Buhari’s Nine Policy Priorities And Matters Arising By Emmanuel Asiwe

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Amid the worsening poverty, widening inequality, widespread insecurity and jaw-dropping revelations of monumental corruption oozing out of the NDDC, it was obvious President Muhammadu Buhari wanted to reassure Nigerians with a seeming resolve to genuinely address the life and death challenges facing the country. Buhari, while receiving letters of credence from envoys of eight countries at Aso Rock, yesterday in Abuja, announced nine policy priorities of his administration in the next three years. A statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, listed the priority areas – building a thriving and sustainable economy; enhancing social inclusion and reduce poverty; enlarging agricultural output for food security and export; attaining energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products and expanding transport and other infrastructural development; expanding business growth, entrepreneurship and industrialization; expanding access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity of Nigerians; building a system to fight corruption, improving governance and creating social cohesion and improving the nation’s security. Against the background of the shattered hopes, broken promises, disappointments and regrets with the president’s performance in the last five years, there are justifiable reasons to be cynical and incredulous over Buhari’s renewed commitment to fulfill his campaign promises and make Nigeria great again.

It has been said that the spirit of the age, is what a great man changes. Buhari has had the chance to change Nigeria for the better, since 2015. Now that he seems to have awakened from his Rip Van Winkle slumber, duty is calling again and giving him another chance at self-redemption to turn things around for the better as, history now beckons. For President Buhari at age 76, with few if any points to prove; for a man who, out of a fervent conviction that he has something positive to offer his country, has sought the presidency three times, Nigerians gave Buhari an opportunity to write his name in gold, but he apparently crumbled under the weight of public expectations. He has three more years to right the wrongs of the past. And this time around the President used the opportunity of a diplomatic event; and in so doing, admonished Nigerians and the international community to bear witness to his renewed pledge for a better future and to move the nation forward.

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The point must not be lost on any one that Nigerians have twice voted more for a man of integrity than a party populated by persons of disparate characters, motives, and objectives, and shifting – some say dubious – political inclinations. Besides, this is a Buhari-led government and, as the saying goes, the buck stops on his desk. This being so, President Buhari must bring to bear on his government all the positive attributes that have so far endeared him to a broad range of Nigerians. He must therefore lead the APC to govern Nigeria with integrity, in the various and fullest meaning of the word. In all of his actions, he must be guided not only by political astuteness but also the public interest. This is what the future of Nigeria is all about.

Doubtless, 33 months are enough for the President to make a difference in the identified policy areas; no honest assessment can return a verdict of satisfactory performance on the Buhari administration in the areas of the economy and security. The average Nigerian’s life is brutish with no value. Instead of life more abundant, it is death, cries of death and threat of death all over the country. Security of life and property is completely prostrate, leaving agents of death on rampage, wreaking havoc at home, places of rest, in holy sanctuaries, school dormitories, police stations, military barracks, in and out of place of work and even while in search of daily bread. In a continued orgy of indiscriminate bestiality, thousands of Nigerians have been killed; scores of homes and places of worship have been razed and many villages have been sacked. Indeed, the entire Northeast has become a killing field for terrorists and herdsmen.

It doesn’t take eternity to demonstrate competence in governance. If Mr. President is able to follow through on these promises and not a speech delivered to hoodwink Nigerians, the possibility of a significant turnaround in critical areas of the nation’s politics and economy is very plausible. This means a number of things. One, Buhari must take a hard look at the civil service as an institution that can make or ruin a government. No one, not even the president, can say with confidence that the civil service has been acting with the utmost integrity and in the best interest of Nigeria. As the engine room of the machinery of government, the civil service does indeed determine the success or failure of any government. Buhari must instill the discipline to make the civil service follow the tenets of integrity as well as function in the best interest of the Nigerian people.

Secondly, Buhari must cast his net wide to hire the best heads and hands to help him achieve the goal of a more developed and progressive Nigeria. Nothing in the constitution or commonsense dictates that such men and women can be found only within the APC or some specific region of the country. The standing view is that Buhari has a “Northernization” agenda that has resulted in northerners being appointed to all commanding heights of authority positions in the military and public service. This needs to change. Also, pretending that all is well when the electoral process is abused is an insult to democracy. The huge loss to the state, damage to the people’s psyche and truncation of a people’s destiny are best imagined when elections do not reflect the will of the electorate.

Thirdly, contrary to all expectations, corruption has become bold and ravenous. If anything, fighting corruption has become a sleazy industry just as lucrative for the perpetrators as the anti-graft agencies themselves, with both feeding fat on each other. It has gone on for too long and this must change now. Nigeria must also improve its telecommunications infrastructure. Against the public outcry over poor service delivery by telecommunications companies, making or receiving calls in Nigeria is a most frustrating experience. And other services using broadband are not better.

More importantly, Nigeria is yet to achieve an acceptable level of power supply, badly needed for economic development because the entire country is in darkness. It is regrettable that despite the much-flaunted reforms in the electricity sector, the situation has gotten worse. Nigeria has a lot to learn from industrialized economies that have perfected running government largely on taxes. Nigeria needs a tax system aligned to global standards and the country must diversify its economy. The vagaries of the world economy and discovery of alternative energy sources in developed economies are enough reasons for resource-dependent countries to diversify, build a strong industry based one, create jobs and therefore increase its taxable base.

As Africa’s economic giant, Nigeria must lead by example and industrialize. The starting point is the Ajaokuta steel company; a perfect illustration of how the hope of an industrialized Nigeria was shattered on the altar of corruption and incompetence. Nigeria has massive potential but the economy faces strong headwinds from corruption, decrepit infrastructure to general insecurity. The country is bleeding. Besides being the poverty capital of the world, the Economist Intelligence Unit rated Nigeria the worst place for a child to be born out of 80 countries surveyed. This is unacceptable, and a shame. Nigerians are bored with slogans without action. Against the palpable fear that Nigerian leaders may have irretrievably betrayed the country’s high destiny, Buhari has an historic opportunity to lead Nigeria into greatness. This requires bold and purposeful leadership. 2023 is not far away and the clock is ticking.

. Emmanuel Asiwe wrote in from HuhuOnline