s we finally countdown to the official inauguration of the President-elect, this article would like to wish the incoming administration all the successes and good luck to actualize and implement their programs for the betterment of the nation. No doubt, the inauguration is coming at one the lowest times in the annals of the nation, and in some respects, the period is taking on so much semblance as the first time when GMB came in as Military Head of State. It is no gainsaying that Nigerians are disillusioned like never before, and we are in a period of national emergencies of unpaid salaries of workers in 18 out of 36 states, general strike action by workers, shortage of petroleum products, dwindling income from crude oil, dilapidated infrastructures, widespread youth unemployment, etc. In the face of it all, there is still hope. The nation shall move forward with a courageous presidency that will be sworn in with the countdown.
This article intends to be short with points for possible consideration and dialogue. From the onset, it is useful to commend the policy forum organized by APC. It is hoped that the administration would take heed of some useful comments including those of the Guest Speaker at the forum. Whereas some have varied rationale for inviting PM Tony Blair for the policy discussions, it stands incontrovertible that the British are far more experienced in democratic governance and they understand the science and arts of governance than many countries. Clearly also, UK epitomizes the best of parliamentary government, which arguably is equally efficient and less expensive than Presidential system.
Within the context of this article, it is also important to mention that the incorruptibility of President-elect may not be enough to transform the corrupt political landscape in the country. For the nation to emerge from and grow, the sound judgement to prioritize and the uncommon courage to take on the issues, problems, and durable solutions would be paramount. As former President Obasanjo recently advised, Nigerians like any other people around the world cannot be taken for granted for too long; hence the incoming administration should as a matter of necessity undertake a purposive solution-oriented 100-day agenda. As the representative of PM Tony Blair advised in his speech at the policy forum, the incoming administration should stick to its mandate and manifesto, set priorities and take advantage of the people's goodwill in the first 100 days. The political capital inherent in the goodwill is better spent to take on serious matters that affect the nation. In cognizance of the foregoing, hereunder, are some of the issues that the article will like to bring to the table for discussion and consideration.
State of the Nation Address: The President-elect may wish to give a comprehensive State of the Nation address including but not limited to the following which are not listed in any order of importance. The public will like to be informed on the priorities, programs to be implemented, state of national treasury, domestic security issues, problems of fuel scarcity, and challenges of petroleum refinery, future plans especially on youth unemployment, physical infrastructures, and poverty reduction as well as aspects of our foreign policy. The State of the Nation address may be different from his ceremonial swearing-in speech, but it would be best delivered to the nation within the two weeks of taking office. The State of the Nation address should be comprehensive and yet very direct and solution-oriented. It should contain courageous statements and elicit public support for implementation and success. It will benefit from the widest broadcast in the three major national languages. It could actually become a constitutional requirement for the President to do on yearly basis.
NNPC & Refinery: Crude oil is not only the major foreign exchange earner; the supply of refined petroleum and its product is the livewire of the entire economy of the nation. The auditing of PricewaterhouseCoopers had clearly showed deficiencies in the overall business concept and concept of operations of the NNPC. The courage of the President will be tested on the revamping of the NNPC and the turnaround of the refineries or building of new ones and the greater involvement of the private sector. The country would benefit from total restructuring and overhauling of the accounting practices of NNPC.
Fuel Subsidy: Removal or non-removal of the subsidy remains very contentious because of the argument that we are oil producing nation. Nonetheless, the truth of the matter is that the clandestine subsidy remains an avenue for unscrupulous but sophisticated businesspeople to make money from the government and depriving the intended beneficiaries. Every country including the United States subsidizes the economy in one way or the other. The truth is that subsidy often becomes uneconomic, unsustainable with the unintended consequences of benefitting the wrong people, unless in a well-planned economies. In the case of fuel subsidy in Nigeria, if the subsidized amount running into billions of Naira is transferred in a more meaningful and impactful ways for public infrastructures like road, power, water and health facilities, this would be better that it being used to enrich the pockets of a few over-privileged people.
The question is that will the incorruptible former Minister of Petroleum Resources and now President elect be courageous to correct and prepare Nigerians for the long-term in terms of decisive actions on subsidy? Any decision to be taken must be done very meticulously for minimal negative consequences on the general public and with the long-term interest of the country. Even if the subsidy is removed, it may be used to improve public infrastructures or some allowances in the salary of workers or invested in Sovereign Wealth Fund for future Nigerians.
Payment of Workers Salary: Considering that almost two-third of the 36 states in the nation are owing salaries and pensions of workers is a national emergency and disgrace to the nation. It is unfathomable that the states are borrowing to pay for their staff. The same reason is adduced by all the states that the reduction in the federal allocation due to the large drop in the price of crude was responsible. Yes, the drop in crude price was unforeseeable, but this also shows lack of adequate planning. A worker deserves his wages. The Nigerian domestic economy is also heavily dependent on the incomes of workers that spend substantial part of their incomes for survivability.
Agreeably and in the face of national strike, the incoming administration should prioritize the payment of workers salary. So the question is that the incoming administration should devise a way forward to help the delinquent states to pay the workers. It will be inhumane and disconcerting or rather insensitive for Abuja Politicians to be reveling in humongous salaries while the real workers at the State and Local Governments are wallowing in abject insolvency.
Quantitative Easing (QE) of the Economy: At times of serious financial crisis as we experiencing, QE may be the last resort to create money for the domestic economy. Experts and the Economists may frown against QE; nonetheless, the truth remains that the US, UK and Japan economies relied on this instrument to survive hard times as a last sort. Indeed, this singular reason was among the most important reasons for UK's retention of the British Pound while operating in the Eurozone.
Assuming that the indebted salaries to workers in the States may not exceed some N150 billion and this is less than $1 billion, and the size of Nigeria economy is about $521 billion. With this fact, some QE of between $1 to 5 billion is within 1 percent of the size of the economy; as such, it should not have so much impact on the domestic economy. Consider that the first QE of the US in 2008 was $700 billion, and this was said to be based on the simple calculation of the 5 percent of the economy since as at then the economy was roughly $14 trillion. This author is not an economist, so the foregoing could well be regarded as voodoo economics; but for pragmatism and even from experience during IBB years when crude oil price were even lower than today's; QE remains the last resort to bring some normalcy to salaries and pensions owned the workers and to contain expansion of real domestic debt. Indeed, the Federal Government could give the QE money as "bail-out" with interest and terms for repayment agreed upon by the States that will be taking the advantages.
Beware of Experts, Consultants & Advisors: There are no shortages of experts, consultants, advisors, former officeholders that would like to voluntarily give their experts' advice to the President. The truth is that some of these experts relentlessly advocate for options they espouse; as such, counterarguments or alternative options are often downplayed. This article unambiguously recommends discernible services of technocrats and experts, and seeking of conspectus of opinions of experts. Whereas consensus mobilizes and deepens cooperation, achieving consensus often delays and time-consuming. Yet, every action and inaction by the government is time dependent and time-sensitive, and each has an implication and an opportunity cost.
Within the context of this discussion on experts, this article submits that tested politicians and technocrats in the likes of Governor Fashola, Governor Rabiu Kwankanso, Nuhu Ribadu, Charles Soludo, Dr. Adewumi Adesina should be given some serious responsibilities even if to contribute in high-level policy debates or when the President is procuring experts' advice, irrespective of their political party affiliations. Our septuagenarian leaders need to further prepare the next generation of national leaders Inter-generational governance with bias in favor of the younger generation will benefit the country.
Electricity and Roads: These twin issues deserve immediate attention and policy actions although; the real effects will take some time. Hurried and haphazard decisions cannot be taken on the electricity and roads. However, the first serious step would be quality of the Ministers appointed to manage the affairs. It is a fallacy that a technocrat is required for effective delivery of the mission of the administration. We need the category of people that had delivered in their past assignments due to their effective leadership. Governor Fashola, Nuhu Ribadu and their likes even some unknowns in Nigeria could do it. With regards to electricity, the break-up of NEPA into the IPPs appears short-term; we need serious, long-term plan on power generation, distribution and transmission. For roads, we need to innovatively find a way may be through partnership with country like Canada to exploit the bitumen deposits in Ondo State as well a local entrepreneurship or public mobilization of our youths to construct 'Interstate Highways" in Nigeria. There should be a vision, and there could be a mission, and there could be an action on this! Constructing Nigerian roads by foreign companies shows lackadaisical attitude and lack of vision. Why do we have so many Departments of Civil Engineering at Universities and Polytechnics? Direct construction could save funds, and improve national capacity.
Curtailment of the excessive cost of running the Executive and Legislative Bodies: The Nigerian bicameral legislature is too expensive for their purpose, and too insular to the publics' they are serving. When the average House of Representatives and Senator are having salaries that are extremely higher than the highest paid career government officials, this is an anomaly. The issue is will the incoming President be courageous to persuade his colleagues in the political class to rationalize their income to reflect the economic situation in Nigeria and the situations in other developed democracies. At this time of national emergencies, all citizens have to sacrifice.
Military and Security Sector: Domestic security within our borders and security of our borders from external aggression remain top priority. It is needless to mention that the incoming President's background gives him an additional impetus not only to reorganize but to reenergize our military to her lofty glory. As the President-elect wrote in his Op-Ed in New York Times, "We will stop Boko Haram", so shall it be without any further delay. Goodenough, the considerable progress recorded by the Nigerian Army in collaboration with regional cooperation serves the incoming administration to leverage further and final assault on this terrorist organization. On the same token, domestic security is seriously threatened by the generalized emergencies that are currently besetting the country.
Others: The article towards conclusion would like to suggest that from 29 May, 2015, the new administration should demand from those in charge the full implementation of Rule of Law, Transparency and Discipline at all ports of entry; may wish to designate National Day of Prayer, review and adapt the innovative taxation operations of Lagos State with the view to improve internally generated revenues by other federating states, and brainstorm on how to put the teeming youths in Nigeria into public works of road and infrastructure constructions.
Conclusion: Again, this article concludes by wishing the incoming administration success and enjoining them to take serious courageous decisions on the pertinent issues and ongoing emergencies affecting the country within the first 100 days in office. It is true that the expectations are huge, finances are tenuous and public's attention is short. Thus, the incoming administration must settle down, and settle down fast to take-on the emergencies they are inescapably inheriting from the outgoing government. In spite of the doom-gloom situation, with courageous leadership, the new government shall overcome.
May God Bless Nigeria and Guide our Leaders right.