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Nigerians to Buhari: ‘We need a breath of fresh air in 2020’

President Muhammadu Buhari has been urged to approach governance with a human face to avoid leading Nigerians through a loathsome path in 2020.

Nigerians, who spoke with BDSUNDAY, said the advice became necessary following the indication by the President that the next four years would be tougher than his last term.

Recall that President Buhari had in March this year, shortly after he was declared winner of the February 23 presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said Nigerians must prepare for tougher four years ahead.

Buhari was speaking to members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) who paid him a congratulatory visit at the State House. He said he endeavoured to tell Nigerians while he was campaigning that the next four years will be tricky.

“My last lap of four years, I think is going to be tough. People are very forgetful and that’s why during the campaign I spoke about our cardinal agenda,” he said.

But concerned Nigerians said tougher four years from what is being experienced currently in the country must be a mini hell. They urged the President to do everything possible to ensure that Nigerians do not go through the excruciating pain in 2020, let alone additional four years.

Christian Okeke, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, said: “Without mincing words, making projections of doom, hardship and agony for Nigerians, especially as the New Year approaches, has become a national culture of sort. It is unfortunate; it is condemnable. Such forecasts become even more worrisome when they come from national leaders”.

“My take on this is that irrespective of national economic outlook for the coming year, the desires of the citizens are simple: things that mitigate their sufferings and not things that worsen those negative conditions,” Okeke said.

“Specifically, the preoccupations of those in leadership position in Nigeria in Year 2020 should include, to significantly raise per capita income of the people through carefully-selected and systemised pro-poor economic policies. This can come in ways such as tax reduction for low and middle-income earners, incentives for local entrepreneurs, and social transfers to vulnerable groups. Ideally, there should be follow-ups to the Guide to Bank Charges recently released by the Central Bank of Nigeria to cover other sectors,” the lecturer further said.

Okeke further said: “The fact that life expectancy in Nigeria is the lowest in all of West Africa and even worse than the prevailing situation in war-torn countries of Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria, it should be a matter of national concern. It requires national emergency, as drastic and result-oriented actions need to be taken in sectors such as health to improve on the life-expectancy ratio.

“Definitely, the federal government must save the country from its shameful status of poverty capital of the world. This and the rest form the bulk of the tasks, which must reflect in political and economic policies of Year 2020.”

He believes that “Few days to next year, leaders in Nigeria must begin to speak hope and not doom. Most importantly, they must give a human face to policies. Democracy and the constitution recognise centrality of the people in governance. Leaders must allow this to guide their actions and inactions. They should never forget that history would definitely judge them harshly if the reverse becomes the case.”

Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president had in a keynote address at an event tagged: ‘The Nigerian Story, Why I am Alive Campaign’, Friday, said Nigeria’s rising debt makes him worried about the future generations who would have to pay such loans.

Obasanjo said as of 2015, Nigeria’s total external debt was about $10.32 billion but by March 2019, it had risen to $81.274 billion.

“Our political leaders have suddenly developed not just a taste for, but a voracious appetite for debt. As usual, most of such debts procured are hardly thought through. Predictably, ability to repay such debts is lacking,” he said.

“Unfortunately for us and unlike in the past, the new creditors are less tolerant of our limitations and inadequacies and are now demanding to manage institutions and agencies with a view to recouping their loans,” he said.

Obasanjo’s alarm came a few days after Atiku Abubakar, who was his deputy between 1999 and 2007, had earlier spoken against the $29.6 billion loan request of President Buhari, describing it as an attempt to enslave unborn children.

Speaking in tandem, Yusuf Yabagi Sani, a former presidential candidate and national chairman of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), advised the President to rise above ethnic and religious sentiments in order to build a more inclusive country.

He also admonished the President to revamp the Nigerian economy with purposeful and pragmatic leadership, warning that the situation could get worse if the Nigerian economy does not improve.

“I believe that we all have to be comforted that President Buhari is on his last lap and one would expect that he would like to leave a legacy of achievements and positive impacts on the down-trodden because the common man is at the lowest ebb. There is nothing that Nigerians today are proud of,” Sani said.

“So, I expect that Buhari will rise to the occasion and do everything possible to make life more meaningful for Nigerians. Buhari can give Nigerians hope if he can rise above ethnic and religious sentiments, which are the things that have divided us and for long held our progress back,” he said.

He also called on Buhari to embark on a thorough change in the leadership recruitment system in Nigeria.

“The situation will get worse if he doesn’t change the pattern and process of recruitment of leadership because everything revolves around leadership. We have what it takes to make Nigeria a better place; so, I expect President Buhari to come out strongly, especially on leadership recruitment process,” he said.

Lai Omotola, group managing director, Masters Reality International Concepts Limited (MRICL), and chancellor of E-Boot Camp Limited, expressed doubt over the possibility of government to positively move the economy in the right direction better than it is now.

Omotola said that there is no indication that things would be better than they are now, suggesting that “Our leaders must understand that we have now entered an emergency mode. The best this country can have in 2020 is to ensure that things do not degenerate beyond where we are now. If we cannot make it better, let it not grow worse. Budget of N10.9trillion will not make any impact on the economy.”

Wale Ogunade, national president of Voters’ Awareness Initiative (VAI), said Nigerians had experienced untold hardship since the inception of the present administration. He therefore, advised the administration to initiate a loan scheme for the unemployed Nigerians who want to set up businesses.

“In the last few years, Nigerians have really experienced a very tough time; in fact, things have never been this tough in this country. But what we are saying is that it should not be only the ordinary Nigerians that should be suffering, public office holders should also face the pain and hardship.

“Go to their homes you would see that they are enjoying and living luxury life. But go out to the street, several people cannot afford to eat three -square meals a day or buy rice this period. The economy is in a bad shape,” Ogunade said.

According to him, “In 2020, I expect this government to try and initiate a loan scheme that would help young Nigerians to start business or expand existing ones. Through this, we can create jobs and reduce the high rate of unemployment among the youth across the country. It should not be like the TradeMoni they did only during the general election and stopped; I mean, genuine empowerment programme.”

 

Obinna Emelike, Innocent Odoh, Iniobong Iwok and James Kwen

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