JKF and that task of rebuilding the nation
Whoever becomes Nigeria’s president in 2023 will curse his luck severely. First, he or she will inherit a near-empty treasury, debt hangover and more creditors seeking repayment of matured loans. Second, a vastly divided and unsecured country. Third, a people still fantasizing about the idea of a God-ordained miracle-worker that should tackle all problems and change the country overnight. In their impatience, the population will threaten social tension across and further distract the leadership. So, in whatever direction the president looks, the numbers will not add up. It is neither a prophecy of doom nor an express prediction of a stargazer. They are all realities of our lives and a reward of perennial mismanagement of our country.
The paradox is that the post-Buhari era already risks being worse than the malaise Nigerians are angling to cure. Reason is that the mess fortuitously created by inept leadership will reach its full gestation in 2023. Insecurity will determine governability of the country, while a weak economic outlook will determine its survivability. Anyone in doubt should take a look at the crisis in Sri Lanka. And that is why the next president matters more than just another general election. Sadly, it does not seem that the majority of our political elites are in the know of the task ahead. Otherwise, the jostling for the next president would have transcended more political pageantry that the recruitment process has become for wannabe presidents.
Clearly, the task ahead will be most daunting and a good reason the South should rally behind candidates like John Kayode Fayemi (JKF) – strictly on the merit of his credentials. Personally, I have seen the Ekiti State governor at work and heard him speak to issues. He showed a rare understanding of the troubles with Nigeria and clear-headed with the step-by-step requirements to undo them sustainably. That is how to vie for the highest office in a country at its tipping point and stand a good chance of being entrusted to turn the corner. His candidature has good merits that should as well be the yardstick to measure others aiming to bully their way into Aso Rock in 2023.
First, Fayemi has both the persona and carriage to lead a modern Nigeria in a feisty 21st Century world. As a doctorate degree holder in War Studies from the King’s College, University of London, he is grounded in civil-military relations, and public intellectual of global repute. His research and policy interests, which include democratisation, constitutionalism, security sector governance, and regionalism, earned him footprints in global affairs. And that is a formidable character to have at the helm of affairs in peace or war times! In international affairs where perception about a country’s frontline ambassadors is just as important as strength of the State, Fayemi, 57, carries the intelligence of a credible Nigerian voice that can speak and be heard, and bargain more favourably for the Nigerian State. With such quality of awareness and experience in shrewd diplomacy, Nigeria will no longer be a play-thing in the game of global politics.
However, the presidency is not all about personal excellence, niceties of rhetoric and discipline of logic. There must be more to demand in candidates. And that elicits the second point to note in Fayemi. He is also a tested practitioner in the public sphere and the game of Nigerian politics. He did not overnight nor accidentally emerge as two-tenure governor of Ekiti State, Minister of Steel and Solid Minerals and the sitting Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF). He actually started his foray into leadership as a student union leader at the University of Lagos, and has been a consistent voice of the civil society and political movement, with an unapologetic pan-Nigerian and pan-African outlook. He is an indefatigable advocate for human rights and democratic governance that dated back to the military era. He is a thorough-bred Nigerian that knows the country inside out.
Third, he is also trustworthy and capable. Trustworthy to sustain the Nigerian unity. Capable to mend its fault lines. To him belongs the clear vision, clear thought process and programme of action to etch a national rebirth on firm ground of true federalism and decentralisation of governance for efficiency. Clearly, the starting point of his Marshall plan of action is apt: tackling insecurity through the carrot and stick approach. He was spot-on when he declared the implementation of a holistic and integrated response to the multifaceted security crises in his declaration speech.
It begins with retooling the armed forces, intelligence agencies, and border guards – all in tandem with a complete overhaul of the policing system. To complement combat is to discourage criminality by phasing in bold universal social policies that will decisively tackle poverty and upgrade human capital. “In this perspective, the deliberate expansion of employment opportunities, youth entrepreneurship, skills development, and innovation, support to the weak and vulnerable such as we have done in Ekiti State for the elderly, and women’s socio-economic empowerment will be treated as just one dimension of our comprehensive response to the costly security crises that have destabilised us, as will the pursuit of broad welfare policies that are embedded into a new state-society bargain and the empowerment of citizens,” he said.
By extension, the adoption of broad socio-economic measures that enhance national capacity to fight insecurity pursued pari passu with investments in reinforcing the deterrent capacity of the state through its armed forces, security agencies, and policing authorities. “Authority and legitimacy and deterrence and rapid response go hand in hand, just as we must better interface economic policies with broad social objectives and goals of political inclusivity towards a well-defined outcome, namely, the sustained peace, stability, and progress of our country. And let there be no doubt: for the economy to serve broader social and political purposes that enhance human and state security, stem poverty, and promote national prosperity, my agenda for Nigeria encompasses attention to questions of productivity, diversification, domestic value addition, investments in and incentives for research, development, and innovation, and the expansion of domestic revenue mobilisation, among others.”
Not done, Fayemi has the agenda to accelerate the upgrading and expansion of infrastructure through public investments and partnerships with the private sector whilst simultaneously ensuring that we enforce accountability and get much greater value for money. By the same token, a major rescue and investment programme for the educational sector, the health system, the civil service, and the local government system will debut, to re-orient each of them for the task of overall national development, progress and prosperity. “Each of these domains can benefit much more from a deliberate and systematic deployment of digital technologies as appropriate to their context; the opportunities will be followed through as an integral part of our programme of rebirth,” Fayemi had hinted.
Talk may be cheap, but with the benefit of hindsight, those are clear-cut strategic plans of action from a deft hand that knows how to rebuild from rubbles. And that is a master plan that has rarely been seen among aspirants in the race to the presidency. Without doubt, Dr. Fayemi is worth his weight in gold in matters of strategy and development. He has the credential of a president that should not be rattled nor sucked in by the current mess. Born in the first decade of Nigerian independence, he has seen the country work before and he remains patriotic and committed to make it work again – for all, not a few. Therefore, to him belongs that standard that others should live up to and a reason to still hope for a new Nigeria that will soar – not wobble in the post-Buhari era.