3 Apr 2015

Task before President-elect Buhari - by Uche Igwe

It is official! Muhammadu Buhari is the President-elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There was palpable anxiety in the air. 

The mood of the country was very tense. The streets of our major cities were deserted. Shops were under lock and key. Many banks closed by midday on Monday. Everyone became suspicious of one another. There were uncertainty, fear and insecurity. Rumours were spreading as if there was something sinister in the offing. The historic presidential election had just been concluded. The results have started trickling in. In a few hours from now, all would have been declared. Many Nigerians voted in the majority of the states except a few and the trend of the victory is already obvious. The eyes of citizens are glued to their television sets and you can notice a pin drop silence as they await the final declarations. I have heard that few results in some states were said to be contentious and probably manipulated but I do not think that it will mean much to the national outcome. However, I will leave that to whatever remains of our courts.

There is nothing too surprising about the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari. At least, I was not surprised. The political permutations in Nigeria are fairly simple to predict for those who are objective and vigilant. It was clear to me more than two years ago that the swaggering of Nigeria’s ruling party would not last long.

What was unsettling to me was how the political class would respond to the imminent change and how far they could display the spirit of equanimity. I just watched the scandalous show of shame of a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, at the venue of the announcement of results on Tuesday. In the weeks and months before the elections, the country became so divided along political, ethnic and religious lines.

Now that election has been won and lost, one of the major issues will be how to reconcile and heal Nigeria. That for me is the most important task before the new President. Our politics has eroded our national cohesion so much that it could easily be reflected from the results that have been received so far. It is either you belong to the “Christian South” or the “Muslim North”. The second urgent and related task before the new President is to rebuild our institutions. In the course of our do-or-die approach to politics, most of our institutions seem to have been compromised. Our police are openly partisan and unprofessionally loyal to the Federal Government and not the people. The anti-graft agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission are comatose. Our security agencies have become so corrupt and fragmented that one will wonder whether they are loyal to their religion and ethnic groups or the Nigerian state. This is the scary part.

Two security agents will report the same event differently drawing on their biases and ethnic affiliations. Hoodlums and charlatans have taken central positions as if the system is now rewarding criminality. Meritocracy has been abandoned and mediocrity and favouritism elevated to a point of state policy. If a process does not favour you or your kinsman, it means that such a process is flawed and should not stand. The consequences of these avoidable courses of action are there for anybody to see and one hopes that the enthronement of the new leaders offers an opportunity to do things differently.

I do not envy Buhari as the next President of Nigeria. He has so much work to do. He will be inheriting a whole lot of rot that had been left behind. The problems are both entrenched and multifaceted. He will inherit a challenging economy and dwindling national revenue as a result of low oil prices. He will have to gird his loins and quickly go to work. There is an urgent need to construct an architecture of national cohesion and healing. Citizens must be made to understand what it means to be a Nigerian, not how to be Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Ijaw, Efik, Ibibio, or Birom. We must now look beyond politics of ethnic brinkmanship and face the gigantic task of nation-building. It is time to enthrone meritocracy in our conduct of national affairs. Let the best qualified persons take up the positions regardless of where they come from. Interferences and abuse of our institutions for political ends must stop forthwith. The President-elect must re-organise and re-professionalise our security agencies. The days of a Nigerian Army that is the pride of the African continent must be made to return.

He must begin to fight corruption beyond rhetoric. For so long, corruption has robbed our country resources that would have been invested in development. The easiest way to do this is to first cause a comprehensive study of the Nigerian corruption problem, evolve tailor-made reforms fit for our context before leading a frontal attack against the scourge. Let those who lost the election accept defeat with sportsmanship. It is time for us to put politics behind us. The next coming weeks and months will be very crucial. There is so much work to do.

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