Agenda for the 2015 Elections.

Agenda for the 2015 Elections

PUNCH, June 9, 2014 by Eze Onyekpere

2015 is by the corner and elections will be held to elect individuals and parties who will run our affairs for the next four years. As I look around, I see excess vacuity and seeking for power for the sake of power, not necessarily for the execution of any development agenda. I see the same old and young politicians who do not think through issues before they make pronouncements on them. I see mediocrity all around; indeed politicians with ideas that will not get the basic pass mark in any developmental examination, masquerading as the champions of a new Nigeria. All the promises they make are the same – building grand castles in the air. But they lack the depth of analytical rigour to fashion mechanisms for implementing lofty ideals into improvement in the living conditions of Nigerians.

Have you read the manifesto of the two leading political parties? What are the differences in their promises? Will anyone be blamed for mistaking one for the other? And then, the political dramatis personae moving from the purportedly “Old Peoples Democratic Party” to the All Progressive Congress while some of those who founded the APC moved back to the PDP when they felt they lost control of the party structure in their state. Can anyone in truth say that the existing governors are differentiated in their performance based on their political affiliations? Is the same old imposition of candidates and lack of internal democracy not pervasive in the two political parties? It is the position of this discourse that nothing has changed and nothing will change if Nigerians do not mobilise to set the agenda for the 2015 elections in terms of putting up our priorities and agenda and asking the parties and candidates to come up with their positions and approaches to solve the existential challenges facing the nation.

Addressing a few of the burning national issues that hinge on our human and infrastructural development is imperative. The parties should present their road map on the cost of governance. The idea of spending 80 per cent of federal expenditure on the recurrent vote is sheer madness and can only continue to our peril. Yes, every party will state that it wants to reduce the cost of governance; but how? What will the party do with the recommendations of the Oronsaye committee report and other pending reports on the subject matter? We need to hear the action plan to stop the importation of refined petroleum products within three years of assumption of office and as such, drastically reduce subsidies paid to fuel importers. Will the new government privatise existing refineries? Will they build new refineries; if the answer is in the affirmative, how will it be financed? Will the government continue to subsidise consumption and create jobs in foreign lands rather than add value and create jobs in Nigeria?

Candidates should tell us their agenda on how they can utilise the available pool of public resources currently lying fallow to kick-start the infrastructure revolution. A good knowledge of public policy, prudential guidelines and economic adaptation will tell us that the pool of trillion pension funds can be primed for key infrastructure developments. We need a presidential material that can provide leadership in liaison with the Central Bank of Nigeria to ensure that Nigerian banks manage at least 33 per cent of our foreign currency reserves. It will be recalled that under the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, proposals were made that after the consolidation of banks and the emergent stronger and cleaner balance sheets, that parts of our foreign reserves will be domicilled in qualifying Nigerian banks. Considering that our banks are stronger and more resilient today with only 3.8 per cent Non Performing Loans and the CBN’s risk based supervision of banks has cleaned up our banks, why do we need to continue keeping billions in reserves with foreign banks that yield very little interest rates? And we still go back to the same countries to look for credit. In essence, we deposit our money and go to reborrow the same at higher interest rates!

Candidates should tell us how they intend to provide universal health coverage for all Nigerians. It is an achievable aspiration. Can we legislate universal health insurance and provide a special fund for the health sector? How do we reduce the outflows on medical tourism and hold back our qualified medical personnel from seeking greener pastures? What is that special magic that they perform in India and our people troop to that country that cannot be replicated here? What is the agenda on housing? To the extent that we have politicians who see land that government acquires for virtually free as a money making commodity, then we can kiss goodbye to the Housing For All dream. Access to land is one of the biggest hindrances to housing development in the urban areas. Handing over public lands acquired for nothing to cronies (as happened in Abuja) who turn back to parcel and sell them for millions of naira can never promote housing for all. That we still have “progressive” politicians who believe that an N16m house is low cost housing when the minimum wage is N18,000 speaks a lot about the ideas of our politics and politicians.

What is the agenda of the parties on curbing corruption? How will they curb corruption even when a good number of their leading lights have no visible means of livelihood except investments in political power? Some of the leading lights on both sides of the divide were merely men who could just take care of their families before politics but today own private jets. How will such fellows fight corruption when their ascendancy is based on corruption? The parties and candidates must tell us their agenda for judicial reform, the type that will accelerate criminal trials, so that trials can be concluded in record time. A justice reform system that will no longer allow men and women with corruption charges hanging on their neck to be candidates facing the possibility of being elected and acquiring immunity from suit and legal process is needed.

What will the parties do for the reform of the process for appointment of judges and magistrates? The situation where appointments to the courts are based on political affiliations is simply a recipe for legal disaster and impunity. The current drama playing out in Rivers State exemplifies this state of anarchy. A situation where the public, especially members of the legal profession have no input into the process for appointing judges ridicules the concept of democracy. The names of candidates for judgeship should be published and Nigerians urged to review the list and bring objections based on facts bordering on the knowledge, credibility, character, etc of candidates for judgeship. The cultic and cabalistic idea of a few persons arrogating to themselves the knowledge of the God head in the selection of judges is part of the reasons that the nation has failed to make appreciable progress. It leads to a judiciary that is not accountable to the people.

This cannot be an exhaustive list of issues to be addressed but it may be a starting point. Let those who claim to be progressives come forth with an agenda that can be interrogated. Let no one pull wool over our eyes because of his naked lust for power.

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