Consolidating democracy, one year after
The 29th of May 2016 has since 1999 been made into a Democracy Day, by the Obasanjo administration, in order to celebrate the transition from military to civilian rule that ushered in the Fourth Republic (1999-date).
This particular celebration of Democracy Day is coming exactly one year after the General Elections of 2015 which made it possible for the people of Nigeria to vote out a ruling party in favour of the opposition party. The successful, patriotic and peaceful manner in which this was achieved had since become an important reference point, and is a credit to all patriotic Nigerians and political, as well as civil society, organizations. For example the National Response Initiative (NRI) and Kano Civil Society Forum (KCSF) along with many other organizations executed many successful campaigns on the need for free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in Nigeria.
In line with democratic practice, and on the basis of the appeal made by President Mohammed Buhari (PMB) for Nigerians to critically evaluate the journey so far, which was carried in some of our recent dailies, the NRI along with KCSF and many other organizations, convened this conference.
The present government under the leadership of PMB, was elected on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) against the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the then sitting president of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. PMB’s success was predicated on the need to solve the various problems of corruption, poverty, insecurity and the near one party dictatorship etc. that bedevilled the country under the leadership of the PDP. Accordingly the APC, and the government under PMB, focused on three important issues. These are the fight against corruption, insecurity and unemployment in Nigeria.
We strongly suggest the following for consideration by the government in its efforts towards expanding on the wellbeing of Nigerians through the creation of more jobs.
Governments efforts towards the diversification, or industrialization, of the economy constitute the most important single basis for all-round development of the economy. This is only possible through the dogged pursuit of policies which ensure local and indigenous development of industrial capabilities and the kind of friendly environment that could ensure that relevant skills and raw material, as well as costs of related industrial inputs and services such as energy, transportation etc., are also both competitive and affordable.
A programme for the protection, and expansion, of local agricultural and industrial production need to be articulated and promoted as a basis for job creation in the country for all levels of producers.
Provision of basic services and facilities in the form of health and education, as well as physical infrastructural facilities, by the Government are critical to creating the conditions that make it possible to develop businesses that both employ others, as well as promote self-employment. Transportation cost, along with the widespread availability of cheap or subsidized sources of energy, is therefore of great importance for promoting the general productivity of the economy. In this respect it is also important that the government pays greater attention the local generation of solar power, irrigation facilities, and the practice of organic agriculture, in addition to the promotion of small and medium local enterprises in the mining sector with a view to the industrial utilization of the country’s vast natural and human resources.
Investments earmarked for the rehabilitation of the environment, or afforestation, in the form of the National Ecological Funds, and for the construction of the Green Wall Project in Nigeria, need to be seen to be more effectively applied and executed. These, along with the provision of agricultural facilities and inputs, as well as formal support for the livestock production sector, will create tremendous opportunities in the agricultural sector for employment opportunities-in contrast to what currently exists.
The government needs to promote social welfare, and social security, programmes in line with its campaign promises in order to protect the most vulnerable in our society. In other words those who are not employed, employable or able to take care of themselves in any way.
There is need for government to ensure that remunerations for workers and pensioners are duly and promptly paid in view of fact that such funds were already provided for and rightly earned. In addition pension funds need to be protected from abuse by political office holders and bureaucrats, in line with the laws of the land.
The government needs to ensure that local, medium and small-scale contractors are duly paid where they have fulfilled their contractual obligations in order not to stifle the sector, and keep many people out of job.
Special attention need to be paid by the Government to the promotion of regional, and sub regional, trade and infrastructural facilities such as Trans African gas pipe lines, Trans-Saharan Road Network, Railways and a common currency in line with the objectives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and African Union (AU). These need to be pursued as strategies for economic expansion, and the creation of employment opportunities.
In conclusion we need to emphasise that the mass of our people that voted this government into power have already exercised great patience, and perseverance, in the face of tremendous hardships, in sensititivity, and crippling acts of corruption of previous administrations. Therefore the government should immediately articulate, and roll out, policies that will better the economic conditions of Nigerian citizens. It should raise the standard of living of the people, particularly the poor and the vulnerable, rather than compound them through the adoption of ill-advised and externally promoted policies.
For the consolidation of democracy, the supremacy of the political party need to be upheld. We note that the ruling political party seems not to have any common policy position in the running of both the Federal and states governments. We thus call the ruling party to harmonise the activities of the states under its control so as to ensure the execution of its manifesto and campaign promises. The failure of the party to perform its role effectively, in this regard, has marginalized the general public from actively participating in the designing, and implementation, of government policies and programs.
In respect of the fight against corruption, insecurity and unemployment we request the government to give due attention to the suggestions given above especially in respect of the reforms, and measures, that are necessarily required for the successful achievement of its avowed programmes. Prof. Sule Bello is the Chairman, National Response Initiative (NRI), Kano