At the verge of President Buhari’s inauguration for a second term, the nation is invited to take stock and to extend a wish list to the imminent administration
Based strictly on his chosen three campaign pillars of security, economy and anti-corruption, the verdict on President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term is a rather mixed bag weighted heavily on the negative side. On the eve of his second term inauguration, therefore, we urge him to see the nation as his constituency. He is as much the president of those who voted for him as he is for those who did not. Most importantly, this is an opportunity for Buhari to lay to rest the increasing impression that he is a sectional leader. He must now belong to all Nigerians while ensuring that we all belong to one indivisible nation.
On the security front, the nation Buhari inherited four years ago is today more insecure than it has ever been since after the civil war. The troublesome Boko Haram insurgency has metastasised into a full terrorist menace with occasional daring exploits. Indiscriminate killings by sundry cartels of gunmen, kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery and assorted other violent crimes are rampant in many parts of the country. The value of human life has become gravely so degraded that news of deaths often on an industrial scale hardly shocks the citizenry anymore. The free access of criminal gangs to military grade weapons has elevated the insecurity to a veritable challenge to the supremacy of the state.
While external reserves have remained fairly stable and even marginally increased, the indices of domestic economic well-being remain dismal. The rate of investment in the economy has remained too fickle to challenge the magnitude of unemployment, especially among the youth. This is not to deny that government effort in the realm of infrastructure restoration and development, if magnified and sustained, promises to increase employment opportunities in the long term. But the spate of insecurity around the country continues to make Nigeria an unattractive destination for much needed foreign direct investment.
Easily the most controversial aspect of Buhari’s three-pronged emphasis is his drive against corruption. To date, the administration has tended to view corruption mostly as a vice dominated by its political opponents. There is also a tendency to focus more attention on public sector corruption with errant government officials as predictable targets. An alternative more holistic approach would see corruption as arising from a degradation of our value system and therefore aim at value re-orientation in addition to the evolution of a system of controls in the public sector that would make large scale looting of the treasury more difficult. In order to acquire greater credibility, the anti-corruption crusade must now depart from a dressed-up partisan witch-hunt. Exhaustive forensic investigation must now replace ad hoc media prosecutions and condemnations of suspects. In addition, the negative value origins of the present corruption epidemic must come into view. We need an inclusive citizen buy-in for the anti-corruption war to become sustainable.
Meanwhile, what the public expects is an honest admission of the failures of the last four years with a view to adopting better policies and programmes. In this regard, the government must quickly depart from the unfortunate practice of blaming the opposition and the administrations it succeeded for the ills of the nation. The time has come to assume total responsibility for the fate and fortunes of the country. The president was not re-elected to pass the buck of responsibility or endlessly seek the faults of his predecessors. He was elected to lead a nation in good times and bad times alike.
The mantle and challenge of direct responsibility means that Buhari must quickly move to guarantee the peace, security and safety of all Nigerians on every inch of our national space. While the military’s role in internal security may be justified by the present magnitude of the problem, the objective should be to sufficiently stabilise the security situation and then restore the primacy of the police on matters of normal internal security.
The previous anomaly where the president did not appoint a cabinet for months on end would no longer go down well with Nigerians. The president must therefore quickly hit the ground running by forwarding to the Senate his nominees for the next cabinet so that there is no disruption in the tempo and flow of the business of government. Whatever may have been the verdict on his first four years in office, the people who have now extended President Buhari’s mandate for another term expect better times ahead.
We wish him success.