Editorial: 2020 and Buhari’s second chance at Self-redemption

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Perhaps, President Muhammadu Buhari’s message of hope at the dawn of the New Year is all that Nigerians needed to forget the shattered hopes, broken promises, disappointments and regrets of 2019. Coming from a year that was largely burdened by policy somersaults, high unemployment, inflation, increasing debt profile, unabated insecurity and general political toxicity, Buhari’s New Year gift in the form of his message of hope to the people, has the potential to change perceptions and turn things around for the better. It was obvious the President wanted to paint a bright picture over an otherwise gloomy state of affairs, but unknown to many; Buhari directly addressed the issues in the simplest of ways with a seeming resolve to genuinely address the life and death challenges facing the country. The spirit of the age, it is said, is what a great man changes. Buhari has had the chance to change Nigeria for the better, since 2015. Now, duty is calling again and giving him another chance at self-redemption to see through his promises and make Nigeria great again. 2023 is not far away and the clock is ticking. For Buhari, history now beckons. 


The closest Buhari has come to inspiring hope in Nigerians was his inaugural speech as president on May 29, 2015. For President Buhari at age 76, with few if any points to prove; for a man who, out of a fervent conviction that he has something positive to offer his country, has sought the presidency three times, Nigerians gave Buhari an opportunity to write his name in gold, but he apparently crumbled under the weight of public expectations. He has three more years to right the wrongs of the past. And this time around the President used the opportunity of his speech to inspire hope for a better future and mobilize and galvanize Nigerians to a higher level of action required for the belt-tightening sacrifices that would be demanded of them to move the nation forward.


Buhari told Nigerians: “Today marks a new decade. It is a time of hope, optimism and fresh possibilities. We look forward as a nation to the 2020s as the opportunity to build on the foundations we have laid together on security, diversification of our economy and taking on the curse of corruption. These are the pledges on which I have been twice elected President and remain the framework for a stable, sustainable and more prosperous future. 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.”


The President then proceeded directly to the central nexus of his message, underscoring the permanence and continuity of democratic consolidation that would guarantee peace and security, respect for the rule of law and unleash the full potential of the ingenious, entrepreneurial and hard-working Nigerian people. “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. As Commander-in-Chief, my primary concern is the security of the nation and the safety of our citizens. When I assumed office in May 2015, my first task was to rally our neighbours so that we could confront Boko Haram on a coordinated regional basis. Chaos is not a neighbour any of us hope for.”


The president defended the policy of closing Nigeria’s land borders, saying it has significantly reduced unbridled importation and dumping and has had a tremendous transformational impact on the agric sector. “As we have sat down to celebrate with friends and family over this holiday season, for the first time in a generation, our food plates have not all been filled with imports of products we know can easily be produced here at home. The revolution in agriculture is already a reality in all corners of the country. New agreements with Morocco, Russia and others will help us access on attractive terms the inputs we need to accelerate the transformation in farming that is taking place.


“Already, we are making key infrastructure investments to enhance our ease of doing business. On transportation, we are making significant progress on key roads such as 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. 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. When completed, all these projects will positively impact business operations in the country. Power has been a problem for a generation. We know we need to pick up the pace of progress. We have solutions to help separate parts of the value chain to work better together. In the past few months, we have engaged extensively with stakeholders to develop a series of comprehensive solutions to improve the reliability and availability of electricity across the country.” 


Projecting into the New Year, Buhari said the next 12 months would witness the gradual implementation of these actions, after which Nigerians would witness significant improvement in electricity supply, reliability and delivery. Buhari also announced plans to increase domestic gas consumption. “In 2020, we will also realise increased value from oil and gas, delivering a more competitive, attractive and profitable industry, operating on commercial principles and free from political interference…The Amendment of the Deep Offshore Act in October signaled our intention to create a modern, forward-looking industry in Nigeria. I am confident that in 2020, we will be able to present a radical programme of reform for oil and gas that will excite investors, improve governance and strengthen protections for host communities and the environment.”


Amid the optimistic upbeat, President Buhari said: “I am able to report that the journey has already begun with the passage and signing into law of the 2020 Appropriation Act. As the new decade dawns, we are ready to hit the ground running. Our policies are working and the results will continue to show themselves more clearly by the day. Nigeria is the most tremendous, can-do market, offering extraordinary opportunities and returns. Investors can look forward with confidence not only to an increasing momentum of change but also to specific incentives, including our new visa-on-arrival policy.”


On his anti-corruption campaign, Buhari said the menace must be fought with all the weapons at our disposal. “As we create an environment that allows initiative, enterprise and hard work to thrive, it is more important than ever to call out those who find the rule of law an inconvenience, or independent regulation an irritation. We are doing our part here in Nigeria. We will continue to press our partners abroad to help with the supply side of corruption and have received some encouragement. We expect more funds stolen in the past to be returned to us and they will be ploughed back into development with all due transparency.”


It wasn’t a complicated speech and if Mr. President is able to follow through on these promises and not a speech delivered just for the occasion, the possibility of a significant turnaround in critical areas of the nation’s politics and economy is very plausible. This means a number of things. One, Buhari must take a hard look at the civil service as an institution that can make or ruin a government. No one, not even the president, can say with confidence that the civil service has been acting with the utmost integrity and in the best interest of Nigeria. As the engine room of the machinery of government, the civil service does indeed determine the success or failure of any government. Buhari must instill the discipline to make the civil service follow the tenets of integrity as well as function in the best interest of the Nigerian people.


Secondly, the president must cast his net wide to secure the service of the best heads and hands who will aide him to achieve the goal of a more disciplined, focused and progressive Nigeria. Nothing in the constitution or commonsense dictates that such men and women can be found only within the APC or some specific region of the country. The standing view is that Buhari has a “Northernization” agenda that has resulted in northerners being appointed to all commanding heights of authority positions in the military and public service. This needs to change. Indeed, there are many sound and willing men and women are out there; Mr. President, only the best is good for Nigeria! So, get them on board and make this country work!


The point must not be lost on any one that Nigerians have twice voted more for a man of integrity than a party populated by persons of disparate characters, motives, and objectives, and shifting - some say dubious - political inclinations. Besides, this is a Buhari-led government and, as the saying goes, the buck stops on his desk. This being so, President Buhari must bring to bear on his government all the positive attributes that have so far endeared him to a broad range of Nigerians. He must therefore lead the APC to govern Nigeria with integrity, in the various and fullest meaning of the word. In all of his actions, he must be guided not only by political astuteness but also the public interest. This is what the future of Nigeria is all about.