The expressions, ask not what America can do for you but What You Can Do For America”. That would be in consonance with Trump’s ‘America First’ mantra which is in contrast with Barack Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’ slogan, The accentuated financial value in the current USA foreign policy is underscored by the fact that the country that Trump visited first after he was sworn into office as president was Saudi Arabia-a country that is purchasing a whooping $110 billion worth of arms and aircraft from the USA.
It’s also not a coincidence that Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari is the first leader of an African country to be hosted in the White House by president Trump.
Presumably, the estimated $500m worth of super Tucano aircrafts and other armaments purchased by Nigeria from the USA to combat terrorism(which by the way was done without first getting parliamentary approval) must have motivated the invitation of President Buhari to the White House.
What the scenario above reveals is that the era of racing to the White House, USA seat of power, with cap in hand to seek favours without putting something on the table for the USA is past. That’s basically because president Trump seems to be demonstrating that he is a businessman before a statesman and the ideology is embedded in his ‘America First’ agenda just as the businessman approach/attitude is reflected in his book, ‘The Art of The Deal’.
Another intrinsic value to be unraveled as we race towards the February 16, 2019 date of Nigeria’s presidential elections, is that voters are now more wary of the antics of unscrupulous politicians who would stop at nothing to confuse and deceive them in the bid to win their votes . In other words, Nigerians are now taking what is being spewed into the public arena in this season of politicking with a pinch of salt.
Having set the records straight by clarifying that Atiku Abubakar has been a victim of wicked propaganda by his political opponents, Nigerians should be prepared to seek and get answers to what the presidential candidates would do differently to steer the ship of state from the direction of peril that it currently tends to be facing or how the present state of the economy and politics now on slippery slope can be arrested or reversed.
Apparently, the PDP presidential candidate has a written agenda (l suspect that the APC one may be in the works) and it is titled Atiku’s Agenda for Nigeria (Policy Document) and it goes thus:
- My administration would consider concessioning to private sector segments of the national grid under some form of PPP over a period of time.
- We shall increase power generation by ensuring full participation of private sector. We shall issue licences to enable the private sector invest in mini-grid capabilities to service local communities or local govts, states, regions or target industrial clusters.
- Our electricity generation plan shall be diversified to include clean energy – hydro, solar and nuclear – in addition to natural gas. As you may be aware, the transmission infrastructure of the power sector is ageing and in dire need of investment.
- On security, we must understand the root causes of the security challenges in the North. The full economic potentials of the region remain undeveloped resulting in high rates of youth unemployment, high levels of poverty and deprivation and income inequality.
- Access to education is more restricted, resulting in more out of school children in the North than anywhere else in Nigeria. Unless these issues are tackled, youth restiveness, sectarian violence and other acts of insurgency and terrorism shall continue to bedevil the region.
- My first critical policy priority therefore is to support the northern states in rebuilding their economies and opening up economic opportunities for their citizens. This will reduce frustration and alienation and minimize grievances.
- We shall same time undertake a comprehensive review of our security architecture and enhance its preparedness to meet challenges. As part of the review we shall commence the gradual process of instituting state police & community policing in line with principle of restructuring.
- On jobs, as long as growth of the economy is driven by the oil sector, job creation is bound to suffer. To tackle the job and poverty challenges bedeviling the economy, we shall focus on four areas:
First, we shall stimulate the growth of those economic sectors which are considered the domain of the poor – i.e. Agriculture and Micro & Small Enterprises.
For the MSE sector, we shall set up a Venture Capital Fund to enhance their access to finance and hence their ability to grow and employ more hands.
Second, we shall set up a National Innovation Fund to support budding entrepreneurs, especially young men and women with brilliant ideas.
Thirdly, we shall promote a Special Apprenticeship Programme that will support the training of up to 1,000,000 youth (including the NYSC) each year in diverse fields, by local master crafts persons. While they undergo the training, we shall match them with potential employers.
Fourth area of focus is the aggressive promotion of Nigeria as Africa’s leading business process outsourcing destination with potential to create two million direct and indirect jobs.
Our goal is to ensure that Nigeria fully explores the vast opportunities that abound in the global market for IT and IT-enabled services to create quality jobs for our youth.
- Also, to lift our people out of poverty, we shall improve their access to basic services including education, health, electricity and water – by making these services not only available but affordable.
- On currency, the only way the Naira will be more valuable is to apply a diversified structure for our economy. This way, our economy will become more productive. We are committed to revamping the non-oil sector through increased private sector investments.
- We shall diversify our export base by providing export expansion incentives to manufacturers.
Increasing our exports means increased foreign exchange earnings and stronger currency.” The agenda is currently trending online.
From the Atiku Abubakar presentation above, the president-in-waiting (as OBJ famously referred to him when the ex president recently hosted the PDP presidential flag bearer in his country home in Abeokuta) is obviously prepared for the job. And that should be expected as he has been on the journey to the presidency since becoming Vice President in 1999.
Nevertheless, given what happened before and after the 2015 presidential campaigns when the then main opposition party, APC made wonderful and fantastic electoral promises prior to the election and after winning and taking control of Aso Rock villa, denied making the mouth watering and eyes popping promises, voters are now more circumspect.
The denial of the lofty campaign promises by APC was a big blow to the electorate and a shocker that threw Nigerians into despondency. The unfulfilled promises that resonated with the masses are: reducing fuel pump price to N40 per liter (now N145); scrapping of fuel subsidy (now in excess of N1trillion annually ); bringing down foreign exchange rate to $1 to N1 (from N160-190, now N360); ending religious insurgency driven then by Boko Haram (terrorism is still raging even after another $1b was set aside to tackle it and $500 used to purchase combat helicopters), plus emergence of a new strain of insecurity manifesting as herdsmen killings; as well as putting an end to epileptic electricity power supply. Indeed, most Nigerians believe that power outage is more rampant today than 3 years ago.
As the situation of things in respect of the existential challenges afflicting Nigerians highlighted above and which the APC promised to reverse, appear to be getting worse after three and half years of taking charge of governance at the Centre, the electorate would not be out of order if they distrust the ruling party and exhibit the attitude of a bride who is broken hearted and quits the marriage after the bridegroom failed to fulfill pre marriage promises.
Following the disappointments suffered by Nigerian voters and reflected by the angst of the public against the government in power during the one year anniversary of this administration, as it became clear that the promises made pre-election were being denied post-election, l wrote an article published widely in traditional and social media titled “Buhari Campaigned in Poetry, 12 Months On, He Is Ruling in Prose”
To avoid a repeat of such betrayal of the trust of voters, it is critically imperative that before the campaign for February 16, 2019 presidential election commences officially, Nigerians should demand that the candidates put their imprimatur on their campaign messages. For instance, that can be done by stating ‘l’m Atiku Abubakar and l endorse this message’.
By so doing, Nigerian voters would be protecting themselves from being deceived a second time by wily campaigners who would deny their promises after winning and mounting the throne of leadership on the basis of their promises.
For the purpose of introducing fidelity into the political campaign promises, the electorate must demand that a safeguard such as authentic endorsement of campaign messages by the candidate and party is put in place. That would help ensure that the promises made, pre-election are make good, post-election.
Without further equivocation, the issue in 2019 general elections should not be whether a candidate for public office in Nigeria has a valid USA visa or not. But it should be on whether the aspirant has socioeconomic management and leadership qualities and abilities that would take our country to the next level of progress and prosperity.
Magnus Onyibe, a development, alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and former commissioner in Delta State Government sent this piece from Abuja.