Monday, 30 November 2015

#MustRead: Where Is The Change Agenda?

Buhari and Osinbajo Change campaign
by: Centre for Social Justice

Enlightened and progressive societies elect and select their best into governance positions. Governance is at the heart of development, economic growth and the enhancement of the living standards of any nation. It is about taking the heat off the people; as a result, anyone who is not ready for the heat has no business in the kitchen section of the house – the governance section. 

The extent and level of good governance are linked with the adherence of the government to a rule-based system of policy formulation and implementation and engagement of the populace to ensure success of projects and programmes.

Nigerians went to the polls in March and April 2015 to elect new governments at the federal and state levels that will move the nation in a new direction, the direction of change which will signal a discontinuation of the business-as-usual approach and the discontinuation of the existing norm of governance that alienates the majority of the population. 

The election was also to reaffirm the mandates of governments that were leading in the right direction. We recall that in 2011, Nigerians voted for “transformation” and some “fresh air”. In four years, the promise did not materialise and in 2015, the wave of voting tilted in favour of the “change” agenda. But how are we going about the change agenda? The vote was a statement that we considered the offer of change to be a better deal than what we enjoyed under transformation.

Governments enjoy some period of honeymoon after they have been elected. The populace normally gives the new governments the benefit of doubt to roll out their programmes and to watch the effectiveness of the programmes. Essentially, the people watch to see how new measures are curing existing maladies and mischief in the system. But sooner than later, the honeymoon is over and that is exactly what has happened in Nigeria. The mantra of change has worn thin and Nigerians are no longer interested in anything that sounds like “I will do X and Y.” They are more enquiring about, “What have you done since we gave you the mandate?”

It is trite that good governance that is hinged on change should involve some good authentic and original ideas to drive the change agenda. There should be sufficient clarity about the change plan beyond the campaign promises in the All Progressives Congress manifesto, some part of which has been discredited by repudiation from the highest office in the land. Key issues around prosecution of the anti-corruption war, fuel subsidy, funding the budget, reinvigorating the economy through enhanced production and service delivery would have been on the front burner of the road map to be unveiled.

For instance, beyond one or two persons who have been charged for corruption, there seems to be no road map for this issue which formed a large plank of President Muhammadu Buhari’s credibility. The expectation was that the President would have even named his Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation on the first day of assumption of office considering that prosecution and technical legal negotiations are imperative for the anti-corruption war to succeed. But that was not done. And we are at a critical stage where the first actions of the new Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, are not inspiring confidence in the rule of law. First, the continued detention of the immediate past National Security Adviser, Lt. Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.) in flagrant disregard of court orders and justified by the Attorney-General to be in the public interest is an affront on the rule of law and administration of justice. It is an invidious attack of incalculable proportions on the integrity of the judicial system and if unchecked, lays the foundations for the emasculation of the judiciary. The second is the Attorney-General’s directive to the Independent National Electoral Commission on the Kogi governorship constitutional crisis; a direction which is illegal and unfounded in law, seeking to meddle into the affairs and policy direction of a constitutional commission which enjoys autonomy and independence of action. Malami was expected to have posed the question to the courts for its resolution considering that there is a lacuna in the extant laws.

This is the sixth month after the swearing in of the President and the policy direction seems as fussy as it was on the first day of takeover. What are the indicators of change and how do we know the direction the nation is being led to? What is the policy document that is undergirding the change agenda? Beyond the President and the Vice-President, where are the change champions? What is the track record of those selected to pilot the change reform? Can we in all honesty assert that we are using our first 11 in this assignment of changing Nigeria? Nigerians and indeed, friends of Nigeria are simply guessing on the direction of the policy thrusts. Meanwhile, virtually all economic indicators are headed south with strong headwinds buffeting the investment, production and service delivery space.

We have not had the benefit of a presidential address or media chat with the Nigerian media that focuses on the striving, achievements and challenges of the Federal Government and what is being done to realise the change agenda. The few snippets of news on developments usually filter out each time the President travels outside the country. The latest is that the administration has so far been recovering some of the funds looted by past political office holders. How much has been recovered was not disclosed and where the money is lodged is also unknown. Even the Minister of Finance, Adekemi Adeosun, is reported to be in the dark about such recovery. What is the official policy on fuel subsidy and availability of fuel? Is there any change from where the last government left it? Must we continue with the norm of paying about N1tn in subsidies each year to susidise jobs in foreign countries at the expense of our people?

It may interest the President to note that with six months gone in his tenure, he has completed one-eight of his tenure and he may think he has all the time in the world. But that is not true. Time waits for no one and this assertion is not about to change. Travelling round the world for major conferences, meetings and events may be a good proposition for a President who has a stable country where the major challenges have been surmounted and the systems put on auto-pilot to continue with the status quo. However, it makes no meaning to a country where there is no clear policy direction with the attendant associated volatility of policy and programming. Mr. President should unveil and give us the change agenda. We have waited long enough.

For the governors who have no clue(s) about how to pay the N18,000 national minimum wage and who have come to the end of the road in terms of their thinking capacity of preventing their states from going bankrupt, considering the poor state of their finances, I have just one advice: Simply, tender your resignation letters, apologise to indigenes and residents of your states because you were not qualified to be governor from day one.

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