With the widely publicized new year letter to Nigerians wherein President Muhammadu Buhari did an indepth self appraisal of his administration and projected what the citizens should expect this year, the Nigerian leader has once again set a new template upon which his administration will be interrogated.
Like he did in 2015 when he or educated the thrust of his administration on the tripod of fighting corruption, taming insecurity and revamping the economy, the President has once again set targets for himself and provided the marking schemes for the citizens to benchmark his performance. By the end of this year, the President himself will be in the best position to auto-grade his performance.
Even when political detractors have chosen to disparage the letter the President purposed to connect with the ordinary Nigerians, its contents must be seen as the guiding compass of this administration.
Expectedly, opposition politicians are not to clap for the ruling party. This is not abnormal in a democracy. However, it serves good purpose for the opposition to maintain a studious silence when innovations are introduced into governance. Buhari, through this letter, connected directly with Nigerians who are expected to always call his attention should he attempt any derailment in the course of the year.
The well publicized letter indicates a paradigm shift in the relationship between the government and the governed. It’s a new contract for effective governance in Nigeria and the people are eagerly waiting to measure the level of successes and failures of the administration as days roll into months.
As a demonstration of his determination to bequeath an enduring legacy and reposition the country for economic progress, the President worked with the National Assembly to ensure that the nation’s fiscal cycle was reset to January-December. Even though successive administration had made several attempts to do so, such was always a failure because of constant bickering between the executive and the legislature.
With the expected implementation of the budget commencing from January, the federal government can now make plans and ensure the execution of capital projects in record time.
Fortunately, there are possibilities that the challenge of revenue dip may have been divinely sorted by the ongoing skirmishes between the United States of America (USA) and Iran. Already, the price of crude at the international market has hit $70 per barrel as against the $59 per barrel benchmarked in the 2020 budget, indicating a surplus. Therefore, prospecting for new loans to execute infrastructural projects may no longer be necessary.
Buhari in his latest contract with Nigerians promised the execution of mouth-watering projects capable of changing the nation’s socio-economic landscape for good. As a matter of facts, the President listed forty-seven projects he intends to initiate this year and Nigerians are waiting with bated breath to see them come to reality.
Those tangible projects the President promised to execute this year include the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos – Ibadan Expressway and the Abuja – Kano highway. “2020 will also see tangible progress on the Lagos to Kano Rail line,” he promised.
“Through Executive Order 007, we are also using alternative funding programmes in collaboration with private sector partners to fix strategic roads such as the Apapa-Oworonshoki Express way. Abuja and Port Harcourt have new international airport terminals, as will Kano and Lagos in 2020,” Buhari assured.
According to him, other vital projects expected to come upstream this year are 47 road projects scheduled for completion in 2020/21, including roads leading to ports; Major bridges including substantial work on the Second Niger Bridge; Completion of 13 housing estates under the National Housing Project Plan; Lagos, Kano, Maiduguri and Enugu international airports to be commissioned in 2020; Launching of an agricultural rural mechanisation scheme that will cover 700 local governments over a period of three years and Launching of the Livestock Development Project Grazing Model in Gombe State where 200,000 hectares of land has been identified.
Others are Training of 50,000 workers to complement the country’s 7,000 extension workers; Commissioning of the Lagos – Ibadan and Itakpe – Warri rail lines in the first quarter; Commencement of the Ibadan – Abuja and Kano – Kaduna rail lines also in the first quarter; Further liberalisation of the power sector to allow businesses to generate and sell power; Commencement of the construction of the Mambilla Power project by the first half of 2020; and Commencement of the construction of the AKK gas pipeline, OB3 gas pipeline and the expansion of the Escravos – Lagos pipeline in the first quarter of 2020.
In his Democracy Day speech on June 12 last year, the President promised to lift 100 million persons out of abject poverty. Buhari also reiterated same desire in the epoch making letter to Nigerians.
He said “Today I restate that commitment. We shall continue reforms in education, health care and water sanitation. I have met international partners such as GAVI, the vaccine alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who support our social welfare programmes. I will continue to work with State and Local Governments to make sure that these partnerships deliver as they should. Workers will have a living wage and pensioners will be looked after. We are steadily clearing pensions and benefits arrears neglected for so long.
The new Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development will consolidate and build on the social intervention schemes and will enhance the checks and balances necessary for this set of programmes to succeed for the long term.”
The President also promised to ensure good governance by internalizing the tenets of democracy. He vowed to abide by the rule of law and this came to most as a relief considering the fact that there have been occasions in the past where certain court rulings were blatantly disobeyed.
The eventual release of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki and the Conveners of #revolutionNow, Omoyele Sowore at the twilight of 2019 indicated a new approach to governance by the Buhari’s administration.
Obviously to clear the air on the speculation that he may attempt a third term after the expiration of his second term in 2023, the President said he would abide by the constitution and return home.
Though the opposition PDP had maintained that he had no option but to step down from power in 2023, chances are that a self righteous leader who feels he has the solution to the nation’s myriads of challenges may be tempted to overreach himself by attempting to tinker with the constitution in order to rule beyond the statutory two terms. A former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, tried all tricks in the books to stay beyond his statutory second term in 2007.
So, the clarification made by the President has cleared whatever doubt anyone may have been habouring on the third term debacle. This will, in no small measure, stabilize the polity and pave way for transitional politics ahead of 2023.
Similarly, Buhari touched on the most vexed issue that seems to constantly threaten the very existence of this country. The issue of credible, free and fair election has always been a challenge.
“Elections are the cornerstone of our democracy. I salute the commitment of the millions who voted in peace last February and of those leaders who contested for office vigorously but fairly, submitting to the authority of the electorate, the Independent National Electoral Commission and judicial process. I understand very well the frustrations our system has in the past triggered. I will be standing down in 2023 and will not be available in any future elections. But I am determined to help strengthen the electoral process both in Nigeria and across the region, where several ECOWAS members go to the polls this year,” he said.
To this extent, the President is expected to initiate electoral reforms to ensure that people get their true representatives into power. Issues as electronic voting and other related innovations introduced by the National Assembly in the amended electoral laws that the President refused to assent to in the past must be revisited for him to be taken seriously in this regard.
He promised to sustain the onslaught on the insurgents in the north-east by procuring arms and ammunitions as well as intensify the training of the troops. This is even more so when the asymmetric war seems to be taking another dimension with the constant strikes of the Islamic State in West African Province (ISWA).
Apart from combating the insurgents, other life threatening criminals like kidnappers, bandits and armed robbers who seem to be having a field day across the country must be effectively tackled.
The President is expected to tinker with the existing security architecture to devise means of neutralizing emerging threats in the security sector. Doing things the regular way and expecting different results is no longer tenable. Those in the commanding heights of the nation’s security must be tasked to put in place measures to checkmate these villainous elements.
The President also hinted that his policy on self sustainability in food production will continue following the determination of his administration to invest in agriculture. Border closure to ensure that the country is not made a dumping ground for foreign goods will also continue.
While Nigerians are not averse to continued border closure to encourage local producers of food items, especially rice, the government must endeavour to enforce standard and enhance quality. It must also work hard by providing the farmers enough incentives to bring down the prices of these food items.
Following the border closure, Nigerian neighbouring countries have suddenly become hostile. Only recently Chad announced the withdrawal of her troops from the joint task force fighting Boko Haram in the North-east. Adequate measures should be taken to ensure that these belligerent neighbours do not sabotage the nation’s efforts in the fight against terrorists.
Now that the President had given a direction and bonded with the people through his New Decade Letter, it behoves on him and his men to hit the ground running. Nigerians are keenly watching his administration’s every step and expecting predetermined end as highlighted in the document representing a new contract with them in the new decade. Only by delivering on these set targets will the President etch his name in gold.