By Tessy Igomu and Job Osazuwa
Today marks the beginning of another four-year journey for President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration, as he, alongside Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, takes his oath of office for a second tenure. And for millions of Nigerians, the expectations are high. They are looking up to the number one citizen and his administration to turn their fortunes around for the better.
As Buhari is installed today for his final term as president of the most populous black nation on earth, Daily Sun sought the views of Nigerians on their expectations from the President in his second term. And many are the expectations.
What seems to be the priority of most Nigerians is how to repair the poor state of the nation’s economy.
Not long after Buhari assumed office in 2015, the economy sank into a recession that saw several businesses and companies shut down. Many jobs were lost within the time. By June 2018, the rate of unemployment had increased from 18.2 per cent when he took office in May 2015 to 23.1 per cent.
Although Nigeria is said to have recovered from the recession, Nigerians believe that, during his second term, the President and his team need to be more committed in their quest to diversify the economy as well as create jobs.
With an estimated 87 million Nigerians believed to be living on less than $1.90 a day, the country was tagged the poverty capital of the world and rated to have overtaken India as the country with the highest number of poor people last year. Based on this, many Nigerians maintain that the President should be worried that over 91 million Nigerians now live in extreme poverty, according to the World Poverty Clock created by the Vienna-based World Data Lab.
Segun Akinpelu, a civil servant, averred that government should commit to policies and programmes that would accelerate economic growth and ensure that the growth rate surpasses that of population growth.
Yet others advocated the creation of an enabling environment to bring about an increase in private investment, stressing that private sector investment was a critical growth driver in every economy.
Ayodele Asimi, an economist, noted that, for long, Nigeria had solely depended on crude sales for all its needs, thus neglecting other rich natural endowments scattered across the country. He advised that consideration be given to the exploration of other areas of revenue.
Though the government’s social intervention policies, such as the school feeding programme, the Conditional Cash Transfer, N-Power, Trader Moni and others are putting smiles on the faces of many Nigerians, the programmes have been trailed by criticism in several quarters. Some insist the policies are targeted at a select few.
Funke Oyekan noted that the President needs to get to work immediately to tackle poverty and hardship in the land. She noted that jobs need to be created and loans made available to small-scale businesses, to help cushion the effects of the economic downturn.
Also uppermost in the hearts of many is the need to strengthen the anti-corruption fight. The endemic corruption in the country has been blamed for the parlous state of the economy. And when Buhari, who campaigned on tackling corruption and securing the country’s economy came on board, many said they expected that the hydra-headed monster would be tamed.
Rating the success of the anti-corruption war and how it fell short of their expectations, they described Buhari’s performance in terms of fighting corruption as below average and selective in approach.
They, however, applauded him for starting strongly by implementing the previous administration’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) initiative. This, they noted, put a seal on several drain pipes through which the country was being milked dry.
Though several high-profile arrests were made, the anti-corruption drive, many maintained, seems to have lost steam.
Most social critics said they are expecting a commitment to strengthening the anti-corruption war. They also called for it to be sustained and given institutional foundations to ensure it becomes a part of governance even after his tenure.
Usoro Edwin, a lawyer, said Nigerians lost faith in the fight against corruption when it was turned into a witch-hunt of opposition politicians, while a blind eye was turned to corruption within the President’s circle.
He lamented that the rule of law was not duly followed in many corruption cases, as no landmark legislative reviews were passed in order to better prevent corruption or make prosecution easier.
“We are optimistic that during his second term in office, Mr. Buhari must do well to right his wrongs. He should ensure independence of the judiciary and remove himself from corrupt cases in order to secure his legacy for posterity’s sake,” he said.
For Gbenga Fadipe, a social analyst, the President should embrace the business of tackling corruption headlong, make it non-selective and be unsparingly non-protective of anyone found to have erred. He further said that in fighting corruption, all toes must be stepped on and made to face the music without fear or favour.
Some Nigerians have noted that one highpoint of Buhari’s first tenure was the ability to undertake infrastructural projects across the country, notably, road construction and rail projects. They are hopeful that during his second term, the government would push ahead with fast-paced infrastructural drive, which would include constant power supply as well as the construction and rehabilitation of roads, bridges, railways, airports, hospitals and schools.
When it comes to power generation, the country was rated low by many Nigerians. To Jimoh Ariyo, a coldroom operator, electricity generation has not improved as being touted in the media. He noted that Nigeria is still rated the highest importer of personal generating sets, even as those struggling to survive spend large portions of their income on power generation
Babatunde Alabi, a retiree, said Mr. Buhari’s administration had totally failed to deliver on its promise in terms of power generation and to fully implement a pricing regime and metering programme. He called on the president to make the issue of power one of the most important focal area, as he embarks on another four years in office.
For Uche Ebuka, a businessman in Ikeja, policies and incentives should be put in place to encourage decentralisation and more off-grid solutions in the power sector. He stressed that people should be left with options to patronise when it comes to electricity distribution.
With the port congestion posing serious challenge and trauma to Nigerians, many want the President and his team to expedite action on the ongoing rail projects across the country to ensure cost-effective logistics for investors across all sectors.
They also want the issue of deplorable roads and poor road maintenance to be addressed in a sustainable manner.
Even as Nigeria’s healthcare sector remains in a shambles, many are calling for a total overhaul of the system. They are also advocating increased funding for primary healthcare centres scattered across the states.
Timothy Odunaike, a medical practitioner, identified the unavailability of modern equipment, poor facilities, low disease surveillance and poor staffing as challenges bedevilling the sector. He called for revitalisation of the primary health centres across the country. He further noted that this would ensure that the poor have access to qualitative and affordable healthcare services.
A consultant with one of the teaching hospitals in Lagos, who didn’t want his name in print, lamented that about 44 tertiary health facilities in Nigeria, comprising 20 teaching hospitals and 24 federal medical centres, have remained mere skeletons of what they should ideally be. He decried the fact that they have become mere consulting rooms where drugs and equipment are hardly available, while foreign medical tourism thrives.
He regretted that while the rest of the world, including countries like Ghana, India and South Africa, parade first class medical equipment that aid diagnostics and treatment, Nigeria has refused to develop its health sector.
“The onus falls hugely on the President to remedy the situation by effectively rescuing the nation’s decaying healthcare system,” he said.
To someone like Jennifer Amakom, the President, within his second term in office, should boost the faith of Nigerians in the country’s health care sector by shunning medical tourism abroad.
“For someone like me, the President’s constant medical trips abroad are an indication that things are not normal. He has a huge task to remedy the anomalies now and also lead us by example.”
In terms of security across the country, even the blind as well as the deaf and dumb will protest that Nigeria has been under siege. Daredevil robbers, terrorists, kidnappers and marauding killer herdsmen have held the country by the jugular, choking hapless citizens by the day.
Nigerians are concerned that many of those given the responsibility to maintain law and order and safeguard citizens have become the people’s worst enemies. Many innocent people had been sent to an early grave by trigger-happy policemen.
Lending his voice to the disturbing development, president of Community Youths Movement of Nigeria, Mr. Monsuru Kolawole Shoyombo, concurred with most Nigerians that the country was under severe attack. He beseeched the President to immediate swing into action and deal ruthlessly with the perpetrators.
Said he: “We are faced with the notorious Boko Haram, killer herdsmen, kidnapping, cultism, serial killings, armed robbery and Internet or online fraud, popularly known as ‘Yahoo Yahoo.’
“It is imperative to dissect the causes of the aforementioned debacles. There is an increasing unemployment crisis, deplorable conditions of infrastructural facilities and the flamboyant nature of both elected and appointed office holders.
“The resultant effects of all these is the total loss of hope in the ability of the government to provide the necessary amenities and policies that will have direct impact on the common man on the street. Loss of hope in a system pushes many people to take nasty steps in the quest for survival.
“The President should, as a matter of urgency, declare an emergency in security by replacing the service chiefs with more efficient officers of good and outstanding record. The replacement also should not be based on the usual long periods of service but strictly on performance. If the existing laws that are used for promotions need to be amended, let it be done immediately.
“The Nigeria Police needs serious reforms and refurbishment. They need upgrading and more funding. Try and visit the military barracks and compare them with police barracks, you will understand the urgent need for more funding for the police force. This will go a long way in changing their orientation and perception about security.
“Another area that needs serious attention is the immigration sector. Till this moment, the true identity of the Fulani herdsmen remains a mystery. The rate of influx of foreigners into Nigeria cannot be overestimated. There is the need for adequate record of citizens and immigrants so as to ascertain their destinations, relatives, fingerprints, their occupations and other checks for security reasons.
“Stiffer punishment should be given to anybody whosoever caught perpetrating any act capable of causing disorderliness without fear or favour. Digital policing should be introduced especially in the most troubled areas of the country as a pilot project and then to every part of the country.
“Government should provide all necessary arms and ammunition capable of restraining and paralysing all existing insurgencies in the country. Our military personnel and other security agents should be adequately remunerated so that they would be willing and ready to make lots of sacrifice for our dear nation.
“My research has revealed that technologically-aided aerial surveillance in form of drones, controlled aerial bombardment with full artillery and standby reinforcement that are ready to advance as soon as they receive signals from troubled communities are more than enough to suppress all activities of insurgents in the country.
“Also, there must be an adequate window for dialogue and reconciliation where necessary.
“Above all, creation of more employment for our teeming population is one of the best ways of taming the rising spate of insecurity in the land.”
He maintained that societies die gradually when those who know the illness fold their arms waiting for conventional solutions.
A security expert, who is the chief security officer, Mustahpa Estate in Agbado Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) in Lagos, Mr. Adebisi Ayomide, believes that embracing innovation and huge investment were some of the best ways to detect and prevent crimes in any community.
He said inasmuch as Buhari is expected to take the necessary steps that will guarantee safety of lives and property, Nigerians must also assist the security agencies to better do their jobs.
Many Nigerians are worried that agriculture has been largely neglected by successive administrations.
National president of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabir Ibrahim, said the Federal Government has the largest role to play in making the country not only to become self-sufficient in food production but to be able to feed other nations.
“The gains of the Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP) – green alternative policy will be harnessed better if the Anchor Borrowers Scheme targets the farmers directly through AFAN.
“From all indications, the Buhari administration is poised to continue with the Central Bank of Nigeria-evolved scheme by renewing the tenure of the CBN governor.
“The CBN, the ministries of Agriculture and Trade and Investment need to work more closely to create market for our produce, both internally and externally.
“The government’s plan to restructure the ownership of the Bank of Agriculture to include a farmer-holding 40 per cent, with the CBN and the ministry of finance paying up their share holding will definitely bolster the credit base of the small holder. The small holder will be able to borrow with ease and sustainably since as one small holder pays back another is able to borrow.
“The farmers look forward to the consolidation of the APP that will bring about food sufficiency and ultimately afford Nigeria the opportunity to maintain its big brother status in Africa,” Ibrahim said.
Education is the bedrock of society, but there is an apparent decline in the standard of education in Nigeria. There have been agitations for more budgetary allocations to the sector, while some concerned Nigerians called for a total overhauling of the sector.
Contributing to the issue, an educationist, Mr. Ileme Martin urged the president to ensure that teachers are well-remunerated. He canvassed improved infrastructure in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions across the country.
“In advanced countries, they don’t toy with teachers’ welfare. But in Nigeria, a councillor earns more than a secondary school teacher, and maybe more than a university lecturer. I want the President to make the teaching profession attractive by paying the workers well. He should also ensure proper funding of the education sector.
“As long as we give priority to other things like war equipment, allowances for politicians and others, then the proper attention our educational development needs for us to become a great nation will continue to suffer.”
A concerned Nigerian, Pastor Uwaifo Aigbedion urged Buhari to build more primary, secondary and technical schools in his second term. He said it was disheartening to find over 200 students sharing a classroom in some public schools in many parts of the country. He described learning under such condition as a punishment for the teachers and students.
“Due to the shortage of government-owned schools, which I attended in my time, a lot of mushroom private schools are springing up. Most of these private schools are unregistered; their teachers are unqualified and high levels of examination malpractices are going on there.
“It is sad that Nigeria has become this bad. But it can be corrected, even if it’s not overnight. All we require is the political will from our president to focus on revamping the education sector because a lot of things have gone wrong over the years,” Aigbedion said.
Despite the various interventions by the Federal Government in the recent past, Nigeria appears to be lagging behind in road, air, water and rail transportation.
A former chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (I CAN), Lagos Mainland and District Society (LMDS), Mr. Cyprian Nwuya, tasked Buhari to sustain some of the achievements recorded in his first term.
“Besides general expectation, I will like the President to further deepen the infrastructural development noted in the transportation sector. On air transportation, it’s commendable to note that most cities in Nigeria with irregular flights in the past are now witnessing improved flight schedules. The agencies responsible for air transportation should sustain the ongoing good work.
“On sea transportation, one expects Buhari to use his presidential powers to decongest the Lagos sea ports. It’s very painful to note that we play politics with almost everything in Nigeria. The government cannot continue to pretend not to be aware of the need to develop other seaports and compel importers to use them. Apapa, Tin can seaports and the environs will never know peace unless other seaports are developed. No amount of dry ports will save the situation. I expect him to decentralise the seaports as a matter of priority.
“On road transportation, I find it difficult to understand the dichotomy of road management in Nigeria. What is important to the average common man on the street is good roads devoid of potholes. Designating different roads as federal, state and local government roads is nonsensical. The state government should be responsible for the maintenance of any road within its jurisdiction for the good of their people. This will be achieved through appropriate legislation. When this is done, every state government will be held accountable for the condition of all inter-state roads within its jurisdiction.
“On rail transportation, the effort of the government is commendable. However, there is urgent need to have a rail track that will link the west and east zones. That is, a horizontal rail track integration is expected from Buhari in his tenure.
“I believe, with these measures, Mr. President would have taken Nigerians to the next level as far as transportation is concerned,” Nwuya said.
He suggested the the introduction of more metropolitan rail system across major cities in the country, as well as constructing and expanding more roads so that movement of persons and goods could be done with ease.