The results have come in and Nigerians are all aware of the outcome: the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Muhammadu Buhari, has emerged president-elect. He is set to take over from outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan on May 29, 2015.
Expectedly, there is plenty of jubilation especially in the northern and western states where the APC gathered most of its winning votes. It is truly a season for ‘change’, as they had campaigned. For this reason, it’s important that as a people in a democracy, we begin to clearly highlight those areas we must have changes and start proposing, and acting on, practical ways of having those changes.
I will briefly speak to four broad areas where we must have change, for the short and medium term. I would also be making suggestions on what to do to effect enduring and increasingly productive changes.
Nigeria has been experiencing negative drag in four key areas: economy (especially its revenue), security, domestic political arrangement, and foreign policy. We have had recurring problems in these areas and here is our popular ‘fresh chance’ to make change.
Although the sitting government at the federal level has been labouring very hard to portray that all things are well and intact, the simple disturbing fact is that things are pulling apart in the country’s finances. The government gets over 70 percent of its revenues from trading crude oil. This very sector is also responsible for about 90% of Nigeria’s total earnings in international trade. Unfortunately, the global prices of crude oil have crashed, losing close to 50 percent of its initial trading value. Budgets for capital projects, payment of civil and public servants, as well as servicing international economic responsibilities stand or fall on the prosperity or failure of the crude oil market. As most researched commentaries show, the price of oil may not rise beyond $70 by December 2016. I personally hope we see a different and better change in that pricing, but it just doesn’t look that way yet. If action is not taken fast, the government may be forced to default on some of its domestic obligations such as paying salaries and completing capital projects. This in turn would force the economy into a recession.
However, the incoming government can begin to plan on how to expand our trading points. In the short term, one way to do this is by increasing our daily production of crude oil and finding consumers who would be happy to buy the extra oil produced at the current price levels. Giant emerging economies such as India, China and other G-20 countries would be good places to start making trade deals.
Also, we must open our ‘business borders’ to diverse investments especially in manufacturing. I favor foreign direct investments in alternative energy, and manufacturing (of phones, computers and vehicles).
There is no better time than now to get ECOWAS’ framework for free trade running, especially the part that allows for easy flow of persons, goods, and capital. Fostering trade agreements is important if we are to see a level of stable and certain growth in our markets. The Euro Zone has been grappling with recession since 2008. One can correctly argue that one reason a number of weak economies within the Zone have not utterly collapsed economically is the standing trade agreements they have that guarantee that whatever they sell finds a primary and unrestricted market within the Zone. In comparison to her counterparts in the ECOWAS, Nigeria’s economy has plenty of stamina, and with good management our economy would gain a lot of extra points with such agreements in place
It is also good for the government to encourage domestic private spending and investments, especially for start ups, and to ease up procedure for accessing much needed loans to get such businesses running. These steps would go a long way in reversing with falling revenues, and solving the problem of unemploymenent. Also,we would have laid fundamental ground work for weaning our economy from solely getting income from crude oil.
Terrorism, religious extremism, proliferation of light and small arms, are big security challenges testing the country’s power and will to retain and preserve its territorial integrity and the safety and prosperity of its citizens. Going by much of what has been said, by the outgoing government and international observers to be the country’s needs in combating these challenges, the incoming administration can know exactly what goals to pursue on taking office. To be clear, our armed forces need better equipping of security hardware and intelligence systems, as well as specialized training to successfully combat terrorism and cases of extremism while giving due regard to the rights of the people. Partnerships must be formed with our traditional allies and ‘new’ friends [the U.S, Britain, China, Russia] to see that we get these structures in place that we may have a secured country…