Today marks the beginning of another 366 days. And about 200 million Nigerians are with diverse expectations from the government in taking new steps to make life better for the citizens.
Daily Sun went to seek the opinions of Nigerians, who did not hesitate in pouring their hearts out. They called on President Muhammadu Buhari to listen more to the people, feel the pulse of the nation and ensure that the mistakes he made in the past were not repeated.
As Nigerians look forward to 2020, what keeps resonating from the people is the need for the number one citizen to respect the rule of law and court judgments.
A chartered accountant with decades of practice, Mr. Cyprian Nwuya, demanded: “I expect the president to focus more on measures towards alleviating the sufferings of the masses. I expect the president to relax some of the fiscal policies that impact negatively on the purchasing power of ordinary Nigerians. Our policymakers need to understand that goods produced in Nigeria are not meant for Nigerians alone but the entire West Coast. Therefore, the border closure should be reviewed in the interest of our local manufacturers who cannot export their products to the neighbouring countries.
“The policy of compelling banks to give out a percentage of their deposits as loans to small medium enterprises (SMEs) is not working. Nigerian banks are not helping small-scale businesses through provision of loans. They see SMEs as risky and deny them loan facilities needed for take-off.
“I expect the president, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to encourage SME promoters who have genuine business proposals and are serious about their dreams but are often denied loan facilities, to petition such banks to the CBN. By doing this, SMEs will pick up and jobs will be created.
“The president, through the Ministry of Transportation, should decongest Lagos by developing other seaports outside Lagos. More productive hours are wasted on the roads. The health implications induced by stress on Lagos roads is reducing our life expectancy ratio.
“President Buhari should drive the fight against corruption to the next level by ensuring that EFCC is not only independent but seen to be unbiased in the fight against corruption.
“He should leave a legacy for Nigerians by ensuring that our electoral laws are amended as a matter of urgency. Nigerians need electoral laws that will eradicate electoral frauds. The way and manner our elections are conducted are reducing the integrity of our nation and by extension Nigerians. Electoral reforms should be of paramount importance to the President.
“He should also look into our health care facilities. Government hospitals are not enough and where they exist, they are not properly equipped. Our health minister and various state health commissioners should visit government hospitals and see the number of patients waiting to be attended to. Because of this crowd, some patients die in the process. In most instances, the doctors are overworked. Government should bring health care closer to the people by building more standard hospitals.”
The director of Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative (PRAI), Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem, said: “My expectations from President Buhari are for him to uphold the rule of law by obeying court orders without delay. He should not pick and choose orders to obey. And he should work with the judiciary to overhaul the criminal justice system, which is currently in a mess with arbitrary arrest, delayed trial, overcrowded prisons and avoidable deaths in the prison.
“It is hoped that more custodial centres would be built in the coming year particularly in the urban areas and the Administration of Criminal Justice monitoring committee would be empowered to monitor compliance with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.”
A Lagos-based music artiste, Amachukwu Amarachi Mercy, said: “The president should work towards creation of different platforms for one to learn various skills at government level, for free. The government should work out low or no interest loans to youths in order to start up a business.
“At various institutions of learning, practical courses should be encouraged. Students should be exposed to the value of entrepreneurship skills, invention and creativity. Nigerians who are talents in entertainment should be discovered and encouraged, especially in the area of music.”
Lending his voice, a student of Kwara State Polytechnic, Olatunji Ademola Amos, said: “Nigerian youths were once tagged as ‘lazy’ but I don’t think that is correct. The problem with Nigerian youths is that they have the passion for work but have no job opportunities. Even those that learnt one vocation or the other are unable to fully utilise such due to the economic situation of the country.
“My dream for 2020 is for the government to create more job opportunities, such as establishing more vocational centres in our higher institutions that would give undergraduates the chance of self-empowerment. Government should also focus on reviving the textile industry.
“Government can also sponsor some fresh graduates to places like China and India to gain some experience in new technology that will be useful to our nation because Nigeria is very poor technologically. If this is done, many construction and building contracts awarded to foreigners will stop.
“If our refineries are okay, it will also be helpful in creating employment. Nigeria can’t do it by fighting corruption alone. If there is adequate employment, the rate of corruption will reduce and most crimes will be eradicated.”
A constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Morah Ekwunoh, said: “No doubt, expectations from the president by Nigerians in the year 2020 are multi-faceted and multidimensional. They range from head-on tackling of hydra-headed monster of insecurity. There should be urgent and massive gainful engagement of our teeming, jobless, hungry and angry youths who see, albeit wrongly, the resort to criminal endeavours as means of livelihood and exertion of revenge on the society that appears to have failed them.
“Serious re-engineering of the economic frontier also deserves a pride of place on the front-burner of governance. The economic situation at the moment, where we have borrowing as the only way of financing budgets, is so gloomy as to cause serious concerns in the minds of discerning and dispassionate Nigerians.
“Other areas of expected improvement of radical nature are in the spheres of obedience to, and respect for, the rule of law, judgements and orders of our courts, respect for other constitutionally created and empowered arms of government, especially the judiciary. Others are creation of adequate mechanism for purification of the electoral process; protection of the masses and voters from electoral robbery and brigandage associated with last elections.
“The president should strengthen the existing mechanism for ensuring that statutory allocations to local governments are received and disbursed by them, thus severing the ubiquitous umbilical cords through which governors and political godfathers shortchange and suffocate the masses.
“I am expecting the immediate and unconditional release of prisoners of conscience, as epitomised by the likes of Agba Jalingo, Ibrahim El-Zakazaky and his wife, with the last two being unjustly incarcerated since the infancy of the president’s first democratic coming in 2015.”
A civil engineer, in Ogun State, Mr. Adebiyi Oladele Adelowo, stated: “I am looking forward to the implementation of N30,000 minimum wage nationwide. All dramas surrounding it must stop. If those in high positions can have money for luxury things, paying a worker in the low cadre N30, 000 shouldn’t be a problem.
“Our economy needs improvement so as to enable small scale businesses to thrive. This is one of the fastest ways that massive job opportunities will be created. Lots of graduates have lost their jobs in the past few years. So, this must not continue in 2020.
“This government can leave a legacy by providing a stable power supply. This is essential and necessary to attract foreign and local investors.
“All federal roads across the states are now death traps for travellers. The roads should be urgently rehabilitated. Some are being done already, but more work needs to be done.
“I want the president and other political office holders not to see expression of public opinions as hate speech. We voted them into power, so therefore, we need to track and question their promises. I believe that this will improve good governance.”
A student of the University of Lagos, Tosin Olatunji, said that the key places the Buhari administration needs to seriously focus on and resolve are the farmer-herder clashes, education, security and civil service.
His words: “The Middle Belt region of Nigeria has faced prolonged violent clashes between the predominantly Christian farmers and the mostly Muslim cattle herders that need to be resolved once and for all. At the core of the conflicts are disputes over access and rights to land and water resources. These clashes are not necessarily new, but since 2015, the disputes have become more frequent and many lives lost.
“The administration should take education very important. This is one of the basic areas that when adequately funded, will lead to bumper harvest for the country and her people.
“The Civil Service Commission need to be visited because a lot of rot is going on there. Promotion should be based on merit, leaving aside nepotism, tribalism or any form of ethnicity. The civil service is highly corrupt due to different reasons.
“However, I believe low pay also make many workers to commit fraud too. All the same, this is not an excuse for them. The president should overhaul the commission.
“The government should keep on the good works in tackling security challenges in Nigeria. But to whom much is given, much is expected.” Therefore, the security personnel need more motivation from government and Nigerians.
“Buhari should remember that we are in a civilian administration, and democratic values must be upheld at all times.”
An Abuja-based culture and events specialist, Ihu Anyanwu, said: Buhari could have stopped a lot of things but he hasn’t. He was voted in 2015 with a promise to stop Boko Haram. A lot of people who wouldn’t normally vote for him did so because they thought he’d stop the insurgents, but we still have them killing innocent Nigerians.
“The herdsmen mayhem also sprouted within months of his first term and has caused so much damage in the past. SME entrepreneurship is what actually generates money in Nigeria, yet everything is done to frustrate all their efforts and investments.
“I expect Buhari to think about Nigeria as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country whose diversity is not a burden but a gift to be nurtured and harvested. He should contribute to our growth, not just the Northern Nigeria so that the entire country can thrive.”
A person living with albinism, Chimezie Udechukwu joined others to criticize the president, saying that, as displayed in 2019, his government lacks respect for the rule of law. He stressed that when a government, especially the executive arm fails to respect the rule of law, it becomes dictatorial before its people.
“Buhari must understand that if there must be a sustained increase in foreign investment if our economy must prosper, if we must ensure an egalitarian society where our commonwealth is evenly distributed, then government must not only be perceived to, it must be seen as respecting the rule of law.
“No great society is ever built on a system that flagrantly disregards the constitution and legal processes. He must constantly remember that this is not the military, and that he can’t rule by executive Fiat. This is a democracy and there are rules, processes and regulations.
“If we must get one thing right as a nation in 2020, it should be that our leaders rise to the challenge of personal example. This is what Chinua Achebe calls “the hallmark of leadership. And it begins with the president,” Udechukwu said.