The word ‘change’ became more prominent in the political artistry arena when it was adopted by the Obama Campaign Team in the United States of America. The slogan did not only help Barack Obama win the presidential elections but its true meaning has largely reflected in the overall performance of the Obama Administration inspite of subtle resistance by those who refused to align themselves with new policies and programmes brought to bear in the act of governance in the United States of America.
The wind of change thereafter blew through Ghana before it berthed in Nigeria during the 2015 general elections. The slogan was revolutionary and it created a high level of consciousness among the voting populace such that no one was interested in asking any question as to where and what type of change APC was advocating for Nigeria. The APC-led Federal Government had already been inaugurated and is gradually settling down for the implementation of its manifestoes.
Change is a phenomenon that is seen in the physical growth of humans; its true position in the heart of man manifest on how we perceive issues that ultimately reflect in the attitudinal behavior to societal challenges. To some, change is reactionary and others, an inevitable stride in human race. We must believe in ourselves in our efforts at salvaging the country and trust God for a new dawn where Nigeria belongs to all and all belong to Nigeria. This consciousness should guide every step we take to make meaningful change a reality.
There is no doubt that the expectations by Nigerians and indeed the world over are enormous and high, hence citizens may not have the patience for rhetoric while the new Federal Government discharges its functions in the country. It is therefore understandable why anxious citizens are already asking pertinent questions, urging President Buhari Administration to walk the talk to actualize all that were promised during the electioneering campaigns.
It would be recalled that during the presidential campaign, the APC without mincing words and unequivocally undertook to, among many others, reduce the price of petroleum to N40 per litre as well as ensure adequate and regular supply of the products all year round; reduce the exchange rate of the Naira to be at par with that of the US Dollar; pay N5,000.00 to each youth who has successfully completed the NYSC scheme without employment; ensure permanent peace in the volatile Niger Delta region, and the North East Zone that is currently enmeshed with insurgency; non-interference in the due process of governance; increase electricity megawatts to guarantee adequate and regular power supply in all parts of the country; construction of additional superhighways, modern railway lines and revolutionise marine transportation; ending gas flaring and improve export capacity of gas to earn more foreign revenue; provision of adequate water supply to meet both domestic and industrial needs of the country; strengthening the institutions devoid of manipulative get-rich syndrome among those entrusted with the resources of the Nigerian State.
In view of the financial challenges of Government occasioned by the dwindling income from the country’s major revenue source, it was reported that the President and his Vice are ready to slash their monthly salaries and other entitlements as sacrificial contributions towards salvaging our financial setbacks in the country. Similarly, Nigerians are calling on the members of the National Assembly to take a deep look at their cumulative earnings with a view to drastically reducing them in the light of our current revenue and enormous financial obligations of the State. A recent report on the earnings by the legislative arm of government globally, revealed that Nigeria legislators earn over and above their contemporaries worldwide. It is yet to be seen if the members of the National Assembly will accede to this patriotic demand by Nigerians.
Another area demanding sustainable change is the number of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government where some of them already have overlapping functions that demand review in line with the Oronsaye Report. While the Goodluck Jonathan Administration will continue to receive accolades for the courage to setup the Oronsaye Committee and initiate earliest implementation of its Report, it is expected that the Buhari Administration will fully implement the various recommendations of the Report beyond political consideration but driven by patriotism for the survival of the Nigerian State. The implementation of the Report will certainly deal with cases of duplicity of functions among the MDAs and make the Civil Service merit-based, competitive and rewarding; and strengthen administrative structures as well as streamline processes of governance to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan had, as part of the hand-over note, specifically urged President Muhammadu Buhari to implement the National Conference Reports/Recommendations with a view to addressing treacherous and divergent views, suspicions and doubts, acrimonies in our body polity and fears in our nationhood. The outcome of the National Conference is a clear manifestation that change is inevitable and should be sincerely handled to guarantee equitable access to power; true federalism; resource control; restructuring of the country; strengthening the judiciary and other arms of government; all towards having a virile, egalitarian and indivisible Nigeria where citizens, irrespective of language, religion and geographical population, can live in any part of the country unmolested and not threatened by others.
The drama that took place at the National Assembly inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 remains a turning point in our political history. That event though similar to what happened in 2011, the shock arising from the manner in which the collaborative plan was executed, however remains fresh in our minds. The pseudo method adopted by APC to alienate and marginalised the South East and South-South Zones was punctured by the political tenacity of a holy alliance between some APC who were not ready to have a Legislative Arm that will be subtly controlled from the outside and PDP.
The plan to marginalise the South-East and South-South Zone in the hierarchy of command in Nigeria simply because they did not support or overwhelmingly voted for APC in the 2015 federal elections, have largely been upturned. This is indicative and a positive signal to the difference between politics and governance, and the 8th National Assembly did not want the mistakes and the consequences of the past to permeate the current assembly. It would be recalled that the Sultan of Sokoto, a well-respected traditional ruler, once submitted that marginalization was part of the reasons why Boko Haram emerged and took arms against Goodluck Jonathan Administration.
It is no longer news that the Buhari Administration is not ready to allow corruptible acts, and has promised to fight corruption which has remained endemic in our society; even when corruption is a global virus. Fighting corruption is a serious business that demands courage to handle. It also requires a higher level of transparency, integrity, consistency, equity, objectivity and equality. The judiciary must therefore be above board to complement the execute arm in fighting the virus at all fronts! The Buhari Administration is expected to also look inwards among political chieftains who are wolves in sheep clothing to reduce corruption if it cannot be completely eradicated in Nigeria. The Federal Government should not be selective in its approach and methodology otherwise the whole process would be ridiculed. President Buhari should not allow sycophancy and selfish desires penetrate and weaken the structure of government, bearing in mind his leadership qualities and incorruptible status as acclaimed globally.
For many decades now, the rule of law in Nigeria has, at best, been pedestrian in administration. The new Federal Government, as part of the strategy for sustainable change, should ensure that rule of law is observed in its entirety, irrespective of individual citizen’s status and influence. For instance, why will anyone go against the traffic light; drive against the traffic; create illegal route with a view to shortening time spent on the road; violate the rule of driving without license; among others and go unpunished? The absence of rule of law has entrenched high level of indiscipline in our highways thus increasing road carnage. Similarly, Buhari Administration should stop situations where government officials intimidate, oppress or suppress innocent citizens to the detriment of their fundamental human rights. Rule of law does not know sacred cows! Nigerians must be made to accept the reality that no one is above the law or allowed to apply the subsisting laws and orders of the land indiscriminately. Until we all abide by this phenomenon and consciously align with the rule of law in all situations of our life, the desired change will remain a mirage.
Furthermore, Nigerians must work on our individual attitude towards government and governance. A positive attitude will engender purposeful leadership which will determine how far we are ready to see a new Nigeria where development will not only be meaningful but sustainable to attract both local and foreign investors to facilitate the process of change in Nigeria. We must also deal with our perception and belief system, bearing in mind that we can only be what we wish ourselves. Nigerians must stop negative and derogatory comments against the country and themselves; the country can only be good to those who strongly believe and have faith that any form of challenge is an opportunity for the country and her citizens to become great with visionary leadership.
Finally, the change we all yearn for is realizable in Nigeria where and if we corporately and individually cultivate the “I can do spirit” in the face of contending challenges. The developed countries we run to for succor today, had their challenges but the citizens remained resolute and focused during their trails hence they were able to attain their enviable socio-economic status. The good intentions of the new government should reflect in the manner we import culture and products we should truly been exporting. The values ‘we take in or out’ will characteristically define the nature of change in Nigeria. Let us think more of what we can do to make Nigeria a great country and genuinely declare in the face of contending forces that “for the sake of Nigeria” we can let go and embrace peace at all times.
. The writer, Eigbiluese is an Abuja-based public affairs commentator