Buhari and Great Expectations of a New Nigeria

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As Muhammadu Buhari formally takes over as Nigeria’s president, few doubt his inauguration could not have come at a worse time, with the country reeling from a cash crunch amid crippling fuel shortages. Little surprise Buhari’s APC party accused the Jonathan administration of sabotage for deliberately handing over the nation in its worst state since independence in 1960. “No electricity, no fuel, workers are on strike, billions are owed to state and federal workers, $60 billion owed in national debt and the economy is virtually grounded,” was the way APC spokesman Lai Mohammed puts it.
The new president senses this and has appealed to the electorate to temper expectations with realism. Nevertheless, confidence is still high that Buhari will fix the mess. Nigerians want to see their new leader hit the ground running. There can be no excuse for business as usual or for failure. It is quite re-assuring that Buhari has since his election, underscored the need to enthrone financial accountability and defeat corruption, unemployment, as well as indiscipline in all areas of national life, a phenomenon, which in his view, remains the main problem of Nigeria. Nigerians are brimming with expectations and would hold him to his words.
Certainly, a lack of discipline is directly responsible for the unhappy state of the country. The failure or, indeed, refusal to be subjected to control, orderliness and greater good, is at the root of the political, economic, and social ills afflicting the nation. This is not a simplistic definition of the Nigerian problem: It is, in its broadest context, to say that self-control and sacrifice for the common good are aspects of integrity which is central to good governance, and, which, fortuitously, was the unique selling point of the Buhari presidential campaign.
The point must however be made, and with emphasis that Nigerians voted for change, not merely as an end in itself, but as a means to achieve a comprehensive improvement in governance and their quality of life. In truth, the presidential election was a victory of one man, as well as of one people. But in order to consolidate this victory, there is much work to do. Therefore, let it be said directly: Nigeria now needs a change in orientation. Nigerians cannot change where they are coming from, but they can change the collective goal, the why and how of it. This is the clear and urgent task of Buhari. Having run the affairs of this country once, Buhari understands its complexities as well as the basic needs to get the nation back on track.
The weight on Buhari’s shoulders is heavy and the hope is that he can carry it. Nigeria needs Buhari at this time and they voted for him because he is deemed a man of integrity with the gravitas of leadership whose mere presence should signal a shift in attitude. Nigerians voted for Buhari’s character not any program, as there was little discernible, between his party and the PDP.
Buhari stands on a firm and high moral ground to prosecute the much-desired war against corruption and engender good governance. Buhari must recognise that he has been made by the people and the legitimacy he enjoys will evaporate without the people’s support. While it could be taken for granted that Buhari has a vision in where he wants to take the country given his single-minded, tenacious run for the presidency before securing this mandate, it is important to state that the new President must, first and foremost put Nigerians to work.
This does not mean pumping more barrels of oil into the international market, but investing in actual production, wealth creation through agriculture and manufacturing. It is a well-known fact that all industrialised nations went from farms to factory. Nigeria has the land and the crops and must feed herself, even prosper, by re-tooling agriculture in ways that can make it provide employment to many unemployed youths. This can be achieved through liberalization of the Land Use Act, deployment of modern implements, building of more silos, establishment of produce banks and structured extension services.
Basic infrastructural and energy problems must be solved in most fundamental ways. Buhari must emerge with a central vision for Nigeria. The incessant fuel crisis must end and the epileptic power supply can be dealt with via liberalization in which the nation would not have to rely on a so-called national grid.
Given the paucity of resources, Buhari must think through and act decisively on how to cut the cost of governance. The present situation whereby about three-quarter of the budget is devoted to recurrent expenditure consumed by government officials, is both unconscionable and unsustainable. There are too many ministries, departments and government agencies that constitute a drain pipe to the treasury, and add no value to government performance.
Public office has become so rewarding as to become a profit-making business by career politicians. Nigeria is the laughing stock of the international community partly because of the incomparable rapacity of its politicians. This must change. The bleeding of the country through corruption, of course, must stop in order to free resources for revamping the national economy. Nigerians voted Buhari on the strength of his integrity; he therefore, stands on a firm moral high ground to prosecute the much-desired war against corruption. Of course corruption will fight back, but where there is a will, there is always a way.
The combination of a determined leader, a political party genuinely committed to change and a cooperative citizenry patient enough to eschew immediate gratification can, in due course, defeat corruption. Democracy is sustained in part, by adherence to the rule of law. To this end, the judiciary must be equipped to be independent and impartial. The opaque operation of the Excess Crude account separate from the legally allowed Federation Account is a violation of Section 162 of the constitution. This is unacceptable and Buhari must correct this anomaly in no distant time.
All the expected radical changes may not happen immediately, but important symbolic measures must be taken within the first 100 days to advertise that things are getting better. The style of a President Buhari must be different from that of a military president even as he goes about the job at hand in a hurry. He needs to be reminded that he is now where Obasanjo was in 1999 and Jonathan in 2011, riding a crest of popular will and support. It therefore bears repeating that with expectations so high, he must ponder where previous presidents got it wrong with a view to avoiding their pitfalls. Riding on the crest of popular acknowledgement of his integrity, Buhari must provide moral leadership to the nation.
The presidency has been described as not merely an administrative office, but pre-eminently the place of moral leadership. The sine qua non requirement of this is that the General, as leader, must know the way, show the way and go the way. Nigerians cannot wait to see their leader walk his talk.

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