Next Level or Mak­ing Nige­ria Work

Sunday Trust - - PAGE 3 COMMENT -

The clam­our in in­formed Nige­rian cir­cles to get the can­di­dates com­pet­ing for votes in next year’s elec­tions to make con­crete pol­icy and pro­gram prom­ises was met half-way last week with the launch­ing of the two lead­ing par­ties’ cam­paign plat­forms. Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari launched APC’s plat­form last Sun­day with a prom­ise to take Nige­ria to the Next Level. A day ear­lier, PDP’s can­di­date Atiku Abubakar launched, on­line, his cam­paign plat­form tagged Mak­ing Nige­ria Work Again. Some of the 57 other pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates rolled out their plans but pub­lic at­ten­tion mostly cen­tred on the top two can­di­dates.

The ba­sis of Buhari’s Next Level plat­form is that his regime spent the last three and a half years lay­ing “the foun­da­tions for a strong, sta­ble and pros­per­ous coun­try for the ma­jor­ity of our peo­ple.” He reeled out what had been achieved, in­clud­ing tam­ing Boko Haram, achiev­ing peace in the Niger Delta, mak­ing “pub­lic in­vest­ments to spur eco­nomic growth, job cre­ation, and broad-based pros­per­ity,” in­vest­ing in agri­cul­ture and in­fra­struc­ture, fight­ing cor­rup­tion, in­vest­ing in cap­i­tal road, rail and air projects, bailouts to state gov­ern­ments to pay work­ers’ salaries and the Na­tional So­cial In­vest­ment Pro­gram, NSIP. Buhari said the lat­ter was “an un­prece­dented step to­wards cre­at­ing a fairer and more eq­ui­table so­ci­ety.”

Next Level there­fore in­volves job cre­ation across var­i­ous sec­tors, en­larg­ing N-Power to cre­ate 15 mil­lion new jobs, march­ing away from a mono-econ­omy, build­ing six In­dus­trial Parks and 109 Spe­cial Pro­duc­tion and Pro­cess­ing Cen­tres, end­ing farm­ers/herders con­flict, de­vel­op­ing Spe­cial Eco­nomic Zones, re­mod­el­ing 10,000 schools every year and in­ten­si­fy­ing the fight against cor­rup­tion.

Atiku, on the other hand, be­gins from the premise that Nige­ri­ans are poorer to­day than they were when APC came to power and he will there­fore Get Nige­ria Work­ing Again. He quoted IMF to have said that “it is the fail­ure of [Buhari’s] gov­ern­ment to have a co­her­ent and com­pre­hen­sive set of poli­cies com­bined with poor lead­er­ship that has led to its fail­ure to de­liver.” Atiku said as chair­man of the Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil in 1999-2007, he gave Nige­ria “her high­est and most con­sis­tent GDP growth of over 6% per an­num,” ush­ered in the GSM revo­lu­tion and paid off Nige­ria’s en­tire for­eign debt.

The main el­e­ments of Atiku’s plan in­clude “giv­ing Nige­rian work­ers a liv­ing wage,” giv­ing Nige­ria’s youth world-class ed­u­ca­tion, em­pow­er­ing Nige­rian women, re­duc­ing ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity, “cater for the el­derly so our peo­ple are not afraid of grow­ing old,” in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture, at­tract­ing for­eign in­vest­ment, restruc­ture the polity, cre­ate jobs and dou­ble the size of our GDP to US$900 bil­lion by 2025.

It is a good be­gin­ning that the ma­jor par­ties/ can­di­dates have laid out their plans and pro­grams. The next step is for cit­i­zens, jour­nal­ists, aca­demics, labour unions and civil so­ci­ety groups to in­ter­ro­gate them closely and force them to fill the gaps in the prom­ises, of which there are many. They should also be made to pub­licly own up to th­ese plans, so that we do not re­peat the sit­u­a­tion of 2015 when the Buhari Pres­i­dency dis­owned a ma­jor APC cam­paign man­i­festo af­ter win­ning the elec­tion.

Then also, Nige­ri­ans should give the lesser elec­tion can­di­dates a hear­ing. In some cases they have much more in­ter­est­ing ideas for na­tional progress than the ma­jor can­di­dates have and we must not shut them out just be­cause their party plat­forms are smaller. Fi­nally, if we force the can­di­dates to con­cen­trate on re­fin­ing and elab­o­rat­ing on their pro­grams and make it the cen­ter­piece of the cam­paign sea­son, they will have less time for in­sults, fake news, and need­less re­sort to triv­ial mat­ters.

It is a good be­gin­ning that the ma­jor par­ties/ can­di­dates have laid out their plans and pro­grams. The next step is for cit­i­zens, jour­nal­ists, aca­demics, labour unions and civil so­ci­ety groups to in­ter­ro­gate them closely and force them to fill the gaps in the prom­ises, of which there are many.

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