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Putting Buhari’s Next Level proposition on the crucible

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Buhari’s supporter celebrating

While there is jubilation on the All Progressives Congress’s camp and disbelief in the camp of Peoples Democratic Party, there is disquiet in the minds of many Nigerians what reelected President Muhammadu Buhari’s four years of Next Level campaign portends for the country.

For them it is not for lack of faith in President Buhari as a person, but more his being able to grasp the rudimentary aspirations of what a 21st century country like Nigeria entail.

While it is easy for the president and his handlers to give themselves a pass mark on what ‘Change’ achieved in the last four years, many Nigerians know exactly how the rain of hunger and Nigeria’s rating as World Poverty Capital started to fall on them. They wait with baited breath what difference the ‘Next Level’ mantra will be from ‘Change’ from which they are still reeling. Will there be a radical difference or more of the same agenda? Is it possible perhaps that Mr. President will pursue his ‘Next Level’ agenda with renewed vigour to truly transmit meaningful development and transformation in the lives of Nigerians? These are the questions that agitate the minds of Nigerians.

The fight against corruption, defeating Boko Haram insurgency, and economic recovery are what still characterise the ‘Change’ to ‘Next Level’ proposition. Making appreciable progress in these three areas, Buhari admitted, had been difficult because of what he called systemic failures and the wrong wiring of the Nigerian psyche, particularly towards corruption that has become so endemic.

Now that he has won a re-election, how far will Buhari go to actualise his vision for the ordinary citizen who voted for him? In Nigeria’s highly volatile political setting, first terms of elected officials are testy four years when the official must listen to all shades of views and inputs, even dubious ones. It is obviously what leads to the rise of godfathers and alleged cabals. For you to secure a second term, you must cooperate with a wide spectrum of nebulous persuasions.

If Buhari was encumbered with such considerations in his first term and was emasculated in the process by those who possibly held him hostage, he now has a chance to be his own man at last. With no second term ticket to worry about, he has no excuse any more not to address the real needs of Nigerians. He has nothing to lose either by ignoring the so-called cabals. In fact, he has a chance to axe the cabals his wife and many others had alluded to.

But Buhari will also need to examine his governance style and align it with modern tenets. He will need to feel the economic pulse more and consult widely with key economic operators like Manufacturers Association of Nigerian (MAN), the chambers of commerce, bankers committee, and others. He will need to actualise his ‘Change Begins with Me’ campaign that pioritises patronage of made in Nigeria products and services.

Perhaps, the president will need to restructure his anti-graft fight to make it all-inclusive, as some of the men around him are believed to have had their hands soiled in the cookie jar, too. That way Buhari’s perceived selective corruption fight will be allayed in the minds of many Nigerians. Will the president bring Obono Obla, Babacha Lawal, Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Meina and a host of others to account for their alleged corrupt practices and other shady deals? Was Lawal’s arraigned shortly before the election an offer of genuineness to the doubting public? Whatever it was, Buhari needs to do more to convince Nigerians about his intentions.

Security seems to be one of the biggest headaches for President Buhari. From ‘technically degraded’ to a host of epithets to describe the success of the fight against it, Nigerians have been treated to many contradictory versions of the outcomes of the war against insurgency in the Northeast. However, when many soldiers were killed in Metele and other parts of Borno State, it brought home the sad reality that the Nigerian Army was far from winning the insurgency war. Not to mention that Leah Sharibu is still captivity.

If the insurgency war is coloured by propaganda and shrouded in opacity, the rampaging Fulani herdsmen across states is another headache that Buhari needs to display capacity and willingness to tackle. From Benue to Plateau to Enugu, Delta, Edo, Nasarawa, and Kaduna States, Buhari must show that he is the Commander-in-Chief and his instructions must be followed through. That way he will engender confidence and prevent communities from resorting to self-help to avert being wiped out.

What the president must understand is that his campaign about food sufficiency through local agriculture can only be sustainable if communities do not feel endangered by the activities of pastoralists. In other words, Buhari must find forceful ways to rein in the terrorist activities of the herders so farmers could plant crops in their farms in safety. It is the only way his agenda of finding jobs for 60 per cent of Nigeria’s youthful population will hold water.

However, in parts of Kaduna, Katsina and all over Zamfara State, a different kind of insecurity has been brewing in the last few months. Criminal elements are on the prowl in most communities, killing, maiming, and kidnapping innocent people unmolested. The situation forced the state governor Abdulla’ziz Yari to resign his position as the state’s Chief Security Officer. He had cried out to Buhari about the crisis, but respite for the state seems long in coming.

Buhari’s security apparatus and federal appointments do not quite give room for cheer, critics continue to argue. Now that he has won re-election, he needs to tinker with the service chiefs and make that organ have a national outlook. That way he avoids breaching the constitution and allaying the fears in many quarters. Will he be more rounded at the Next Level and give every region its due? Or will he look only to his Fulani stock for appointees to government’s juicy offices, as has been the case? Mr. President must act proactively as a statesman, and avoid the parochial tag some have labeled him with.

But perhaps another of Buhari’s biggest challenge in the next four years of his Next Level-inspired administration is how to grow the economy that is technically still at recession. Manufacturers and economists have roundly forecast a downward outlook for the economy. In other words, it means the administration is living in false economic cocoon that does not translate yet to prosperity. The net result is that youth energy is lying untapped; jobs are still scarce. The thousands of jobs lost in the last four years need to be bought back.

How will Buhari react to the plunge in stocks following his being announced as winner of the election last week? Will he dismiss it or take it seriously and work towards restoring confidence in the micro and macro-economic systems?

Last year was one to be remembered for the large number of Nigeria’s young men and women who were returned from Libya and parts of Europe in hundreds. Those who died in the desert in efforts to leave the country for better economic fortunes outside are legions and remain unaccounted for. Even next door neighbour Ghana has begun to repatriate Nigerians; no less than 200 had been repatriated in the last month. If these scenarios do not mean anything to the Buhari administration, then the Next Level of poverty, hunger, starvation, tyranny being projected by some cynics just might become all too real and frightening.

Although APC and Buhari had kept up a litany of blame for the economy’s woes on the past administrations of PDP-led governments, most Nigerians do not quite agreed, saying the contrary was the case. Buhari’s utterances, mostly issued abroad at the beginning of his administration, perhaps did more damage than whatever he met on ground in 2015. His negative portrayal and poor branding of the country abroad inevitably scared off many would-be investors. Those who were already on ground simply took flight with their capital. The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) suffered the worst reverses during those periods and the Naira too took a dip.

In fact, six hours within which Buhari was announcement as reelected president last week Wednesday, the NSE lost N85 billion; by Thursday, the figure had doubled. Is this a sign of the things to come?

In fact, Buhari, rather than live up to his campaign promises in the last four years, drastically reversed many of the things he met. While he met fuel selling for N87, he increased it to N145. While he was yet to lay down his agriculture blueprint, he banned importation of many items including what has become Nigeria’s staple, rice. The price skyrocketed and Nigerians found themselves below internationally accepted poverty level. And in less than four years Nigeria became the Poverty Capital of the World, an unprecedented low for the country under Buhari’s watch. What was worse, the Buhari administration actually continued to live in denial, disputing what had become too obvious to everyone except the administration.

Indeed, Buhari needs qualified public relations managers, who will advise him on what to say at each given moment. His media team has done a poor job of moderating the president’s presentations on too many occasions that he needs a change in tack and team. Only those versed in the art of managing crisis and can see opportunity in adversities and design appropriate strategies to mitigating them fit the cap. Media men, it would seem, only know how to react and meet fire for fire and thereby exacerbate situations, as has been the case.

In any case, Buhari has praised himself for reviving the moribund railway system, building the second Niger Bridge and Mambila Power Stations. He needs to be commended on these achievements. But these are yet to translate to changing the lives of Nigerians in real-time.

So, Next Level of what? He continually blamed past PDP administrations, but he needs to change tack and adopt another a positive narrative. 2023 is not a century away; it is just four year around the corner, and it comes too quickly, just the same way 2015 morphed into 2019 too soon. Now, what excuse would Buhari give if he again fails to meet the expectations of Nigerians who have suffered untold hardship in the last four years?

So again, Next Level of what? Of hunger, poverty, suppression of opposition, unrestrained attacks from herders, tyranny or good governance where Buhari would write his name in gold in the annals of Nigerian history? Indeed, it is an opportunity for Buhari to redeem himself. If 4+4 just means having what other presidents before him had, except Goodluck Jonathan, then history will be harsh on Buhari.

In giving a grim summation of the next four years, Calabar-based medical doctor and culture promoter, James Henshaw, noted, “Nobody, even the eventual winners, should be gloating. This could just be the beginning of slippery slope to a one-party state, and dictatorship even worse than anything we’ve witnessed in the sorry history of this country.

“We hardly know in this country what a political opposition is and what its function is in a democracy. The frightful thought of this looming catastrophe is a lack of a credible opposition, which can meaningfully keep the ruling party in check. There will be no need for the National Assembly. It might as well be closed down, and let the ruling party run riot and rule by decree.

“This is the frightening prospect we all need to be aware off. Elections by themselves are not the basis of the kind of good governance we all crave for.”

Nigerians await their president’s next big moves.


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