On March 28, 2015, Nigerians voted for change at the federal level by giving the mandate to a candidate of a political party different from the one that had been at the helm of affairs since 1999. The successful conduct of the polls, even though there were a few hiccups and the gracious acceptance of defeat by the incumbent President set the tone for a new Nigeria which some analysts have dubbed, “Nigeria rising”.
By the time Nigerians are reading this piece, the results of the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections would have been declared and new executives and legislatures elected by the people in most states of the federation. Yes, they may be described as new even if the people merely renewed the mandate of the present occupants of the elective positions.
We have voted for a change of individuals and parties at the centre but the real change will involve a change of governance methodologies, systems and processes. This will imply the real “not business as usual”; a new mindset, thinking, philosophy and approach to governance. The implication will be magnanimity in victory, not a winner-takes-all approach, a clear sense of purpose and understanding of the backwardness and poverty in the land coupled with a commitment to deploy our resources in the most prudent and value-for-money manner. This is not the time in the All Progressives Congress for celebrations. The party has been invited by Nigerians to lay its hands on the plough, to work and fulfil their electoral promises. It is therefore a time to be more dedicated when compared to the electioneering period; to strategise on how to ensure that Nigeria bounces back to reckoning in its economy, politics and social life and indeed all facets of national life.
One can imagine that the jostling and positioning for appointment into high government offices may have started in earnest. A word of advice for the President-elect: Merit, track record, competence, honesty, vision and capacity should guide appointments. Of course, national spread in appointments in accordance with the federal character provision of the constitution should be observed. Round pegs must be put in round holes and square pegs must also have square holes dug out for them Professional politicians should be kept at bay and avenues other than occupying public offices that touch on the lives of millions of Nigerians should be found to compensate them for whatever role they played in the elections.
The Peoples Democratic Party idea of asking governors as leaders of the party in the states to recommend ministerial nominees should be a thing of the past. Rather, the transition committee should be large enough to have a sub-committee dedicated to the search for credible nominees to be appointed as ministers or special advisers. The nominees have to be recommended against the background of specific portfolios as against the idea that anyone can fill any position. Thus, the ministerial list to be submitted to the National Assembly for screening should detail the specific position to be allocated to each nominee so that he will be screened on the basis of his understanding of the sector and what the person intends to do to develop the sector. A ministerial position should not be an internship position for the nominee.
In the task of constituting the cabinet, the number of ministers and advisers will also set the tone of governance especially as to whether the new administration is ready to cut down on the cost of governance. An unwieldy team of advisers who may have no feasible portfolios and who the President may not even listen to or consult, makes no sense. It will be a continuation of business as usual. A trim cabinet and advisers’ list with clearly designated competencies will contribute more to development than converting the federal executive to a job for the boys.
In running the new administration, existing policies, programmes and activities must not be changed just for the sake of change. They should only be changed if they are not working or they may be fine-tuned to make them more effective. Government is a continuum and the fact that a project was started by an administration does not mean that it cannot be concluded by a new one. This was the mistake of the PDP government when the Obasanjo administration’s National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy was discontinued for President Yar’Adua’s 7-Point Agenda and the Agenda was further discontinued for President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda.
In designing new policies and activities, the administration should remember that it has only four years subject to the electorate renewing the mandate. It should also remember that the resources are very limited. It should not set unachievable goals; instead, it should plan for only what is feasible within the resource envelope. This should not take away bold and imaginative ideas. But first think in terms of new ways to raise revenue against the background of the dwindling oil price. These suggestions are not rocket science. A number of committee reports have been gathering dust on the shelves; let researchers and thinkers dust them up. Study and see what can be implemented instead of setting up entirely new committees to start de-novo. Nigeria has stagnated over the years for failure to solve a few revolving challenges. The new administration needs not reinvent the wheel.
The administration should seek to utilise all available resources including human, information, technology, ecological/environmental and financial resources for the progressive realisation of the good of the majority of Nigerians. In maximising the use of our financial resources, stop crude oil theft – we can realise additional N1.460trillion (400,000 barrels a day at $50pb x 365 days at the rate of N200=1$). By passing and implementing a reworked Petroleum Industry Bill, the estimate is an additional N2tn and N3tn. By stopping the corruption and leakages in the system and implementing the restructuring of government agencies, another N500bn could possibly be saved. With the right political will, another N500bn could be saved from fuel subsidies. This list cannot be exhaustive but mere pointers in the direction of available financial resources that can be redeployed. We can therefore move from a federal budget of about N4tn a year to N8tn within the first 18 months of the administration.
There is a caveat to all these; the government should ensure that the people are carried along in all its reforms. Once the government rides on a strong moral authority and credibility backed with the support of the population, the sky is the limit as to what can be achieved. This entails an open government, freedom of fiscal and other official information; monthly and quarterly reporting of income and expenditure and value for money in government contracting. The change we need will emerge gradually and Nigeria will be rising if the Buhari administration is run with nobility of volition and spirit.
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