The post-election period in Nigeria has been dominated inevitably by a scramble to interpret the results of the election. Some are deconstructing the results for clues about why people voted the way they did. In this deconstruction, many are baffled by the vote the PDP received in the Presidential elections in the Southern Region. Many think that the election results, especially the Presidential elections, have again unveiled deep tribal-inclined vote patterns. Some others have countered this view by saying that the results in the Southern Region indicates that ethnicity was not a major issue in the election. Nigerians have become allusive or evasive when talking about ethnicity and are therefore reluctant to ask crucial questions for fear of being accused of being tribalistic.
In my opinion, ethnicity cannot be ruled out especially when we see the major political parties choosing ethnic candidates to attract votes in areas where visible minorities make up a large percentage of the population. Just think of the discussion around the choice of running mates. Do we have to have a northerner and a Muslim as a running mate, why not an efficient person irrespective of religion or gender or ethnicity? Furthermore, every government in Nigeria has been accused of practising ethnicity of verifying intensities at different times of their tenure of office. At the very least, the fact that ethnic issues are being discussed demonstrates the enormous obstacles, which need to be overcome in order to create a civil society for all ethnicities under the Yar’Adua administration.
The Yar’Adua administration faces serious challenges on several fronts: strengthening the economy, abating restiveness, creating jobs and reducing unemployment; competitiveness in the global market, a viable and effective health and education systems, harnessing the tourism potential of the country and above all alleviating the pain and suffering of the masses below the poverty line. Meeting these challenges will require a major effort on the part of the government, political and economic elites, the business community, the nongovernmental sector and a viable and effective opposition. The opposition will need to keep the government on it toes but it has to do this in a constructive spirit. It needs to show that it is an alternative government and must not oppose measures or programs for the sake of opposing.
Looking ahead, the rhetoric of the campaign must now give way to a genuine commitment to bipartisanship and to a partnership for the common good. We may differ in our views and our methods but I think we agree that we want the best for the country and for ourselves. That being the case, all the elected representatives must work together to strengthen the nation’s moral principles, promote human dignity and look at issues of health care, employment, environment and education and above all how to improve the lot of Nigerians and thereby assist in stemming the brain drain.
The President is probably working on the line up of his ministry but once the immediate question of the choice of Ministers has been resolved the PDP has to focus on governing. Its main priority will be to balance the needs and aspirations of its voters, with its stated desire to reach out to the majority voters who did not back the PDP. It should avoid the temptation of allocating most resources for the benefit of communities that voted for the PDP.
On the question of Ministers reshuffle, the President should think seriously about the size and composition of his cabinet and his ministry. There is no doubt that he would bring in individuals who have supported his election and who then expect to be given government jobs. However, integrity and competence should be the primary selection criteria as this would assist in avoiding the perception that control of the government and key positions on Boards is in the hands of an ethnic group.
In his one year of office, Yar’Adua had too many Ministers, and Ministers of State and special Advisers each receiving comparably pretty good salaries to serve in addition to an unduly number of benefits to boot. The President needs to strengthen governance and curb corruption. the bigger the size of government the bigger the amount of corruption?, the scope of corruption is of no consequence, what matters is that a position of power or authority can be abused only when such a position exists and when this position allows, or even instructs, one to prescribe rules of conduct for others, to decide, to judge, and to dispense money or favours.
Yar’Adua should ensure that in his second term some of the things that have suffocated our growth and put at risk our collective future prosperity: corruption-bribes, nepotism, embezzlement, kickbacks, financial mismanagement-wasteful spending, conspicuous consumption and appointments based on grounds of tribal/ethnic affiliation are laid to rest. The political leadership should mount a real public campaign against corruption not empty slogans like zero tolerance. Individuals should also take a personal stand against corruption. This should come from the top and involve the heads of the various state and private institutions. Corruption imposes a very real penalty on the economy and society, but it cannot be reduced by empty slogans it needs systemic measures, commitment and law enforcement.
Finally, the country needs leadership, for the prosperity of a country is inextricably linked to the political leadership and the institutions of governance of the country.