No doubt President Buhari needs to catch his breath after a tasking presidential campaign, but his in-tray did not stop filling up whilst he traversed the country.
Now that he has secured a second term, focus must shift to the legacy he wishes to leave behind. Nigeria’s problems appear to be mounting by the day and it would be a herculean task for anyone to address them all. However, in the minimum, President Buhari needs to tackle the following key issues:
Anaemic economic growth
With a 25% contribution to GDP, Agriculture is Nigeria’s largest sector and employer of labour but the sector grew by only 2.12% in 2018 (down 30% from 2017), this despite the government’s numerous intervention programs in rice and other areas. The truth is that without tackling the herdsmen – farmers clashes in the Middle-Belt, which happens to house the country’s most productive farmlands, little growth will be achieved in the agriculture space. President Buhari must bring that issue to a satisfactory close in order to get agriculture on track.
At the other end of the agricultural spectrum is the oil sector, which only directly contributes 9% to GDP but over 80% of government revenues. In his first term, Mr. Buhari failed to sign a critical part of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, thus limiting the amount of foreign investment that came into the sector. With the future of crude oil uncertain at best, and with Saudi Arabia looking to court India, one of Nigeria’s biggest crude buyers, there is a lot to be done. Meanwhile other countries like Qatar are shifting focus to developing gas resources while Nigeria is still struggling to meet decades old gas flaring cuts. Mr. Buhari is strongly opposed to a privatisation of the NNPC, so we expect that the status quo of opacity in Nigeria’s oil industry will remain.
Finally, with FDI falling to record lows, it is imperative for President Buhari and the team he will assemble to begin the hard work of reassuring foreign investors as well as actually creating an enabling environment to encourage them to return with their funds.
Nigeria remains world’s highest importer of personal generating sets with citizens spending large portions of their income on power generation while Africa’s largest economy struggles to generate and transmit 4 gigawatts of electricity – a fraction of what the city of London generates daily.
After a partial privatisation of the power sector by the administration of former President Jonathan, Mr. Buhari’s administration has totally failed first, to correct the deficiencies of the privatisation programme (the transmission leg was left in the custody of an ineffective government agency – the Transmission Company of Nigeria), and second, to fully implement a pricing regime and metering programme on the distribution end. At present, most of the power generation projects which the previous administration commenced are on stream such that actual generation capacity is around 7,000 megawatts but the limited transmission capacity is forcing power plants to function at less than half of installed capacity – leaving investors with assets that cannot generate cash to pay their loans on the generation end and distribution end.
This must now form a crucial and important area of focus of the Buhari administration’s second term. We recommend an unbundling of the 3 in 1 ministry such that power is separate from works and housing in order to give it the focus it so deserves.
Probably the most single important issue that harmed President Jonathan four years ago, was his failure to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency raging in the North-East. Now years after declaring a technical defeat of insurgents, it is clear that Nigeria even faces a greater threat as various factions have emerged with some joining forces with international terrorist groups.
An ill equipped and poorly trained Nigerian military has struggled to press initial gains and hold on to territory, while the insurgents have become free to pick and choose when and where to stage attacks. This conflict has already caused irreversible damage to large areas of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, causing millions of Nigeria’s to be displaced internally and externally. Clearly a different approach is needed, perhaps a total revamp in the doctrine and training for law enforcement and military personnel in addition to funding.
Beyond the North East, the North Western states of Zamfara and Kaduna have opened new fronts of violence and now Sokoto has started to succumb as well. President Buhari must show that northern lives matter not only for votes.
Despite a below average performance in fighting corruption, this has perhaps been Mr. Buhari’s most defining element. Having started strongly by implementing the previous administration’s Treasury Single Account initiative, and several high profile arrests, the anti-corruption drive appears to have fizzled out, especially as it turned into a witch hunt of opposition politicians while turning a blind eye to corruption in the President’s own circle.
Crucially, the rule of law was not followed in many corruption cases, as no landmark legislative reviews were passed in order to better prevent or make prosecution easier. Now with a second term secure, Mr. Buhari must do well to right these in order to secure his legacy.
Finally, Mr. Buhari needs to understand that he is a president of all Nigerians, regardless of ethnicity and religion. Asides taking considerable time to reach crucial decisions nepotism and ethnic bias are the areas where this president faces the greatest criticism. His reluctance to entertain discussions around restructuring and true federalism may be rightly or wrongly attributed to ethnic bias but he needs to understand that Nigeria as currently constituted is not working and cannot support the aspirations of its citizens.
Every leader, being a dealer in hope, needs to look beyond the present and Mr. Buhari appears rather to keep his eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror.
Many have agreed that the elections that delivered President Buhari’s second term were amongst the most flawed in Nigeria’s history. In his first term, he refused to sign the electoral amendment that would have ensured that the gains made in 2011 and strengthened in 2015 were made institutional. While it is hard to imagine that he will, it will bode well if Mr. Buhari borrows a leaf from the late Umaru Yar’adua who admitted that the election that made him president was flawed and began the process of making elections better in Nigeria.
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