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A NEW HOPE, A NEW DAWN

“We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems.”

President Muhammadu Buhari’s inaugural speech on May 29, 2015, has rekindled the dying flame of hope in the heart of many Nigerians. His words, like an arrow, went straight to the heart of many Nigerians who had given up because they thought the past administration had run the economy aground. His speech burned the blood and stirred the spirits of the Nigerian populace. It reassured us, Nigerians, that the new administration would go a long way in ensuring that we reap the fruits of democracy. “There is now a national consensus that our chosen route to national development is democracy.”

His speech was concise. One is made to wonder if this speech isn’t like others, we have heard in the past. Our past presidents all presented wonderful and brilliant inaugural speeches. In the end, what happened? We were disappointed. They took us for a ride. They played on our intelligence. It’s as if they raised our hopes and smashed it on a rocky terrain. They left us high and dry. What is the guarantee that this speech isn’t like the other ones we have heard before? We can only hope and pray.

President Buhari acknowledged that the country was sunken into a deep mire of problems which are as follows: a depleted foreign reserve, falling oil prices, leakages, the Boko Haram insurgency, the Niger Delta situation, the power shortages, the falling standard of education, unemployment especially among young people, and dilapidated physical infrastructure by past leaders who “behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house.”  .

He went on to assure the international community that his government was ready “to cooperate and help to combat threats of cross-border terrorism, sea piracy, refugees and boat people, financial crime, cyber crime, climate change, the spread of communicable diseases, and other challenges of the 21st century.”  Hopefully, this will gain Nigeria respect among the countries in the world because it will join other countries to tackle problems that have posed to be global threats. This will improve the image of Nigeria in the wider international community.

Mr. President laid a lot of emphasis on the problem of Boko Haram insurgency. He also talked about how his administration intends to tackle it. He said, “The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued.” Will this move bring about the expungement of this insurgent group that has wreaked so much havoc in the country for six years?  However, looking at it critically, it will ensure that the military sit up and fight this evil sect. He also added, “For now, the Armed Forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko Haram… We shall improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human right violation by the Armed Forces.” With this said, we can only hope that the Nigerian Military works hand-in-hand with the new administration to purge Nigeria of insurgency.

President Buhari did not stop at addressing the issue of Boko Haram insurgency as the only threat to security in the nation. He went on to talk about kidnappings, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmer clashes, and cattle rustling. He assured Nigerians that his administration would put in place a “friendly and well-compensated security forces” that would ensure that the problem of security will be outdated. This is something the past administrations got wrong. Most security personnel didn’t take their jobs seriously, because there wasn’t enough incentive and perquisites to motivate them in the proper execution of their jobs. We hope that this will help in creating employment for able-bodied men that would have resorted to crime by making them part of the security forces. This is a classic example of killing two birds with one stone.

One of the major problems that have ruined the state of our economy is that of corruption. Mr. President has promised to reform the judicial system. According to him, “The country now expects the judiciary to act with dispatch on all cases especially on corruption, serious financial crimes, or abuse of office.” It is expected that he would empower the anti-graft bodies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). To curb corruption in our country, there has to be adequate punitive measures meted out on corrupt individuals.

I still don’t understand why the president won’t prosecute people who have plunged the country into its current state of national underdevelopment by their rapacious attitudes. Seemingly, he is going to forgive those who looted our coffers. He made this clear when he said, “A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office, I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue.”  Many Nigerians still feel that he should go after those people. They should remit at least 50 per cent of the stolen money. This statement by Mr. President is the armpit of his inaugural speech. We, Nigerians, want revenge. Those people shouldn’t go scot-free.

A very interesting point to note is that the president categorically stated that he would scrap out the Niger Delta amnesty programme in December. He promised that in lieu of this, he would “invest heavily in the projects and programmes currently in place.”  Indeed, this is a breath of fresh air for the inhabitants of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. This will help to bring about laudable development in these areas. So far, the amnesty programme has done nothing to help with poverty alleviation in the area. You might be surprised to know that this region is the most neglected in the country. Now, the residents of this region will have potable water, electricity, good roads, and quality life.

Furthermore, he stated that, “No single cause can be identified to explain Nigeria’s poor economic performance than the power situation.”  Our past presidents have highlighted this as part of their manifestos. However, what has been the result so far? Constant erratic power supply that has crippled the economic development of our country. This has led to national underdevelopment because we don’t have enough manufacturing companies in the country. We now have a deficit Balance of Trade. This is not good for any country. Nigerians are hopeful that with the new administration that they will enjoy power supply for at least 18 hours every day. It’s not too much to ask.

In addition, the president has promised to revive agriculture and the mining of solid minerals. This will go a long way to provide employment for a majority of Nigerians. This will help to diversify the economy. When one thinks about it, one of the causes of poverty in our country is the over-dependency of crude oil. This is a praiseworthy, giant leap in the direction of national development.

In the same vein, we are hoping to see the revival of our railways and roads. This will ensure the smooth flow of transportation. It is expected that this will facilitate the transportation of agricultural produce from the rural areas. This will go a long way in alleviating poverty among rural dwellers.

The beauty of Mr. President’s speech is that he has entreated all Nigerians to work together in unity. He pointed out “no matter how well organised the governments of the federation are, they cannot succeed without the support, understanding, and cooperation of labour unions, organised private sector, the press, and civil society organisations. I appeal to employers and workers alike to unite in raising productivity so that everybody will have the opportunity to share in increased prosperity.”

This leads me to mention another statement he made. “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”. To many Nigerians, this is striking and praiseworthy. I am not commending him on this. It is like commending a mother who takes care of her children:  It is her duty. Now that we know that he won’t be swayed by any bias, our minds are at ease because he will perform his duties as the president of our great nation.

He has said it all. We hope it doesn’t turn out like those saccharine, well-written inaugural speeches from past leaders.

For Nigeria to be a better place, the citizens have to work hand-in-hand with the government. This will start with the reorientation of Nigerians. In the words of Malcolm Gladwell, “Cultural legacies are powerful forces. They have deep roots and long lives.” We should change our current “Nigerian culture.”  We should start by changing our mindsets. We should strive to have a country where people would be law-abiding even if there were no law enforcement agent around. We want a Nigeria that will encourage young entrepreneurs by providing loans. We want a country where people can sleep with two eyes closed. President Buhari has promised us this and more. Will he fulfill his promises? Who knows? Only time.

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