2020: Presidency must correct his ways – Ministers

…Ohanaeze, Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum, Balarabe Musa, others speak

With the dawn of a brand New year, Nigerians across all divides are full of expectations. Naturally, many people are hopeful that Year 2020 will bring good tidings especially in view of the challenges that the citizenry had to contend with in 2019. Many were taken to task on the projections for 2020.

Critical observers believe that Nigeria in 2020 may not fare better considering the state of affairs in the country. For a country with about 90 million people which is roughly half Nigeria’s population living in extreme poverty, the fears of some observers are not far fetched. Available statistics show that around June 2018, Nigeria overtook India, a country with seven times its population, at the bottom of the table of poor nations. The situation continued in 2019 without any improvement in the lives of the people.

So, with the gloomy picture, analysts have taken President Buhari to task by way of setting agenda for him to ensure the rapid socio-political and economic development of the country in 2020.

Listen to all Nigerians -Ohanaeze

Leading the pack was Ohanaeze, the apex socio-cultural organisation of Ndigbo, which urged President Buhari to listen to people of other tribes rather than his own and those of his religion.

Speaking on behalf of the group, National Publicity Secretary of the organisation, Uche Achi-Okpaga said Buhari should be open to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or religion and urged him to identify people who could make his government to succeed.

“When former president Obasanjo was in power for instance, he appointed Dora Akunyili who did justice to the health sector by sanitizing the issue of drugs. Everybody saw the magic a woman was able to do.”

He urged the president to ensure free, fair and transparent election and regretted that the nation’s electoral process has been torn into shreds.

Okpaga harped on the need to restructure the country, insisting that it remained the only way forward for Nigeria.

Buhari should correct his mistakes -Balarabe Musa

Also, former governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, urged the president to take note of all the mistakes he is alleged to have made in 2019, saying Buhari knows them. He said: “Let him know those that severely affect the state of the nation negatively and correct them. They are so many but people who mean well and are honest say that there seems to be anarchy, lack of governance and so on. Let him sit down now and find out if those allegations are correct or not. And if they are correct, he should take immediate action to correct them.”

The elder statesman insisted that President Buhari should take particular note of the fact that the present system where the private sector leads in the economy would not work. He argued that it would be more realistic if the state could lead in the economy as such a move would ensure peace, justice, equality, dignity of human person and progressive human development of the country.

“People who have sympathy for the president mentioned certain things that people are still in doubt about, for instance, his plan to revive the railway and Ajaokuta Steel Company, as well as some other projects that affect the state of the Nigerian economy. Let him come out and tell Nigerians that it is true, for instance, that he has plans to revive railway from Lagos to Kano and from Port Harcourt to South East and North East as it used to be during the colonial days. Let him tell us he has actually planned to restore these two projects, just among others not mentioned here. Let him convince Nigerians that he has plans to revive them within the period left to him in this second term,” he said.

The former governor also wants the president to convince Nigerians that he is not seeking a third term in office because the people will not accept it.

President should unite Nigerians -Middle Belt Forum

For the National Publicity Secretary, Middle Belt Leaders Forum, Dr. Dogo Isuwa, President Buhari should tackle the security situation in the country, arguing that it would help to unite the country. He said that government should embark on policies that would engender more religious and tribal tolerance.

Dr Isuwa decried the state of affairs in the country and advocated the development of the right monetary and economic policy to boost the nation’s economy.

Former General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Frank Kokori lamented that Nigerians are currently suffering and as such would want President Buhari to shine his eyes properly and see the way the country is going.

He said he would want the president to open the borders that have been closed for some time now, arguing that no country closes its borders and advised that the Customs and Immigration personnel at the border posts should rise up to their responsibilities.

He also urged the APC as a political party to have a lot of inputs in the running of the government, and advised that the party’s Board of Trustees (BOT) which has remained moribund should be revived and made functional in 2020.

The former labour leader said the president should make himself more available to the people and accused a few people he referred to as the cabal for shielding the president from the people and making access to him practically impossible; a situation he said is not healthy for the country.

Security should be taken more seriously -Izuogu

Another APC chieftain and member of the party’s Board of Trustees as well as its National Caucus, Chief Ezekiel Izuogu, said he would want to see the president take the issue of security in Nigeria more seriously next year. The security situation in the country, he said, is very bad, arguing that a situation where 11 Christians were murdered on the Christmas day is saddening.

He also urged the president to focus on massive industrialisation of the country. “Nigeria is not yet industrialised; people are suffering as there are no jobs and no means of livelihood and it is only massive industrialisation that could address the problem,” he stated.

Izuogu also cautioned the president against the move to open Nigeria’s borders to foreigners without visa, warning that no important country leaves her doors open for everybody to enter. “If you do that, crime would be in great multitude because there are many criminals out there. They will just find a home in your country and there will be no peace. Nobody’s life will be safe. So, the president should have more compassion for the masses of the country,” he pleaded.

Buhari can’t follow people’s agenda -Fasika

Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Olumide Fasika said setting an agenda for the President Buhari-led government will amount to waste of effort and time. He said Buhari failed to follow the agenda he set for himself and as such cannot follow the agenda set by others.

He said, “A man who sets an Agenda for himself and fails to pursue it because of the weakness of his own character cannot possibly pursue an agenda set for him by others. It will be a waste of time setting an agenda for such a person. Candidate Buhari successfully sold an agenda to Nigerians in 2015 which President Buhari (2015-2019) did not live up to. Rightly or wrongly, he’s been given the opportunity to repeat the class.

“I set him no agenda different from the one he (or his handlers) formulated and sold to Nigerians, and on which he first got elected in 2015. If selling petrol at N40 per litre and bringing the Naira in parity with the US Dollar were mere campaigning banters, what of the promise to lead by example and provide moral leadership and authority in governance? The promise to cut waste in governance, starting from his own office of President is something completely within his reach to attain. He promised to sell off or use the jets in the Presidential fleet to start a new National Airline, and instead travel commercial like most first world leaders; he promised that he will not patronise medical treatment abroad with Nigeria’s tax-payers money.

“Had he lived up to these promises, his street credibility would have gone rocket-high, and so would have his moral authority over us as our President. It would have been seen to be completely within the template of his leadership by example by banning importation of rice and similar foreign agric and other products that we can produce for ourselves.

“I will be pleasantly surprised if rice consumed in the Presidential Villa is Ebonyi or Kebbi rice. Even his flagship agenda of anti-corruption appears a ruse. Prof Ango Abdullahi, just reminded us a few days ago, how the corruption case of one ex-Governor that had been going on for years and was almost being completed was withdrawn to buy his support for a particular candidate being backed for headship of the Senate. Whereas some ex-governors lacking such quid pro quo are facing the music. Even the Chairman of the President’s party confirmed the insincerity of the anti-corruption item of the President’s agenda when, at a campaign rally, he engaged in loose and irresponsible talk of describing the ruling party, the APC, as a mafia, a protection racket for corrupt politicians. In other words, Nigeria is being ruled by a party of hypocrites, with the President as leader. If there’s any agenda worth setting for the President, it’s that he, and the governing party he leads, the APC, should stop being hypocritical and asking him to live up to his promises.”

He should improve human rights records -Afenifere

National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, who spoke on behalf of the Pan Yoruba group said the realities facing the country makes it necessary for the government to begin to think of restructuring.

He said, “The other day, I read in the papers the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed warning that the country is on the verge of bankruptcy. This is an indication that the system we operate is not economically viable. The Federal Government must begin to think of restructuring this country to make it economically viable.”

On human rights and respect for the rule of law, Afenifere said: “My advice to the government in 2020 is to improve on its human rights records. The government should go to school in 2020 to learn how to respect human rights. We are in a democratic era but the government is still behaving as if we are in a military regime, so they should go to school to learn how to respect human rights and obeying court orders, and not deciding which ones to obey.

“The excuse the government always gives is national security and interest, the government has the power to arrest people suspected to breach the laws, but when the court makes an order on their release, the court order must be obeyed. The government cannot decide which orders to obey or not.”

He chastised the government for what he called the policy of “exclusion”, and advised the administration to retrace its steps and run an inclusive government.

He added, “This administration does not practise inclusive governance, what it knows is exclusion. For the first time in this country, the head of all the organs of government, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary are core northers.

“Also look at all the economic and revenue yielding institutions, the Ministry of Finance, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Customs, the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), the Accountant General of the Federation, they are all headed by northerners. The Federal Government should make the government inclusive.”

End Nepotism now -Uwazuruike

Goddy Uwazuruike, who is former President of Aka Ikenga described the government’s border closure policy as “an amateurish response to the influx of rice through the neighbouring countries.”

He advised that rather than border closure, the government should “plan a massive cultivation of rice” to crash the price.

He said, “There is no magic in economic planning and management. The law of nature is that demand and supply determine the price of a commodity. A good example is the frenetic propaganda on rice importation. The price follows this law of nature. For the government to have even a scintilla of success, it must plan a massive cultivation of rice. In a simple language, flood the market with cheap rice which the masses will be drawn to. It is not of much consequence if the upper class prefer the foreign rice. This is because the government will use high import taxes to expand the local production of rice. Closing of borders is an amateurish response to the great influx of rice through the neighbouring countries. Efficient control of customs service is a sine qua non to the improvement of the economy.”

On rule of law and respect for human rights, Uwazuruike stressed that by disobeying court borders that the Buhari-led government is ridiculing his oath of office.

He said, “There is no alternative to the rule of law. Human rights provisions are part of the rule enshrined in the constitution. All political and major office holders swore on the Bible and Koran to uphold the constitution. By announcing that your government will not obey all laws and that the rule of law is subservient to the constitution, the entire swearing becomes a charade. In a different language, the office holder is not only dishonest but also a person who ascended to the office by subterfuge. Obedience to the rule of law is a hallmark of a country.”

He advised the Federal Government to end the policy of nepotism and embrace the whole country in appointments and distribution of government privileges.

“When I was growing up, I was told of the twin evil of nepotism and corruption. Today, I hear of corruption only. Nepotism has become a normal thing in this government. This talk of subterranean employment is a painful topic among job seekers. What about political appointment? The government makes pretences about the lack of all-inclusive government. I wish this government can one day see how lopsided this government is. It is important for the government to do a self-examination on its appointment since 2015. It is never too late to change”, Uwazuruike said.

For Kayode Ajulo, who is the former National Secretary of the Labour Party, he advised the Federal Government to embrace good governance, which he said is “central to economic growth and development.” He insisted that the government must make proper planning for 2020 to be a successful year for Nigerians and the country.

He said, “Good governance is central to economic growth and development and the absence of the latter is symptomatic of the failure of government to deliver on the former. Economic development is attainable through the provision of the right infrastructure and engaging all the variables in the market so as to attain the desired equilibrium. The aim of economic development must be to improve the material standards of living by raising the absolute level of per capita income.”

Ajulo identified five different sectors, which he said the government needs to work on. They include Development of the Nigerian Workforce through investment in education sector, Job Creation, Tourism, Infrastructure and Local Business.”

He added, “If all these could be touched by the government in the new year, the Nigerian economy will transform in no time.”

He said the closure of the Nigerian borders is “a necessity to prevent the impeding doom which the dumping of foreign goods portends for this nation.”

“Many have criticized the act as insensitive and untimely. Well I must say that the bold steps taken by this administration ought to have been taken several years back. I must admit that it is not easy for us as a nation to adjust our consumption pattern to suit locally produced goods overnight but with time, we will learn to appreciate this sacrifice”, Ajulo said.

He said the Federal Government did not violate the ECOWAS protocol on the free movement of goods and persons by closing the borders.

He added, “A lot have also been said by our neighbours in West Africa, particularly about the possible breach of the ECOWAS protocol on the free movement of goods and persons. As a lawyer, I have gone through the protocols which only concern goods produced by the respective member states and not goods produced by non-member states.

“The sad reality is that these countries are using transit countries for goods meant to be dumped in the Nigerian market and should this remain unchecked, the Nigeria economy will continue to suffer. However, I will advise this current administration to use this period for capacity by promoting local production of those goods which were hitherto smuggled into the country through our porous border.”

On human rights, Ajulo condemned what he referred to as “executive arbitrariness” and noted that the rights of citizens can never be guaranteed under such situations.

He said, “The Nigerian state comprises three arms of government, namely the executive, the legislature, the judiciary and even the fourth estate of the realm—the press. The duty of protection of the fundamental human right of citizens falls squarely on all the arms of government. The legislature in discharging its duties of making laws for the state must ensure that the laws passed do not only guarantee the fundamental human rights of the citizens but also ensure that they are protected.

“It also imports that in the exercise of the powers of government, the executive must ensure that the rights of citizens are protected at all cost. The judiciary on the other hand provides the avenue for the enforcement of the fundamental human rights of citizens whenever these rights have been, are being or are likely to the breached. I must say that both the executive, legislature and the judiciary have been up and doing in the area of human rights protection. Starting from the legislature, I must say that the National Assembly has been very careful in passage of laws by ensuring that the right of all citizens is protected irrespective of the ethnic groups which they belong.”

Ajulo described the furore over the Hate Speech Bill as unfortunate.

He said, “The Hate Speech Bill is a bill meant to protect citizens from ethnic related violence which may build up if reckless ethnic commentaries or opinions aired both in the social and print media are not checked either by positive legislative or executive actions. It is a pity that the lofty ideas of the legislature are not appreciated but deprecated by some persons who are bent on painting the current government in bad light.

President Muhammadu Buhari

“The current Federal Government (FG) may be described as a traditional African mother who is over protection of her newly born child and in this analogy, it is, we the citizenry that are the newly born child. I say this because, this government has taken it upon itself to guard jealously the security and safety of the Nigerian citizens by ensuring that those who use their influence or position in the state to put in place certain events which are calculated to turn this place to the middle-Eastern part of the world are not only prevented but also dealt with. I however have a word of caution, in doing this premium, regard should be given to the positions of our courts; court injunctions should be obeyed immediately.”

“Although, given the nature of the powers at the disposal of the executive for the protection of the citizens, it is possible for the intentions of the executive to be misinterpreted to suit the agenda of some persons within the state. This is quite evident in the interpretation of the executive handling of the cases of the likes of Sowore and Dasuku. I am happy that both men have now regained their freedom.”