Agenda for President-elect, by lawyer (The Nation (Nigeria))

As the President-elect Muhammadu Buhari and his vice, Prof Yemi Osinbajo are getting set for governance on May 29, a Law teacher at the University of Lagos, Wahab Shittu, draws an agenda that will guide the new president in the arduous task ahead.

eyond the euphoria and celebrations that greeted Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the March 28 presidential elections as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), there is the urgent need to examine what the president-elect has to offer including the likely impact of his vice, Prof Yemi Osinbajo on his administration from May 29.

I have listened to the pronouncements of the president-elect and observed the disposition of the incumbent president since the outcome of the historic elections. I have also watched the comportment of the INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega during and after the announcement of the outcome of the election was made. The first point to make is the seeming statesman-like comportment of incumbent President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, which is salutary. He may have raised the bar of democratic spirit and ethical conduct by the swiftness with which he congratulated Gen Buhari even before the formal announcement of his victory by INEC. The whole world is already celebrating this remarkable gesture which is uncommon in this clime.

Starting well

The second point to note is the outstanding integrity and comportment of the INEC chairman at the time the results of the election was being collated and proceedings became rudely interrupted by the seemingly unguarded utterances of Elder Godsday Orubebe. The matured manner he handled the proceedings despite the tantrums thrown at him by Elder Orubebe may have elevated the rating of the Nigerian in the consciousness of civilised nations of the world. I commend his maturity in the face of provocation.

The other issue worthy of mention is the magnanimity of Gen Mohammadu Buhari in victory consistent with the democratic spirit. He had extended his hands of fellowship and conciliation to President Jonathan and those who voted against him saying that he has no ill-wind against anyone and describing the incumbent president as a great Nigerian who is still our president.These are pronouncements of a statesman and indicative of a very positive beginning sign-posting the fact that politics ought to be about service to the people without bitterness from the contenders including politicians and their supporters. These actions may have contributed to the deepening of the democratic process including enhancing the quality of the peace process in the land.

Thirdly, the president-elect also pledged to deliver just and peaceful governance subject to the rule of law including declaring massive war against corruption, saying quit significantly that ‘corruption will not be tolerated by this administration’. He also pledged to tackle insurgency that is ravaging the land, declaring with a strong resolve that ‘the strength of our collective will would spare no effort until we defeat terrorism’.

Overall, it can be said that Buhari has started well judging by the quality of his pronouncements. But what are the preliminary issues that he ought to consider moving forward?

eyond rhetorics

The first issue that he needs to address urgently is the unity and cohesiveness of the country because never has our country except during the civil war been so divided by politics, ethnicity, religion and other primordial sentiments making it imperative for him to immediately unify the country as a matter of priority. I am happy to observe that he has also pledged to prevent the discrimination of any Nigerian on account of ethnicity, religion and such other base sentiments. Beyond that however, is the need to walk the talk by putting in place policies and programmes that would make every Nigerian to have the requisite sense of belonging which is indispensable in nation building.

There is the need to reconcile entities within the nation that are severely divided including elements from the Northeast and Niger Delta with prospects of instability and threats to the nation state. The war against terror must be fought to a standstill by enlisting the cooperation of Nigerians, the international communities and the neighbouring countries of Niger, Cameroon and Chad whose cooperation is crucial to forestall illegal movements across borders and check the inflow of illegal weapons. Our security forces must also be well-equipped in terms of weapons, training, logistics, funding and collaboration to win the war of terror. Corruption which he has identified as a major stumbling block in prosecuting the war of terror must be addressed decisively as our country can no longer afford destruction of valuable lives and property including the displacement of Nigerians from their homes.

Walking the talk

Secondly, I am also impressed by the president-elect’s declaration that he is now a converted democrat alluding to the fact that having attempted the presidency three times without success and ending up in the Supreme Court rather than resorting to violence, he has demonstrated his belief in democratic tenets. The president-elect is advised to continue with that spirit as dictatorship in whatever guise is no longer fashionable in any part of the world.

There is also the need to fix the economy and raise the living standards of Nigerians, majority of whom are suffering and living below the poverty line. In this sense, there is the need to approach economic development within the context of a major set of problems such as poverty, inequality, population growth, environmental decay and rural stagnation including adopting a problem and policy oriented approach to governance. The present situation comprising widespread poverty, large income and asset inequalities, rapid population growth, low levels of literacy and health, high levels of urban unemployment and underemployment and chronic balance of payments and foreign/debt burdens to name a few.

Empowering the people

Nigerians must have access to food, energy, natural resources, technology, information and financial flows. The incoming administration must realise that there is a symbiotic relationship between economic, social and institutional problems of underdevelopment requiring coordinated approaches to their solution at the local, national and international levels. In summary, attempts to boost our economy must address decisively issues bordering on lower levels of human capital, higher levels of inequality and absolute poverty, higher population growth rates compared to available resources, greater social fractionalisation accelerated by displacements arising from insurgency, larger rural populations but rapid rural to urban migrations, lower levels of industrialisations and manufactured exports, adverse geography, underdeveloped financial and other markets, lingering colonial impacts and inadequate public and private sectors participations in driving the economy.

These require agricultural transformation and rural development, involving appropriate policy framework to tackle finance and fiscal policies for development. The widening gap between the rich and poor must be reduced to the barest minimum.

Creating business-gfriendly environment

It is also important for the president-elect to make the business environment more conducive and friendly. These include carrying out performance audit of key regulatory institutions whose activities impact on the private sector with a view to ensuring that these institutions deliver added value to the economy.

The foregoing would require the president-elect to put in place an all-inclusive team of talented and outstanding Nigerians to assist him in delivering on his commitment to a just and principled governance.

The incoming Buhari administration should also deliver positive change to Nigeria by providing visionary leadership, upholding the rule of law, ensuring transparency and accountability, guaranteeing zero tolerance for corruption, putting a stop to the culture of impunity and indiscipline in our national life, protecting fundamental rights of the people and generally ensuring good governance.

Leading by example

These outlined policy objectives could be achieved if the Buhari administration leads the fight against corruption from the front believing that the leadership below and the followership will take a cue from leadership by example. In this wise, one expects the president to publicly declare his assets and insist that those working under him should also follow the example. The activities of the anti-graft agencies at all levels must be overhauled to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. This means the anti-graft agencies must be supported with funding, training, logistics, collaboration and equipment to enhance their operations. Autonomy and independence of these agencies are key factors.

The leadership must adopt both preventive and proactive measures in stamping out the menace of corruption. This implies that systems be overhauled institutions must be strengthened social traditions must be restored ethical and moral values ought to be emphasised by putting in place a code of ethical conduct for all categories of public office holders. These measures would no doubt impact on personal behaviours and lead to a change in the orientation and values of our people. When this orientation changes, hard work, discipline, integrity, credibility, honesty, trustworthiness and patriotism would be restored into our collective consciousness as a people and as a country.

The incoming Buhari administration must put in place policy guidelines to address every sector of the economy and our national life and this policy thrust must also guide our foreign policy objectives and direction. This in turn will restore the image of Nigeria and Nigerians in the committee of nations.

In summary, if the incoming Buhari administration delivers on leadership, rule of law, transparency and accountability, rights protection, zero tolerance for corruption and impunity and above all on good governance the trust that most Nigerians placed on Buhari by electing him in this fiercely contested election would not be in vain.

I wish the president-elect the best of luck.

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