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An Open Letter to President Buhari on citizens’ concerns

 

Citizens’ Growing Concerns on your Performance and Success in Office – Regarding Security, Corruption War, Power Supply and Unemployment in Nigeria

Our first memo of June 2015 highlighted an appreciation of divine intervention that made your eventual election and second coming possible in the face of the great odds your victory surmounted. 

Among these were: the slim chance of defeating the money-bags at your party’s primaries; beating the anti-Buhari forces in the state security and bureaucratic apparatuses; and confronting a behemoth of incumbent president-cum-octopus ruling political party that was just serving 16 out of its 60 years’ projection, with an armada of money-wired blunderbusses. 

The awesomeness of the victory diluted the awfulness of convolutions against your success.

INSECURITY

In that “Buhari Beware!” first memo, we harped on pervading and palpable insecurity, and also cautioned that Buhari should  not allow himself to be colonized by any constituency of primordial sentiments or sectional interests: whether religious, tribal, from imams/pastors/bishops, emirs/traditional rulers, “business”, political party caucus/leaders, “old boys” club,  “course mates”,  retired army generals, etc, etc, as these cleavages have always eaten the under-belly of even leaders with the best intentions. 

Our reminders were to add to the official concern for insecurity posed by the ravaging Boko Haram carnage which you had already vowed (in your inaugural speech) to stop. 

Apart from these subtle and abrasive sources of insecurity, there are still concerns and calls for increased proactive tactic: discoveries like the $2.1billion arms purchase scandal with the involvement of top military brass, and the recent Panama document leaks highlight the extent of debauchery and rot that had crept into the security apparatus and laced with pure political interests. 

President Jonathan could not have contemplated confronting such dogged military personages in an attempt to contain the Boko Haram insurgency. 

It therefore calls for increased rapidity and thoroughness in dealing with the politically exposed (which does not exclude past military top brass), for we all be dead men if the culprits should escape or triumph in their fight-back antics! 

This understanding informs present calls for extra-caution in handling the irritating tantrums from the obviously stoked agitations like the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Fulani herdsmen incursions, as you weigh the options for resolving such politically induced mercantilist remonstrance by agitated youth from the regions; even military tact caution demands not to have many fronts in a battle. 

In this wise too, it is instructive to observe how the legislators have demonstrated an uncanny bond with different revisionist musketeers in their traditional resolve to resist “change”, and must not be given more room to operate.  

Corruption War issue flows from the foregoing: You have not disappointed anyone in your commitment and forthrightness so far. 

But as was expected, the depth, breadth and height of the rot are mind-boggling! No one man can fight and win this war that calls for the manifest support and involvement of the people – to push from the moral, traditional, religious and people-action fronts. 

The weaknesses and negative preferences of some lawyers, judges, the police and official anti-graft bodies will be overcome by the active involvement of the people. 

This paradigm was envisioned when way back in 2012 (when you had not rejoined active politics) a segment of the civil society proposed complementary designs like Corruption Amnesty, Restitution and Rehabilitation Programme (CARRP) to carry the search for looted funds to the 774 local councils across the country: you were nominated as CARRP’s Board Chairman, and electronic copies of action plan document forwarded to you through some of your known associates.

It is reasoned that your becoming President now places you on good footing to incorporate like-minded crusaders into the ranks, so as to decisively and comprehensively launch a winning anti-graft war offensive.

The adversaries are obviously hoping to wear you out by employing various tactics: judicial, military, bureaucratic, media, religious, ethnic, etc campaigns. 

Surely, corruption is fighting back. The fight-back from arraigned or politically exposed legislators and serving/ex-military men will surely bow to the mass-action of a people mobilized against corruption, unlike when it is limited a “Buhari witch-hunt.” 

The forces and sentiments whipped up against Buhari in 1984/85 still abound, and we cannot allow this chance for change to elude us; they had warned during the electioneering that Nigeria is not safe under Buhari! – obviously echoing fears from their actions while in government. 

The people therefore must be allowed to drive the anti-graft war, now assured of the long-missing critical “political will” from Mr. President.

POWER/ENERGY SECTOR

The inexplicable reverses in the power sector restructuring, coupled with the present unprecedented disruption in the supply of petrol is both unbearable and unacceptable to the people: the problems were thought to have bottomed out at the end of Jonathan’s administration, while the current helmsmen were expected to build on the bitter experiences of the past. 

The calls for the resignation of the affected present ministers cannot be flimsily dismissed, as a different handling of affairs was both expected and achievable. 

That resumed importation of petroleum products is still the administration’s solution questions the rational for instigating such unprecedented scarcity, just as the resultant projection of 10, 000 megawatt’s electricity target by 2019 neither gives hope nor portrays a good understanding of the challenges and enormous opportunities for both immediate and long-term solutions. 

History seems to be repeating itself as when the nascent Obasanjo government in 1999/2000 wrongly assigned the Power Ministry to a very credible Bola Ige of blessed memory (also a senior lawyer). 

Fortunately, late Ige was honest enough to ask for reassignment to the justice ministry where he naturally belonged. 

It makes eminent sense to budget a few billion naira for running a separate Power Ministry that is manned by an industry expert, than the trillions of naira we’re losing to the lapses coming from such a catalytic sector! 

President Jonathan obviously goofed in allowing Professor Barth Nnaji to be outsmarted in the power chess game with the Vic-President’s office then, and we all are the ultimate losers.  

From researched submissions made to past governments, we should manage to generate 35, 000MW by December 2016, and 120, 000MW by December 2020, in line with Nigeria Vision 2020 economic objectives. 

Our 21st century power sector activities should not appear to be rocket science, but should be driven by alternative technologies to quickly take us out of the dungeon. 

The talks about 4-year 10,000MW target and going nuclear exemplify a lack of good grasp of the challenges and opportunities in our power sector. 

Without stable power, no jobs, no peace, and no development!

UNEMPLOYMENT

Our long talks about fighting (youth) unemployment have not been matched with good policies and actions: the promise of 3 million jobs in three years is equally disappointing, and smacks of lack of good understanding of our macroeconomic problems and prospects for creating sustainable jobs! 

It is still expected that serving ministers opt for their ministerial posts by reason of their experiences and preferences for tackling the peculiar challenges in their ministries, such that career politicians with convoluted political perspectives can as well concentrate on their politicking field of competence.

A repositioned and better resourced Ministry of Labour and Employment will quickly do away with the hackneyed shibboleths and clichés of “youth empowerment” and “skills acquisition”,  to settle for the labour practitioners’ task of optimizing the creation of employment opportunities through the formulation and implementation of budgets in all sectors of an economy.

We know how a focused labour secretary backed Barack Obama to deploy Stimulus programmes for the US to drastically reduce worrisome high unemployment rate. 

A review of existing proposals and researched action plans will reveal the existence of plans for creating 3.7million jobs annually from agriculture alone, apart from other large-impact plans aimed at generating the 76million jobs to meet Nigeria’s Vision 20-20-20 employment need. 

Mr. President, just as we won’t even entertain the thought of a failure of your administration (considering our bitter past experiences and the great risks we took to opt for a change) we cannot honestly pretend not be concerned with happenings in the above-mentioned critical areas. 

Both the Obasanjo and Jonathan’s administrations found it expedient to craft respected economic management teams, and Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala and few of her colleagues left very big shoes for their successors. 

Articulating and implementing fiscal policies for a traumatized economy that is also touted as the largest in Africa is not a job for beginners. 

With the Constitution stipulating the ‘ceremonial’ position and roles for the Vice-President in chairing national economic meetings, the present return of the Budget Office to the National Planning Ministry would as well have conditioned the current administration to opt for an institutional coordination of our economic management tasks. 

Mr. President, let’s have a full complement of individuals directing our economic affairs in this particularly turbulent period! 

There are glaring pointers to the dare need for snappy reviews; do not hesitate to effect necessary changes (including in personnel) that will buoy the confidence of both local and external communities on the CHANGE we longed for;  between now and the first anniversary on 29th May is ample time for optimal decisions to be made. 

An immediate signing of the 2016 Budget should see funds injected into the long-starved real economic sectors for the long-awaited revamp and succour to a beleaguered populace; monies long mopped up through TSA and corruption loots must be rightly and quickly deployed to create want-satisfying public goods and services.  

Any further delay (not even for the reason of corruption-fight or excuse of omitted “strategic capital projects”) will tantamount to demented political and socio-economic insensitivity, with attendant penalties. 

The people must now be rewarded with a breather for living and continued support to the CHANGE vision!

As you “work with all and suspect all”, ensure your survival over many toes you must step on; that’s why the people opted for you. 

Then YOU must continue to act and work courageously “for all and for nobody!” 

Victor TC Anyanwu, Snr. Economist/Executive Director, Citizens for Justice, Employment and Transparency, C-JET; E-mails: transparent.citizens@yahoo.com

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