The 2015 elections is a time of monumental decision for Nigerians. Unlike time past, we now have two strong parties that could never have presented more radically different candidates. We also have a better organized and at least a fairer umpire: the INEC of Jega is not the same as that of one Maurice Iwu.
For the upcoming electoral contest on one side is the incumbent, President Jonathan and his deputy, Sambo- an Architect turned Governor and naturally the election should really be a referendum on their tenure, having now served six years.
There is no doubt that the President’s camp is trying so hard so that this election will not be a referendum about 2009 to 2015 but will be one about a different era. Unfortunately, they have no choice in this matter. The electorate seems to be determined to hold their feet to the fire and we hope we can see it through this time.
Reviewing the President’s own report card shows a man desperately in need of a record to run on after breaking his 91 promises of 2011. Surrounded by sharks, his administration has been railroaded (no pun intended given is camp love for rails) into “chopping” such that even IBB can claim to be better on corruption! That is how low we have sunk- when the enfant terrible himself can say: “I told you so!”
On the other side is the main opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC) is presenting a former General & Head of State Buhari and his running mate, Professor Osinbajo- an erudite scholar, activist, preacher and public servant. One thing the ticket has going for it is personal integrity – no one, not even the President’s henchmen have had the gut to call into question the integrity of Buhari/Osinbajo. Everyone seem to agree that in a land where stealing by public servants is the norm, these two men are clean! This is a record and one the current occupants of the same office cannot claim.
To this end, the choice for Nigeria’s voters is not so much about the challenger but the man in power. Having rejected him, we must then score our degree of confidence in the opposition based on various factors including performance at other levels, record of their candidate and the team around the candidates. Indeed, beyond personal integrity it is important for Nigerians to know what is in it for them after four years of Buhari/Osinbajo. This inquest took me to the APC manifesto page and here are few things I found coupled with political statements at town hall meetings by the candidates:
- Anti-Corruption – the APC manifesto clearly promises to plug the corruption loophole on the federal level, first by prosecuting offenders. I have no doubt this will be implemented, score my confidence Extremely High on this count.
- Job Creation & Private Sector Participation – At the heart of the APC promise is the creation of 6 Regional Development Authorities, endowed each with 50 billion naira, and charged with creating 2 million jobs annually. Initially the party has also promised to create 720,000 jobs in partnership with the 36 state governments as a stopgap measure. The party has been clear about diversifying away from oil, and focusing on IT, Manufacturing, Entertainment and Agriculture. Score my confidence level High that this program will be implemented successfully.
- Energy - while it did not commit to the break up of NNPC (it mentioned the new government will consider this); but it committed to full commercialization (possible public listing) and removal of its regulatory powers. I personally think a break up is absolutely required and a forensic audit of all existing oil blocs, contracts and agreements – and clawing back as well as prosecution where cases of impropriety are found on part of any player: local or international. I have an Average confidence this will succeed.
- Education & Health – the Buhari/APC manifesto is committed to free and compulsory basic education & health, as well as increase in budget allocation to these two key sectors while linking the National-State framework. While I’m hopeful, the work in this sector will take more than four years to fix. My confidence of any appreciable progress is Below Average.
- Social Welfare – the Buhari/APC manifesto is committed to cash transfers and setting up a social security framework for the elderly, disabled and the unemployed under thirty in that order. While I will prefer a comprehensive cash transfer of oil revenues linked to current subsidy expenditure (being cancelled), and covering all the population on equal basis, this is a good start. My confidence level is High.
- Infrastructure – the Buhari/APC manifesto is committed to a massive overhaul based on Public Private Partnerships. Based on the evidence of what we’ve seen in APC governed states, I have no doubt this will be the high point of a continuous APC administration at the center for at least 2 terms. My confidence level is Average to Extremely High.
- Power – the Buhari/APC manifesto calls for a more conclusive privatization of electrical power supply chain, while deregulating gas supply to encourage investment in the sector. The manifesto has also called for decentralized power generation to encourage captive, embedded and modular power supplies at state and local levels. I have a High Degree of confidence this will get done and we will experience significant improvement in this sector based on what APC have done in Lagos state around IPP Projects.
- Security – taking the fight to Boko Haram and Niger Delta militants is the cardinal security objective of the APC Manifesto. This program rests on three legs: Overhaul of the 5 Security Services, Constitutional Amendment for State Police and in the short term a state oversight of local policing, and Amnesty and use of incentives to reduce the recruiting pool for insurgents. While the emphasis on local policing is great, I hope the elimination of police barracks and a policy to allow police to live among the people is implemented. That said, my confidence level that this promise will succeed is High, and the for the sake of our country it has to succeed and it’s by far the second most important task after curtailing the massive corruption that has eaten deep into our national fabric after sixteen years of the PDP celebration of perfidy!
The biggest gap in the APC manifesto is that is seeks to achieve so much is such little period, especially in an environment of lower oil prices and revenue; but given its record on the state level, and its proven ability to stop leakages and increase tax revenue, there is no doubt that a government in a hurry is doable under a Buhari/Osinbajo dispensation. Also, those that have constantly sought federalism as a pure idealistic pursuit may be tad bit disappointed at APC’s seeming wishy-washy federalism. One would have hoped for a more radical push for federalism: devolution of powers, increase of state share of allocation and firm horizon for state police creation. But half bread indeed is better than none!
There you have it. When some “neutral” people ask you what Buhari/APC’s manifesto is all about, you can do well to send them to these pages because the upcoming election is too important, and far too compelling to sit on the sideline.
Regardless of whom you support, it is imperative you go out and obtain your Permanent Voters Card today and vote on February 14 and 28; protect your vote as well. Do not leave the polling station until your votes are counted and recorded; to prevent malpractice record the results on video and post on social network. Do this for your children and grand children. Because I have a feeling that this time it will be different.
I close by remembering the words of Pa Awo, who said and I quote:
"A day will come when Nigerian Masses from the North and South, Christians, Muslims and Animists will marge as a force for progress and unity, and kick against Rigging, Corruption and Tyranny."
That day is nigh. February 14 – mark it on your calendar. Make Love, not war.