Agenda Settings: Would APC Makes Any Difference?

nigeria security forces

Since the return of pristine democracy in 1999, Nigeria’s successive governments have been perambulating on  agenda setting. Muhammad Nuradeen x-rays the plans for Nigeria’s economy and  the journey so far.

Nigeria as a country is blessed with a population of about 173 million people, is readily  the largest country in Africa covering about 47% of West Africa’s population and without any ambiguity the biggest economy on the  African continent owing to its position as the largestrepository of natural and mineral resources in the continent.

In all estimations, the country is perpetually  struggling to  finding its feet und, inspite of the abundance of human and material resources available to build a sustainable economic system that can transform into rapid economic growth that would have a multiplier effect in reducing poverty, improve the standard of living of its population as well as  provide access to quality health care, education and infrastructural development.

Following elections in 1999, the first administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2003) focused on ensuring political stability, strengthening democratic practices, and tackling corruption while the second Obasanjo administration (2003-2007) embarked on a comprehensive economic reform program based on a home grown strategy, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), the development of NEEDS at the federal level was complemented by individual State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (SEEDS), which were prepared by all 36 Nigerian states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The programme emphasised the importance of private sector development to support wealth creation and poverty reduction in the country.

The objectives of NEEDS were addressed in four main areas: macroeconomic reform, structural reform, public sector reform, and institutional and governance reform. The system did little in taking Nigeria from the shackle of poverty, and serve as a pointer that Nigeria can be better.

The end of Obasanjo administration under the People Democratic Party (PDP) transfer the mantle of leadership to another PDP man, the late Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua  government came up with 7-Point Agenda that lay more emphasis on Power and Energy, Food Security and Agriculture, Wealth Creation and Employment, Mass Transportation, Land Reform, Security plus Qualitative and Functional Education.

They were defined in many ways, but the main philosophy of the concept was to  energizes development that meets the yearnings and aspirations of the present without jettisoning the future generations to meet their own lots too. This was contained within it two key concepts what Nigeria may simply need to catalyze her development. The concept of the agenda, in particular the essential needs of the Nigeria’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and the idea of limitations imposed by the Nigeria’s state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.

President Umaru Yar’Adua’s 7-Point Agenda was a rallying  point aimed  at strengthening the Nigerian system to actualize its huge potential and fulfil its obligations to the society and the continent. Also for government-private-partnership to be effective. Yar’Adua administration also did it best to promote a liberal environment and encourage private initiatives, it established a positive investment climate, develop infrastructural facilities, appropriate regulatory, legislative and policy environments that ensured a fair, equitable and efficient tax regime.

The demise of late YarAdua automatically ushered-in the outgoing President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan from acting President to the substantive  president through the invocation of Doctrine of Necessity from 2010 to 2011.However, Jonathan sought re-election and won 2011 general elections to defeat General Muhammadu Buhari, the president-elect in the just concluded presidential election who will be leading the new government from May 29, 2915.

Jonathan-led administration initially promised Nigerians that he would build on the existing legacy of his late boss in his administration quest to take Nigeria out of economic mess. He put up what he called Transformation agenda.

In his close to six-year development plan 2010-2015, the policy statement has been remarkable one, being a well thought out policy document backed by a world class team of 28 technocrats under his personal Chairmanship and the coordination of the renowned Economist, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The Transformation Agenda was fashioned out based on the need to correct the flaws in the country’s drive for development where there is absence of long-term perspective, and lack of continuity, consistency and commitment (3Cs) to agreed policies. The culminating effect of these has been growth and development of the Nigerian economy without a concomitant improvement in the overall welfare of Nigerian citizens.

According to John E. Gyong, a Sociologist at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria is not new to having its leaders come up with a number of visions and policies since Independence.

He said, according to the information contained in the enabling document, the Transformation Agenda is based on and draws inspiration from the Vision 20:2020 and the first National Implementation Plan (NIP). It aims to deepen the effects and provide a sense of direction.

“Leaving no one in doubt as to the how of the Transformation Agenda, the President stated he has great confidence in the ability of Nigerians to transform the country. What should be required of his Administration was to provide a suitable environment for productive activities to flourish. He went on to appeal all good people of Nigerian to enlist as agents of the great Transformation Agenda.

“The Transformation Agenda is based on a set of priority policies and programmes which, when implemented, would transform the Nigerian economy to meet the future needs of the people.

“Implicit in the DNA of the Transformation Agenda is the determination of the Jonathan Administration to diversify the economy away from oil and make sure that the external sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, solid minerals, and services sectors are vibrant and thriving”.

The call by the President for everyone to enlist as agents of the Transformation Agenda was heeded by all well-meaning Nigerians, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government with an uncommon patriotic zeal.

The Coordinating Minister of Finance and  Economy, Dr Okonjo-Iweala, quickly got the President’s assent to introduce, for the first time in the annals of Nigeria’s public service, a performance-based system which requires the various Ministries (and by implication, Departments and Agencies under them) to present their scorecards at agreed periods.

With all the economic programmes, policies and technocrats involved in driving the nation’s economy with the economic index Nigeria remains the largest economy in Africa.

Ironically more than average of its citizens continue to wallop  in abject poverty, lack of a sustainable medical care, high number of illiteracy particularly in the northern part of the country, though Human Development Index was claimed to have improved.

In the last two years, Nigeria had  suddenly been caught in a grip of an economic mess, ranging from fuel scarcity, corruption, poverty and to worst of  all, security challenge particularly  insurgency.

Drawing from the process leading to the emergence of the All Progressives Congress, APC as the incoming government, one would conclude that the change mantra would continue to direct the affairs of the party.

It is imperative that  APC carefully designs  a people-oriented policy document or  Roadmap To A New Nigeria.

Just like many other documents in the past, it would  contain all the yearnings and aspirations of the common Nigerian. It behoves the Buhari-led administration to dissipate all his resources and put out his best eleven to run his administration in order to achieve excellence.

nigeria security forces
Nigeria Security Forces

War Against Corruption and Indiscipline

Decades on after independence, Nigerians are indeed all agreed that  at the heart of the current challenges impeding economic development and growth is mindless corruption which knows no boundaries.

In 2012, Transparency International rated Nigeria as the 35th most corrupt country in the world. Two years later in 2014, the Corruption Perception Index of the anti-corruption  watch dog moved  the country eight notches higher to 136 out of  175 countries ranked by the index.

Rather than brace up to the challenge of  seriously tackling this hydra-headed monster,  the Jonathan administration adopted a laid back reticent posture  seemingly believing that  it is “winning the war against corruption.’’

Somehow, the reality of that posturing is  and evident in the huge cost of  financing the country’s  “corruption infrastructure.’’

Popularly known for his gallantry, firmness and hard stance on corruption, the gap toothed Buhari made a slogan of  ‘Kill corruption before corruption kills you’  during the campaigns.

He also made it clear  during his gruelling country-wide campaign  that the signature tune of administration’s agenda would be the war against endemic corruption.

If ordinary Nigerians are to keep faith with the change mantra of the victorious APC,  the new government must tackle head-on  corruption.

The military-turned democrat  once launched the War Against Indiscipline (WAI), a canon of which is the zero tolerance for corruption.

Instructively,  the WAI campaign for all its corporal rigour some two decades,  made no distinction between the nobles and the plebeians. We believe that  the ascetic general’s anti-corruption campaign in the months and years ahead would also make no such mundane distinctions.

The APC manifesto is all too clear about the present and clear danger posed by the scourge: “Corruption is crippling Nigeria. Bribes and shady deals come at the expense of real productivity by businesses and government, and prevent us from investing properly into education, roads and health care – the services people need to live better lives.

“A leading international organization cites Nigeria as having one of the highest levels of corruption in the world, a true badge of shame”.

The new government as a matter of fact as enshrined in it manifesto, should show zero tolerance for official and/or private sector corruption, place the burden of proving innocence in corruption cases on persons with inexplicable wealth, pursue legislation expanding forfeiture and seizure of assets laws and procedure with respect to inexplicable wealth, regardless of whether there is a conviction for criminal conduct or not, strengthen legal provisions to prevent stay of proceedings and other delays in corruption trials; guarantee the independence of anti-corruption and financial crimes agencies by legislation, charging their budgets directly to the Consolidated Revenue Fund; stop corruption in our elections, in part by making the Independent National and State Electoral Commissions (INEC) truly independent and free from political interference.

No doubt, this will improve the ability of citizens to keep an eye on their government, with more open access to government data, greater disclosure of government contracts prior to awards and during implementation, and ensuring the people’s business is done in an open and transparent way.

It will also create a vibrant economy where jobs and opportunities are more readily available, every individual, civil servant, business and government leader must play by the same rules, obey the law and reject the temptation of bribery and corruption.

Job Creation

Another teething problem facing Nigerians is absence of jobs.

In any nation, the vibrancy of   youths is a good key indicator or yardstick to measure  growth and development.

Nigerian  youths could be very  productive, if  a conducive atmosphere is provided. Nigerian youths are  creative ,  but government over the years had not  tapped into this opportunity deposited in its youths. This has continuously resulted in crisis, mayhem and all other social vices.

Nigerians have heeded to the gospel of change and the change must follow the epochal revolution.

The new government is expected to swing into an action that can bring about job opportunities as promised.

Attention should focus on the revival of   textile industries across the nation, back to farm initiatives, boosting Small and Medium Entreprises, will  create jobs  and generate employment for the teeming youth population.

Economy

The already battered economy, as it were, would be another area of concern for the incoming government. The APC- led government must learn lessons  from the outgoing government by ensuring recruiting  technocrats into the Economic Management Team.

Despite a strong economic track record, poverty is significant, and reducing it will require strong non-oil growth and a focus on human development.  Constraints to growth, such as the investment climate; infrastructure, incentives and policies affecting agricultural productivity as well as quality, and relevance of tertiary education have been identified. In spite of successful initiatives in human development, Nigeria may not be on track for meeting most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Underpinning these challenges is the core issue of governance at the all levels and these must be addressed.

Oil Sector

Until recently, Nigeria’s  oil industry had  on daily basis been generating huge resources from its rents. Lamentably, the  revenue generated  from the sector had  never had meaningful impact in the life of citizens as income per capita  also continues  to fall by the day. Then, a question must be asked and answered. Why has Nigeria’s remarkable oil wealth  not been able to alleviate the poverty and better the income of its people?

No doubt, oil is a blessing but mismanagement of blessing could be woe. In Nigeria’s case, it is therefore instructive to say that there is no harm in God’s blessing by implication oil is never a curse. The problems created by abundant mineral wealth are not unique to Nigeria.  Recent econometric studies show that states that depend on mineral exports tend to have a typically slow economic growth. The new government should begin to look for a way of diversifying the economy in a systematic way to generate more employment for the teeming populace. The Petroleum Industrial Bill should be revisited, reviewed  and pass as  an Act.

As a former Chairman of  the PTF under Obasanjo and Abacha regimes, one expects that Buhari would  bring a  change in the sector.

Fuel Scarcity Nigeria
Fuel Scarcity Nigeria

Power

Nigeria is more associated with the problem of power shortage and unstable electricity transmission. This development has hindered  growth of commercial activities in the country, making it unattractive for foreign businesses.

Since electricity is the key to any nation’s growth, it is crucial the  power sector be fully functional and run efficiently.  Nigeria has her Vision 2020 goals which is based on being economically and technologically relevant on the global stage with the aim of transiting from a third world country to developed.

If this goal is to be achieved there has to be drastic changes made in her power sector. Improvement in the power sector must be made in leaps but then again with the current state of the sector, such  national goal is not foreseeable.

The issue of power has become a constant nightmare for citizens in the country. Since the return of democracy 16 years ago, the country had not witnessed stable power supply, signaling that Buhari must apply the magic wand to ensure power remains  stable.

Education

The falling standard of education in the country could be attested to in the 2013/2014 and 2015 WASSCE which clearly exposed  the  fallen  state of the sector and further heightened the high level of crime in the society.

In all of the Northern states and four Southern states including Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers and Ebonyi States have been tagged as Educationally Less Developed States (ELDS) on the education map of Nigeria.

The universal education policy under Millennium Development Goals which Nigeria signed since year 2000 is  yet to record meaningful impact in the sector.

The new government should  in line with its campaign promises offer  free, relevant and quality education.  Education should be well funded because it is essential to prepare Nigerian youths for the jobs of tomorrow.

As contained in the party manifesto, education should be made the right of every Nigerian child. The Nigerian child should have access to receive  free, relevant and quality education,  a reality, based on free and comprehensive primary and secondary education.

Government must  provide free tertiary education to students pursuing Science and Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM); provide free tertiary education to education majors and stipends prior to their employment as teachers; create incentives and dedicate special attention to the education of girls; ensure every child attending primary school is properly nourished and ready to learn by providing a free meal a day; invest in better equipping and staffing of Teacher Training Colleges and provide financial and progression incentives to attract and retain good teachers.

Also revamp and restructure education curricula from primary to tertiary levels with a view to ensuring students acquire the right skills for employment, entrepreneurship and innovation; prepare young adults for the jobs of the future by expanding the focus on science and technology at our colleges and universities; improve the ability of people to gain employment in a variety of fields through greater access to technical and vocational training.

The new government is expected to invest in quality teachers, schools and colleges to equip current and future generations with the knowledge and skills they need to gain employment, live productive lives and contribute to the welfare of their communities. Our future depends on it.

It is instructive to note that  Nigeria’s  education system had in the past produced renowned scholars. It must  be revived to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Agriculture

Agriculture in Nigeria is a major  sector in Nigeria providing employment for 70% of the population.  A report shows that prior to the Nigerian civil war, Nigeria was self-sufficient in food. But, agriculture has failed to keep pace with country’s rapid population growth and Nigerians now rely on food imports to sustain ourselves.

Experts have identified the agric sector as a major alternative to oil and can employ an appreciable number of teeming population meaningfully. Nigerian agriculture can and must be restored to move families from subsistence farming, create new jobs in agriculture and related fields, and provide the accessible and affordable supply of food necessary to feed a nation.

As promised  in the APC policy document, the party must not only work the talk, it must equally ensure that it  closely monitors  and evaluates programmes. The  Buhari-led government must provide as indicated in the manifesto, a government-guaranteed market for agricultural produce at world index-linked prices; revive agriculture as an engine for economic growth and new jobs, including the expansion of agricultural processing and manufacturing; aid subsistence farmers in increasing food production and creating jobs by modernizing and commercializing farm production, and increase the availability of loans and capital investments for small and medium-scale cash crops; make more land available and prepared for farming, and encourage young people to enter into farming through incentives such as incubator hubs and price guarantees; make sure farmers have access to the resources they need, such as seeds and fertilizer, by enhancing agricultural extension services and food inspectorate divisions; ensure Nigeria’s food supply is affordable, reduce  food-borne illnesses and improve nutrition through a nationwide food inspectorate division.

Health

A healthy nation is a wealthy nation. A  sustainable healthcare system is every nation’s dream.

Any serious  government must seek to achieve a sustainable improvement in the quality of life of its citizens. This can only be achieved only through good governance and planned actions that detail the vision, mission, goals/objectives and strategies to be attained over a given period of time.

Nigeria like other countries around the globe has not for once lacked any development plans. Unfortunately, with its current estimated population of 174 million and estimated total of 23,640 health facilities operated via a three – tiered governance structure, it is still ranked by the World Health Organization at 187th position in its health system among 191 member states.

According to International  Journal of Economics and Finance, “Nigeria have been plunged into economic crisis which seriously affected a large portion of their populations and raised social and political tensions.’’

To achieve sustainability, there is need for transformative plans and solutions that require cooperation among industries and the government through delivery of minimum set of cost – effective interventions, packages and revitalization of the country’s health system.

Identified as some of the major challenges of sustaining Nigeria healthcare system  are counterfeit and adulterated drugs, poor healthcare financing and sustainability, increased out-of-pocket expenditure, inadequate basic infrastructure/equipments/drugs and inequitable distribution, poor remuneration and other push factors, bribery and corruption and shortage of staff.

All eyes are on the new government at all levels  to provide free quality comprehensive health care based on a national health insurance scheme; stoppage of  all travels  abroad at government expense for the purpose of medical treatment; encouragement of  medical professionals to establish practices and work in rural and medically underserved areas by providing incentives including tuition and other training reimbursement for such professionals; provision of  incentives for Nigerian doctors and health practitioners working abroad to return home  to strengthen the health care industry in Nigeria and provision of  quality care to those who need it; doubling  the number of practicing physicians and health care professionals in Nigeria and improving  the quality of federal teaching hospitals to world-class standards.

Peace, Security and Foreign Policy

Across the globe, human security and peace building initiative have become indicators  for good governance. In Nigeria, this reality has been much  more pronounced in successive regimes’  failure to face adequately the  issue of security. Kudos  must be given to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua who nipped the security threat in the Niger Delta in the bud.

The failure to move fast and tackle the Boko Haram pestilence is responsible for the current intractable insurgency in the North East Zone.

The new government is expected to take a cue and learn from the mistake of the outgoing government in tackling the menace of insurgency.

The  APC manifesto has clearly defined in its policy statement a programme that would enable states to have their own local police forces to  address the special needs of each community, including community policing initiatives which  restore trust among local citizens; establishing a serious crime squad with state-of-the-art training and equipment to combat terrorism, militancy and ethno-religious communal clashes; provide a comprehensive compensation plan for victims of ethno-religious crisis, communal clashes and terrorism; initiate a national reconciliation and healing plan, beginning with a truth and reconciliation commission on ethno-religious clashes while  ensuring  the teaching in  schools of religious tolerance and public demonstrations of religious and ethnic tolerance by public officials.

As part of the party policy document to strengthen peace, security and foreign policy, it added that peace and security are fundamental to Nigeria’s social and economic wellbeing. It maintained that every Nigerian should be safe and free to work in any part of the country regardless of tribe, ethnicity, or religious beliefs.

Nigeria’s  law enforcement agencies face significant challenges on many fronts: terrorism, especially in the Northeast, unresolved high-profile homicides and the rise in new crimes such as kidnapping, abductions and cyber-crime.

The result is an international perception of Nigeria as a failing state where violent crime, corruption and fraud are rife. It is therefore incumbent on the new government as a matter of urgency to embark on reformation  and strengthening the justice system for faster, more efficient  dispensation of justice in cases of terrorism, corruption, kidnapping, drug trafficking and similar  cases of national importance.

Regional Integration

Making regional integration a priority within ECOWAS, including free trade, to ensure that a common tariff and currency are achieved by 2020 under Nigeria’s guidance and leadership must also be a priority.

Maintaining strong, close and frank relationships within the Gulf of Guinea, the Commonwealth, South Africa and the rest of the world in pursuit of foreign policy that promotes our national interest, as well as establishing  a new special relationship with leading emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) and also the new MINT countries of Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey, as well as other strategic partners around the world would  create jobs and promote economic growth in Nigeria. This is already contained in the party manifesto.

APC has asked Nigerians  to demand for change by voting the party into power, the challenge before it now is  to fulfil  all it promises.  Nigerians had massively voted for change, it is imperative that  the change comes. The power to change still remains  on the thumbs of  the Nigerian electorate!

About Time Nigeria

Time Nigeria is a general interest Magazine with its headquarters in Abuja, the nation’s Capital.

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