The President’s tough stance
While receiving some of his cabinet members who came to pay him a congratulatory visit on winning the last elections, President Muhammadu Buhari dropped a hint that he would take tough decisions during his second term. For added measure, he zeroed in on security, the war on corruption and the economy as areas in which some tough actions would be taken. This is welcome and cheery news. The nation’s challenges require some tough actions to extricate her from the stranglehold of decades of wrongheaded policies and practices.
Indeed there were times when the nation thought the president had lost touch with the fundamentals that provided the horse, which he rode into office. For example, on the twin issues of corruption and combating the Boko Haram menace it would seem that the president did not live to his billing. Thus, the need for tough actions cannot be over-emphasised at this juncture.
The president was also quoted as saying that some people seemed to have forgotten the mission of his administration. By this he openly acknowledged the perception that some key persons within the administration were not in sync with the avowed goals of the government. This is the time to apply the brakes and enforce the rules across board. The security situation in the northeast is still grave. Although the president once pronounced a ‘technical defeat’ over Boko Haram, subsequent incidents showed that he proclaimed victory too early in the day. Like a snake with seven heads and perhaps fuelled by Boko Haram’s connection with ISIS, the deadly insurgents gained resurgence and took on the Nigerian Army in a most humiliating manner. Lives of men and officers were lost in a most embarrassing manner and the impression is that the Army is not technically superior to the insurgents. This is unconscionable.
In any case, if there is any area in which the president needs to be tough it is in the war on corruption. We commend Buhari for placing the corruption fight on the front burner. The impunity with which state officials dip their fingers into the national till has been a threat to the corporate survival of Nigeria. Billions of naira disappear from the national coffers so strangely. In the First and Second Republics, politicians and public office holders were satisfied with the notorious ten per cent bribes. In the current dispensation, no one seems to offer or accept bribes on percentages. They simply empty the treasury and live large in public glare. It is obscene. Civil servants are not left out. In most of the states, they process contracts for themselves and their cronies without recourse to extant public procurement rules. As a result they have become property owners, often wealthier than the real businessmen who run the profitable private sector. It is against this background that we salute the president for having the courage to confront official corruption.
However, there have been some reservations about sincerity of purpose in this regard. There is a perception that corrupt politicians who defect to the ruling party are given a soft landing and so escape prosecution. In January this year, the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was quoted as saying all opposition politicians ‘will be pardoned’ if they joined the party. He used this as a gambit to draw politicians to the side of the governing party, the APC. This is definitely at odds with a genuine determination to stamp out official corruption. The president has to be tough on this recklessness in his house. There should be no sacred cows. Anybody, including his close aides who have succumbed to the itch of stealing public funds should be brought before the law. Justice is blind, dealing out measures to all and sundry with the same level of fairness, equality and truth.
In the main, corruption should not be given another name because it affects a favoured party. In his second and final term the president should take all the tough actions to get Nigeria out of the current quagmire by impartially prosecuting all those who are indicted by the appropriate bodies.
On the economy, the president needs to take some tough actions too. Inflation has eroded the power of the naira for ordinary families. The foreign exchange regime should be open and transparent. Unemployment is still very high. Factories are still closing down with millions thrown into the job market. Fresh university graduates remain unemployed because the economy is not expanding enough to take on new hands. Locally produced rice is still scarce while the imported brand continues to dominate the market. The operations of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), that behemoth, which seems to have defied all past presidents should be reorganised for maximum efficiency and transparency. The president promised the nation an overhaul in 2015. Oil has remained the main source of foreign exchange.
The education sector needs some tough actions too. If the Federal Government cannot adequately fund the universities, then they should be allowed to charge tuition fees to augment whatever grants they get from the national coffers. There should be robust investment in education (rather than meretricious funding). The Federal Government should concern itself with the big policy issues without getting involved in administering secondary education too. That should be left to the states.
However, all tough actions must be within the ambit of the rule of law, one of the pillars of democracy. The separation of powers as enshrined in the Constitution and accepted as the norm in all democracies calls for mutual respect for all boundaries. Life is harsh in Nigeria. There are security issues everywhere, ranging from kidnappings and killings to a surge in brutality of robbers against the citizenry. The herdsmen and farmers clash seems to have abated somewhat; but it was deadly while it lasted. The nation needs more policing while the government is struggling to bring succour to the poor. Survival has become a nightmare for the average Nigerian in terms of putting food on the table and meeting the other necessities of life. The President should note that the number of persons who need help from friends and family continues to rise. The presidency should work out welfare and palliative programmes to reduce the level of fear and hunger in the land.
All told, we commend Buhari for openly expressing the need for tough actions on security, corruption and the economy. That he made the statement while playing host to his aides is quite instructive. Therefore, political appointees and indeed the president’s men must sit up and make a difference to justify the confidence of the Nigerian people in the leadership that they serve. These are indeed desperate times and so call for desperate measures – that should be desperately executed.
No comments yet