As the campaign drums for the 2019 presidential election roll out, with the official launching of policy documents and campaign promises by the major political parties, Nigerians have again found themselves in the dilemma of choosing between the two major contenders for the plump job out of 79 candidates writes Emameh Gabriel.
“The next four years will be quite significant for our country. Nigeria is faced now with a choice. To keep on building a new Nigeria or to go back to its tainted past which favoured only an opportunistic few.
“Join us on this journey to the NEXT LEVEL of a prosperous, strong and stable Nigeria”.
These were the words of President Muhammadu Buhari while launching the roadmap and policy statement that his 2019 general elections campaign will hinge on.
“Today we will begin the process of sharing our policies that form my plan to create jobs, RESTRUCTURE the POLITY, and Get Nigeria Working Again” former vice president Atiku Abubakar had told Nigerians after releasing his campaigns policy documents on Monday.
These were the major and catchy expressions from the two major presidential candidates of the two top political parties going head to head for 2019 presidential election in the country.
The two major political parties, APC and PDP, have over the years largely dominated the nation’s political space thereby leaving the masses with no choice but to settle for a lesser evil between any of the two on the basis of Party’s popularity or the candidate acceptability.
While incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari was recently rolling out his score cards and next electoral promises, the opposition standard bearer and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, was unveiling his road map to activate what he has persistently described as a-none working economy.
The two leading candidates, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP have unveiled their plans and policy documents while at the same time, picking holes in each other’s policies.
Analysts have said the next few weeks is going to witness interesting times in the history of the country’s electioneering.
They have projected that the 2019 general election is not only going be the most keenly contested but also the most expensive in the history of Nigerian elections as vested interests from major power brokers continue to swell in the one hand, and in the other hand, from the larger Nigeria populace who of course will decide who is best fit for the nation’s number one seat.
Elections are by no doubt decided by certain factors and talking points. This has been the culture both in developed and developing democracies. These issues are both circumstantial and contextual.
For instance, the 2015 general elections were shaped by integrity debate. It was one of the major bane of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party and its flag bearer, Goodluck Jonathan in the build up to the 2015 general elections. Like it is mostly observed today, there weren’t much discussions or debate on other salient and fundamental issues that are now bases for assessments.
It therefore explains that there have been massive public enlightenment and increased awareness from Nigerians who were hitherto indifferent about the way the economy is being run by a selected few at the expense of their wellbeing. Of course the electoral process and democratic development seem also to be taking new shapes despite some hitches witnessed in selected elections in the last three years.
Today, public sentiments may have been shifted away from the integrity mantra which was a major weapon of discussion deployed by the then opposition All Progressive Congress to boost its campaigns advantage against the PDP.
This was truly Jonathan’s and PDP’s undoing. Without doubt, it contributed largely to his defeat as there were reported and obvious cases of abuse of public office, massive looting with impunity and decay in the public sector.
Integrity test as a weapon may not exert the same strength it wielded in 2015 as the case may be different today, but again it might be one of Atiku’s and PDP albatrosses as the Buhari led government had confronted corruption with evidence of massive looting and recovery of public funds and assets from public and civil servants, most of which are still pending in the court and others held by litigations in various courts across the country with some former governors being tried and convicted among others.
The Buhari government will of course continue to hinge on this factor as part of its campaign strategy or score card, despite criticism from some quarters that the fight against corruption has not been taken to the doorstep of the president’s henchmen.
This coalescing narrative will leave the electorates in dilemma of choice as to which direction the nation is tilting towards. The argument in some quarters remains that the Buhari government has also failed to meet up with the yearning of the larger population but the opposition will also have to contend with questions surrounding Atiku’s image as the campaigns clot.
While this might not be seen as basis for assessment in the days to come, there are questions being raised as to whether the campaign policy documents as unveiled by President Buhari and former vice President Atiku are rooted and embedded in the programme and manifestos of the APC and PDP.
Policy Documents and Issues
Buhari has in his Next Level policy document, rolled out part of his government scorecard unveiling a new road map to complement his achievement in his three and half years in the saddle. The document focuses mainly on social infrastructure; improvement of power generation and supply, and job creation, agriculture, youth empowerment, education, skills acquisition etc.
Some of the highlights include the following: Engagement of 1m N-Power graduates, skill up 10 million Nigerians under a voucher system in partnership with the private sector, Anchor Borrowers Scheme to support input and jobs to 1m farmers, livestock transformation Plan to create 1.5million jobs and agriculture mechanization policy to create 5m jobs.
Others includes: Provision of $500m innovation fund to tech and creative sector to create 500,000 jobs, to train 200,000 youth for outsourcing market in technology, services and entertainment, Soft loans of up to N1m to small traders, artisans (carpenters, tailors, mechanics, hairdressers, barbers, plumbers, vulcanisers etc) and commercial drivers (Taxis, Keke, and Motorcycles).
The government also in the document explained that Next Level will take current number of 2.3million traders, farmers, and artisans under Trader Moni, Market Moni and Farmer Moni schemes to 10million Nigerians under the People Moni Scheme.
In power generation, Buhari pledged, “A minimum of 1,000 MW new Generation Incremental Power capacity per annum on the grid to bring a total of a minimum of 11,000 MW.
“Distribution to get to 7,000MW under Distribution Expansion programme.”
On security, the president indicated plans to “decentralize funding of police operations and foster true community policing by implementing direct transfer of funding to Police Divisions.
“Execute the second phase of the Farmer-Herder and National Livestock Policy to end the decades-long conflict between farmers and herders.”
To end the dichotomy in appointment, Buhari further promised a more inclusion in government.
He promised ‘‘35 percent in female appointments, more youth appointment for boards, special mentoring programmes in governance with young graduates working with ministers and other senior government appointees.”
On Education, there is a plan in the Next Level to “remodel and equip 10,000 schools per year.”
Atiku and Getting Nigeria To Work Again
Meanwhile the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate and erstwhile vice president, Atiku Abubakar has also on his part presented an alternative juicy policy roadmap through his ‘Let’s Get Nigeria Working Again’ campaign slogan.
Analysts who have either appraised or dissected the document have demanded for a clear direction as to where the nation is heading to, saying ‘‘It appears that the nation seems to be faced with a partial political stroke even without support to aid it’s standing’’.
They averred that even as, just as Oby Ezekwelisi has persistently maintained, politicians are birds of a feather, Atiku Abubakar’s policy document can’t be overruled.
In juxtaposition, the plans and policy documents of both leading presidential candidates, Atiku has promised to attain single-digit unemployment rate by 2024 through the creation of three million jobs annually; usher in what he said would be the lowest tax rate in Africa, and plans for the generation of 20,000 MWs of power by 2024.
The former vice president has also promised to the country’s GDP through a ‘‘broad based dynamic and competitive economy with a GDP of US$900 billion by 2025. He has also promised the private sector access to credit and many other juicy promises.
Mixed Reactions Over Policy Documents
In a separate interview with Sunday Leadership, while there is fear that both Buhari and Atiku have not really shown to Nigerians a clear roadmap through their policy documents, others are contended with what were made available by both candidates.
The striking question however is that if the promises made by both contenders are embedded in their parties’ manifestoes.
In an interview with Sunday Leadership, Auwal Ibrahim Musa, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) said there are so many lapses in the documents presented to Nigerians by the ruling APC and the opposition PDP such that leaves room for suspicions.
He said ‘‘the nature and character of the Nigerian politicians is that when they want to go to election, they make sweet promises and turn around to say they never said that. The current administration rolled out some commitment but the commitment was later denied that they were never the pronouncement of the president’’.
‘‘We are not sure if either of the candidates will be accountable to the promises they make. So it is a question of commitment and accountability in Nigeria’’.
‘‘My understanding is that, whatever the government should do, should be embedded on the party’s programme and manifesto because we are not running a government of individual candidate but political party’’, said Musa who averred that the only political party can be held accountable to its promises after election is when promises made by its flag bearer are embedded in the party’s manifesto citing instances in the past.
‘‘If the political parties do not have their manifestos and programme, it becomes difficult to hold politicians accountable for the promises they make.
‘‘We don’t have a provision for independent candidate; every candidate must come through a political party. Every promise a presidential candidate makes has to be rooted and embedded on his party’s policy document so that people can on the basis of that hold the party accountable, he insisted.
He said both the ruling party and the opposition own Nigerians the responsibility of explaining in clear details how they intend to deliver on their campaign promises.
‘‘We have not seen clear strategy from both candidates on how to deal with the issues of criminality, corruption, how to really boost the economy of the country. There is no clear statement on how Nigeria can be lifted out of poverty. How Nigeria can be industrialised, how Nigeria can become a self-developmental state’’.
‘‘We haven’t seen it clearly articulated on how corruption can be killed because corruption is endemic. They have not told us how to overcome those lapses.
‘‘In the area of education, you will agree with me that Nigeria has not been doing well in the area of education. In the two documents presented, we have not seen clear strategy if they win on how to revamp our educational system.
‘‘We haven’t also see in the two documents the revitalisation of the health sector even with the total collapse of public health infrastructures in the country.
‘‘Also the issue of affordable housing, labour and wages none want to deal with.
On Atiku’s recent increase of his private staff wages which, he said that is not the kind of arrangement the people want. He explained that what is best for the Nigerian worker should be a structural arrangement that will recognise the time factor, value for the money and also a work remuneration that is commensurable.
‘‘Paying N30, 000 to his staff is not binding to any government organisation either at the local, state or national level.
‘‘We have not seen in the two documents, the recognition of none state actors on how their contributions can be annexed to improve good governance.
On the proposed sale of NNPC, he said he agreed that there is too much of poor management of public assets, but disagreed with the idea of selling it when there is no proper frame work put in place to unbundle it. ‘‘I think they have to apply caution on that’’, he warned.
Also in a separate interview with Efe T Williams, Assistant Admin, BuharistsHangout, said from his appraisal of the Buhari administration in the last three years, though there were challenges which is normal, the president has delivered on his campaign promises which were hinged on security, economy and anti-corruption.
He explained that the Next Level document is a document designed to not only to complement Buhari’s achievement but also to unclipped Nigerians from the wings of economic predators who have held the country on the jugular for too long.
According to him, ‘‘the PMB policy direction is a more sustained programme that will catapult Nigeria to a stable higher ground on the Next Level’’.
Before Buhari took over from the PDP, said Mr Williams, ‘‘Nigeria was at a confused throe, we were cut between continuing in the wanton profligacy, insecurity and a dwindling economy.’’
‘‘The people were clamouring for a new order, change berthed with President Muhammadu Buhari anchoring a new way of life built on the tripod of security, economy and anti-Corruption. These formed the nucleus of the APC policy directions, the fulcrum to whom we can judge whether PMB has delivered on not.
‘‘Let’s not forget that Change is a process, the one Nigeria required had to be surgical, it came with its attendant pains, which the president is well aware of.
‘‘However, over three years down the line, we (BuharistsHangOut) will proudly say, Buhari has done well and needs another four years to consolidate on the foundation he has built in all facets of the nation’s life.
‘‘Today the world respects Nigeria as a country, for PMB has given us a light in the dark tunnel of our international image. The country has become a huge construction site with over N3Trillion expended on infrastructures, something that had never been done in our infrastructural history; railways are been constructed, the energy is more stable as over 8,000MW comes online distribution facilities are greatly improved to over 5,000MW, he said.
‘‘A Nation that cannot feed herself is a people are war. PMB saw that 80 percent of the nation’s import bills is food, mostly rice. Today, with over 12 Million rice farmers, an encouraging agricultural policy, rice importation has dropped, farmers are smiling to the bank and more people are going into all area of its value chain.
‘‘PMB has considerably tackled unemployment with all forms of policy, the Social Investment Programme was a hit, over 9Million school children are fed daily, a million NPower engagement, GEEP, TraderMoni and MarketMoni etc.
‘‘The greatest of all PMB’s achievements is the concerted effort in securing the territorial integrity of Nigeria. The deadly terrorist group Boko Haram now operates from the fringes of the Cameroon mountain, unlike when they annexed 17 local governments in the North East Nigeria, recalled Mr Williams who said the war against corruption is a big plus to the Buhari administration.
‘‘The Next Level has no room for beginners; the focus is to build on all the good works that PMB has laid out. Nigerians should look up to a higher ground, he continued.
Asked whether Buhari’s promises are rooted in the APC manifesto, he said there is no way the president would have gone on his own to release a document that is not in his party manifesto.
He described Atiku’s policy programme as deceitful, calling on Nigerians to get it and compare to manifesto of the PDP, the platform he is running on.
‘‘Those who today rejoice because they see Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as “messiah” are the microscopic part of the Nigeria’s problem. The summation of his timeline according to the document to turn around Nigeria is six years and what they couldn’t do in sixteen years, PMB has done within the limit of four years.
‘‘His talk of selling this and selling that goes back to his antecedents as vice president for eight years under the Olusegun Obasanjo government. It is still like yesterday, we cannot forget how they privatized everything to themselves and their friends and families.
He wondered what Atiku’s contributions in the policy implementation were when he was a vice president, saying ‘‘the country has gone beyond rhetoric and fine paperwork as there is nothing in his plans pointing to a renewed hope for Nigeria’’.