Jonathan, lead a 50-day revolution | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Jonathan, lead a 50-day revolution

Posted: Apr 5, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


Muhammadu Buhari will inherit more problems than any other leader in the world today. The problems could become even more complicated by the time his government began fiddling with reforms. Unless incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan prepares the ground for him, in the next 50 days, Buhari is not likely to be popular, at least in his first tenure.

This time, therefore, calls for statesmanship. Will President Jonathan seize the moment? Or does he want to see his successor fail, so Nigerians would say he did better?

Even if the economy collapsed on Buhari’s watch, some of us would remember that the current administration prepared it to fail. The economy is already on the brink and primed to crash this year or next. Poverty and unemployment rule the roost in over 90 per cent of Nigerian households today. There is no power, no water, no good roads and no useful education for the majority.

President Jonathan would turn a hero if he led a revolution meant to rescue this sinking ship called Nigeria before he hands over on May 29. State governors, outgoing or re-elected, would do well to toe the same line. The elections are over; there is nothing to fear for anymore. I know the president does not hope to re-contest a presidential election in future. So, he should not seek to placate members of his party or tribe.

The first thing I want the president to do now is slash the salaries and allowances earned by public officeholders. Since the executive does not require the legislature’s assent before determining salaries, the president could tap the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to revert to the wage structure existing in June 2003. Lawmakers, ministers, heads of MDAs and other public “servants” should no longer be allowed to plunder the treasury by earning more than their statutory remunerations.

Finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala should ensure that IPPIS is implemented 100 per cent before May 29. This will eliminate ghost workers, ghost pensioners, ghost schools, ghost departments and ghost contractors through which looters have been bleeding this country. Now is the time to implement the Steve Oronsaye report – the original report, not the doctored one. The second move would be for the president to assent to the Petroleum Industry Bill as soon as he receives it. If there is no provision in the bill outlawing importation of fuel at the end of 2016, he should ensure that it is included. Moreover, oil companies should be prevented from exporting crude after 2016; let them build refineries here and export finished products.

Restructuring of Nigeria is a task that must be carried out. But the job cannot be done with the input of  the National Assembly as presently constituted. The legislature is an albatross on the neck of Nigeria democracy.  Once, I recommended that the president impose a state of emergency on the nation for six months during which he would rule by decree and effect the necessary reforms. Now, it is no longer possible for the Jonathan regime to implement   the report of the National Conference.

This system of government must change because the economy cannot take it. Why should 469 men and women, along with their numerous aides, consume over N150billion per year for doing almost nothing? Why should recurrent expenditure take 75 per cent of a government’s annual budget? How do we hope to see our currency strengthened when few people engage in production and the hardest workers are the poorest?

President-elect Buhari is not likely to perform as he did 30 years ago on account of the present system. Nothing gets done because bills remain in the National Assembly for four or seven years. Lawmakers in the states and local governments are redundant and, at best, rubber stamps. Would Buhari divorce political considerations in appointments and award of contracts? The hawks would start a fight!

A lot could still be achieved in the next 50 days. Just as the past 50 days witnessed sustained war on terror, the next 50 days could witness an economic revolution. Are there still men and women with conscience in Nigeria? Are there revolutionaries rearing to go? Would Jonathan be remembered as a statesman or a politician?

As Nigerians demonstrated on March 28, hunger and destitution are not brothers to religion and tribe. All we want is an economy that rewards hard work and gives everyone an opportunity to earn a decent income. The incoming administration should focus on making electricity and other basic infrastructure available so that the creative energies of the youth could flourish. Agriculture can be made more profitable than oil, but nobody would go into agriculture by choice so long as they see idlers and criminals gathering illicit wealth unchallenged. Buhari may eradicate government corruption [at least private jet owners would run for cover]; however,he needs to also make allowance for the millions of people who currently benefit from corruption and crime; they should be allowed to find productive activities.  If he does not, crime would make nonsense of any reforms.