By Muhammad Ajah
Less than four months to the next general elections, I foresee some weapons, so dangerous, that may be utilized by the opposition to limit the victory changes of the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) in elections. I predict very tough elections; tough in the sense that every position in the elections will be keenly contested; tough in the sense that Nigerians will turn out en masse for the national event; and tough in the sense that winners should win neatly while losers should accept defeat with civic maturity.
I am writing this piece with the intention to, amongst others, admonish President Buhari as a leader I love and wish the very best, to do the needful and ensure that the effects of the hardship felt by the common man on the street – though the wailers of today are predominantly the rich – are mitigated before the end of the running year. The wailers cum the opposition have been doing everything possible to devalue Buhari’s status. They have been employing different means, some actually unthinkable of political maturity, to create disaffection between the Nigerian masses and their president. If I heard well, I am not too sure that any reasonable human being in the name of politics will buy up commodities and destroy them in an attempt to ensure scarcity and price hike, thus the whole blame is heaped on the government of the day. There are other unbelievable ways used to sabotage government efforts and inflict sufferings on the masses.
Yet, I am sure that Nigerian patriots are happy with his leadership style. They loved him greatly and voted him massively in 2015. A lot still love him greatly and will vote him on February 16, 2019. They will ensure his victory, God’s willing. The love Nigerians have for him is basically because of his personality. If independent candidacy for elections was popular in Nigeria, he could march that path and remain victorious. But he loves team work and his party members. He loves Nigerians. That is why government is a large institute and being the head of his government, he is responsible for everything that happens though as a human being, he cannot be everywhere and he cannot know everything.
No doubt, his appointees are doing well within their human capacities. They can make mistakes. But they should be very careful because some mistakes may cause harm to the citizens. In short, some of mistakes or intentional actions of some of his appointees have caused harm to the citizens. And some may have been too economical in briefing him on the reality as it relates to the Nigerian masses. It is in connection to the sincerity of purpose of some of his appointees that the opposition picks holes in his government. This could be the fulcrum for the strength of the opposition as the 2019 general elections approach. Besides this solid cause, there are few other serious matters that Buhari should conquer to sustain and advance his personality amongst the citizenry.
Buhari should put in place stringent measures that will dissuade money politics during the elections. It is a criminal act by the laws especially the INEC. But the enforcement is the problem. Politicians can pay whoever they like during campaigns but there must be no vote-buying during the election day. Nigerians can collect money from the politicians because the money actually belongs to the people. But they should vote with the conscience for the people of choice. It should not be by cohesion or inducement. To curtain this money politics, the EFCC and ICPC must fix their lens on political parties and politicians. To fight this political menace is a duty on all the citizenry, despite perceived hardship amongst the masses. It is better to endure hunger to ensure the bright future of one’s children than to sell one’s future for as low as N500. The gullibility of the Nigerian public in relation to selling their mandate for paltry coins is a matter to worry. Because of the past experiences where votes hardly counted for the declared victorious, voters often thought it was a waste of time queuing to vote and wait for the vote counting and announcement of winners at the polling units.
Many of the voters, with that notion, preferred to sell their voters’ cards for any amount of money and relax their veins. I have insisted that more aggressive political awareness must be carried out by government and non-government agencies to make the Nigerian voters shun the attitude of selling their votes. The same politicians who deceive them every time will only appear to them during electioneering time to buy up their votes. I wish to urge the traditional and religious leaders to take up this national challenge in their domains. Condemning it only through the news media is not enough. They must lead by example by rejecting inducements from the politicians who are desperate to mortgage the future of Nigeria. Election days should not be for selling and buying of votes. It should be a judgment day for the politicians. The substances for sale on such days should be personality, conscience and earlier projected campaign manifestoes.
I am afraid of what will happen after the general elections when the election tribunals and the Supreme Court will be flooded with petitions. I foresee the influence of some of these politicians on decisions by the courts. Buhari should ensure that the CJN has the interest of Nigeria at heart. The CJN has to ensure that his lieutenants put Nigeria first before any individual interest. I am sure that it is contained in the oath they swear to. Just like the politicians do.
The last important thing Buhari should actualize is the minimum wage for Nigerian workers. It should not end there. There should be control measure to tame the traders who will hike prices of commodities once the new wage is announced, even before implementation. There is no doubt that the current wage of N18,000 is unrealistic. The condition of the civil servants is miserable in relation to their salaries. Buhari, undoubtedly, has taken their welfare serious. They look on to him as a good master. So, he should quickly settle this demand to ensure they stand solidly behind him in 2019.
There would have been no need for the organized Labour to go on strike over the new minimum wage if the government was consistent in its promise to affect the new wage. Buhari is known to be a man of his words. He should not fail to fulfill a promise he has made to his workers especially at this critical moment. The Labour, on the other hand, has to take up the task of challenging the high prices of commodities, especially those produced in Nigeria. Labour should challenge the high cost of building materials and food stuff as well as education and health services. They should frown at and march against the large disparity in payments to political office holders and the civil servants who are the real wealth creators.
Buhari should increase his workers’ salaries by a reasonable percentage and put measures that will ensure that states comply. All the states get federal allocations every month but a lot of them depend on it and still wait for federal government projects. So, as a strict measure to ensure workers’ prompt payments every month, Buhari should compel all the states to open an independent account for their respective workers’ salaries. By this, the federal government can pay the total amount directly from the allocation of every state. The balance will be paid to the state governments’ accounts. No state governor will claim to be unable to pay. The governors will be relieved of the burden and the workers will no more complain of late or underpayment. But the federal government must carry out accurate verification exercise to guard against ghost names in the number of workers to be declared by the states.
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. Efirstname.lastname@example.org.