It is no longer news that President Muhammadu Buhari has been reelected for second term. Nigerians spoke loud and clear on Saturday, February 23, 2019 when they voted overwhelmingly for his reelection in apparent demonstration that they have approved the job he has been doing in the past four years managing the affairs of the country. With the President’s reelection, the major challenge is to ensure that the administration does not take its eyes off the ball. In the United States where Nigeria borrowed the presidential system of government, second terms used to be time of big ideas, it is also time for complacency if it is not well managed. That is why many second term presidents in the United States used to have low job approval rating.
A key challenge for a second-term President lies in managing the delicate balance between what he wants (his priorities) and what he thinks the public wants (his perceived mandate)—and taking care not to confuse the two. In November, 1984, President Ronald Reagan was reelected in a landslide victory over Walter Mondale, taking forty-nine states and fifty-nine per cent of the popular vote.
The Reagan revolution was powerfully reaffirmed. Soon after, Donald Regan, the new chief of staff, sent word to a small group of trusted friends and Administration officials seeking advice on how Reagan should approach his last four years in office. It was an unusual moment in the history of the Presidency, and the experience of recent incumbents offered no guidance. No President since Dwight D. Eisenhower had served two full terms.
John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Lyndon Johnson, overwhelmed by the war in Vietnam, had declined to run for reelection in 1968. Richard Nixon resigned less than seventeen months into his second term. Gerald Ford (who was never elected) and Jimmy Carter were defeated. Reagan was worried when he won his second term because for a long time before then no American President had won a second term that he could peer review. In Nigeria, President Olusegun Obasanjo had been the only democratically elected President to have completed his second term.
President Shehu Shagari’s second term was cut short. President Goodluck Jonathan was a one-term president. There may not be much that President Muhammadu Buhari can take from Obasanjo’s second term given his abysmal performance and PDP’s not too salutary performance in power, however, we Nigerians can also push some ideas or agenda that would make his second remarkable and enduring.
One of the things that the President should pursue more vigorously is the unity of the country. There is so much mutual suspicion in the country blamed on our fault lines of ethnicity and religion. During the campaigns the singsong of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was that “the country has never been more divided.” While the majority of public did not buy into that, since they still reelected the President, there are however a significant number of our citizens who believed that the country is more divided under this administration than any other in our country’s history. The over 10million Nigerians who voted for the PDP presidential candidate may be agreeable to the assertion that the country is now more divided.
That is why forming an inclusive government is imperative in the second term of the President. Despite the fact that the President in his first term appointed ministers from all the states of the federation in line with the constitution of the country, a significant sections of the country still complain of marginalization. Since the second terms are usually time for creating lasting legacy for Presidents, President Buhari should use this period to show that he is the Father of the Nation, and the Unifier-In-Chief of the country.
The President’s infrastructural revolution in the area of road construction, railway development and expansion across the country as well as improvement in power generation and distribution should receive added impetus in this last lap of his administration. No true patriot can deny that too much power concentrated at the centre has hindered the development of the country. Things that should ordinarily be handled by local governments and state governments in other climes are made the responsibility of the federal government.
History and providence has now placed on the laps of the President the opportunity to push for the devolution of powers to the states and local governments. The President has the All Progressives Congress (APC) dominated Senate and House of Representatives to help him achieve this agenda that would make for a smaller federal government and a more empowered states and local governments. The devolution of power to states and local governments will accelerate the development of the country and create healthy competition among the states and local governments. However, even with devolution of powers in place, no meaningful development can take place without an educated population.
That is why it is also urgent that the President pays special attention to the education sector. A survey has shown that the population of out of school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million. The Demographic Health Survey (DHS) was conducted in 2015 by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Nigerian government. The Executive Secretary of Universal Basic Education (UBEC), Hammid Bobboyi, quoted the findings of the survey at the Northern Nigerian Traditional Rulers Conference on Out-of-School Children pre-conference recently in Abuja. Sadly despite this huge number of out of school children and dilapidated infrastructure in our schools several state governments have failed to pay the counterpart funds to access UBEC funds lying fallow due to the greed and corruption in many states.
That is why this author supports the Federal Government decision to start deducting counterpart funding meant for the development of basic education in the country from source if state governments’ attitude of deliberate refusal to provide counterpart funding for basic education continues. Under the Universal Basic Education Act, state governments are expected to provide 50 percent as matching grant in order to access funds released by the federal government for the development of basic education in their states.
However, the inability of some state governments to meet the matching grant had left huge sums of un-accessed funds with the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, disclosed this during the ninth edition of the ministerial press briefing on Monday in Abuja. Adamu attributed the inability of some state governments to provide their counterpart fund for basic education on corruption and lack of political will. He explained that this made the federal government to deduct the counterpart fund from the last tranche of the Paris Club refund from all the states that had
not been able to access its funds with UBEC. The new policy of deducting counterpart funds from the source in order to improve basic education is worthy of commendation. If we can get our basic education right, then we will be on our way to improving other levels of the education chain. Space will not allow me to point out many other areas I think the President should focus in his second term. Hopefully we will add more to the list as we head towards the President’s inauguration for second term in May.
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