The elections have run their full course producing a clear result all the media is abuzz about. To say the results are controversial is an understatement, whether of Lagos, Kano, Abia or Bayelsa, all the parties have an axe to grind with INEC. The International observers have given their input and opinions are rife that the elections were neither free nor fair. Howbeit, we have an opportunity to make a new start again with a new government. While the lawyers assemble their evidence, life must move on, the business of government must continue. So transit we must unto a new term of government under President-elect Umar Yar’Adua. While he has been reported as receiving throngs of well-wishers, the diplomatic community, party loyalists and hangers on, there are certain things he needs be reminded of. Having stated that government is run as a continuum, we shall do well to learn from the mistakes of the past, and above all, the President-elect needs to be reminded of this hackneyed saying – He who fails to plan, plans to fail.
We had highlighted some core areas of policy for the out-going government in our ‘What Progress’ article. We wish to touch on some points here.
The President-elect, who is reputed to be a patient man, must listen to the concerns of the people. Nigerians are critical but not cynics. They keep hope alive and can grant any government many chances. But Nigerians are not fooled anymore by flowery speeches; having experienced the fast-track reading speeches of IBB and Abacha. The intellectuals of the Diaspora are even hostile and impatient with political grandstanding. With the internet, anonymous writing has expressed much pent-up anger at thieving ‘leaders’.The government officials soon to be appointed, would do well to listen to all and in appropriate instances reply as servants of the people rather than the overlords the military were made out to be. The policy makers must listen. For instance, Nigeria does not begin and end in Lagos and Abuja. What effect has the anti-poverty policies on the village farmers? How is unemployment being tackled? Much more than getting approval from foreigners, the President-elect needs to move around and connect to the ordinary folks by listening and reacting positively to their concerns.
The President-elect and his men would do well to focus on some answers to poverty, illiteracy and improving the lives of the common man. It will help to set out deliberately to start being accountable for the mandate now. The way to do that would be to start to properly assemble a team based on the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) they bring to the government and not party affiliation or ethnicity. The balance required of the constitution should only kick in all the persons with the required skill sets are assembled. There are enough smart persons from all the six major regions of Nigeria.
Project Management is where all the smart people come together to nurse a project to fruition. They would look at the mess the near-illiterate and greedy power brokers have made and make an adjustment here, a cut there; negotiate there and draft certain policies/programs to cure certain management flaws while preventing other hemorrhaging. These managers would also be responsible for smoothing the nerves, massaging the bloated egos of near-ignorant old men and amputating cancerous limbs. While being aware that President-elect Umar Yar’Adua had a manifesto of programs that he sold to the electorate, without a proper program of implementation with time-lines, nothing gets done. The time to start brainstorming is during the Transition period. The opposite is a temptation to surround the President-elect with party hacks and the same old crowd of the old PDP government; that would be license to failure.
In a democracy, government is run by laws. That is why the USA and most western democracies are run by lawyers. The President-elect may need to involve the lawyers back to back because not only do the lawyers provide the language of legislation, as professionals, they are trained and have the innate ability to keep things within the ambit of the law in political maneuvers, much as some may hate the rhetoric and posturing of the mediocre lawyers add to the public space. The give and take of political lobby too, is better handled by professionals used to negotiating diverse contractual terms and political nuances. “Ghana Must Go” crudities belong to the stone age of party politics and must be buried in the spirit of the anti-corruption era. Political favors can still be dispensed in a legal and civilized manner of the 21st century without resorting to open bribery in government lobby. Younger, ambitious technocrats, especially those who have international experience must be brought on to this government. The reason is simple; they are exposed to societies that Nigeria seeks to emulate and are more likely than not interested in replicating systems to catch up with the other developed economies where they dwell. Another reason is simply that younger persons are not in the end-zone of their life so are more wont to be upward-mobile
A New Deal for Nigeria?
President Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo (OBJ) like Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) during the 1932 electoral campaign in America emphasized the ‘common man’ theme. OBJ had six years ago given such hope:
Government officials became progressively indifferent to propriety of conduct and showed little commitment to promoting the general welfare of the people and the public good. Government and all its agencies became thoroughly corrupt and reckless. Members of the public had to bribe their way through in ministries and parastatals to get attention and one government agency had to bribe another government agency to obtain the release of their statutory allocation of funds.
The impact of official corruption is so rampant and has earned Nigeria a very bad image at home and abroad. Besides, it has distorted and retrogressed development.
Our infrastructures – NEPA, NITEL, Roads, Railways, Education, Housing and other Social Services were allowed to decay and collapse. Our country has thus been through one of its darkest periods.
Great words, the question is, after eight years, have we fared better besides articulating the policy objectives? Would any Nigerian in the village say he/she has been impacted positively by OBJ’s regime?