OPINION: WHERE IS THE CHANGE DOCUMENT? By Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo
Almost one and a half years into the Buhari’s presidency, Nigerians can still not lay hold on the document of change! There is nothing unusual for a party in opposition adopting the mantra of change as a campaign slogan. A party in opposition that does not preach change would have represented nothing. When change has no content it remains a mere slogan and political analysts may have nothing on which informed opinions might be based. A greater problem of a government without policy is that such government may not envision the citizenry and its tenure may evaporate with its political slogan no matter how laudable. There is even the danger that a policyless government risks being misunderstood on the implementation of actions that are not properly documented for the people’s knowledge and judgement. The Buhari’s change is one without known content. When we have a government such as this, we are left to decipher the focus of the administration through its pronouncements, actions and most especially through yearly budgetary presentations to the National Assembly.
The most pronounced in the policy of this administration is the fight against corruption. Corruption is a huge industry and the need to have a comprehensive policy on this war is imperative. But to the chagrin of the most informed and adulation of the ignorant, corruption is money stealing, fraud, money laundering, over invoicing, etc. Nepotism, election rigging, electoral violence, abuse of power, religiosity, regionalism, sectionalism, statism, ethnicity etc are all forms of corrupt practices that must be fought. But when all our President does is to hound into the prison all treasury looters and leaving untouched or unpunished all other forms of corrupt practices, then there is exhibited a shallow knowledge of what constitute corruptions. There is therefore the need to have comprehensive policy to address corruption in all its manifestations.
The ruling party in Nigeria may have manifesto, it is not one that is well known to the people of this country. But that is the bane of politics in Nigeria. People vote for sentiments, religion, ethnicity, money and other irrationalities that may even negate their real interests. That has been the trend of our politics since General Ibrahim Babangida (1985-1993) era when political parties did not grow out of members conviction and desire for a shared vision, but rather to capture power and loot the nation. Babangida created for us NRC and SDP like two departments of government. He created the two parties and orderd politicians to populate them. It was later discovered that he did this more in his own interest than that of the nation. General Sanni Abacha (1993-1998) gave us the famous five parties famously referred to as his own five leprous fingers. When Abdulsalam Abubakar was to hurriedly disengage the army from governance after years of shameful romance with power, he told the eager politicians to put together some contraptions in the form of political parties that will take over from the rampaging military that must quit power to save the country. That was an era when Chief Bola Ige the assassinated Attorney General was said to have been the author of both APP and AD’s constitutions, but later took refuge in AD but later worked for PDP. Parties here are mere platforms to chop government money. By 1999, Nigerians did not vote for programme, agenda or manifesto. We voted to chase out the military simplicita. But it should not be so sixteen years after. The party in government today is not part of earlier efforts at party formation and establishments. Muhammadu Buhari was not part of the defunct major political parties, though he later created one that is now dead. He was actively watching the operations of the governments of those parties from vantage position. He therefore cannot claim that he could not put together his thoughts on the content of CHANGE. Even if he did not singularly form the APC, he was cardinal in the formation of CPC. What then is the content of change which informed the formation of CPC that can be implemented by its chief proponent that is now in government?
It is time that we form political parties along programme or ideological lines in this country. National Council of Nigeria and Cameron (NCNC) was formed in 1938 for the purpose of liberating the country from colonialism. Northern People’s Congress (NPC) was formed for effective participation of the northern elites in the colonial liberation struggle. The same can be said for Action Group (AG). After independence these parties pursued policies ranging from northernization and industrialization of the North by the NPC, to education and industrialization of the Eastern Region by the NCNC and Industrialization and free education in the West. Even the parties of the Second Republic were identifiable by their policy thrusts. While the Unity Party of Nigeria was known for its four cardinal programmes in Education, Rural Integrated Development, Full Employment and Agriculture, the NPN was for Housing. Parties in Nigeria of today are mere platforms to ventilate ambition to capture office more for the purpose of looting than to address the real needs of the people of this country. Perhaps because our parties have no identities, that is why it is possible for many of our politicians to be APC in the morning but go to bed as a member of PDP. Where is the identity of CHANGE?
Leaders that want to change the world around them usually have a well-documented vision that is not only hidden in the bosom of their hearts, noticeable only in their body language or observable in their casual disposition to events around them. The vision, mission, goals and ideas of a leader that must change the society must be put in the public domain for examinations and analysis. Discussions and criticism will enrich and improve a vision or the programme of the leader. Every great achievement is a dream before it becomes reality. What is the dream of President Muhammadu Buhari? Lee Kuan Yew, the Singaporean statesman and leader, between 1965 -2000 moved Singapore from third world to the first world by well stated body of ideas. Within that time the annual per capita income grew from $1000 to $30,000. This feat could not have been achieved in Singapore without a well-documented vision and body of ideas. Marshal plan addressed the issue of acute poverty and hunger that followed the destructions engendered by the effects of world war 11 in Europe. It worked because it was first a plan that was well articulated and then properly executed. A plan is a road map to our destination. What and where is Buhari’s work plan and work sheet? Green book is a short book setting out the political philosophy of Muammar Gaddafi. Not for want of greatness or love of his people was Gaddafi killed, but he was a thorn in the flesh of the West that could not tolerate ‘the mad dog of middle east’ as described by one time President of USA, Mr Ronald Reagan. The same Gaddafi was described by the legend, Nelson Mandela as ‘the greatest revolutionary legend of our times’. Before Gaddafi set out at dawn he provided a peep into his world views through his Green book. Kalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the President of United Arab Republic (UAE) the miracle that Dubai is today is through the vision and the ideas of the leader. It is imperative that the President of Nigeria allow us a peep into his world view through some tangible documents with which we can hold him accountable.
There are some things that cannot take the place of a well thought out change document. Body language of a leader may be instructive to the followers but it could not teach a durable message. If Christianity and Islam did not leave holy books with us, how will the process of socialization and conversion be ensured? Certainly the body languages of the prophets could only have been important to the first generation of disciples or followers. Secondly, the APC manifesto good as it may be have not been popularized to the level of wide acceptability in this country. Apart from this, a Party constitution being a corporate document should in operation be stamped with personal attributes of the President. That explains why implementation of a party manifesto in one state may be different from another. Our knowledge of the APC manifesto is that it lacks the desired consensus, otherwise the denials and counter denials on the matter of payment of N5,000 monthly social security at the commencement of the regime would not have been an issue in the first place. For the message of change in Nigeria, we certainly need more than the APC manifesto. It is not also the best option for Nigerians to capture the message of Change from the yearly presentation of the budget of government. Budget should be an outcome of a well thought out plans embedded in the change document. Nigerians see yearly financial provisions of government as annual ritual. None of these annual rituals have attained 60% performance in the Nigerian history of annual budget presentations. The change agenda should not be reduced to budget proposals. Even the President may want us to test the power of his message by the assemblage of talents in the form of technocrats and bureaucrats put together to assist the administration to deliver the change agenda. Technocrats, academicians and bureaucrats are like wild mad dogs, they need to be tamed by carefully thought out vision. If that is not done, they may play outside the box and with their acclaimed skills, knowledge and expertise; they can become tyrannical under a chief executive that over delegates to them relying on their expertise. Moreover this is not the first time that the so called experts will fail to deliver in this country. Assemblage of experts to drive the ship of the administration should not replace an inspirational policy document that should be the emblem of the government.
In the books of the Transparency International, Nigeria has for many years been listed among the most corrupt category in the whole world. Perhaps we are making it to the Guinness book of record as the most corrupt nation in the world. In a country like Nigeria that is awash with monumental corruption the fight against corruption should not only be based on arresting and prosecution of the offenders, there is the need for policy of prevention. If this is not done it will appear that we kill the robbers without killing robbery. Robbery produces robbers. Corruption is as old as Nigeria. Kaduna Nzeogwu the first coupist in Nigeria led the army to oust the first democratically elected government in Nigeria, giving high level of corruption as the major reason. But between 1966 and 1999, when the army arranged itself to be in government in Nigeria; the country lost the sum of $400 billion to corruption. According to a study by Financial Integrity International, Africa lost the sum of $895billion between 1970 and 2010 to capital flight, the highest of the share of this is said to have emanated from Nigeria. Even between 2001 and 2010, the Country lost the sum of $129billion to capital flight. Corruption which is the main agenda of this regime cannot even be fought without a well thought out policy action that will provide for ascertainable focus of impacts.
The famous quotation of PMB is ‘If we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria’. This statement, serious as it is about corruption, the attitude, actions and disposition of the President on the fight against corruption shows that the president has a narrow perception of corruption. The matter of corruption is not stealing money alone; it should include impaired integrity, loss of purity, depravity, wickedness, impurity and bribery. To bring it further home corruption should include nepotism, religionism in religious plural society, regionalism, ethnicism in heterogeneous society, electoral manipulations etc. If former President Jonathan said stealing is not corruption, he is wrong. He ought to say that it is not only stealing that constitutes corrupt practices. If President Buhari thinks it is stealing alone that is corruption, he is also wrong and his prescriptions for taming the monster must be wrong. As an army general he believes that corruption must be killed. His prescription for killing corruption is not better than the kits and tools used thirty three years ago when he was the Head of State of Nigeria. To PMB, to kill corruption, suspects must be detained without the option of bail, suspects must be humiliated and be publicly disgraced before being pronounced guilty by the court of law. Corruption cannot be killed by armoured tanks, machine guns or AK 47 etc. A well thought out document on change mantra would have cured all these shortcomings and makes the fight against corruption saner than we have it now. The operation of the government on its change agenda is accused of vindictiveness, revenge, selectiveness and arbitrariness just because the agenda is devoid of a policy that we can objectively access.
And for how long must we wait to have the change manifesto? The President contested four times before he made it to Aso Rock. He was so bitter when he failed in 2011 that he had to publicly shed tears as if he had given up on Nigeria. I thought he was shedding tears of sorrow on a country that will not have the benefit of a well-documented vision for the country. When he was elected in March 2015, I thought the President will on assumption of office on the 29th May 2015, immediately unfold his agenda, hit the ground and run. May it not be said of President Muhammadu Buhari as a result of the way he fights the corruption war, that the tears of 2011 was for revenge which failure in that election denied him.
Oyedepo is the PDP Chairman in Kwara State.