government should also make every effort to rein in the Boko Haram terrorists. The best way to do this is to motivate soldiers fighting the insurgency and equip them with modern weaponry. Military authorities should upgrade the intelligence arm of the armed forces. They should be able to detect clandestine moves among the terrorists and even some soldiers to sabotage the efforts of those fighting in the war front.
They should also be able to detect any move to kidnap our young girls from their schools. The Chibok and Dapchi experiences should never happen again. So far, the terrorists are still holding one of the Dapchi schoolgirls kidnapped last year. Leah Sharibu is still in captivity because she is a Christian and refused to denounce her faith as Boko Haram wished. The Federal Government should intensify efforts to secure her release.
Authorities in the Villa should also enforce basic education for our children. Over 13 million Nigerian children are out of school. This is not salutary. Government should understudy how the government of Peter Obi transformed education in Anambra State such that the state rose from number 26 to number one in West African School Certificate examinations in the country. The Anambra magic should be replicated nationally. And it is not just by increasing allocation to education but by also monitoring to ensure that such allocations are well utilised.
After school, our children should be able to find decent jobs. Those who have entrepreneurial skills should be encouraged to establish businesses of their own. What the government should do in this circumstance is to provide the enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
Nigeria should study what China, India and Singapore did to transform their economies. Current policies have stifled businesses and led to the closure of many of them. We must revive such companies and even strive to create new ones.
If we must borrow, it must be for capital expenditure. And we must say capital NO to profligacy in government. Again, Peter Obi’s model comes handy here. We must block many ways through which government functionaries fritter money away.
We must also diversify the economy by developing different sources of generating revenue for the country. Oil is a depleting resource and may soon become an insignificant commodity in international trade. Already, developed countries are seriously developing alternative sources of energy. Electric cars, for instance, are here with us. Government must encourage small-scale industries that can produce and export goods. This will yield us the much-needed foreign exchange.
Our health system also needs an overhaul. For every little ailment, our politicians and wealthy individuals travel abroad to seek treatment. The United Kingdom, United States, Canada and India are the biggest beneficiaries of our medical tourism. It is shameful that part of Buhari’s four years as President was spent in a London hospital. This was despite billions of naira allocated to Aso Rock clinic. The question is, how many heads of state or presidents come to our hospitals for treatment?
Also deserving of treatment is the unhealthy and flagrant disregard for the rule of law. Nigeria is no more under military dictatorship. Hence, on no account should any person, no matter how highly placed, trample on the fundamental rights of the citizens. The last dispensation witnessed undue flouting of court orders. For instance, former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, have remained in detention despite court orders to have them released. Also, the circumstances surrounding the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, by the President remain fishy. We must collectively say no to this type of impunity.
We must also reject the politicisation of anti-graft agencies. The fight against corruption should not be selective. It should not be a witch-hunt. The government should help in the fight by blocking the major loopholes through which public office holders siphon money.
Security vote is one of such major loopholes. The President and governors collect humungous amounts of money every month in the name of security vote. They do not account for it. This must stop. It is either we send the money directly to security agencies that need it or we make the governors account for how they spend it.
By and large, we have had this civilian rule for about 20 years without military interruption. No doubt, there are hiccups here and there but our prayer is that our democracy should continue to improve. The only choice we have now is to either rescue Nigeria or go our separate ways.
Re: Manipulated elections and Nigerian judiciary
Dear Cas, God bless you for your script on manipulated elections. How can this country make progress? No way. The impunity and zeal to do the wrong thing, instead of good things, are mind-boggling. Look at the presidential election, even the blind knows the ills and manipulations inherent in it. The military should be out of politics, out of road and should not be commonly seen in society. Now the military has been used and accused of snatching ballot boxes, rigging elections and intimidating voters. Too bad!
– Ali Hofnar, +2348059576140
With the manipulation and other vices that happened in the just-ended general election, the judiciary should do their job very well by removing desperate politicians who won election through manipulation and other vices. The judiciary is the last hope of the common man and I believe that judges should work under the ambit of the law to sack some politicians that won elections through rigging and ballot box snatching. The judiciary should not compromise because of money but do the needful by delivering good judgement.
– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535
- First published in The Sun of Monday, April 1, 2019