The change Nigeria needs (2)
IT bears repeating the cost of governance, whereby about three-quarter of the budget is devoted to recurrent expenditure largely consumed by the people in government, is both unconscionable and unsustainable.
Public office has become so rewarding that more and more persons now make a career of it, while abandoning their thriving private businesses. Nigeria is held in low esteem by other nations because of the incomparable rapacity of its politicians. This must change.
All the expected radical changes may not happen immediately, but important symbolic measures must be taken quickly to advertise that things are getting better. First, even now, before he assumes power, congratulatory visits by all sorts of favour seekers appear to be taking much of Buhari’s time; these are distractions. He needs to concentrate and think over the task ahead.
Second, government officials’ arrogant display of power and misuse of public resources as exemplified by long siren-blaring, traffic rules- defying convoys of vehicles must stop. The number of planes in the presidential fleet must be reduced to no more than two, the number of advisers and assistants must be drastically cut; so far as the last decade showed, they add very little to the leadership quality of their principals in particular, and governance in general.
Furthermore, there are too many ministries, departments and agencies of government unknown to, and do not affect Nigerians in positive ways, yet drain public resources and add no value to the performance of government. The Orosanye Report is recommended to the President-elect for consideration and action within the shortest possible time.
Moreover, the report of the 2014 National Conference offers broadly-accepted recommendations that, if implemented, would strengthen this nation and set it on the path of progress. The All Progressives Congress (APC) government should rise above partisanship and implement within the bounds of law, the conference report, as it would serve the best interest of Nigerians.
Genuine democracy, is sustained in part, by adherence to the rule of law. To this end, the judiciary must be equipped to be independent and impartial. Other arms of government have a duty to sustain the rule of law. For example, the remuneration of public officers must be firmly subjected to the provisions of the Constitution.
To the extent that the Third Schedule, Part 1, Section 32 of the Constitution empowers the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to ‘determine the remunerations, appropriate for political office holders’, it behoves the President, with the full support of his party members, to enforce the law. There is no doubt that a huge amount of money will thereby be saved for development projects.
The opaque operation of the so-called Excess Crude account separate from the legally allowed Federation Account is a violation of Section 162 of the Constitution. This is not acceptable and it is expected that the APC’s ‘wind of change’ will definitely sweep these manifestations of corruption away in no distant time.
Nigerians voted for Buhari on the strength of his integrity. He, therefore, stands on a firm moral high ground to prosecute the much-desired war against corruption. His accurate appreciation of, and unequivocal pronouncement on this odious and destructive feature of Nigerian life, is welcome.
Said he: “We shall end this threat to our economic development and democratic survival… [and] it shall no longer be allowed to stand as if it is a respected monument in this nation”. Of particular interest in this respect is the conduct of business in the petroleum and the finance sectors. These two must be persistently scrutinised for probity. Of course corruption will fight back, but again, where there is a will, there is always a way. The combination of a determined leader, a political party genuinely committed to change and a cooperative citizenry patient enough to eschew immediate gratification can, in due course, defeat corruption.
It would be naïve to assume that these and other urgently needed changes to the conduct of public officers will come easy, especially in a democratic system of government circumscribed by all sorts of legal rights. This is why the ‘change’ programme must be elevated to the level of party policy. It is gratifying that Buhari admits the pre-eminence of the party over the whims of its public office holders. This will ensure the buy-in of APC members at every level of government as well as make every member of the APC in and outside of government a change agent of the new dispensation.
This way too, the President could influence the excesses of the state governors such as the bizarre pension perks they have legislated for themselves.
Come May 29, Nigerians want to see their new leaders ‘hit the ground running’; this is understandable from a people who have suffered worsening governance for years. Buhari senses this and he has appealed that the electorate should ‘temper expectations with realism’.
Nevertheless, there can be no excuse for business as usual or for failure. With the substantial control of the legislature, political will of party leaders, and commitment of the APC to govern and not to rule, ‘a new dawn of democratic governance’ may indeed be here.