President Muhammadu Buhari, last week, widened the scope of the policy thrust of his government for the remaining period of his tenure. In his remarks to new foreign envoys he outlined areas of his policy emphasis to include growing the economy, poverty reduction, access to quality education and healthcare, and the enhancement of productivity. Other areas are increased agricultural output; energy self-sufficiency; expansion of transport infrastructure; improving governance and social cohesion; and improving the nation’s security. He said those priority areas would dictate people-focused policy directions of the government in the next three years.
The President revealed this when he received eight foreign envoys in Abuja. The president used the opportunity to inform the ambassadors and high commissioners the areas on which he would devote more of his attention. Thus an envoy seeking areas of investment or cooperation between his country and Nigeria would have no doubt where the president’s government would welcome new investments and partnership.
It is the president’s privilege to list his priorities and market them and we are certain his ministers and officials would incorporate them into their schemes. The only thing missing in the president’s ambitious priorities was a clear plan of action. The president’s original three-point programme, which centred on growing the economy, fighting corruption and enhancing security nationwide, is better known since it has occupied the president and his government in the last five years. But there is still much to be done in these three areas. This situation was exacerbated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which could be likened to an act of nature for which the Buhari administration has no blame. Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics indicate that the country’s economy is destined for a deep recession in the third quarter of the year due to the pandemic.
An essential part of growing the economy has been the need to diversify the economy. It was part of the promise of the president during his campaign in 2015. We probably grow more rice today than we did in 2015. But the price of rice today is much higher than what it was in 2015. President Buhari raised so much optimism in the area of security during his campaigns, having not only commanded a division in the Nigerian Army but also having been a military head of state and commander-in chief. An overwhelming majority of Nigerians believed that Boko Haram would be history in six months if the general became president. But here we are, today, five years after, and, even after the president had taken an extra $1 billion for extra security appropriation, the insurgents seem to have gathered more steam than in 2015. Even the modest gains made in the fight against corruption seem to have been recently overshadowed by the recent uncertainty on whether recovered assets had been re-looted.
But there is no dispute that the priorities listed by the president are crucial for the nation’s development worthy of his energies, time and the nation’s resources. Economic growth would lead to lower unemployment. Reduction of poverty should, indeed, be the number one priority of a country that has the largest concentration of poor people on earth. Access to quality education has become a national urgent necessity in a technologically driven world. The pandemic has exposed the underbelly of our healthcare facilities leading to the realisation that investment in healthcare is rather worthwhile. The president also plans to raise agricultural production to increase Nigeria’s food security, produce more food and other agricultural products for export. Among his long shot ambitions is attaining energy and petroleum products self-sufficiency after decades of frustration and hundreds of billions of Naira spent on power and idle refineries.
President Buhari also wants to expand transportation facilities and other infrastructure and expand business growth. entrepreneurship and industrialisation which have been stymied for decades by the country’s inability to generate and transmit enough electricity. He also listed the improvement in governance,the creation of social cohesion and the improvement of national security.
However, all these worthy and ambitious aspirations cannot be accomplished without the existence of the enabling environment, including the much-talked about ‘ease of doing business.’ Above all, the president does not seem to have enough time. And if the president must accomplish some of these objectives, the government must quicken its pace of doing things because three years would go in a flash in the face of these priorities. We believe that the president’s priorities are the right ones and the hope of most Nigerians is that he should leave a legacy worthy of the support he has received as president.