Ahead of a constituted federal cabinet
Ihave had few worries about President Muhammadu Buhari’s selection of Ministers mainly because have always believed that the efficacy of power, measured by the advancement of the nation’s citizens is largely decided by the efficiency of the man on whose table, the buck stops. Change can come and in deed does come out of the stoic resolve of the strong leader. Thus I am comfortable that the team selected by President Muhammadu Buhari is worth a trial. Should they take after President Buhari in character of integrity and responsiveness to the Nigerian condition, working diligently on enunciated policies, the desired change will take place.
I had feared that in reaction to the Saraki versus Code of Conduct Tribunal Saga, we might have a distracting stand-off between the Senate and the Executive. My fears dissolved when I noticed that the Senate for some curious reason, was not thirsty for blood, besides, the Ministerial nominees, prepared for battle, each gave a good account of themselves and impressed the nation. From Kachukwu to Danbazau, from Dalong to Amina Mohammed, from Lai Mohammed to Udoma Udo Udoma, and on to our young upstart from Adamawa Mohammed Musa Bello, one could not but see the promised future, and the loud statement of our potential. Any Nigerian is good, what matters is how the citizen is led. The mien of President Buhari will determine how his ministers and in deed citizens behave. It is for this simple reason that I do not wish to touch the over beaten topic of Ministerial Nominees.
Challenges facing the nation have been identified. Internal security is on top of the pile, given the deadly insurgency the North East has suffered. Nigerians agree that the backbone of the insurgency has been broken, with the armed muscle of Boko Haram clearly degraded, as not to be capable of taking any more territory to declare a so called Islamic State. It is not yet the end of terror and Nigerians must understand that terror is only one component of an insurgency. It is usually the last to be defeated. It is divine providence that the spate of bombings is low ebbed. A defeated insurgency in other nations with experience as ours deals far worse inflictions on those countries. It is agreed, President Muhammadu Buhari already scores highly on the battle against the insurgents, in spite of the deadly terror strikes. One expects a change in the tactic of the Armed Forces, one that relies more now on intelligence gathering, with citizen cooperation and participation. The cells of the bombers will be routed one after the other, if citizens cooperate and provide leads to masterminds.
With stability achieved, the next challenge is the economy, devastated as it is, by the erroneous dependency on only one revenue source - oil, to the abandonment of all others, namely Agriculture, Solid Minerals, Tourism and indeed internally generated revenue. State Governments hardly even think of the personal income tax of its consumptive society, missing out on a fundamental development component. Once the Ministers are in place, Nigerians expect a clear economic policy direction that provides for a switch off from oil to the other alternative sectors, and in as dramatic a fashion as the collapse of oil as the economic mainstay set about.
Audu Ogbe is being speculated to take up Agriculture, for he has quite some revolutionary mastery of this field. He will be off to a citizenry shocked by the policy somersault on the banning of the importation of rice. It is sad that Nigeria is caught at crossroads. With the ban, the local farmer is protected and encouraged to produce more, whereas with importation, our communities deprived of purchasing power lose both ways. One sees an urgent need to address the Agricultural potential and whoever becomes Minister will find the large footprint of former Minister of Agriculture Dr. Akinwumi Adesina. Under him, and in the midst of a debilitating governance malfunction, Agriculture in Nigeria made noticeable impact on the polity. There must be restrictions on imports of agricultural items. The two tiers of Government, Federal and State ought to work in harmony to promote agriculture. There were specific modules that Dr. Adesina put in place that ought to be enhanced and sustained. The modules measurably reduced the nation’s food import bill at a point from 2.3 trillion to 1.8 trillion, saving the country 906 billion. That is why many consider the policy somersault on rice importation more as a victory for the merchants against the people. The reasons advanced by Government are considered as flimsy and the reversal unsustainable. It was laughable that same time as the policy banning rice importation was being reversed, President Buhari was announcing at a forum that his administration was resolved to make Nigeria self-sufficient in food production with the capability to export 10 million tons of grains and processed food by 2019. Certainly not by unbanning the importation or dumping of foreign rice into Nigeria.
The proposed Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprises (AEHEs) which is a private sector-led mechanization programme expected to inject a total of 6,000 units of tractors and implements, 15,000 power tillers, 20,000 planting and post-harvest equipment to mechanize an estimated 4 million hectares of land nationwide, will amount to nothing without a capacity for equipment use and maintenance. From the on set, a work bull component should offer farmers oxen, ploughs and carts, a feature they are traditionally accustomed to and can be committed to serve all year round. This will boost production at costs to the local peasant farmer, that will compete with those of mechanized farming nations.
Once Ministers are in place, the scenario becomes that of “ready, set, go”. Governors must address commodity production if need be, with modified commodity boards that guarantee to buy up the farmers’ produce and save them from the drudgery of storage and marketing. Essentially the challenge is to shield the farmer from the displacement brought about by low priced imported commodities.