Buhari, APC And The Change Nigerians Demand

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President Buhari
President Buhari

Beyond the Media’s magniloquent title of the “Fourth Realm of the Estate” and the constitutional expectation that they hold government accountable to the governed, media houses are also commercial ventures expected to turn a profit, pay the journalists and support staff working for them, file tax returns, etc as responsible corporate entities.
Some schools of thought contend that information consumption is an existential need for Man. However, others differ, including some economists who, in their wisdom, classify media products, especially newspapers, as “goods of ostentatious living,” a dispensable luxury that could be put way down on the individual’s scale of needs. It is often the case, therefore that the newspaper is one of the first items to cull off the individual or household list of luxuries when the economy of a nation goes southwards.
Consequently, sales and advertising revenues often plummet for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations as the economy struggles and advertisers, including the biggest spender in any economy – the government – bring out their fiscal scimitars to slash operational costs and expenditures in the face of grim economic reality.
From “the media as a business” point of view therefore, it is in the self-enlightened interest of publishers, radio and television moguls to support any government to succeed in either making a struggling economy healthy or keeping a sound economy roaring on.
Objective and non-partisan criticism of government or expressed support for public any policy by an independent media house concurrently serve the end of the media’s responsibility to the People and keeping the media outfit afloat as a business. There is no us (the objective media) versus them (the government) paradigm as some in our profession or on the government side have come to see an otherwise symbiotic, albeit sometimes tenuous, government-media relationship.
In reality, we are all together in this. A strong economy built on sound government policies could only translate to good business for the Media. And in the final analysis, virile, objective journalism benefits the government and the governed, the media and other businesses, and the nation at large.
The foregoing, in a nutshell, guides this newspaper’s editorial appraisal of the three tiers of government and the individual players at these levels. Without a recourse to fawning and kowtowing the official line like a “swindle sheet”, this newspaper, in the last two years of its operations, has lauded individuals, government establishments and private sector operators for their great efforts in the service of the Nigerian People.
Conversely, The Dream Daily has also not shied away from saying it as it is to government, institutions and individuals, offering well thought out suggestions alongside strident critical editorial contents.
Both vintage approaches have brought heart-warming commendations from a broad spectrum of society to this newspaper. We have also received virulent attacks, especially from government quarters, including the arrest and questioning of our reporter and ‘invitation’ of our editor to the national headquarters of at a highly active security agency (names withheld) whose operatives were commendably civil in our encounter with them under President Goodluck Jonathan, when the aforesaid security agency mistaken The Dream Daily for the mouthpiece of the then opposition All Progressive Congress (APC).
Thankfully, that security agency, whose operatives were allegedly under intense pressure from the powers that be then to rein in all dissenting voices and were virulently maligned in the media on a daily basis, did not see our encounter as a fortuitous opportunity “to deal with these useless journalists” as payback for the bad press they received.
They were very professional and gave both the reporter and editor of this newspaper renewed hope and vigour that both the agency concerned and indeed Nigeria were very much redeemable despite the prevailing situation then as the 2015 General Election campaigns brought ominous clouds over the country.
To the Glory of God, Nigeria and the Nigerian People, we were simply trying to practise objective journalism then, and God helping, we are resolute to continue on this arduous path of objective reporting, comments and analysis now under President Muhammadu Buhari and future leaders of this great nation.
In the light of the foregoing, we are of the well-weighted view that having spent nine months in office – the exact period needed to conceive, gestate and give birth to the Crown of God’s Creation – a human being – an indebt review of President Buhari performance would not be out of place henceforth, with a view to identifying the bull-eye hits, the misses and offer suggestions on the way forward to the benefit of the Nigerian People.
Consequently, we proceed over a select fields of government policies, actions and inactions since Inauguration Day May 29, 2015, against the backdrop of the “Change” whirlwind which brought the President and his party, the APC, to power nine months ago.

2016 Budget, Economy, Shuttle Diplomacy, et al

We commend the President for his great efforts in the period under review and wonder where he gets the energy to pack so much into these nine months to produce a budget towards reviving the economy and inviting the investing world to make our country a destination of choice via his several foreign trips.
However, long before the embarrassing saga broke out on the 2016 budget, this newspaper took a long look at the document and concluded, with good reasons, that the record N6 trillion Appropriation fell short of what could pull the Nigerian economy back on its feet over the budget’s lifespan of 12 fiscal months, even if miraculously implemented fully at 100 per cent.
Against the grain of politics-tainted criticisms of the budget for being too big, we contend that the 2016 Appropriation is too austere and inadequate to even start to meet the “Change” Nigerians expect under President Buhari.
Despite its record provisions for capital projects and other commendable items in the budget, its relative meagre size to the urgent challenges at hand and the clear abuse of the budget process attributed to a “budget mafia” in the federal bureaucracy – for which Director-General, Budget Office, Bright Okogu, was promptly fired by the President, a heart-warming step on the path of “Change” – have crippled the 2016 Budget. Though christened “Budget of Change”, we are of the well-considered view that the 2016 Appropriation as extant cannot and will not deliver “Change,” however hard the President and his Cabinet work to implement it.
We urge President Buhari to halt the on-going consideration of the 2016 Budget by withdrawing it from the National Assembly and give it back to his cabinet ministers to rework the document with a view to delivering on “Change”.
The claptrap of clichés – envelope or zero-based budgeting, etc – which the President’s men and women have dipped the budget in the media appeals to few Nigerians, especially the long-suffering masses.
Over the years, past administrations have conditioned the Nigerian People to view the government as paterfamilias who provides for us, Deux ex machina. That is not going to change anytime soon, however anyone try to force it through.
What the Nigerian People want from the 2016 Budget is a change to our precarious existence as individuals, businesses and as a nation. Hard as the President and his cabinet may try, the 2016 budget as proposed would fail to deliver on promise.
The tradition of presenting the budget wholesale at the joint session of the National Assembly has not helped this country that much in the past and is due for change. Hard as the President is pressed for time to get the 2016 budget passed, we suggest that after withdrawing it, the federal budget should henceforth be sent in batches to the National Assembly for ease of scrutiny cum transparency, consideration and passage.
First to be sent should be wages and salaries. Next should be other recurrent expenditure minus capital project outlay even if recurrent. Specified capital project appropriation, new and recurrent, should take the rear.
Federal lawmakers are amply remunerated to make this batch approach to budgeting worth the harder effort. If there is any law against it, the President must push for its change at National Assembly right away. Man makes law, not the other way round.
The budget of change that this country needs today is in the region of between N25 Trillion and N30 Trillion, for a start, with a performance level of at least 95%. In essence, Nigeria’s budget makers must rip up the books, shatter the usual budgetary templates, discard worn appropriation theories stamped on their psyche by their professors in Ivy-League universities, look fear in the face and embrace big thinking.
In effecting the much-needed amendments to the budget, however, the President and his aides must think creatively and big enough to address the urgent challenges Nigeria faces today, especially infrastructure deficits and the youth unemployment time-bomb, which in our view the 2016 Budget as laid down before the National Assembly had not addressed adequately.
We suggest that the President include in the new amendments plans to spend on self-liquidating public works projects at least N3 trillion in each of the six geo-political zones of the country in fiscal year 2016. These projects must, all at once, address our nation’s infrastructure deficits in critical sectors and capable of creating direct and ancillary jobs for millions of Nigerians, especially the youth.
By way of practical examples, we suggest that the added N3 trillion per zone could be used in part as follows:
North-East: Build a hydro dam in the Adamawa axis to generate more megawatts of electricity and end the perennial embarrassment, loss of lives and property that several states in Nigeria suffer each time the Republic of Cameroun opens up Lagdo dam;
North West: Revamp all moribund textile companies in this zone, which would employ hundreds of thousands of youth, clothe the country and save foreign exchange currently being used to import textile. Ownership of the textile firms should be vested in their employees who must work, according to a pay-back plan drawn up by consultants-experts, to offset the costs of bringing these textile companies back on stream to be incurred by the Federal Government;
North-Central: Build industries to exploit solid minerals in the zone for export. These industries should be set up with fresh graduates and low-skill workers living in the region from all parts of the country, who would be supervised by consultants-expert. They would operate the industries with a view to making returns on investment to the Federal Government and become full owners of the mining firms after they must have fully pay back into federal coffers the public funds invested in their companies.
South-South: Build specific industries to accommodate the new skill sets acquired by youths of this region under the presidential amnesty programme;
South-East: Massive public works to stop the problem of flooding and road infrastructure deficits in the area; build export-focused industries/markets to tap into the manufacturing/trading preferences of these energetic and highly resourceful region of the country, which would also be fully owned by their employees after refunding invested funds to the Federal Government;
South-West: Build export-oriented industries that would be manned by freshly recruited graduates living in the region from all parts of the country, who would be supervised by consultants-expert. These new industry would be run with a view to making returns on investment to the Federal Government and handed over to the fresh graduates operating them after they must have fully pay up the public funds invested in the firms.
The N3 trillion per zone could also be used to build rail infrastructure to link the six zones to the Federal Capital Territory, which would effectively become the convergence cum transit point to accessing any part of the country by rail, and ease pressure off inter-state roads nationwide.
Although opposition politicians and so-called economists have slated the borrowing plans in the 2016 Budget, they largely missed the point. This newspaper only takes exception to the external borrowing components of the budget. Because there is a subterranean currency war going on among World Powers, we are of the well-considered view that Nigeria must stop borrowing in foreign currencies, as this could only spell doom for the country.
The way to go is to look inwards, block all revenue leakage to make more funds available for budget execution, creatively tinker with policies to generate more funds for the Federal Government and support indigenous entrepreneurship, especially to increase their capacity to export.
If we do these and patriotically stand up for our country in unison, Nigeria could consistently fund a federal budget of at least N25 trillion per year, without external borrowing, and leapfrog our country into modernisation and the 21st Century.
If at all there is any need to borrow to fund the budget, this must be done domestically only. Currently, more than N5 trillion sits idly in the coffers of the pension commission, which neither has any immediate needs for this huge fund nor, perhaps, know how to creatively use it for national development. President Buhari and his team could borrow this domestic pension fund, just as Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) suggested recently, to execute an expanded 2016 Budget as this newspaper suggests here.
In any case, we are of the strident view that among the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), the Nigerian Customs Services, Nigerian Ports Authority, NIMASA and a couple of other revenue-generating federal agencies, the government can raise more than N30 trillion to fund massive public works to kick the Nigerian economy back to life without any borrowing whatsoever and consistently execute a N25 trillion budget over the next four years for Nigeria’s transformation.
This, we submit, is a veritable way to effect the radical change President Buhari and the APC pledged Nigerians.

War on Terror, Boko Haram And The Chibok Girls
We commend the Buhari Administration for carrying on the war on terror from where the last administration stopped. Truth, they say, is the first casualty of war. While his revelation broke millions of hearts across the country, including ours, President Buhari’s truthful admission during his maiden media chat that the Federal Government does not know the whereabouts of the kidnapped Chibok girls is commendable. At least we all now know that terrible fact and this should reinvigorate our collective resolve to find the girls and rescue them.
This nation has left the Chibok Girls’ rescue to drag for far too long, using conventional approaches. Instead of leaving the search and rescue efforts of the Chibok Girls to the Military as the nation has done thus far, we are of the view that a national call on all able-bodied Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 30 years, and any willing volunteer outside this age group, for the expeditious search and rescue of the Chibok Girls is of utmost urgency today. If we could press more civilian hands to battle during the Civil War, why not now? This, in our opinion, should mitigate the shameful failure of the Nigerian State to protect the Chibok Girls from being abduction in the first place, and leaving them in the hands of their captors for over one year now!
To those holding the Chibok Girls and claiming to do so on religious grounds, we ask you to ponder on this Hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW): “By Allah, he is not a believer, by Allah he is not a believer.” It was said: “Who, O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “The one whose neighbour is not safe from his annoyance.” (Hadith 34 in “200 Golden Hadith from the Messenger of Allah” by Abdul Malik Mujahid.)
And we add: They are non-combatant in your insurgency against the Nigerian State. Release the Chibok Girls unharmed today. It is Godly to do so!

Anti-Corruption Campaign
We commend President Muhammadu Buhari for living up to his campaign promise of fighting corruption. However, given the peculiarities of the Nigerian Legal System, we have our reservations about the strictly prosecutorial approach adopted by the President and his administration to recovered looted funds.
In our view, a faster approach to recovering the looted funds would have been for the President Buhari to declare a force majeure on corruption and press his huge moral weight as President and Elder Statesman on identified looters to return the stolen funds from wherever they were stashed away within and outside Nigeria to a dedicated account at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Any looter who fails to do so within a given timeframe could then be prosecuted for this heinous crime against the Nigerian People.
As it is though, it remains to be seen how the President’s recourse to the Law and legalese would quickly bring in the stolen funds, which millions of Nigerians expect the Federal Government to recover, as if by magic, and press into service in their interest and for good governance purposes.
Nnamdi Kanu And The Biafra Question
We are concerned that President Buhari has been baited to open up a ‘battlefront’ in the South-East with the renewed quest for the Biafra. Unfortunately, the President appears to have fallen for the gambit, to the glee of his baiters. In his first media chat, President Buhari revealed that the arrowhead of the current campaign for Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, holds both the Nigerian and British passports but entered the country without any of them.
This should raise serious suspicion and many questions. How did Kanu, who is reportedly based in Britain, leave that country without any of his passports to head for Nigeria? Could there be a wider conspiracy by enemies of Nigeria within and without to send Kanu here to foment trouble and distract the President from his avowed Change Agenda.
Given the above posers and many more, we are of the view that the gaucho approach of arresting Kanu and charging him to court for treason was totally avoidable and has unfortunately played well into the hands of those behind the current agitation for Biafra.
The alternative, less raucous approach, given the circumstances surrounding Kanu’s appears in Nigeria from his UK base – would have been for the Nigerian Immigration Service to simply put Kanu on the next available flight back to Britain, legitimately deporting him as an illegal immigrant since he claimed not to be a Nigerian anymore. The Foreign Affairs Ministry should have then follow up this step by summoning the British High Commissioner to Nigeria for explanations on how such a high-profile, self-confessed ‘hater’ of Nigeria left Britain on a flight to Nigeria without any travel documents. Nigeria could then make representation to the British government on the issue, stressing our concern and reservations about the matter through diplomatic channels.
As it is now, President Buhari and his administration have a huge, tricky problem on their hands via Kanu’s arrest, on-going prosecution and the consequent Biafra protest in the South-East and elsewhere in the country. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo failed to solve this same problem with arrests and prosecution of ethnic agitators. We wait to see how the Federal Government under President Buhari would do it with the same approach.
Niger Delta Militancy
The return to hostilities in the Niger Delta by the region’s militants and forces of the Nigerian State in the spate of nine months after the last administration is a course for concern for this newspaper and many Nigerians. It is our well-considered view that the threat of resurgent militancy in the Niger Delta presented another opportunity for President Buhari to press his moral capital to service as President and Elder Statesman, instead of the on-going default military operations, which never served this country at all, especially under former President Obasanjo.
Having inherited a relatively peaceful Niger Delta brought about by the amnesty programme of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, which former President Goodluck Jonathan continued, many Nigerians expected President Buhari to stoop to conquer in the restive region, instead of charging into battle with the militants.
How many battlefronts can this country really afford to open and fight today? How could any meaningful change come about in this country today with the insurgency in the North-East, militancy in the Niger Delta, agitation for self-determination in the South-East and alleged Fulani herdsmen kidnappings and killings in pockets of places around the country?
There are no easy answers to these posers. A veritable stating point, however, might be for the most powerful Nigerian alive today – President Muhammadu Buhari – to take the road less travelled in providing pragmatic solutions to Nigeria’s head-splitting challenges, lest we miss yet another chance to change this country for good.

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