Against the background of the massive endorsement it received at the March 28 election, the new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will face many challenges. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI and Assistant Editor LEKE SALAUDEEN highlight peoples’ expectations about the new government.
Given the groundswell of support that catapulted President Muhammadu Buhari to power, the new administration is expected to hit the ground running, if it wants to avoid the kind of fate that befell the Jonathan administration. Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s honeymoon lasted for only six months. The tide of public opinion turned against him when he attempted to withdraw fuel subsidy in January 2012.
Against this background, experts say the political appointments of the new administration must be merit-based. Indeed, the composition of the President’s cabinet is an immediate signal that would provide very strong indications of what lays in store for Nigerians. They want the Buhari administration to fill his cabinet with competent, ethical people and reform-minded people. This is because putting the best and the most competent hands at the helms of affairs will allow for smooth, effective and transparent running of the new government.
As the Chairman, Board of Directors of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Chief Bisi Ogunjobi, aptly puts it, the administration requires a robust economic and political team at the helm of affairs at all levels. He said: While in accordance to the Constitution, each state is entitled to have a Minister or Minister of State, not more than two-third of them should be full Ministers with one-third being Ministers of State thereby implicitly capping the number of Ministers at 24.
“Each state should endeavor to nominate their three best or top persons with at least one of them a technocrat. All the three nominees must be persons of good character possessing a track record of professional and administrative expertise and experience. Thus, the President will have a large pool of capable persons to nominate to the Senate as Ministers with the appropriate portfolios indicated for screening.
“I expect the new administration to hit the ground running as an opposition party that has over the years been waiting to be the government with their alternative policies and programmes. In particular, I expect the President who is fourth time lucky to have a well thought out vision for the country and roll out the key elements within the first 100 days before the honey moon is over. Certainly, I expect strong and clear actions and not mere intentions.
“More specifically, I expect workable solutions to the near intractable problem of electricity and power supply. On fuel scarcity, the full liberalization of the sector must be pursued vigorously with the privatization of the refineries. Corruption must be tackled at levels with no sacred cows while the relevant Agencies must be reformed and provided with resources and enforcement teeth. Protection of Life and property must be sacrosanct bringing Boko Haram and kidnapping to an end.
“Like the proverbial white teeth of a dead dog, the new administration must identify, preserve and build on positive and good programmes and policies of the Jonathan administration without wasting time and resources in reinventing the wheels just for the sake of bringing about ‘change”.
A senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mallam Yusuf Alli, said his expectations from the Buhari administration are similar to the demands of the general public. The task before President Muhammadu Buhari is enormous. He said: “Buhari inherited a lot of problems. Many things have to be fixed. We all know the challenges facing us in this country. We have shortage of utilities which have been compounded by corruption in every sphere of our national life. The political gladiators have entrenched corruption into every sector. They used money to induce voters in the last general election but they failed to change the minds of the majority.
“I am happy the President mentioned in his inaugural speech corruption, power supply, employment opportunities and economy as areas his administration will give priority. Stable power supply is so crucial to our existence. I believe once the power supply is stable, the economy will bounce back. The employers of labour will re-open shop and create job opportunities for the unemployed.
“It is assuring that President Buhari’s speech touched every vital of our national life. I wish all Nigerians should support him in tackling these problems so that the loss glory of the country could be restored. I hope he will muster the political will in carrying out all necessary reforms.”
Bishop of Lagos Central, Methodist Church of Nigeria, Rt. Rev. Kehinde Adeyemi observed that the problems of this country are too many and only God can solve them. He said President Buhari cannot easily solve them at a go because he is not a magician. Only prayers to God to show mercy and the co-operation of all Nigerians can help, he said.
The cleric however noted that corruption had eaten deep into the nation’s fabrics and blamed the political class for the malaise. This is a major problem that the new administration must tackle effectively for it to make progress. He urged Nigerians to support the new government so that it will fulfil its promises.
A United States-based Nigerian Space scientist, Dr. Bright Aregs, said no nation with security challenges can ever develop. According to him: “If the national business environment is safe and free of violence, businesses thrive, infrastructural development improves and the economy grows and so the value of the national currency. Under this setting, Nigeria people will start to ignite their sense of patriotism and begin to believe in the project-Nigeria.
“What the government of President Muhammadu Buhari must do to mollify the expectations of the greater masses, is to stalwartly focus on conducive national business environments while protecting our borders, this is what will encourage Nigerians to invest in Nigeria and greatly attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), which is always the backbone of a nation desiring to grow and sustain its economy.
“Nigeria is considered poor by developed countries because it lacks manufacturing industries and most importantly, it lacks foreign investments from major multi-national corporations in the areas that include manufacturing, research and development, communications and transportation infrastructures. Nigeria remains unreachable and thus unable to attract many of the foreign investors it desperately needed to grow its economy.
Former Minister of Finance, Dr. Onaolapo Soleye expects President Buhari to turn around the fortunes of Nigeria for better; turn the present economic woes to economic gains for the country and Nigerians.
Soleye who served under Buhari military regime said: “I expect him not to compromise his frankness, straight- forwardness and thoroughness in the name of anything. In anything he does as the President, I want him to always place the interest of Nigerians at heart and not that of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). He must not compromise critical values he believed in like his anti-corruption stance. Under no circumstance should he concede to corrupt elements. He must let people know that the situation has changed through his actions and utterances.
“I suggest that he should address the inability of many state governments to pay workers salaries. Though it is not the Federal Government that owes, but he should not forget that he is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I also want to canvass for the reduction in the cost of running government by at least 50 per cent. We are wasting money in running government. I find it scandalous that our Senate President earns more than the United States President. It is spendthrift which must be addressed.
The Senator-elect for Kaduna Central District, Comrade Shehu Sani expects Nigeria under Buhari presidency to reassert its leadership role in Africa. He said President Buhari must operate an open, transparent and accountable government so as to inspire other countries in Africa and help dissolve the remnants of dictators who still parade the political landscape of the continent.
“President Buhari must in the consolidation or search for peace in African continent; he must lead in the global fight to end the presence of terrorist cells in the continent; he must lead in discouraging and rescuing our young men and women drowning in the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life in Europe.
“Buhari’s presidency must bring relief and a new hope for our people and our country. We must radiate this to the whole continent. Africa must not be a safe haven for tyrants and terrorists. We must champion the cause of the ideals of freedom, democracy, peace and development in the continent.”
But, Nigerians could be very impatient when it comes to swallowing the bitter pills of implementing a reform programme. Echoing this viewpoint, Mr. Ezenwa Nwagwu, the Chairman of Partners for Electoral Reform, Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation, called on the incoming administration to meet the expectations of Nigerians in good time. He said that the incoming administration should demonstrate leadership by example by reducing the cost of governance.
He said: “The power stations in the country are old, there is need to show more response to power by building new power stations through competitive bidding. If the incoming administration tackles the issue of power headlong, the textile industry will be back and will generate employments.”
In his view, Mr. Bode Towoju, the Coordinator of North Central Zone of Muhammadu Buhari Legacy Foundation, said that one of the significant changes that the Nigerians called for was fight against corruption. He said making a change in other aspects of socio-political activities could be a difficult task without fighting corruption, insisting that corruption in the power sector had almost brought the country to its knee.
In his view, Mr Ayo Thomas, the Director-General of Forum of Emerging Young Socio-Economic and Political Leader, a non-governmental organisation, said that Buhari anchored his campaign on education, employment, corruption and security.
His words: “If you see him throughout the campaign, he never ceased to mention these four cardinal points which he said were the programmes most Nigerians would want him tackled without delay.’’
Thomas noted that if the challenges in education sector, employment and security are identified and addressed, it would provide a clue to tackling other challenges. He advised the new administration to reform the nation’s public service because it remains the engine for executing any government programme.
According to him, politician may not be directly responsible for corruption but the civil servants that are willing to aid and abet. Thomas also observed that there was need to assess political and economic situations in the states and local governments for a realistic plan of action.
An executive of the Construction and Civil Engineering Senior Staff Association, Mr. Umukoro Steve, said that the type of opportunities given to foreign expatriates should be given to Nigerians. He stressed the need to provide the enabling environment for local engineers and scientists to showcase local content so that indigenous technology could grow. “Most times when we bid for projects, we are turned down; up till now, our documents have piled up in various offices; but if they can give us this opportunity, we can do it,” he said, adding:
“Most of these foreigners you see are not better than us; some of them are carpenters in their countries, but they will come here as managers and some only know one side of the field. It’s not the best for our country; because their colour is white, they will just think he is an expatriate.’’
Ahmed Saleh, a member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), stressed that Nigerian engineers were competent and fit to handle any construction job, irrespective of the size of the projects. He said: “In other countries of the world, they provide jobs for their own people, so it is not good for the country to give jobs that should be done by Nigerians to foreigners.
“The government should try to engage the service of Nigerian engineers in any construction project and only employ the service of foreigners for jobs beyond the capacity of indigenous firms.
In the same vein, James Olaoluwa, an engineer, urged President Buhari to push for the speedy passage of the Bill on Development in Engineering Designing in the country. He said the passage of the bill would enable local engineers to have their names on the list of notable world engineers.
Olaoluwa called on the government to give local engineers a more conducive environment for practice, saying that it would usher in unlimited development.
The Public Relations Officer, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Mr. Saffiyanu Attah, said there was need for the administration to make policies that would enhance the health sector so as to give Nigerians easy access to medical services.
Attah urged the President to increase the health budget as there were lot of health issues that needs to be funded. He said: “In respect to this, we are calling on the incoming government that they should kindly look at the NHIS, we have a bill that is in National Assembly. If he can help to improve and pass the bill that will help the NHIS to carry all Nigerians along by giving easy access to quality health services.”
The National President of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), Mr. Marwan Adamu, said that the incoming administration should ensure that the judiciary operates independently like the other arms of government. Adamu said that it was JUSUN’s expectations that what was due to the Judiciary would be provided. He said it was his conviction that the new government would allow democracy to be sustained in the country.