The tremendous support and goodwill that ushered in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari into office seem to have been dissipated by a lot of inaction, delay and lack of clear and coherent policy framework to address the existential challenges of Nigerians. The earlier days of the administration were spent on the euphoria of election victory and simply opening up the faults and misdeeds of the previous Jonathan administration. At that time, it seemed the only game in town was to expose the level of decay in the past administration, a fact which was already known to the Nigerian public and formed the basis of the decision to vote out that government.
Recall the admonition of Bishop Hassan Mathew Kukah at some point in time and his advice that the government should be forward-looking and ensure that governance is not simply about addressing one simple challenge whilst ignoring others. The wild reaction of some Nigerians to his advice did not help matters and the government seemed to have been encouraged to continue on its single-minded trajectory. In taking the decisions that seek to plug the leaks in the federal treasury, the rent-seeking economy and its floating system based on corruption simply came to a standstill. As a matter of strategy, it was expected that while closing the gaps of corruption and leakages, it was imperative at the same time to open the legitimate and legally recognised channels of honest economic engagements that would provide services to Nigerians while providing jobs and keep the economy afloat.
In the last couple of months, we got to a stage where many Nigerians began to question the effectiveness of the anti-corruption mantra which was not delivering food to their table or in any way ameliorating the harsh economic circumstances they were going through. It got to a point where it was sinisterly suggested that if corruption put food on the table, put petrol at the fuel pumps and prevented system collapse in electricity; then, let it be. However, this was a product of a wrong administrative strategy that failed to carry the people along through communicating to them the activities as against the intentions of government. Some apologists have stated that Nigerians are demonstrating sheer impatience in their assessment of the administration. But this is not true. The leadership needs to devise a vision, communicate that vision of where it is leading Nigeria to the people and this will provide the required buy-in and patience needed for the long journey to national rebirth. The days of asking people to follow and believe blindly without a road map, deliverables and clear milestones are gone and may never return. Can anyone believe that it was just last week that the membership of the federal economic management team was disclosed to Nigerians who were all along asking for the composition? Why would a government be doing so much work without letting the citizens know what it is doing? Do you use facial expressions in the dark to communicate to persons who are not seeing you in the first instance?
This may have informed the recent town hall meetings embarked upon by the Buhari administration. On the surface, the town hall meetings look very good. But a deeper appreciation demonstrates the need for the administration to present a coherent and documented strategy to Nigerians; a road map at least for the remainder of the term of office. Here, we are not talking about the communiqué of the National Economic Council or that of a specially convened Federal Executive Council meeting. It is about a well-reasoned and costed plan that addresses the needs of each sector.
One great lesson emerging from developments since the election of President Buhari is the need for political parties, candidates and politicians to exercise caution in their promises to the electorate. Promises should not be made for the purpose of winning elections, or simply to out-promise the contending parties and candidates. Otherwise, they will amount to obtaining electoral votes by false pretences which should actually constitute a crime. Pray, what is obtaining by false pretences, alias 419? There is nothing that denigrates the credibility of an administration than reneging on freely made promises.
The delay in the submission, approval and assent to the 2016 federal budget complicated matters; whilst many Nigerians were losing their jobs, the tardiness and politics of the budget ensured that it was just signed on Friday and official spending beyond salaries and overheads which had been stalled can now commence. This is a lesson in how not to manage an ailing economy. The budget is a very important instrument that gives policy and resource direction for the economy; it is the instrument or agency that facilitates the surmounting of other challenges and as such should enjoy primacy of place in the order of priorities. This lesson should not be lost on the 2017 federal budget process and therefore demands early presentation and approval. The post-2016 budget assent challenge is how to expeditiously mobilise resources to ensure that the N1.8tn capital budget begins to deliver on infrastructure and services to the Nigerian people. The social component of it is also expected to address critical challenges. Thus, this is no longer the time for expression of intent on what would be done. This is now the time to begin to do the things that has already been approved in the budget.
There is the fierce urgency of now in many Nigerian homes where breadwinners have lost their jobs and figures are not adding up. The cost of living has gone up at a time many workers who are lucky to still be in jobs have no guarantee of salaries at the end of the month. The value and duty of patience can only be preached in the drawing rooms of the rich and middle class whilst the members of the working class who are in dire straits need immediate answers to their existential challenges. Thus, the time to act is now.
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