© 2018 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Seven questions for Nigeria’s next Mr or Madam President
By Olumayowa Tijani
THE year 2018 is a great time to be alive. No one, in 2008, could have predicted what is happening in the world today; Donald Trump running the show in the United States, Britain breaking away from Europe, a 39-year-old winning the French presidential election. It is what it is.
Nigeria has not been left out of the fireworks; in 2008, no one could have predicted that Nigeria would run into a recession, especially after surviving the 2008/2009 global economic crisis — the world’s worst economic crisis since the great depression.
We may not also have been able to predict in 2008, that Nigeria will not be able to boast of one world class refinery in 2018. But here we are, this is the 2018 we all spoke of in 2008. In this 2018, Oby Ezekwesili is running for president. The old faces of Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar are also in the same race. Need I speak of the Kingsley Moghalu, Omoyele Sowore, Fela Durotoye, and over 60 others.
I must confess, that the build-up to this election, which I also consider the election of our lives (dodging the fact that every four years is the election of our lives) is seeming better than previous years. We seem to be talking more about the issues than the persons — when compared to 2015.
In the light of issue-based campaign, I have seven issues the candidates should address if they must become Nigeria’s next president.
I cringe every time I see politics trumping sound economics. In a country like Nigeria, cringing has become my default, because this happens on a daily basis. And for subsidies, I have become aware of this anomaly since 2010. The Jonathan-led admin was going to remove it totally, but the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and many Nigerians opposed it, and we ended up with half measures.
It was one of the greatest economic mistakes in Nigeria’s history. You can ask me why privately. Buhari promised to end the menace, but today, subsidies are now disguised in under and over recoveries, bleeding government of valuable revenue.
Atiku has said his government will sell a litre of petrol for N90. This means Atiku believes, the subsidy must stay. Ezekwesili has called out his “economic ignorance”. But to stay or to go, every candidate should show us their plan for petrol subsidies and possibly, their templates for achieving whatever they promise in this regard.
Side Note: It is foolish economics for government to subsidise rail services, which were built with loans crying for repayment. Presidential candidates must address this.
Education is still the passport to the future
There is a problem in Nigeria’s future, and that is the problem of education. If today we have over 13 million children out of school, it means tomorrow, we have over 10 million new adults who have no education. Lack of education has monumental consequences.
We just need to look at Zamfara, Borno, Lagos, and Anambra. Then match their human development indices with the level of education, and we would have our clear examples. Nigeria’s next president must have a clear direction on where education should be in 2020.
For every child left behind, there’s a problem sent ahead.
Poverty as our nickname
Oby Ezekwesili, who in my opinion has the fattest credential in the race has said she would lift 80 million Nigerians out of poverty. Today, there are 88 million Nigerians living in poverty, and based on current realities, that number may hit 90 million before elections are over in February.
Poverty breeds corruption, insecurity, and virtually all the vices Nigeria faces as a nation. Therefore, dealing with poverty should be top of the list for any candidates. Atiku also knows, this, and he’s running with the tagline: Atiku means jobs. Taglines and promises will not be enough, show us your how and when.
As the incumbent, Buhari needs to do the same, show us what you have done, and what you will do to lift Nigerians out of poverty!
Ogoni still in agony
It has been two years since the government of the day flagged off the Ogoni CleanUp and promised better life for the people of Niger Delta. Today, the story remains the same. Ken Hensaw, the executive director of We The People, speaking at the oil and gas roundtable hosted by Connected Development (CODE) and Oxfam, said anyone who dies at 35 in the heavily polluted areas of the Niger Delta goes home with the tag “a life well spent”.
Funerals have created an industry in the region, yet life is going on in every part of the country. Nigeria’s next president must address the issues around pollution in the Niger Delta. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights must also be domesticated and implemented. We signed unto it for a reason, we must bring that home.
Ogoni, and every Niger Delta life matters.
Civil service surgery
Nigeria has a bloated civil service. No one is politically brave enough to face the topic and transform the civil service by performing a massive corrective surgery on it. It has continued to weigh us down as a country. We spend 70 percent of our budget on recurrent expenditure.
If Nigeria will develop. This must change. Someone must have the political guts and balls to make the tough decisions because N30,000 minimum wage won’t pay itself.
In Nigeria, we are scared of sickness; we live in perpetual fear of medical facilities. Too bad or too expensive. Everyone is a nurse or doctor. If you run an unexpected temperature, you have malaria. If you have a headache, take paracetamol. If you have cancer, we consider it a death sentence.
All these has to stop. Healthcare has to improve in Nigeria, and Mr or Madam Next President, we need to see your plans for our pains.
Rule of law
Disregard for the rule of law is worse than corruption, the US envoy to Nigeria said a few weeks ago. Borrowing his words, I’d say, neglecting the rule of law is the worst form of corruption. If we must score goals in development, we must have a goal post that doesn’t shift.
The laws must be the laws, the umpire must be respected, and her or his words must be final! Nigeria’s next president, who could be the current president, must respect the sanctity rule of the rule of law.
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