A re­spectable re­boot

The Punch - - OPINION -

fi­nance, to­wards es­tab­lish­ing laws and prac­tices that would grant all politi­cians a level playing field at elec­tions rather than leav­ing it to the rich­est and most un­scrupu­lous.

The truth is that we can never have real democ­racy if elec­tions are left, as they are now, to be ma­nip­u­lated and fi­nanced by ruth­less god­fa­thers for peo­ple who then be­come pawns in their hands.

There is no short­age of crit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions to this sub­ject. Buhari may want to re­mem­ber that his party, the so-called All Pro­gres­sives Congress, swore al­le­giance to the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Jus­tice Muham­madu Uwais re­port, say­ing it would im­ple­ment them to im­prove the na­tion’s elec­toral process and en­hance the in­de­pen­dence of the elec­toral com­mis­sion. Had the party been faith­ful to that dec­la­ra­tion, Africa would be learn­ing from Nige­ria by now.

The same lack of char­ac­ter is what has ex­posed the gen­eral’s laugh­able anti-cor­rup­tion ruse. The gov­ern­ment could have used the same cri­te­ria de­vel­oped by the Uwais Com­mis­sion to re­struc­ture the anti-cor­rup­tion bod­ies so that their lead­ing of­fi­cers emerge through a com­pet­i­tive hir­ing process me­di­ated by an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary. The rea­son is that you can­not preach democ­racy or ac­count­abil­ity, or es­tab­lish them “with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.”

The sec­ond: Buhari re­it­er­ated his Democ­racy Day in­ten­tion to lib­er­ate 100 mil­lion peo­ple from poverty. Again, he is­sued no de­tails and an­nounced no strat­egy. But time is run­ning out: we are now just 10 years from 2030 when our Agenda 2030 pledges fall due. Lib­er­at­ing the poor is a ma­jor chal­lenge, par­tic­u­larly in a so­ci­ety where the po­lit­i­cal elite ap­pro­pri­ates ev­ery­thing to it­self. Again, you can’t leg­is­late against poverty, and you cer­tainly can­not abol­ish it “with im­me­di­ate ef­fect,” alas.

Third, Buhari strangely al­luded to some­thing he called the “Nige­rian Decade of pros­per­ity and prom­ise for Nige­ria and for Africa” (sic), but did not elab­o­rate. What is the de­scrip­tion and con­tent of this decade?

And now for the prom­ise the gen­eral didn’t ac­com­mo­date. He spoke a lot about his gov­ern­ment’s plans, in­clud­ing in the rail­way sec­tor, cit­ing “tan­gi­ble progress” in 2020 on the La­gos-kano line, the forth­com­ing com­mis­sion­ing of the La­gos–ibadan and Itakpe–warri lines, and com­mence­ment of the Ibadan–abuja and Kano–kaduna all in the first quar­ter.

But he stu­diously said not one word about the La­gos-cal­abar rail, one of the big­gest rail projects in our con­ti­nent’s history. First signed by China and Nige­ria in 2014 for nearly $12bn, the deal was re­vised by the Buhari regime and re-signed in July 2014 for nearly $1bn less, and was to be com­pleted in two years.

This is a project with ma­jor im­pli­ca­tions for the Nige­rian econ­omy, but why does Buhari demon­strate no in­ter­est? And why does Min­is­ter of Trans­porta­tion Ro­timi Amaechi speak less and less about it?

Speak­ing of min­is­ters, the gen­eral be­gan his sec­ond term by cut­ting them down to size—and away from him­self—by rout­ing them through the Sec­re­tary to the Gov­ern­ment (SGF) if they are to con­sult with him.

Three months ago, he un­veiled new rules un­der which they are to travel abroad. In what was po­si­tioned as a “cost-cut­ting” mea­sure, he de­clared that they are to make no more than two trips a quar­ter, only to very im­por­tant events, and with lim­ited bud­gets and en­tourages…

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