It is 19 days to the inauguration of a new government in Nigeria at the federal level and in 29 states of the federation. President Muhammadu Buhari, by scoring the highest number of votes and also securing at least 25 per cent votes in two-third of the 36 states, would take oath of office for a second term. With this, the electoral process would have been completed, pending the determination of the cases challenging the presidential election result at the tribunal and, subsequently, the Supreme Court.
From May 29, therefore, it is supposed to be a new dawn in governance as a fresh mandate is going to be exercised by President Buhari. The mandate was got after a tough fight with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition political party, most especially. And being a new mandate, Nigerians are expecting something new in government.
In the last four years, much has been said about the Buhari government. Some have said the government did its best. The Buhari government also believes it has done well. Others, however, think that what the government and the ruling political party consider their best is not good enough. Yet some others believe that the government has failed, based on indices on the economy, security and unity, among others, in the country.
Whatever is the situation, Buhari’s first term in office is gone. Whatever was done or left undone has gone. The 2019 elections have gone. Politics is expected to have also gone. Now is the time to look forward instead of backward. The future is more important than the past, irrespective of the fact that they are related somehow.
With a fresh mandate, it is expected that President Buhari would do a self-appraisal. He knows where he has done well, where he performed averagely and where he failed woefully. It is for him to learn from his mistakes, make amends in the next term in office and do things better. When things are done better, the country would be the better for it. If the same mistake is made, there will be no progress. To ensure progress and better performance, therefore, the Buhari government, in the second term, should do things differently and much better.
In four years, many Nigerians talked about the manner of appointments by President Buhari. Many believe, and truly too, that appointments had favoured the North. Fingers are pointed at the security sector, where most of those who head the agencies are from the North. The National Security Adviser (NSA), Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Minister of Defence, Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Director-General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NCSDC) and the Inspector-General of Police are all northerners. Only the Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Defence Staff are from the southern part of the country in the security apparrati.
People also mention the fact that northerners are heading most top government agencies and paratastals (MDAs). The agency mostly talked about include but not limited to the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), among others, even though southerners head other agencies like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Federal Road Safety Corporation, among others. Although diehard Buhari supporters defend the action, President Buhari has promised that there will be a change in his second term. That is the right thing to do. Appointments should not overtly favour one group or one part of the country, while others look on like passengers. There should be even spread, in the spirit of equity, fairness and justice. Equating appointments with votes cast for President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) should not arise. As long as we do not have one-party system, it is not possible that the Nigerian federation will have everybody voting for one man and one political party.
In President Buhari’s second term, there is urgent need to address the security challenges in the country. There is insecurity across the nation. Kidnappers are on the rampage and running riot. The Senate this week declared the Abuja-Kaduna road the deadliest in Africa. Bandits are on the prowl in Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina and other places. Boko Haram insurgents are still terrorising Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. Herdsmen are baring their fangs in Taraba, Benue and many other. This is the security profile of Nigeria. It is a dangerous phenomenon. The Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, summed it up when he said the country is at risk.
Therefore, the Buhari government should evolve a more workable security strategy to arrest the ugly situation. The new government should go beyond ordering service chiefs to redress the situation. There should be a serious, effective and all-inclusive programme to make Nigeria safe. State police structure is desirable at this time. The Federal Government cannot effectively run and fund the police. It should see the wisdom in having state police and put machinery in motion to make it possible. The fear that state police would suffer abuses in the hands of state governments or governors is valid, but it does not remove the merit of that security system. The decentralisation of the police would make room for better funding, increased equipment and better incentives for police officers and men. This will ensure better policing and security. In any case, state police will not totally abrogate federal police. There should still be federal police, which would complement state police.
In fighting insecurity, government should be transparent and not play politics. A time there was when the Federal Government said Boko Haram was technically defeated. Happenings, however, did not support the claim, as there were still incidents of abduction of schoolgirls, attacks on military barracks and locations as well as incursion into communities, worship centres and markets. When the picture is bad, the government should admit it and solicit everybody’s assistance and cooperation. That way, Nigerians would know the reality on the ground and take the challenge as a collective one.
Now is the time for government to rejig security personnel. The service chiefs have tried their best, but it is time for them to go. They have passed retirement age and should have been retired long ago. A new government is coming into being. Old things should naturally pass away. The service chief should retire finally. New service chiefs should be appointed as President Buhari starts a new term of four years. I will never believe that the current set of service chiefs are indispensable. There is nobody the nation cannot do without. There are competent and patriotic officers in service who would equally do well, if given the opportunity. The government should identify and give them responsibilities. In doing this, the mistake of the past, in appointing the majority of security personnel from one part of the country, should not be repeated.
A lot has also been said about the economy. Even as government thumps its chest that the picture is good, huge debts still stare the citizenry in the face. For a change, the government should have a sound economy team that should articulate an economic policy and programme for the country. There is an economic recovery programme now, but for how long will the government dwell on economic recovery? There should be a programme for prosperity and economic boom. There should be clear programme for industrialisation. On industrialisation lies the solution to unemployment and low tax return. I had said sometime ago that the government should consider bailout or stimuli for industries, to help them come out of the doldrums. I stand by this recommendation.
• To be continued.