Next Level or Making Nigeria Work
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.