Although the Federal Government has said activities for May 29 would be low-key, while June 12 would be elaborately marked as Democracy Day, Nigerians still expect to hear, on inauguration day, what the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has in store for them in its second term. Naturally, after the oath of office and oath of allegiance, President Buhari is expected to make a speech, wherein, perhaps, he would unfold his agenda and policy thrust of his government in his final term of office.
Whatever would be the focus of President Buhari in the next four years, there are things the government must do to lay the path of progress or sustain the programme for a better Nigeria. Like I said last week, these include, among others: Decisive action on security, which should include the appointment of new service chiefs and setting in motion the establishment of state police; ensuring that equity influences the appointment of government officials at the cabinet level and heads of parastatal/corporations; and taking decisive and progressive action on the economy.
Apart from the above listed, there is an urgent need for the government and those in government to initiate and carry through national reconciliation. President Buhari missed this in his first term, as he overlooked the division caused by the 2015 elections. This could have been an act of omission or a result of ignorance. It is also possible that this was an act of damning everybody. Well, another opportunity has come for that mistake to be corrected. Therefore, machinery should be put in place for the restoration of good relationships among Nigerians irrespective of political affiliation or tribe.
The 2019 presidential election has been won and lost. There are reservations, quite all right, over its outcome. However, there is a winner, who would be inaugurated in office on May 29. The government should make efforts to ensure that, as the presidential election has been won, peace should also be won. If one wins a war, one should also win the peace. Just like in 2015, the last elections divided the country. There are people who strongly believe that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is a better than the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). There are others who think that APC is by far better. There are those who believe that PDP’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, won the election and would have been a better President. There are also those who think that President Buhari won and is a better leader for the country. Tempers did rise before and after the elections. Accusations and counter-accusations were traded and still being hurled. Those who support either President Buhari or Atiku stick to their guns.
The task before the government, therefore, is to provide leadership by ensuring that reconciliation takes place. The gloating of some members of the APC and those in government is a wrong approach. Always accussing opposition parties and opposition elements of mischief is not also the right attitude. As the declared winner of the election, Buhari is the President of all. He is not the president of the APC and its members/supporters alone. Therefore, he has the task of bringing everybody together, in the spirit of brotherhood, for the progress of the country.
While Atiku and the PDP as well as other political parties are exercising their rights by challenging the outcome of the presidential election, they should let the law take its course. They should present their facts/evidence for the tribunal to make a decision. The government should not resort to intimidating the aggrieved. There should be reconciliatory tones in the comments of government, not blackmail. I expect a reconciliatory disposition of the opposition, even as they are pursuing their cases in court, not threats or incitement. Even if the parties would not sit down to talk, there should be some element of restraint in comments and actions.
We can quarrel and disagree. However, the ultimate is for us, as a nation and as a people, to understand our mistakes and resolve our differences. Violeta Chamorro, Nicaraguan political leader, said: “Reconciliation is more beautiful than victory.” I agree. Rick Warren, American pastor and author, who founded Saddleback Church, admonished: “Emphasise reconciliation, not resolution. It is unrealistic to expect everyone to agree about everything. Reconciliation focuses on the relationship, while resolution focuses on the problem. When we focus on reconciliation, the problem loses significance and often becomes irrelevant.” That is a valid point. Reconciliation in Nigeria, initiated and executed by government, would be achieved through what government says, does and how it reacts to issues and events. Take it or leave it, a reconciled Nigeria would have peace, unity and progress in the long run.
Another area of concern is running cost of government. Despite the fact that the President Buhari government said there was much profligacy in previous governments, the cost of governance is still high. There is too much wastage in the system caused by a combination of political patronage and fiscal indiscipline of those in office. This remains a problem the Buhari government must tackle in the second term. The government should look into duplication of duties, whereby several people are appointed for the same job, but holding different portfolios. There are special advisers, special assistants and executive assistants for the same job. These multiple government appointees also have their own staff, which enlarges the workforce of government. Governments and corporations are becoming slimmer for efficiency and cost effectiveness. That is the way to go.
Apart from streamlining appointments, government should look into the travel expenses of its officials. When President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and ministers travel, for instance, how many people are usually on their entourage? What class in the aircraft do these people travel? Is it First Class, Business Class or Economy? Large contingents or entourages have been a source of wasteful expenditure. Most times, those who embark on these trips have no contribution whatsoever to make, while expenses are made on their behalf, in airfare, hotel accommodation and estacode/out-station allowances. The events some government officials travel for are mere jamborees as they do not have bearing or any significant benefit for the country. They are just opportunities for those involved to go on holiday and earn estacode/out-station allowance.
President Buhari should also, in his second term, look into the budgetary allocations to sundry things around the offices and personality of some government officials. Analysis of budgets shows repeat of certain items, year in, year out. Government should guard against these.
While I support the shrinking of ministries, to make them more effective, the Buhari government should unbundle the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, which is now being handled by one person. The power, works and housing sectors are not only large but also important for the development of the country. Such important sectors should not be merged and handled by one man.
It will pay the country better if there is Ministry of Power, separate from Ministry of Works and Ministry of Housing. The government should rather merge such ministries as Petroleum with Solid Mineral; Water Resources with Environment; Women Affairs with Culture; and Ministry of Science with Communication. Power, Works and Housing should not be one ministry. Not at all!