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‘Next Level’ and inclusive governance

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THE trepidation that trailed the 2019 general elections has fizzled out and the Nigerian masses are and have keyed up for President Buhari’s ‘Next Level’ in performance and enthronement of inclusive governance. Buhari, who made this enthralling remark during the receipt of Certificate of Return from the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),

appeared to be prepared to open a new leaf of life for an enhanced better polity ,obeying the  rule of law and giving sense of belonging to the multi-ethnic groupings in the country. If the enthralling ‘next level and inclusive governance” could be faithfully observed, the South-East geo-political zone will have strategic slots in the new appointments which will be in tandem with the “political clairvoyance” of Governor Willie Obiano.     Alluding to the solemn expectation, a columnist, Amanze Obi, contended that “If APC wants to run an inclusive government as President Buhari has pledged, then he must appreciate the imperative of giving the south-east a voice in his administration.

“One of the surest ways of doing this is to give the zone the opportunity to head either of the chambers of the National Assembly. If the South-East does not get the office of the Senate President for any reason, then, the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives must not elude it. Anything short of that will be mere window dressing”.

Echoing the same trajectory for inclusive government, the European Union [EU] in its elation of Buhari’s re-election said: “We look forward to your leadership in strengthening democracy and uniting the country in line with the principles and spirit of the 2019 Abuja Peace Accord, and EU is willing to work with your government to follow up on the recommendations of our Election Observation Mission.

“The European Union also reiterates Nigeria’s important position in world affairs and the union especially. What happens in Nigeria matters to the rest of the world including Europe. Your commitment to an inclusive government offers an opportunity to take Nigeria forward in a way that meets your objectives of strengthening the economy, fighting corruption and improving security”.

The solemn exhortation from this strategic world body resonates with the gargantuan wishes of Nigerians from all the ethno-religious groupings and it behooves the president to gird his loins to make amends that will erase whatever misgivings that attended the presidential and National Assembly elections.

A national daily in its timely advice to the re-elected president offered a tinge of caution while congratulating him by saying: ”No doubt, many Nigerians had reservations about our president continuing in office after his first term. But, a greater number of our compatriots preferred his continuing for another four years. And this is a majoritarian plebiscite, and Nigerians have spoken. The President has thus earned a renewed mandate for more four years”.

It has become apposite to advice the re-elected president to reappraise his stand on the clarion calls for the restructuring of the obviously lopsided federation and reforms in the electoral system. The incidences of ballot box snatching, invasion of political hoodlums known as thugs, postponement of elections especially the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections at the wee hours to the commencement of the much awaited exercise, allegations of re-writing of election results, re-run elections, and resorting to election tribunals go to show that we are still very far in getting our electoral template right. Reacting to express disappointment on the unexpected recurring shortcomings of the electoral umpire, Ralph Egbu said: “Issues about general elections in any country is a very serious matter. Mass participation is at the heart of any democracy and election is the crux of mass participation.

“Elections establish the sovereignty of the people. It is the tangible sign that the people are masters while political players are the servants…In a true democracy; it is abnormal to postpone elections. That it happened in the past is no excuse or right precedent that it should happen again, especially under a correctional regime such as we claim to have. It is stupidity to deliberately make mistakes and yet claim to be learning every year”.

To most Nigerians, one of the most critical aspects in the envisaged “new deal” of Mr. President in being maximally inclusive in assembling his administrative and economic teams is to fine tune the electronic template in the management of elections in the country. Much orchestrated forages have been made in the past as one recalls with nostalgia the passion with which the late President Musa Yar’Adua expressed reservations over the poll system that threw him up as president and accorded the reform of electoral system a top priority in his unfortunate short term in office. Sadly, his passionate dream of having an ideal electoral system comparable to the international standard was truncated on the altar of devious style politics in the country; and the failure is what has convulsed the country today going by the rejection of the presidential poll result by a major opposition political party, PDP.

In a somewhat assertive tone suggesting a fraud-free elections as epitomized in advance polities, Carl Umegboro averred as follows: “As preventive measures on hostility and violence during elections which is on the increase, the government should plan to migrate to digital voting system in conventionality with other countries. If not, the ugly situation may worsen in the next general election in 2023 due to increased political interests, conceivably for pecuniary interests. To put it in another way, the population is grossly excessive for manual ballot system in relation to security and financial implications. Thus the practicable remedy remains digital electoral system”

For one to say that the imperative of according top priority to reform the electoral system should constitute a recurring headache to Buhari, is to emphasize the crucial importance of the issue to Nigerians who might have cause to distance themselves from future polls. Ray Ekpu was frank, forthright as well as caustic in his exhortation to Buhari when he said inter alia: “In our recent elections, it is obvious that, like Boubons, we  have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. If anything, we have marched backwards.

“Now that Buhari has been declared the winner by INEc, may be he would like to try to be a statesman from now onwards. If he wants to establish a legacy that will enable history to remember him kindly, he has to reform the electoral system. He refused to sign the revised version of the Electoral Bill that provided for electronic collation of results. Now that he has no election to be afraid of, he should be ready to do a drastic review of not only the Electoral Act but also the Constitution. Achieving this will need an abandonment of his present parochialism posture and embrace multi-lateral engagement with the major constituent parts of Nigeria”. Of course, these are no mean challenges to Buhari as he becomes sworn in come May, 29.

Apart from the much needed straight option for the digital election system to key into globalization, the importance of restructuring the lopsided federation cannot be stressed beyond reasonable limits. Restructuring which goes with “True Federalism” simply means going back to the principles of federal system of government at the Independent and Republican Constitutions which was brushed aside by the feudal military oligarch.

Highlighting the categorical imperative of restructuring and true federalism, Amanze Obi further said: “The questions we should really be asking are: what has become of the clamour for restructuring?  Is it gone with the winds? Has the ovation petered out? Is the idea dead with the return of Buhari? If we are serious as a people, we will hold the president accountable in this matter.

“We will not let the issue die because we know the president is not properly disposed to it. To capitulate on the matter because of the outcome of presidential election is not in the best interest of our tomorrow as a people and as a country. A restructured Nigeria is not just imperative, it is urgent

In a restructured federal set up as was advocated in the 2014 National Constitutional Conference, there will be a substantial devolution of power from the behemoth exclusive legislative list to the residual legislative list which should be based on the adopted six geo-political zones of the country to be regarded as “Regional Governments”. Federalist and those versed in the systems of government and division of legislative lists in a federal set up attest to the fact that the federal government has been diplomatic and subtle in the policy of diversifying the economy to only the agricultural sector and solid minerals sector. In a true federal practice [as it was during the first republic], all the sectors are diversified to enable the constituent polities to plan how to initiate policies and programmes and projects to tackle the sectors given the socio-economic and cultural peculiarities of their people.

The near comatose health and education sectors in the country is principally due to centralization of the policies and programmes which do not give room to state governments to deviate based on the preferences and choices of their people. According to the editorial under reference, it condemned the centralization of many sectors including security system which has made insecurity virtually intractable. Fact remains that it has become a well nigh impossibility for the Boko Haram insurgents to be technically and physically degraded and defeated due to lack of decentralization in the security system in the country with vast land mass.

If the security architecture is decentralized in consonance with a federal set up the world over, the state or regional security operatives would have smoked out the religious fundamentalists out of their enclaves and hiding places and crushed. Decentralization will enable the power sector to be owned by the federating units so that the country’s economy will register quantum jump.

Buhari should shed the alleged ethno-religious toga and gird his loins to diversify all the sectors and not gloat over the marginal achievements in the agricultural and solid minerals sectors which remain a drop in the ocean of socio-economic growth and development the country direly needed.

Decentralization, which is at the bottom of restructuring the federation holds key to create wealth and create massive employment through creating the right ambience and environment for private sector initiatives and massive industrialization in the country. These are no mean tasks confronting Buhari in his second tenure if he would want to make indelible marks in the sands of time as a patriotic leader who has value for modern style of governance.

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