Nigerians expect that General Muhammadu Buhari, president-elect on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, would effect the kind of change the nation has been clamouring for by eliminating corruption, re-engineering the economy and strengthening security in the country among others
| By Olu Ojewale | Apr. 13, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
HE is a dogged fighter. For three consecutive times, he contested and failed. But his fourth attempt at the March 28 presidential election, General Muhammadu Buhari of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, did not only win the contest, he defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan in the process, making him the first person to achieve the feat in the history of Nigeria. In the end, the result of the hard-fought election, has perhaps, reassured Nigerians that the country has this time, elected a man who was well prepared for the job, having been in the race for four consecutive times. Buhari had fought the election on three-prong agenda of tackling corruption, restoring the economy and dealing with the state of insecurity being experienced in the country.
In his acceptance speech, the president-elect reiterated his resolve to tackle the menace of corruption, which he said, was largely responsible for the nation’s backwardness. According to Buhari, his government would have zero-tolerance for corruption and would stop at nothing to crush the Boko Haram terrorist group when he assumes office as commander-in-chief of the Nigerian armed forces.
In the speech entitled: “The Die is Cast”, Buhari vowed to live up to the expectations of Nigerians, whom he said, defied all odds to ensure a transfer of power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the incoming APC-led administration through the ballot box.
His speech read in part: “Our nation wrestles with many challenges including insecurity, corruption, and economic decline. I pledge to give you my best in tackling these problems. The good people of Nigeria, your obligation does not end with casting your ballot. I seek your voice and input as we tackle these problems. This will not be a government democratic only in form. It will be a government democratic in substance and in how it interacts with its own people.
“No doubt, this nation has suffered greatly in the recent past, and its staying power has been tested to its limits by crises, chief among which is insurgency of the Boko Haram. There is no doubt that in tackling the insurgency we have a tough and urgent job to do. But I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror, and bring back peace and normalcy to all the affected areas,” he said.
According to him, “We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism. Furthermore, we shall strongly battle another form of evil that is even worse than terrorism—the evil of corruption. Corruption attacks and seeks to destroy our national institutions and character. By misdirecting into selfish hands funds intended for the public purpose, corruption distorts the economy and worsens income inequality.
“It creates a class of unjustly-enriched people. Such an illegal yet powerful force soon comes to undermine democracy because its conspirators have amassed so much money that they believe they can buy government. We shall end this threat to our economic development and democratic survival. I repeat that corruption will not be tolerated by this administration; and it shall no longer be allowed to stand as if it is a respected monument in this nation.
“I ask you to join me in resolving these and the other challenges we face. Along the way, there will be victories but there may also be setbacks. Mistakes will be made. But we shall never take you for granted; so, be rest assured that our errors will be those of compassion and commitment not of wilful neglect and indifference.
“We shall correct that which does not work and improve that which does. We shall not stop or stand idle. We shall, if necessary crawl, walk and run to do the job you have elected us to do. I realise that the expectation of our people today is as high as their commitment to change has been strong and their belief in us unshaken. While we pledge to begin doing our best without delay, we would like to appeal to them to appreciate the gravity of our situation, so that we become more realistic in our expectations. We will govern for you and in your interests…
Buhari counselled: “Let us put the past, especially the recent past, behind us. We must forget our old battles and past grievances—and learn to forge ahead. I assure you that our government is one that will listen to and embrace all. I pledge myself and our in-coming administration to just and principled governance. There shall be no bias against or favouritism for any Nigerian based on ethnicity, religion, region, gender or social status.
“I pledge myself and the government to the rule of law, in which none shall be so above the law that they are not subject to its dictates, and none shall be so below it that they are not availed of its protection. You shall be able to go to bed knowing that you are safe and that your constitutional rights remain in safe hands. You shall be able to voice your opinion without fear of reprisal or victimisation,” he said.
According to him, “My love and concern for this nation and what I desire for it extends to all, even to those who do not like us or our politics. You are all my people and I shall treat everyone of you as my own. I shall work for those who voted for me as well as those who voted against me and even for those who did not vote at all. We all live under one name as one nation: We are all Nigerians.”
He added: “Let me state clearly that President Jonathan has nothing to fear from me. Although we may not agree on the methods of governing the nation, he is a great Nigerian and still our president. He deserves our support and permanent respect by virtue of the office he has held. This is how an honourable nation treats its servants and conducts its affairs; and this is how Nigeria should be. I look forward to meeting with President Jonathan in the days to come to discuss how our teams can make the transition of administrations as efficient as possible.”
Despite his assurances, Nigerians expect so much from Buhari. Hence, a lot of them have been setting agenda for his government, demanding that he needs to first of all fix the electricity in order to order help the nation’s industrial growth and attract investment into the country. This request was driven home by a poll conducted recently by a national newspaper, which revealed that 68 percent of Nigerian adults would want the incoming to focus electricity as way of establishing economic growth. Among other issues that Nigerians would want the new government to address in its first six months in office include security, which polled 58 percent: job creation, 55 percent; roads 49 percent; education 42 percent; health care, 31 percent; agriculture and food security, 29 percent; potable water, 26 percent; transportation, 24 percent, while corruption has 21 percent.
Sam Olisa, economist and public analyst, said in as much as that Nigeria needs a leader who could tackle economy, stop corruption, and provide security, electricity should be an immediate priority. “What Nigeria needs right now to drive is electricity. If there is electricity, investors will be confident to come and invest in this country knowing that they will get profit on their investments, create jobs and place food on the table of a lot of Nigerians.”
Similarly, Alex Wilcott, a public commentator, said the new government would need to build structures. But it would hampered by the dwindling economy and fall in oil price. Hence, he wants the new government to be bold enough to develop means of collecting tax so that it could raise funds to assist it to realise its laudable programmes. “Government should be able to tax the rich in this country. So many rich persons are riding big cars in this country, how much do they pay as tax on these fat cars? They have mansions which are hardly occupied; they should be taxed. It is about time we looked at the VAT. It is overdue for review,” he said.
In his congratulatory letter to Buhari over his victory, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said his government should reposition some national institutions such as military, security, power among others, which according to him, had been damaged. He urged the president-elect to rid the country of corruption, lay emphasis on youth employment, agribusiness, oil and gas, among others.
Obasanjo’s letter read in part: “For me, the totality of 2015 elections hold many lessons for our democracy and democratisation process which are both maturing… With so much harm already done to many national institutions including the military, which proudly nurtured you and me, you will have a lot to do on institution reform, education, healthcare, economy, security, infrastructure, power, youth employment, agribusiness, oil and gas, external affairs, cohesiveness of our nation and ridding our land of corruption.
“Your varied and wide experience will undoubtedly stand you in good stead. I am also sure that there are men and women of goodwill, character and virtue across the board that you can mobilise to join hands with you in the reform, repairs and re-direction that will be imperative to put Nigeria back on the fast lane of good governance, unity, cohesiveness, development and progress.”
In his own message General Ibrahim Babangida, former military president, while congratulating the president-elect, enjoined him to live up to expectations by honouring his electoral promises to the electorate. He said: “I trust that the president-elect will live up to the expectations of many Nigerians who crave for change; and lift Nigeria to greater heights. I wish to implore the president-elect to reach out to other contestants in the spirit of one Nigeria, as he settles down for the task of leading this nation in the next four years.
“Your victory has no doubt broken the barriers of ethnicity and religious inclinations; two sensitive issues that undeservedly dominated the campaigns. I am confident that this victory will usher in a new perspective in our political history and development.”
Also, Remi Sonaiya, presidential candidate of the KOWA Party, on Tuesday, March 31, while congratulating Buhari on his victory, reminded him that the expectations of Nigerians were very high. Sonaiya, who was the only female presidential candidate in the March 28 elections, noted that the past three times that the general had failed in the presidential elections showed not only determination but that he also had something to offer the country and prayed that God would give him the wisdom “to rise up to the challenge and live up to the challenge and live up to the promises of his campaign.’’
Many world leaders including President Barack Obama of the United States, David Cameron, prime minister of United Kingdom; President Francois Hollande of France; President Jacob Zuma of South African; Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, among others, have also congratulated Buhari and expressed their willingness to work with him for sustainable peace and progress in Nigeria. Obama said in statement at the White House: “I urge President-elect Buhari and President Jonathan to repeat their calls to their supporters to continue to respect the election outcomes, focus on unifying the country, and together lead Nigeria through a peaceful transition.”
On the efforts of Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Obama commended the commission “for its extensive efforts to increase the credibility and transparency of the electoral process.” He, however, urged Jega and INEC to improve their performances during the April 11, elections. Obama said further: “Looking ahead to the governorship elections on April 11, it is imperative that national attention turns to ensuring isolated logistical challenges are overcome and peace is protected, even in the most hotly contested races.”
In its reaction, the Nigerian stock market recorded an unprecedented rally as investors swooped on highly capitalised stocks and gained N904 billion, thereby closing at N11.621 trillion on Wednesday, April 1. Just as the stock market hit a record market, the naira also appreciated by N2 to close at N215 to the dollar at bureau de change outlets in Lagos, but remained unchanged at N197 to the dollar at the interbank segment of the foreign exchange market.
Mike Eze, a stockbroker, was quoted as saying the market rally was expected because many institutional investors who had been holding back before the elections returned to the market to take advantage of highly discounted stocks. “What we are seeing now will be the trend for the next few days as investors react to the successful elections and corporate results being declared. Many of the stocks have declined to record lows and now investors are taking advantage of those low prices,” Ezeh said. According to analysts, the market would remain positive if the next government could be trusted to maintain peace and ability to enthrone a vibrant economy.
Onyekachi Ubani, a lawyer and former chairman of the Nigeria bar Association, NBA, said for the incoming government to succeed it would need the cooperation of everyone to maintain peace and harmony in the country. “If we can have peace and nobody is going back to the creeks, I am sure with the goodwill of Buhari and his incoming administration, we can have more investors coming in. That will help our economy to grow because the president-elect is already known for his zero-tolerance for corruption, so, investors will be willing to come in and take advantage that they can get value for their investments,” Ubani said.
But a cog in the wheel may eventually turn out to be Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, a former Niger-Delta militant, who is still mourning the defeat of President Jonathan, his kinsman. He said the defeat could lead him and other militants to return to the creeks. Asari-Dokubo, who feared that the Buhari administration could be vicious, said: “The conditions that advanced the need to embrace the creeks have been sadly re-energised. It is clear that a vicious government who may maim and murder the voice of the so-called minorities may have just been birthed. Indeed, integration is non-existent as regional gang-ups and supremacy is symbolic with this victory.”
On his part, Abonyi Hyginus Ikenna, a banker, is worried that an Igboman would have lost out in power sharing in the nation’s hierarchy. “The president coming from the North, the vice-president from the West, the Senate president for the sake of equity and federal character should go to the East! The APC, being in power and in majority in the Senate is expected to produce the principal officers, but with the absence of even a single APC senator from the South East in the red chambers, this permutation seems worrisome and impossible!
But Ayo Fayose, governor of Ekiti State, in his congratulatory statement urged Nigerians to accept the election of Buhari in good faith and cooperate with him. In a statement issued by Lere Olayinka, his special assistant on public communications and new media, said that the governor urged Nigerians, “irrespective of their ethnic, religious and political affiliation to respect the outcome of the election in the interest of peace, progress and development of the country. Nigeria as a country is greater than any individual or group and it is my plea that no one should do anything to rock the boat of peace in the country.”
Indeed, with peaceful atmosphere and cooperation of every Nigerian it is hoped that Buhari would bring the necessary change required to take Nigeria to higher ground.