I had a dual (if not multiple) role on Election Day, February 23, 2019. I was a voter but my primary assignment was to observe the voting process and report issues that emanate. The unstated duty was to play the ripple of a sociologist; to ask a few voters some questions, what influence their voting patterns and why they chose to vote at all.
While the two other roles were officially accomplished, the third leg of it was only accomplished through informal engagements and discussions and that was what happens. I was more than shocked at the turnout for that election. Those they call the big men and women in town, business owners and all, drove their wonderful and semi-wonderful rides to polling units and queued up quietly. I knew a number of them and engaged them just before and after the voting exercises.
One thing was clear, the voters want a better Nigeria, a better economic outlook and they believed that by exercising their civic rights the magic could happen. Their faith in the country is unmistakable. Many of them talked about leaving a better country for their next generations. Notwithstanding the side of the divide the voter found himself, the quest is all about getting a country that works. You do not need to go too far, those who voted for President Muhammadu are of the view that if given a length of time, he could deliver a better system, while those who voted against him are of the view that with the failure rate of his first term in office, he should give way. And the options out there are not too fascinating. A pharmacist of note told me he could not afford to just throw his children to the Western countries in a bid to avoid the biting situation in Nigeria, as according to him, a number of Nigerians are daily falling victims of knives and guns in different Western cities. With the election having been won and lost, the onus now rests on the declared winner to bring the ambitions of those who dared the rain and the sun to perform their civic rights on February 23 to practical fruition. The onus is squarely on the person of President Buhari.
On March 29, President Buhari appeared to have spoken in a way that would give some comfort to a majority of the Nigerian voters of February 23, when he told a visiting delegation of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) that he would leave Nigeria better than he met it. The president, while receiving the leadership of CAN led by Rev. Dr Samson Ayokunle at the State House, Abuja, affirmed that his administration will continue to address important national challenges ranging from insecurity, economic challenges and corruption.
Something is, however, missing. The president, rather than speak in specific terms, at least like someone who has been in the saddle for four years, spoke in general terms, just as he did while campaigning for presidency in 2015. He talked of tackling insecurity, corruption and the economy. The questions of what’s to be done remained hanging and unanswered.
Four years on, the president shouldn’t be talking in general terms still. What is his administration doing to fix the economy? How far have the dosages being administrated since 2015 yielded results? What further remedies are out there to apply? And what are the expected outcomes at the end of the administration of palliatives? Such is the conversation that is expected of the president at the forum with CAN. But that was not the case at the meeting. It all shows that something is missing and without a proper diagnosis, the next four years might have been imperiled ab initio.
With what we have seen of the first four years of President Buhari, some words of caution are strictly needed. The tendency has been to drop general hints of goodwill and then smear the ground with some blame game. Even at that, there have been little or no evidence of actual efforts aimed at correcting the imbalances. So how can Buhari leave the country better than he met it in 2015? Even in the three identified sectors, the route is not so thorny.
To fix the economy, the president first needed to be the marketer of the country. What the nation needs badly are Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) which took flight in the wake of his government’s decision to tinker with the flow of the dollar in 2015. He needs to call in the big businesses that have left the shores of Nigeria and those that are planning to leave; offer tax incentives and promise a stable legal framework and an environment that truly guarantees ease of doing business. He needs to target a GDP growth that doubles what he met in 2015 and that will keep growing. He needs to ginger the manufacturing sector, the agricultural sector and drill the creative energy out of the countrymen and ensure ventures are profitable in Nigeria. The investor would ask for power. All Buhari needs to do is to mandate his Power Minister or expedite action on the completion of Zungeru Power Plant, Afam, Mambilla and Kaduna. All these were inherited from the previous government and you wonder why they can’t be completed four years after.
In fighting corruption, his government needed to mouth less of this scourge and desist from painting the country black at every instance. In Ghana and Rwanda, FDI are daily increasing and corruption war is being won without the presidency highlighting the scourge daily. They simply set up the framework and allowed the structure to work. On road and infrastructure, Buhari can challenge the Works and Transport ministries to ensure ongoing works are completed in no time. Rather than telling stories while projects stay on the same spot for years, they should get things done. If the president must take Nigeria to greater heights, he must get to appoint people who talk less and act more into critical ministries.