In the first part of this article, I started a discussion on steps that Nigeria’s incoming administration under president Muhammadu Buhari, should take in effecting productive changes in the country. The areas under discussion are the economy, security, domestic political arrangements and foreign policy. Here, I’m continuing that article.
I have made the point we need a better equipped security structure. Especially one that is trained to do its job thoroughly without violating people’s fundamental human rights. This is a critical point in overcoming the problems of terrorism and religious extremism.
The ECOWAS has often been praised as the most advanced regional intergovernmental organization in Africa particularly for its security structure. I believe this incoming administration can get the ECOWAS to address the issue of weapons proliferation in the region as a group. Clearly, it is not a problem Nigeria can solve on its own. It’s often been said that the Libyan crisis have led to weapons spreading across the African space, and that the destructive Boko Haram group have had the advantage of getting access to these weapons. These weapons did not teleport into our borders. They travelled through interposing countries to get here. I believe the ECOWAS has a responsibility to protect the West African region from this menace. It is also not a bad idea if Nigeria initiates the move in the organization to form a task force to improve border and migration security to curb the flow of these weapons.
The incoming administration should also see to it that there are clear and decisive laws that forbid intolerant and extremist behaviour, and adequately punishes those who break the law. The sooner the better. Crafting these things into law gives us guarantee that whether or not the APC continues in power beyond 2019, our security structures would not fall back into its former state.
DOMESTIC POLITICAL ARRANGEMENTS.
It can not be over emphasized that there are existing political arrangements in the country that have often brought the nation to her knees as violence erupt. Ideas of ‘zoning’ and rotational leadership have fostered and normalized the marginalization of minority groups, godfatherism, public office patronage and disappearances public funds to fuel these lopsided arrangements. These arrangements can be linked in one way or the other to the earlier problems of Niger Delta militancy and now the Boko Haram crisis. Just about every critical security and financial issue has a political overtone. The end result is that corruption is perpetuated and government has limited options in dealing with severe breaches of the law.
While it may be hard and potentially dangerous to directly disband those behind these depreciating arrangements, it is easy to cut off the incentives for their gathering, which is money, and extreme secrecy of government’s actions, even over things that should ordinarily be in public view.
Hence, I recommend first that the Freedom of Information Bill should be adopted as a value statement of the government. By this, the government would commit to tell the public even before it is asked questions. This is one problem I find with the outgoing administration. Information was for the most part scarce and quite a lot of people were unaware of anything, good or bad, that the government was doing. And inquisitions into public office abuses were not carried out until protesters hit the street. This administration can change these trends by simply committing to be vocal with the public, not just in announcing budgets, but also in announcing when monies have been disbursed, as well as plans for its expenditure. That way, everyone’s eyes are on the money’s pathway. We can easily tell when someone is touching our money the wrong way.
Also, human interference in allocating public funds should be greatly reduced. In this age of e-commerce, we shouldn’t have too many human accountants in government counting public money and having so great opportunity to steal. Since it is in the government’s plan to run a cashless economy, it is totally good that it starts by adopting this principle in how it handles public funds: no one in government handles actual money unless s/he is the very one the money is meant for.
Lastly, the government’s work structure should be reviewed. Duplicated offices and outdated, non-functional offices should be cut out. And there should be clear and decisive laws against misuse of public office. Pertaining to laws, I believe the judiciary in this country is just too slow in delivering justice. This is an area to be looked into as well. All court cases ought to reach a conclusive end within a year from its inception.
Nigeria has an image to redeem in international relations. A new president can redeem that image by sending out delegations with a clearcut message of these changes being put in place in the country.