The government that took office on May 29, 2023, is coming at a time of great difficulties in the country. The core of this is the perception that a significant number of Nigerians across the various segments have a very low opinion of not just the past administration but of government in general, the political class, and you may even say, the country itself.
The new government must therefore think deeply and act fast and decisively from day one to at least seek to recover the belief in the country and the government.
To do this, the government must be seen from day one to be acting in the informed service of the Nigerian people across the board and be seen to be targeted at solving the challenges that face the country. The new government will not have the privilege of a long period of honeymoon and patience. The current government must not only adopt a more pro-people communication approach but must be communicating not just in words but more importantly in deeds, by having practical and obvious actions that address the concerns and the felt needs of the Nigerian people. A take-or-leave-it approach is not recommended. Healing balms in actions and words should be prioritised.
The new President does not have the pleasure of being slow, flying out of the country, nor explaining away the challenges in not-so-simple terms. He must talk simply, unambiguous, and straight to Nigerian people, especially the youth. He must radiate sincerity and show that he has heard the youth of Nigeria. The President will have to be down to earth and communicate better with Nigerians, especially Nigerian youths. What I, therefore, seek to do here is a patriotic service that the new government may find useful. We will present the key challenges and make some recommendations.
The challenges: Some of the factors leading to the current state of Nigeria include the following: Widespread insecurity in the country, which is currently affecting almost all parts of the country. Very difficult economic conditions which is not only a challenge to everyday livelihood for the majority of Nigerians but are also a huge source of confusion to most Nigerians. The agitated youth population in all parts of the country. The President has to convene a youth summit.
Suggestions: Urgently communicate to Nigerians and the world a message of hope, not just in words but in actions. This should seek to unite the country, not just geographically but also by socioeconomic classes. This should appeal to all segments of Nigerian society, including co-contestants.
Early activities ahead of and around the period of inauguration. This should borrow from the approach of President Bill Clinton after his first election in 1991. President Clinton identified the key challenge of the time as the economy. He, prior to his inauguration, convened meetings with economists and players in the US economy and was physically present and took notes. Nigerians will have to see a new President, present and engaged, and showing interest in broadly consulting and agreeing on the actions to take.
Three key urgent summits include: Insecurity challenges in Nigeria, economic challenges in Nigeria and youth agitations in Nigeria. This should be held urgently and lessons collate and synthesise positions.
The inauguration address should be down-to-earth and communicates/radiate sincerity, hope, and reassurance, without over-promising. It must lay bare the obvious challenges ahead that will not be easy. It must appeal to our patriotism and request for collaboration. Specifically, some areas that should be mentioned are: There is a need to acknowledge the fact that Nigeria’s security including the military has historically demonstrated capacity from the Congo era to the West Africa ECOMOG era. We have a history of successfully bringing peace to other countries that had challenges. The situation today in Nigeria calls on our security agencies to rise to the occasion and discharge the patriotic responsibilities expected of them. There should be an appeal to the security forces as well as an indication of support to end insecurity in Nigeria so that our farmers can get back to work, other workers can get back to work, our economy can regain her robustness and bloom again, poverty and unemployment can be addressed decisively, and resources can be devoted to education, health, and critical infrastructure.
On the economy: There is a need for sincerity in acknowledging the difficult times and making concrete pronouncements on aspects of reducing the cost of governance.
Addressing the challenges of the youth: The President will need to make it clear to Nigerian youths that they have been heard. A clear programme of business/entrepreneurship start-ups has to be announced, offering two things: start-ups that will run in all states (via the National Agencies concerned, as well as via universities, polytechnics, Colleges of Education and agriculture, etc.).
Immediate actions post-inauguration: A meeting with the National Assembly members to impress on them the imperatives of the moment and the need to cut the cost of governance and obtain their buy-in on a different approach to the challenges facing the country. A meeting with governors to impress on them the seriousness of the condition of Nigeria and the need to be more engaged on things that impact the people rather than have these as federal matters. Examples can be found in agriculture where many states are not doing enough (Agriculture is on the concurrent list). The same applies to Nigeria’s commitments to the Paris Agreement and the NDC. There is a need to demonstrate an understanding of the serious challenges happening in the global systems with respect to energy, transportation, etc. in the context of climate change. State governments will have to buy into youth entrepreneurship and start-up programmes.
Appointment of service chiefs and heads of security agencies in a manner that insecurity will be seriously addressed. This should communicate national healing and inclusiveness.
Decisiveness on the urgent need to reduce Nigeria’s debt profile. This may require identifying well-placed Nigerians in the international financial system able to use their contacts and goodwill to address this. Need to address the annual flood challenge by getting the buy-in of the governors to consolidate the ecological funds for at least one year to deploy that to damming the waters from the Cameroons and redirecting them to Lake Chad.
Proactively inviting the Labour Unions in the country, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities, and presenting the difficult situation with the economy while asking for a hold on all threats of strike and negotiations until after one year.
Prof. Nwajiuba is a former Vice-Chancellor, Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.