By Austine Uche-Ejeke
With the euphoria of the just concluded election fizzling out, Nigerians but could only ask for a meaningful and lasting change. This is in the sense that the sacrifices, lives and property lost and billions invested in the last election should not be in vain. Like most people are already aware that the only constant thing in life is change, but suffice to ssay that change will not be effectual if there is nothing to show for it at the end of the day.
Thus while some are clinging their champagne glasses in celebration of Pyrrhic victory, some are licking their wounds in defeat and hoping for a better outing next time. But in all these the nation must move forward. And for the country to move forward, majority of the people will like to see a manifestation of change in greater magnitude and quantifiable measures.
To start with the first and foremost display of change should come from the acclaimed winner of the presidential election, General Muhammadu Buhari. The president elect should discard all vicissitudes of vindictiveness and vengeance that have been his trade mark all these years. Those attitudes that made him not to congratulate his winners in the last three presidential elections he had lost and also made him not to attend virtually all the vital and crucial council of state meetings even at moments the country was at the brink of collapse! As such this must be a new beginning and to most pundits this is where the change should start!
Having purged himself of self-destroying attributes the president elect will then come on a clean slate to tackle the onerous task of rebuilding the country that has been bastardized in the past four decades or more. To do this, General Buhari should not re-enact the old ways of doing things. By this I mean the culture of jettisoning and cancelling most laudable on-going projects. This has been discovered to be our way of life particularly if the projects are not in sync with the extant governing parties.
In some cases the cancellation are borne out of envy, avarice or sheer stupidity, so that the glory will not be attributed to the previous government that initiated the project. Point must be made here that the out-going administration has some good life changing projects on ground now. He should allow the project to be continued and in fact consummated on record time.
Where there are suspected inflation of contract or abnormality in the award and execution of the project, he should call for caution, tinker with necessary amendments and allow the projects run its full course with the view of completing them on record time to the benefit of all. This is what I term continuity and progress that will turn the country around to the admiration of the new government.
The president elect should as a matter of urgent national priority look into the problem and challenges of electricity in the country. It may not be out of place to suggest that he declares a total state of emergency in the power sector.
His getting the power sector right will add much impetus to his credentials. If it is the only agenda that his government will achieve in the next four years Nigerians will be eternally grateful to him. All loopholes and drainage pipes and hindrances that have been making it near impossible for the country to have steady and uninterrupted power supply should be broken no matter the individuals or institutions behind this sinister situation.
Even if it means temporal banning of importation of generating sets, let the president do it. But in doing this let the president elect not to cancel most of the ongoing power project contracts just like late President Yar’Adua did on assumption of office when he discarded most of the Obasanjo power projects thereby dragging the country further down the darkness lane!
Added to this is the monstrous problem of fuel importation. It is very disheartening that a country with vast blessings and heritage of large deposit of petroleum products still imports fuel into the country. This must stop by all means possible! The president elect should endeavour within the next two years to build at least one refinery. After all it does not take involve rocket science to achieve that.
When you sum up the total amount expended in importation of fuel annually and also amount spent on spurious fuel subsidy, it will be quite enough to build at least one refinery that will cater for our domestic consumption. It should be noted that if electricity problem is sorted out and we have greater number of hours of power supply, local consumption of fuel and diesel will drastically crash as about 30% of fuel consumption is for powering of generators and other sundry machines as a result of lack of electricity.
To actualize this it may not be out of place to opine that the issue of selling off the derelict refineries should be revisited. When we juxtapose amount spent annually to repair these refineries that only pump out air and fuel scarcity it will be very prudent on the in-coming government to do away with it once and for all. Who knows it may be better managed by private sector individuals as envisioned some years back.
In trying to build a new refinery and in fact stop fuel importation the president elect should also try and stop oil bunkering and gas flaring that is costing the nation billions of naira. This daily oil theft is drawing the much needed resources that are supposed to accrue to the national treasury as it is siphoned. As no nonsense General, he should not be afraid to not only step on powerful toes behind the oil bunkering but if possible cut off the rotten toes that have been dragging the country backward!
When all these money are recovered from stoppage of oil bunkering and other illegal activities associated with the oil sector, the next logical thing is for you to guard national treasury tenaciously and jealously. Why many Nigerians stuck out their neck for you is their firm believe that you can stake your life to ensure that no single kobo is moved out from the national treasury while you are still in the saddle.
This is a very serious clarion call that must be addressed with all the attention it deserves as it will not make any real sense for revenue to be hyped only for it to be frittered away or even brazenly stolen by petty thieves, corrupt government officials and smart and dubious business men/women. In also doing this the president elect should look into the possibility of recovering stolen money from past leaders.
Just like the country has been taking delivery of stashed away money from Abacha family, it may also make more sense that past heads of state, ministers, government official and even crooked business men who has been discovered to have short changed the country should as a matter of urgency return the loot. To achieve this you can declare months of grace or stolen money amnesty for people that have looted the country to out of their own volition return the money to national treasury.
After the expiration of the grace/amnesty you can then forcefully recover the money and still send them to jail to serve as deterrent for future thieves. It is very annoying that somebody that had virtually nothing some years back will come out of government and boast of having a university, hotels and mansions, large expanse of farm lands nation-wide, millions of shares and stocks in most blue chip companies in the country and other investments appropriated by himself and his cronies.
Closely related to this is the suggestion of pruning down the number of ministers, special advisers and other hangers-on of the government. Yes the constitution approves appointment of one minister per state but nothing stops you from reducing it to about eighteen ministers for now. These are unusual times that we need to recover from the locust eating years and squander mania of the past. You can change the ministers every two years to accommodate states that were not previously allotted a ministerial slot in the first instance. It may not be out of way to also do away with excessive advisers, commissions and parastatals that will not add value to the national rebirth that we are working on right now.
If you are able to do this the next place of focus will be the National Assembly and it will not be extra ordinary to cut down the excesses that is the emolument and take away of these law makers. You may need to look into the claim of former CBN Governor that about 10 to 15% of our national budget goes to the National Assembly’s running and up keep. If this is verified to be true, then it is outrageous and should be cut down.
Thank God that the governing party, APC has the majority in the Senate and House of Representatives and can easily initiate bill that will scale through to achieve this. It is very ironical that for years the so called progressives in the opposition have been shouting about the huge amount that is their emolument but none of them has rejected or returned to state treasury amount been collected.
If we have taken care of the economic aspect of the change envisaged and hoped for by Nigerians, the new regime will then move down to political change. Prominent in this regard will be immediate restructuring of the country for equity and fairness. Thank goodness the outgoing administration spent billions of tax payer’s money to put together a National conference that x-rayed and articulated some laudable changes that needs to impact on the country.
The president elect should not throw away the bath water with the baby. To a large extent there must be good aspect of that political jamboree and it is strongly advocated that the incoming government should look at the good side and implement some aspects of it that will put the country in good pedestal. Here Nigerians particularly those from the South-East will appreciate if the zone is given as a matter of urgent national priority an additional state to make up the imbalance and shortage of number of states in the zone. It smacks of gross injustice for other geo-political zones of the country to have six states while the South-East zone is just having only five states.
In balancing this obvious imbalance the new administration with change mantra should also look at the issue of Rotational presidency. Enough bad blood and ill feelings have been brewed by continuous neglect of a particular zone in not producing a Nigerian president of their own extraction. Everything humanly and politically possible should be done to redress this to give the zone a sense of belonging that they are actually of the same entity called Nigeria.
Still on the political terrain is the issue of restructuring and rectifying our electoral system. Irrespective of the applause that the just concluded election has received a lot needs to be done to make our elections prudent and accepted internationally. Situations where we had infractions in the core north where we had child voters and in a state where of the 1.9 million votes cast there was no recorded void votes should be addressed for probity.
Also incidences of electoral violence in some states in the North and South-South, particularly Rivers and Akwa Ibom States should be looked into. For Nigerians to believe that their votes actually count the government should look into area of falsifying results at the collation centre. It will not make much sense for Nigerians to spend hours under rain and sun shine to cast their votes only for the figures to be underrated or over inflated as was the case in the last election.
To cap it all, there is the need for this change to reintroduce the war or campaign on indiscipline. No need to belabour the point that the country may not make giant stride if the issue of our way of life is not addressed. And to do this discipline has to be inculcated in our way of living. The era of impunity should be thrown away and in its place let orderliness, decency, adherence to rule of law should be the guiding principle of the new order.
As earlier advocated those that are not for change should either ship in or ship out. It may not be too much to ask that you need not only step on some disturbing and powerful toes but if necessary cut off the rotten toes that will be a clog in the wheel of this new era that the country hopes to see in next couple of weeks. This period requires some element of draconian rule and high handedness to whip crooked Nigerians into line for greater achievement of desirable results. Anything short of this will make a total mess of the tears, sorrows, blood that characterized the path to this new change!
Austine Uche-Ejeke, a public affairs analyst, wrote vide, email@example.com
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