The Presidential and the National Assembly Elections are over. The winners have been declared and are already in celebration mood with their teeming supporters, cronies as well as sycophants. That is the usual composition of people around a winner. More jeering and taunts are expected. It is our usual practice, pre- and post -elections. The winners will celebrate, the losers will whine; it is normal. The thrills and frills that precede elections are actually the harbingers of such celebration and whining. As a matter of fact, it would sound very strange that no one either celebrates (or jeers at others) or whine at their loss. However, beyond the facade of celebration and whining is the ultimate goal of a viable economy and a united and progressive country both economically and politically.
Nevertheless, what is undeniable is that the President made some errors in his first term, notwithstanding his sincere intention. It is also now clear beyond doubt that aside integrity, a country needs a leader who is both competent and cosmopolitan. A leader who would be ever ready to see every citizen as significant individual in the attainment of the collective aspirations and goals of a thriving economy and a united country. A leader who would see everyone as important and deserving of his prompt response on burning national issues. Certain challenges are yet to be decisively resolved and so need urgent, proactive and lasting solutions: The herdsmen issue is far from over. The Boko Haram is far from being defeated. This same Boko Haram are still so daring that they ensured that the Governor of Borno State, Ibrahim Geidam could not vote in the just concluded elections despite his huge security escort!
Similarly, the economy is far from bouncing back to life – prices of household items are still as high as ever, let alone luxurious goods. Bringing down the prices of consumer commodities should be on the front burner in the next dispensation. People would worry less if they can comfortably afford a three square meal, moderate clothing, a decent accommodation and have unfettered access to affordable and effective healthcare. The current public healthcare facilities in the country are nothing to write home about. Nothing is more agonizing than the inability to find a good hospital for a dying loved one even when you can afford the bill. So many innocent lives have been lost to the poor health services in the country, yet our political class are always quick to jet out of the country to get themselves the best medical attention money can buy.
In the run-up to the 2015 elections, President Muhammadu Buhari told the country that subsidy was nothing but a scam and anyone who claimed to have paid subsidy was a fraud. However, the reality set in as soon as he took over and he quickly realized that subsidy was actually real, though the amount paid might have been inflated. Since his own inauguration on May 29 2015, Buhari himself has been paying subsidy. In fact, he has even paid much more than what we roundly condemned and rejected in 2015 (during Goodluck Jonathan presidency. There is an urgent need for a reform in this sector. The country cannot continue with such a grand waste in the midst of biting poverty which appears to be on the high side with successive government in the country.
In respect of our Electoral system, it is important that the President focuses on moving ahead, righting the wrongs observed in the system and strengthening the institution. Just about the time we voted in Nigeria, the Senegalese too voted in their country. That was not all – Senegalese in the diaspora were also able to vote from their respective countries of residence. Back here in Nigeria, even those in the country, for various reasons, could not get their Voter’s Card let alone being able to vote. Such unprovoked disenfranchisement should be avoided in future elections. Largely, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be blamed for this – four years is no short a period. A serious and proactive Chief Executive can achieve a lot within that period. While Voters Education should be stepped up to educate members of the public on the need to shun political apathy and get involved in determining who leads them from time to time, the President, on his part, should not issue needless threat that is capable of scaring innocent voters. How can over 80million people register to vote with 86.63% collecting their PVC as reported by the INEC while only about 28million (including falsified figures) reportedly voted? This, I think, was a major reason for the record low (a mere 37%) Voters turnout in the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections. Life is precious and no sane person would want to risk their lives on an election that may not be in the best interest of their aspirations. Thus, every effort should be made to strengthen the electoral system that will drastically reduce rigging or even make the venture unattractive. If Senegal can do it, Nigeria can surely do better. When late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was sworn in as the President in 20007, he publicly admitted that the election that brought him in was fraught with malpractices. There and then, he promised electoral reform which led to the Electoral Act 2010. As a follow-up, Goodluck Jonathan improved the system with the addition of Card Reader. It is important that as we observe loopholes in a system, we promptly act to plug it. On this note, I want to call on the President to sign the new Electoral Bill into law. If there is any need for any adjustment which may further improve the system in subsequent elections, it is better we do that now so that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Electoral Umpire, can start its work early enough.
When one considers the success of Bank Verification Number (BVN) and Treasury Single Account (TSA) one would appreciate the significance of a stronger institution that makes it difficult for anyone to act arbitrarily or get away with their excesses. A man is no more than a man and while a government is temporary, the state is permanent. As such, there is no developed nation that is built around a man. It is their institutions that are made strong and impregnable by successive leaders. Then, the countries run seamlessly irrespective of whoever is made the President. For instance, there is limit to which Donald Trump or any other President of the US can advance their personal wishes in the affairs of the country . If they attempt to be hyperactivity, the system will checkmate them. On the other hand, a Nigerian President is a god – he can do all he wishes at any time without facing any major consequences. This is exactly where strong institutions come in. In fact, in the next dispensation, a greater boon for Mr. President is that both Chambers of the National Assembly are filled with members of his party. The party itself now has three months to put its house in order and perfect their agreement prior to inauguration. It would be untenable to tell Nigerians to blame the Legislature that is majorly populated by members of the same party. The alleged Legislative coup of 2015 would no longer be admissible for a party that claims to understand the game and know what it is doing. Therefore, it is incumbent on the party to call all its members to order and make them to work for the greater good of the country. The year 2023 is as close as it is thought far. Before we say Jack Robinson, another election would be knocking on the door and it would no longer be about PDP but rather about the overall achievement of the party in power and how much it is acceptable to the majority of the citizens.
God bless Nigeria