Editor’s note: It would not be an exaggeration to state that the ceremony of Muhammadu Buhari’s swearing-in as the Nigerian president attracted global attention. The Legit.ng columnist Japheth Omojuwa reminds us that the celebration of Buhari’s inauguration may be over, but the willingness of all Nigerians to work together should not end on this high note. To what extent will the incoming administration of the APC’s Muhammadu Buhari commit to the welfare and needs of Nigerians? Will Nigeria’s image abroad change for a more favourable one under the Buhari-led cabinet?
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Legit.ng, its editors or other contributors.
After twelve years and four consecutive attempts at becoming Nigeria’s president, today, Muhammadu Buhari has become one. He is the fourth president in what has already turned out to be Nigeria’s longest democratic journey. He takes over from Dr Goodluck Jonathan whom he defeated at the historic March 28 presidential poll. Buhari has his work cut out, although that could easily pass for the understatement of the century. The outgoing PDP have run Nigeria for sixteen years, and most Nigerians will agree they have run the country aground. Most of Buhari’s work will find him clearing the mess that has been left over by the outgoing government and then deploying his own development strategy. A lot of his success will depend on how well and early he gets the reforms going.
Fuel subsidy is, unarguably, the most controversial challenge the new president would have to deal with. He has been on record saying: “Who is subsidizing whom?" in apparent reference to the fact that public officers are earning and living on taxpayers’ money, so they have no right to talk about removing the subsidies Nigerians enjoy. This places Buhari in a position where he would not be able to deregulate the downstream sector, a technical term for the removal of subsidies, without being questioned on his salaries and allowances and the pay of his fellow public officers. If the subsidies must go — and most people agree they must — it is imperative for public office-holders to demonstrate the urgency of Nigeria’s need for more cash resources by drastically cutting their own salaries and allowances. After that, a clear roadmap for the benefits of subsidy removal should be outlined. Please, avoid the tokenism of corrupt programmes like SURE-P.
Insecurity is one headache that has seen the president engaging allies like the United Kingdom and the United States while he was president-elect. The insurgency in the North-East is one challenge the new administration must deal with squarely. In dealing with this challenge, there must be a strategy in place that would cover all the socio-economic gaps that allows for the recruitment of young people into terrorist organizations. Whether or not a North-East Nigeria Development Commission is set up, what matters is that the North-East would need special attention because of its precarious situation. This challenge might have the North-East written all over it, but, as we have seen over the last five years, it is a problem for Nigeria and its immediate neighbours.
Small arms proliferation also means that as long as the status quo remains, the whole country remains on the verge of eventually crumbling under the weight of insecurity and the breakdown of law and order. The new administration needs a holistic security strategy that pays as much attention to crime prevention as it does to crime punishment. Every facet of our security network needs a reform, a reform that would make them work together for a common purpose against the competition that continues to set them against one another.
The Nigerian economy knows how to grow without creating jobs because the country continues to depend on petro-dollars for its foreign exchange earnings. The petroleum industry is more capital-intensive than it’s labour-intensive. If we expect the Nigerian economy to create jobs, the new administration must devise an economic plan that helps to fast-track the creation of new small businesses, nurture those already in existence, while also making sure multinational corporations find Nigeria a conducive environment to work. The quagmire around our business registration process, our frustrating visa regime, our weak property laws and our weak judiciary are disincentive for investors. We must clear these huddles while intentionally putting incentives in place for business to thrive.
Government should not look to provide jobs itself, it should only work out ways to make the private sector do that. Growing the salary of our civil service from N800 billion every year as at 2010 to N1.8 trillion today has only landed us in a position where our budget is only able to pay for salaries while capital expenditure, the bedrock of economic development, is left with almost nothing. The Nigerian economy must create jobs! Should it fail to do so, Nigeria must prepare for surging levels of crime, terrorism and social problems which would be the consequence of a growing population of young people with idle hands and active minds.
The last administration considered building universities to be a great leap for educational development. What Nigeria actually needs is more about the content of our education than about the structures we build. Today, the content of our educational system does not cater for the needs of our society. Our schools are graduating students whose academic experience does not match the technical expertise need of our society. Our educational system needs to produce as many technicians and engineers as it does lawyers and business administrators. We must focus on the sort of educational content that puts the needs of our society in focus.
Our maternal and child mortality rates are embarrassing and unacceptable. The government needs to work with the private sector and the local and state governments to improve access to primary healthcare. Let us focus on building a healthy society; that way, we get to spend less money exporting ill citizens for treatment in India. On another front, why can’t Nigeria become the India of Africa for health-related solutions?
Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s main legacy is his improvement of the electoral process. That work is far from being done. The Buhari government owes it to Nigerians to make our electoral system a world-class one. Despite improvements in the system, we know that the card-readers were gamed by unrepentant elements hellbent on not making our people’s votes count. Hopefully, the tribunals will show them out for the criminals they are. We wouldn’t have to burden the tribunal with such things if we continued to improve the system with technology and the right laws.
Nigeria must work for Nigerians and all who dwell in it. Nigeria’s image abroad must change for the better. All of these is possible once the new administration commits to the welfare and the needs of the people. Let incentives drive enterprise, and let punishments curb crimes and corruption. By then, we will have set ourselves on to that journey of greatness.
Congratulations, President Buhari, but the celebrations have already ended! Let us get to work!
Japheth Omojuwa is a renowned Nigerian social media expert, columnist and Legit.ng contributor.