The change Nigeria needs (1)
IT is quite re-assuring that President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, has spoken at different fora since being declared winner of the poll on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), especially on the desire of the incoming administration to enthrone financial accountability and defeat corruption, unemployment, as well as indiscipline in all areas of national life, a phenomenon, which in his analysis, three decades ago ‘is the main problem of Nigeria’.
Nigerians are brimming with expectations and would hold him to his words.
Certainly, a lack of discipline is directly responsible for the unhappy state of the country. The failure or, indeed, refusal to be subjected to control, orderliness and greater good, is at the root of the political, economic, and social ills afflicting the society.
This is not a simplistic definition of the Nigerian problem: It is, in its broadest context, to say that self-control and sacrifice for the common good are aspects of integrity which is central to good leadership and governance, and, which, fortuitously, was the unique selling point of the Buhari presidential campaign.
Politics and government during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) years have been characterised largely by a lack of personal discipline on the part of leaders and the deliberate failure to separate personal interest from national interest with the consequence that the common wealth has been brazenly appropriated into private coffers.
The evidence of this is glaring in the reported mismanagement of the treasury and stupendous display of wealth by government officials and their cohorts in the business sector.
The evidence is also in the outrageous end-of-tenure benefits that state governors and other elected officers grant themselves.
A disgusted, disenchanted citizenry yearned for a change, the APC offered it, and both parties have reached an agreement on the civilised platform of free elections.
To use the words of the President –elect, ‘our long night has passed and the daylight of new democratic governance has broken across the land’.
In truth, the presidential election was a victory of one man, as well as of one people. But in order to consolidate this victory, there is much work to do.
The point must be strongly made that Nigerians voted for change, not merely as an end itself, but as a means to achieve a comprehensive improvement in governance and the quality of life.
To this end, therefore, let it be said directly: Nigeria needs now a change in orientation.
Nigerians cannot change where they are coming from, but they can or must change the collective goal, the why and how of it.
This is the clear and urgent task of the incoming APC government led by Buhari.
The party must do things quite differently, must live and govern in accordance with the letters and spirit of progressive politics which, in the ordinary meaning of the term, stands for and promotes political, economic and social reforms in favour of an open government and an increasingly equitable society.
In contrast to conservatives who seek to preserve the status quo and concentrate political and economic powers in the hands of a few, progressives tend to empower the people by spreading resources – voting power, education, health care, employment and more.
The electorate, but even especially the Press by virtue of Section 22 of the extant constitution (as amended), must consistently assess the APC party and government by this yardstick.
The constitution states that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government’. The welfare of the people is assured when they are empowered to live a productive and decent life.
There is no better means to achieve this than to provide a steady supply of electricity. Buhari’s government must do this quickly and decisively, because with regular and fairly priced power supply, many of Nigeria’s economic and social problems will be substantially solved.
In respect of security, it is clear that the national apparatus, as currently constituted, is incapable of meeting its constitutional obligation. Buhari should commission a thorough assessment of the present state of the security system, its expected role, now and in the future, and the requirements to fulfil these roles efficiently and effectively.
Riding on the crest of popular acknowledgement of his integrity, Buhari must provide moral leadership to this nation. The presidency has been described as not merely an administrative office, but pre-eminently the place of moral leadership. The sine qua non requirement of this is that the General, as leader, must know the way, show the way and go the way.
‘The way’ meaning what is right and best not for his tribe, party or religion, but for this plural nation that has entrusted him with power.
Having run the affairs of this country once, the President-elect understands its complexities as well as the basic needs to get the nation back on track.
In his acceptance speech and in a recent interview granted to the press in his hometown of Daura, Buhari made many of the politically correct statements that politicians utter to win the hearts of the populace. He said: “There shall no longer be a ruling party again; APC will be a governing party… that faithfully serves you”.
He hinted on his belief in the supremacy of the party, on the need for party unity and the leadership of a political party to work in concert, for politicians to derive their relevance from their community; he pledged ‘myself and my government to the rule of law, in which none shall be above the law, that they are subject to its dictates and none shall be so below it that they are not availed of its protection’. Nigerians cannot wait to see their leader walk his talk.