by Lekan Sote
Now that the electioneering hurly burly is done, and the Independent National Electoral Commission will soon unveil the winner of the presidential election, every Nigerian should be preparing to congratulate the winner of the epic battle; the one who will take the presidential oyster.
Whosever that will emerge as the President-elect must know that the major concern of Nigerians are existential issues. After all, the campaign strategy of sharing money and “essential commodities,” like rice, and garri, agrees with the political brinkmanship of ebullient and erstwhile Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, who introduced “stomach infrastructure” into Nigeria’s political lexicon.
Section 14 of Nigeria’s Constitution has your job clearly cut out: Job No: 1 of government is to provide security and look after the welfare of the people. It’s not more specific than that.
Chapter II of the Constitution, otherwise known as the Objective Principles of State Policy, prescribes how the economy should run. If you take your cue from that corpus, you can be Nigeria’s economic messiah.
A friend posted the following on a WhatsApp group platform just before the presidential election: “Whichever party wins the 2019 elections must seriously look into this prevailing poverty … with a view to minimising or eradicating (the) same. We have all these abjectly poor citizens in the country where(as) there are many stupendously rich citizens!”
The President-elect must urgently provide a plan to engage the agricultural, extractive, manufacturing, and service sectors of Nigeria’s economy to provide at least the basic human needs of food, clothing, shelter, transport, electricity, and security, for all citizens.
His economic policies must drastically reduce importation of consumer goods, industrial raw materials and petroleum products, items that have put extreme pressure on Nigeria’s inflation, interest, and foreign exchange rates.
A sure way to achieve this is to increase the nation’s infrastructure inventory, like electricity, roads, transport (seaports, airports, railway – especially Calabar-Lagos line), and petroleum refineries, especially in the rural areas. The monetary policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria must be reviewed to ease inflation, interest, and foreign exchange rates.
He also needs a robust agro-allied industry policy that will convert a substantial portion of Nigeria’s agricultural produce into industrial manufacture. Also, he may have to put a large share of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation on the stock exchange.
Apart from making the ownership of the nation’s petroleum resources more democratic and real to Nigerians, the statutory requirement for publication of the financial reports of companies listed in the bourse will ensure transparency in the oil sector.
He must also provide an urgent plan to put the 13.5 million school age children roaming the streets into some decent school environment. It is irresponsible, if not criminal, to leave that many Nigerian children outside of the education loop.
Added to this is the need to pay attention to the human capital needs of the nation. Nowadays, schoolchildren at all levels are aided by their teachers and parents to buy admission and final examinations results, and the children see no reasons to do serious academic work anymore.
Regrettably, these will be the employees who will run the workplace of the future, without being able to add any significant value on their beats. This can’t continue, or the future of Nigeria will be seriously compromised – if it is not already compromised.
He must also note that human capital development requires good healthcare delivery infrastructure to ensure a healthy workforce. A high level of absenteeism, due to ill-health, has robbed the Nigerian economy of a substantial degree of productivity.
The next most important expectation of Nigerians is what he intends to do about restructuring the polity. Nigerians have heard enough of promises and false starts on this contentious issue. They desire real action to be taken.
To be more categorical in this matter, Southern Nigerians are tired of being held back in the hope that the North will play catch-up. It doesn’t work that way. Every region should grow at its own pace.
Note that Northern Nigerians are unhappy that Southern Nigeria is not sympathetic to the dearth of educational facilities that lock out of Northern kids from access to functional education needed to cope with the demands of the 21st Century’s digital economy.
Mr. President-elect, you have quite a handful on your hands. And the biggest of the bad news is that Nigerians are going to be extremely impatient with you. As they say it on the “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” TV show, your time starts now! Come May 29, 2019, you must hit the ground running. That, unfortunately, is the minimum expected. It’s an understatement to say that you have to move fast.
Be warned however, that your biggest problem will come from the National Assembly: By their job definition, they have come to represent interests that run the gamut of the parochial, to the personal, sectional, ethnic, and economic interests.
It’s going to be your lot to intelligently meander your way through their elaborately contrived maze. President Muhammadu Buhari, who heads the current government, failed to factor their idiosyncrasies into his governance, paid dearly for it.
The National Assembly’s tail wagged the President Buhari dog vigorously. His government almost became lame duck from the day Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara emerged as the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively.
He must rue his loss of initiative on that score up, even if he has not publicly acknowledged the same. You must avoid the wobbles that President Buhari’s government experienced due to his lack of brinkmanship.
His famous Inaugural Day declaration, “I belong to nobody. And I belong to everybody,” turned out to be a disingenuous move on the political chessboard. They seized his queen, and bishops, and his pawns became fodder for the masters.
Now, this is not an endorsement or encouragement for you to emasculate the National Assembly. But you must find a way to work with them to get results. Remember that Nigerians won’t hold them responsible for the failure of governance. The buck stops at your table.
You also need the mass media to buy into your policies. But do not confuse this with the media agreeing with you all the time. Remember that Section 22 of the Constitution requires the media to hold your government accountable to the people.
You must find a way to engage the media so that they will own your policies and programmes. But you must never expect the media to abandon their sacred responsibility for you. As far as the media is concerned, your office, or even your cabinet, is just one of the agencies of democratic governance.
Your cabinet is not superior to the National Assembly, the Supreme Court. Indeed, your office as President may be senior to that of the cleaner who sweeps your office every day, but it is not superior. That, in the lingo of the New York city mafia, is the size of it.
The media generally agree with late American Supreme Court Associate Justice Louis Brandeis who insisted that the office of the citizen is the most important office in the polity. It is from this office, which you retain for life that you become a President.
And, please note, Nigerians expect a clear road map in your Inaugural Speech of May 29, 2019. Kapish?
– This piece was written by Lekan Sote/Punch