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Pandemic issues and the governing elite

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The world is still grappling with the Covid-19, the greatest killer pandemic disease seen in modern times. It is a challenge that continues to test the integrity of the medical facilities of nations, the competence of leaders and their capacity for good timing response to crises. Here in Nigeria, there are a wide range of pandemic and very serious national issues that call for fierce urgency of action on the part of our governing elite.

The coronavirus invasion of our territory has only made a bad situation worse. Many nations are on a virtual lockdown to stem the growing tide of Covid-19; imperative as this response is, it is the last thing our aiding economy needs at this time when the federal government has gone on a borrowing binge to raise billions of dollars to finance our national budget. Equally worrisome is the perennial war with the Boko Haram insurgents in the semi-arid North-Eastern region of the country. This campaign has left a gaping hole in the country’s finances as does the over-bloated bureaucracy which gulps about 70% of the annual budget.

The looming labor crises over the inability of some poor states to pay the new minimum wage; rising unemployment, rising inflation and shrinking government revenue are some critical issues facing federal and state governments in this Covid-19 climate. There is yet no solution for the ever-increasing street crimes like kidnapping, gang violence, armed robbery, baby factories, bizarre ritual murders, sectarian clashes arising from border disputes, or herders-farmers conflict over grazing lands in local communities. Most of the crises roiling our polity, including the widespread economic disequilibrium, are a direct fall-out of the country’s flawed political structure. We are running a presidential system that is not nourished by a strong economic base. We have no income to finance the ever-expanding governance structures being created to give jobs to the boys. Our polity thrives on a winner-takes-all patronage system which makes political contests do-or-die affairs.

This is why post-election disputes often end up in long-drawn judicial contests that often overheat the polity and slow down governance process. Of course, people are the biggest victims because development suffers as a result of unending political conflict. More than a year after the general election, the ruling party, APC is still polarized by intra-party disputes and leadership tussle. The PDP, on the other hand, is still unable to come up with a coherent, alternative policy. All its does is wag its tail at every action taken by the ruling party. That’s not the stuff real opposition is made of. The PDP needs to reform drastically and overcome its battered image. The party has to restructure, recalibrate and redefine its platform and show it could bring active purpose to governance if given the chance in 2023.

So far, it seems that the PDP is yet to recover from its defeat but it must show clearly that it's now ready to challenge the APC for Aso Rock in the next election. But the opposition party has no programme sound bite like the APC’s Next Level, Awo’s Four Cardinal Programmes, the NPN’sGreen Revolution or any such slogan that people could identify with. As the main opposition to the ruling elite, the PDP should get serious. As for the APC, for which I am a sympathizer, it is still nowhere near the Next Level the President promised during his re-election campaign.

In a time of severe pandemic crisis like this, more definite and sweeping actions are needed on the sidelines to address insurgency in the north east, street crimes, perennial communal clashes between herdsmen and host communities, declining revenue due to the mono-product structure of the economy, problems of big government, etc. We are not seeing many creative policy initiatives coming from the presidency at a time of crisis like this. A strong leader proves himself when the chips are down. The vigor and rapid response the President displayed against the Boko Haram when he came to power in 2015 has not been seen ever since. However, his government and the governors, especially Jide Sanwo – Olu of Lagos have been impressive in the way the COVID 19 issue is being managed. We would like to see this type of purposeful action extended to the other Pandemic crises rocking our nation. He should seize the occasion of his first anniversary in office in May, to rejig his administration and prove he is the one in the driving seat of government by going all out on full throttle to deal with all extant endemic problems, apart from the Covid-19 crisis. The litmus test of the Buhari presidency is to secure Nigeria. After that, he needs to address the economic problems, with the Power Project which is the pivot of any reform he hopes to carry out to revamp the nation’s economy. That’s the only way he could give the APC a chance to retain power in 2023.

Ayodeji, an author, speaker and activist, wrote from Lagos.


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