By Dakuku Peterside
Nigerians will pause today for the inauguration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Kashim Shettima as President and Vice President of the country, respectively. It will mark the end of one era, the Buhari-Osinbajo era, and the beginning of a new era.
There are understandably mixed reactions or verdicts on the Buhari era. President Buhari entered office in 2015 with solid political capital, enormous goodwill, and public approval; he is leaving against the background of widespread discontent and a low popularity rating.
Fortunately, the ultimate verdict of history is incorruptible. Buhari’s successes and failures are left for posterity and historians to articulate and pontificate on. Nigerians lived experiences, left in the sands of time during his administration, will form the ingredients of such historical evaluation.
It is now time to put behind us whatever views, disenchantment, or even praise we have for the Buhari era and build on whatever successes he achieved and fix the areas he failed, mindful of the fact that no leader is infallible.
Moreover, Nigerians romanticise past administrations when current administrations dash their hopes and aspirations. Little wonder, people reminisce and glorify the days of former presidents they felt were terrible before leaving office when faced with the harsh realities of the new administration.
In Tinubu-Shettima, we are not expecting a perfect president and vice president, but at least it is a new dawn – a new beginning for a country in dire need of unity, peace, and progress.
All Nigerians are beckoning on the new administration to create a new vision of Nigeria and work hard towards actualising that vision.
Nigerians are holding on to the renewed hope this administration promised during elections – an audacious hope of a better Nigeria built on our strength in diversity, harnessing our great human and natural resources, and leveraging the successes of past administrations in creating the Nigeria of our dreams.
We recognise that the road ahead is bumpy and rough, but we trust the instinct of Nigerians who gave Tinubu-Shettima the mandate to drive them through this rugged terrain and their undeniable belief in their ability to take them to safety and progress.
Most Nigerians, suffering from adverse economic hardship, poverty, insecurity, and poor living standards, view this new dawn as a good situation, a ray of hope and an opportunity to start afresh. As Tinubu- Shettima assumes office, they must recognise the enormity of the weight of the hopes of millions they are carrying.
Millions of Nigerians are not asking for much from this administration; they want a better life for themselves and their families, and they believe that brick by brick, this new administration will create the enabling environment that will make life good for many people.
The inauguration marks the end of politicking, and all opposers to the administrations are left with the judicial process to seek redress for any perceived electoral maleficence. As the Tinubu-Shettima administration is sworn in, they are now the president and vice-president of Nigeria.
As advised by ex-President Uhuru Kenyatta in the pre-inauguration lecture in Abuja, they must rise above party politics and assume the leadership position of the presidency entrusted to them. “The contest is now over and the hardwork of building a prosperous and United Nigeria begins,”enjoined Kenyatta.
But we know that managing victory is even more complex than securing it. With electoral victory comes the laborious act of managing the expectations of multiple stakeholders, managing claims and counterclaims of people who participated in securing the win, managing politicians and your party, and managing the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians.
While it is legitimate to expect new energy and new approaches to familiar problems, let us be conscious of the fact that we are dealing with the same party platform so there will be some level of continuity.
The past few months have seen the justling for positioning, the bravado of close allies to the presidency, and the intrigues and shenanigans of power brokers ever ready to hijack the political system, structures, and processes. This administration’s success depends significantly on managing these complexities while focusing on what is best for Nigeria.
This administration must overcome these challenges and start from day one to show Nigerians and the world that it is ready for business – the business of leading Nigeria in a democratic way to give all dividends of democracy.
It is imperative that from day one, this administration is perceived as serious, focused , and dedicated to improving the quality of life of Nigerians. The first time is always the best time to create a lasting positive impression, and this administration must shape public perception of what it wants to project from today and maintain that.
This inauguration is a significant milestone in our democratic consolidation. It is the 7th consecutive inauguration. Although our democracy has its faults, this is a feat worthy of celebrating. Nigerians are celebrating and hopeful for a better future.
Ordinary Nigerians want a government that works from the new sheriffs in town. Let us consider three agenda items the government may focus on and three roadblocks we must contend with immediately.
The first agenda item is that the government must create a clear roadmap for Nigeria’s critical issues. They must have definitive roadmap on energy subsidy, insecurity, fixing the economy, food security, power, technology, education, health, corruption, unemployment, and others.
These roadmaps should be clear for all Nigerians to see how the government defines the problem and its strategies and definitive action to solve the issues. Nigerians are expectant, and rightly so and want to know ab initio that the government is serious about dealing with the myriad of problems they are encountering daily.
The second agenda item is that government should articulate critical policy statements on many contentious issues the past government shied away from.
These issues include the removal of fuel subsidies, parallel foreign exchange regime, debt profile, national census, public workers’ agitation for pay increases and improvement of service, approaches to tackling poverty and health inequality, insecurity (successionist agitations, farmer-herders crisis, terrorism, kidnapping and armed banditry), and environmental degradation inclusive of climate change.
The third agenda item is inclusiveness. Given the prevailing perception of marginalisation by some groups in the country and the divisive nature of the last general elections, the critical job of this administration is first to create unity in the country.
The need for national unity and viability is more important now than ever in our history. Without a substantive Nigerian nation , all our best efforts and fancy programmes will come to nought. Now is the time to pull the country together by being inclusive in the government. Thankfully, the Vice President-elect at every occasion has insisted there is no islamisation or ethnic dominance agenda.
As good as these agenda items are, their success depends on how the government navigate the many roadblocks that are evident in truncating them. These roadblocks are the quality of the cabinet, money to finance the government, and national reconciliation.
The quality of the president’s cabinet can be a roadblock or a source of strength. Acknowledged there are political IOUs to be paid; however, it should not be with the country’s future and the government’s reputation. It is not in dispute that whether a president succeeds or fails, or whether he is remembered by history or not, is determined by the quality of his cabinet.
A cabinet of mediocre, failed former political office holders, inexperienced, ill-informed, without character and dishonest persons will be a terrible roadblock to the success of the incoming administration. A cabinet of knowledgeable, honest, competent, and experienced persons will shore up the profile of the government and its acceptability.
A core cabinet team of professionals of ten persons around finance, economic planning, law and order, education, infrastructure, power, trade and investment, ICT and innovation with a clear vision and mandate will send strong signals that this administration is ready to deliver service. A competent chief of staff to the president will strengthen the coordinating capacity of the presidency.
It is no more news that Nigeria is in a deep financial crisis. The Nigerian external debt is more than $40bn plus domestic debt of over N41 trillion and Nigeria spends most of its revenue on servicing debts. Nigeria’s primary source of foreign exchange earning is crude oil. And Nigeria’s finances follow the fluctuations and instabilities of the price of crude oil in the international market.
The outgoing government borrowed heavily to improve infrastructure, and the dividends of this infrastructural development to the economy are more medium to long-term than short-term. The money to run the government and provide the dividends of democracy promised to the electorate may not be there to achieve all the promises. This takes us to the urgent need for diversification of the economy as a solution.
The need for the government at all levels to creatively raise revenue without putting new tax burden on the people is urgent. This new administration must look for ways to increase revenue and cut down on waste, corruption, and the cost of government. It must make revenue mobilisation a focal point of the administration.
The third roadblock is national reconciliation. The success of this administration depends on how the constituent parts of Nigeria come together in peace and unity. Government must douse the tension in the country and address all secessionist tendencies, and it must intentionally heal the wounds caused by actual or perceived injustices.
This administration must pursue total national reconciliation as a critical building block of nationhood, law and order, and progress.
There is no doubt that Nigerians today are revelling in the new dawn of a new era. Tinubu-Shettima’s presidency carries the hopes of millions of Nigerians who feel that this is the beginning of a fresh start, and that this administration will get things right this time.
I implore the presidency to live up to the essence of these hopes and champion a genuinely united Nigeria where millions of Nigerians will look to the future with happiness. Today is the first day of the first four years of your administration. Let the ride begin!
Dakuku Peterside a former federal lawmaker and immediate past NIMASA DG is a development expert.