Buhari, history beckons!
ON this day, the 29th of May, 2015, the ‘change’ in government – and more importantly the content and method of governance – that most Nigerians have yearned for, hopefully, has come.
Muhammadu Buhari is taking office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander -in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
This newspaper congratulates the people of Nigeria for their determined effort to achieve the much-desired goal of peaceful change of government.
The now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and especially its leadership, deserve thumbs up for constructing the structure and implementing the process that earned this day.
The new President, Muhammadu Buhari, has certainly earned kudos for his doggedness that, after two failed attempts at clinching the presidency, has made him third time lucky.
Nigeria, having pulled off another peaceful civilian-to-civilian change of government certainly has sent out to the world an assuring sign of a maturing democratic culture. The campaigns are over; power has been delivered by the electorate to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In this very first evidence of change the electorate has fulfilled their part, and commendably so. Now is the turn of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Buhari to fulfil their promises.
The air is filled with great expectation and the question arises: can the APC manage well its success vis-à-vis the people’s desire? It is hoped that will not turn out like parties that seek power first, and begin to think of what to do with it.
The party must be truly ready not to rule but to govern Nigeria for the greatest good of the greatest number of her citizens.
For this is what the electorate voted for, pure and simple. Much has been suggested privately and publicly on what the Buhari government must do to get Nigeria back on track.
There is obviously no shortage of ideas including those this newspaper has articulated many times before now. Without sounding alarmist, the clock has started ticking for the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to begin to deliver on its election promises.
While no one is under the illusion that President Buhari has a magic wand to conjure up the disappearance of the enormous, multifaceted problems he inherits, Nigerians have a right to expect from and see, in spirit and in fact, the new government immediately signaling that change is here now.
Buhari has been reported lately to say that all Nigerians should begin to get used to the notion that it is no more ‘business as usual’ and that ‘Nigeria has entered a new dispensation [and] ‘my administration does not intend to repeat the same mistakes made by previous governments.’
The point is well made and it is well taken by Nigerians. Signs and symbolisms are powerful means to give teeth to these statements and the new President is better advised to take a number of immediate measures to this end.
First, beginning with the content of his inaugural speech, President Muhammadu Buhari must articulate a pan-Nigeria agenda that inspires hope of a better nation and that sustains the enthusiasm over the vision of a new dawn and a new direction that his election gives reason to perceive.
The presidential election showed that Nigerians are willing, ready, and able, to follow, support and sacrifice for a leader who earns their trust.
After all, trustworthiness is the basis of genuine leadership. An elected president is the only political office holder armed with a fully pan-Nigerian mandate; Nigeria, not at all any section of it, is now Buhari’s turf to watch over, protect, manage and above all, to serve.
This president must say and do all the right things to continually to earn the trust and support of Nigerians south and north, east and west, of every tribe, tongue and faith.
The nation seems broken now. Buhari must mend it. There are divisions across various lines. Buhari must unite all. Second, there is wide agreement in the polity that the apparatus of government consumes an unacceptably disproportionate share of public spending with no commensurate output to so justify.
As a leader voted into power on account of his widely acclaimed moral authority, Buhari must bring his disciplined and frugal lifestyle to bear on governance especially at this time of lean resources.
In short, starting with the presidency where numerous do-nothing aides feed fat on public purse, where a fleet of jets lie idle, where a lengthy convoy of expensive vehicles accompany the President in the name of ‘entourage’, where tonnes of money are expended on needless renovations and a wasteful construction of new banquet halls, where billions of naira are voted every year for feeding at the Aso Rock Villa, the list could go on endlessly, Buhari must immediately reduce drastically the cost of governance to free funds for the truly important and urgent areas of development.
Given the federal structure of Nigeria, however warped, it is obvious that he can effect this more quickly at the centre than in the states.
But under the pressure of a combination of his example, moral suasion and public opinion, the other tiers of government, as well as the other arms of government will have no choice but to follow.
Third, regardless of the dwindling national income, if Buhari plugs immediately the leakages in government such as over-invoicing, fraudulent payments of subsidies, contract price inflation, direct embezzlement, bloated work force that even includes ghost workers, the much-abused security votes and other forms of opaque and wasteful spending, more money will be available than is claimed in official circle to run government business and invest in desperately needed infrastructure.
Many states are apparently insolvent, and are now unable to meet their basic duty of payment of wages, among others.
Regardless of the veracity or otherwise of the claims and counterclaims between the state and federal governments, transparent and judicious allocation of funds will ease the pressure on all parties. Buhari must attend quickly to this issue.
The multiplier effects and social implications of unpaid salaries can destabilise a new government and even the polity.
There is also reason to observe that the APC manifesto is woolly: there is little in the document that could be subjected to the SMART rule of business management. In short, the campaign promises did not reflect deep research or sound thinking on solutions to the burning issues that bother Nigerians and deter development and progress.
Nevertheless, Nigerians voted for change because they were fed up with a government controlled by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Buhari and his party must do things differently, articulate the key government policies and how these will be implemented in detailed facts and figures. Promise must be specific, measurable and time-defined. These will indicate preparedness for the job at hand, and a seriousness of approach.
The point must not be lost on any one that Nigerians 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 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 moral righteousness.
This means a number of things. One, he must take a hard look at the Civil Service as an institution that can make or ruin a government.
No one can say with confidence that the 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.
Two, the president must cast his net wide to secure the service of the best heads and hands who will aide him to achieve the goal of a more disciplined, focused and progressive Nigeria. Nothing in law or commonsense dictates that such men and women can be found only within the APC.
Indeed, too many sound and willing men and women are out there but too frightened by the do-or-die game of politics in this land.
Mr. President, only the best is good for Nigeria! So, get them on board and make this country work! For President Buhari at age 72, with few if any points to prove, it is no exaggeration to say that history beckons.
For a man who, out of a fervent conviction that he has something good to offer his fatherland, has sought this position three times, now is the opportunity to write his name in gold. As he seeks to make Nigeria great again, Nigerians wish him and his party God’s speed.
The spirit of the age, it is said, is what a great man changes. Buhari has the chance to change Nigeria for the better, beginning from this day. Now, duty has called. And history beckons.