By Cyril Okonkwo
Nigeria is making history today, Monday, May 29, 2023, as its fifth president since the country returned to democracy in 1999, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and his Vice President, Kashim Shettima, are inaugurated.
This is after their declaration on March 1, as President-Elect and Vice President-Elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, following their victory in the February 25 presidential election in Nigeria.
While the inauguration strongly points to the extent to which democracy and its acceptance by citizens have deepened in Nigeria, it is also an occasion to look at some important steps the incoming administration must take to ensure stability, socio-economic development and peaceful coexistence among Nigerians. This is necessary because victory in elections is just the precursor to governance.
Beyond elections lurk very serious issues that government must attend to. No wonder people vote candidates of their choice in the hope that they will conceive, design and implement ideas, policies and programmes that will make society better for the well-being of all.
Tinubu, in his manifesto, set out an eight-point agenda, prioritizing security, the economy, agriculture, power, oil and gas, transportation and education. The Tinubu Manifesto, was encapsulated in an 80-page document tagged “Renewed Hope 2023–Action Plan for a Better Nigeria”. It also talks about plans for healthcare, digital economy, women empowerment, judicial reform, federalism, decentralization of power and foreign policy.
No doubt, the incoming president would leverage on his acclaimed administrative acumen and experience to implement his plans for a better Nigeria.
Security appears to be the major task for the Tinubu administration. In 2015 when Muhammadu Buhari assumed office as President, he made security one of the three main thrusts of his administration. Buhari ensured that funds were invested in the procurement of more military equipment. However, despite the investments the security situation in the country still leaves much to be desired.
While the insurgency challenge in the northeast may have abated, there are still some pocket of banditry in the northwest and north-central parts of the country. Also of note are the activities of the unknown gunmen and separatist agitators in the South East, as well as, kidnappings in other parts of the country. These have resulted in abductions, killings, and disruption of economic and social activities in many parts of Nigeria.
With the report that insecurity resulted in the death of up to 63, 000 persons in the last eight years, it is obvious that the new President Tinubu–led administration, must take decisive actions to tackle the challenge it poses to the country. Insecurity repels investors, creates fear among the people and causes a general sense of instability.
On the economy, Nigeria’s debt profile, as the Debt Management Office, DMO, reports, reached N46.25 trillion at the end of the fourth quarter of 2022. This constitutes a serious drag on the nation’s economic growth. Nigeria is groaning under the yoke of this debt burden. It is expected therefore, that the new administration will seek debt forgiveness. One way of achieving this is through the appointment of technocrats who understand the dynamics and politics of foreign debt, into the economic management team.
There is also the need to cut down on wastage and reduce the cost of governance, which has become a serious burden to the growth of the economy. The big elephant in the Nigerian economic room at present is oil subsidy. In the 2023 Appropriation Act, Nigeria set aside N3.36 trillion (about $7.5billion) for the payment of subsidies until the middle of the year. This gives insight into the humongous amount of money Nigeria spends on subsidy every year, which many have said is unsustainable.
This huge expenditure could be channeled to such sectors as education, health and human capital development which have direct impact on the people. Withdrawing subsidy requires political will and courage. It also means that government must ensure that palliatives to cushion the effect of the policy on Nigerians are put in place. The way the new government handles this will determine its level of success in rescuing the economy.
Rising inflation, which at present is put at 22%, has continued to affect the standard of living of Nigerians. It has also brought with it high unemployment figures, owing to low investment in the real sectors. There have also been increased divestments of foreign investors in corporations because of poor power supply and insecurity. All these require the deliberate actions of the new administration, aimed at changing things.
Among other areas that require urgent action are the power sector, roads, railways, aviation and maritime. Nigeria is yet to float a national carrier many years after the defunct Nigeria Airways stopped flying. The same goes for the maritime industry, which had over 20 vessels in the 1970s, but has none now after the Nigerian National Shipping Line, NNSL, went moribund.
These would have been sources of revenue for the country, but Nigeria lost all these to poor management and corruption.
One of the manifestations of corruption in Nigeria is the country’s inability to meet its OPEC daily production quota due to oil theft. At present, Nigeria produces below1.8million barrels of crude oil per day from OPEC‘s allocated quota. In spite of the sophistication of the oil thieves, government can take steps to end the menace with all purpose and sincerity.
Nigeria has enjoyed 24 years of uninterrupted democracy and the citizens have shown their resolve to continue on this path for sustainable development. But this can only be guaranteed by ensuring that institutions, which provide the pedestal on which democracy stands, are strengthened. Institutions like the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other offences Commission, ICPC, must be strengthened with a view to making them truly independent.
There is no denying the fact that some decisions of government, appointments into political offices and allocation of projects, especially if they are based on extraneous criteria may widen the ethnic and religious fault lines. However, elections are over and Nigeria needs to be united for renewed hope. The ability of the new president and his administration to unite all Nigerians irrespective of their political affiliations, ethnicity and religion will be a major achievement for the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration. This will earn the new president the desired support needed to succeed.- VON