A Roadmap for Change: Here Comes APC’s Blueprint
Though they had their manifesto with which they campaigned, they still needed to get the input of most Nigerians on the core social, economic and political issues bedeviling the country. And to get more insights on how to solve them, they gathered many talents and brainstormed for two days. Below is the fallout of the event organised by the Policy, Research and Strategy Directorate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Presidential Campaign Council in Abuja.
The human assemblage was rich. The topics were many and the discussions were robust. That was the atmosphere that defined the two-day policy dialogue on the implementation of the “Agenda for Change” held between Wednesday and Thursday in the passing week.
Venue was the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, and the organizer was the Policy, Research and Strategy Directorate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Presidential Campaign Council under the directorship of the former Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
Themed “Implementing Change: From Vision to Reality”, the dialogue x-rayed various grounds for rapid economic, social and political development and growth of Nigeria in the incoming administration of General Muhammadu Buhari.
A barrage of topical issues
Topics after topics featured. They were: “Improving the National Economy for Shared Prosperity; “Repositioning Agriculture for Job Creation and Economic Prosperity”; “Developing Infrastructure for National Development”; “Achieving Sustainable Reforms on Oil/Gas Sector”; “Reducing Inequality and Achieving Sustainable Human Development”; “Achieving Holistic and Sustainable Reforms in the Education Sector”; “Developing an Education System Relevant to Nigeria’s Developmental Aspiration”; “Achieving Qualitative and Affordable Healthcare”.
Others included: “Achieving Diversity and Inclusion in Public Life”; “Exploring Sports, Tourism and Creative Industry for Job Creation”; “Governance and Improved Efficiency in Public Service”; “Tackling Corruption in Public Sector” and “Foreign Policy and Agenda for Change”.
The resource persons
Similarly, there were rich, handy human resources that prosecuted the projects. This was divided into three: Moderators, Lead Presenters and Discussants.
Some of the people included Ms. Ifueko Omogui-Okauru, former Chairperson of the FIRS; Dr Rilwan Babalola, former Minister of Power; Dr Tajudeen Umar, former Country Chair, Nigeria –Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Authority; Prof Niyi Ayoola Daniels, President International Institute for Petroleum Energy Law and Policy; Mr Tunde Ahonsi, Resident Representative UNFPA, Ghana; Major-General Ishola Williams (rtd), former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, FCT and Kaduna State governor-elect, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai.
Others were Prof Pai Obanya, Chairman WAEC; Dr Ayo Teriba, CEO Economic Associates; Prof. Bolaji Aluko, Vice Chancellor Federal University, Otuoke; Prof Mohammed Tabia of the Department of Islamic Law, Bayero University, Kano; General Abdulrahman Dambazzau, former Chief of Army Staff; Prof Ibrahim Gambari, former Nigerian Permanent Representative, United Nations; Mr Fola Arthur-Worrey, former Solicitor-General, Lagos State; Ms Bolanle Onagoruwa, former Director-general BPE; Mr Wale Fapounda, of Legal Resources Consortium; and Prof Etannibi Alemika, Chairman CLEEN Foundation.
Moderators were Professor Pat Utomi, Fellow Nigerian Institute of Management Consultants, Chief Audu Ogbe, Chairman, Efugo Farms, Makurdi, Benue State and former Minister of Communications; Professor Friday Okonofua, Provost College of Medical Science, University of Benin; Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State and Director-General, DG, APC Presidential Campaign; Dr. Jubril Ibrahim, Visiting Lecturer, Babcock University among others.
The assemblage of the people were to first identify the persistent social issues, harness the potentials necessary for a holistic approach and package it for the Buhari government. And they did.
At the opening ceremony were former British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, who was represented by his former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Mr. Peter Benjamin Mandelson, the Vice President-elect, Professor Yemi Osibanjo who doubled as the chairman of the occasion and of course, the Directorate’s boss, Dr. Fayemi.
Mandelson and Osibanjo in their speeches made bold statements. While the visiting Briton asked Buhari to mostly crack the nut of the Nigerian national cash cow, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and in the build-up take drastic, bold decisions within his first 100 days in office if he must succeed. The advice was indeed a sermon.
Hear him: “What you do in the first 100 days is important and symbolic and can also have tremendously positive repercussion for the government and throughout the country. You have a limited window of opportunity to make an impact as a government. Looking at Nigeria, I would say your vulnerability is corruption and that is not new to you, particularly around the oil sector.
“People in this country seem to be able to do things with impunity and beyond the reach of the rule of law or proper accountability and the judicial system. You can crack the NNPC nut or you can make a start on it in the first 100 days and if you do so, you would have built a very strong foundation for what you have to do in the next four years and beyond”.
“It is quite courageous for a government to give power away to another entity. There were people who voted for the others, mostly in the south and the east of the country. You need to show the people who didn’t vote for you that you represent their interest as much as the people who voted for you.
“This was what we called big tent politics during Tony Blair era. If Nigeria is to transform and evolve towards a politics of performance, it is very important to get away from the politics of ethnicity, religion, politics of patronage and cronyism.”
The visiting British leader also hailed Nigeria for the peaceful elections, saying that it had proved doomsayers wrong that the country would have disintegrated, charging the incoming government to stay true to its mandate.
“I am glad to be here at this time for this reason. There were many in the international community who doubted you who said that Nigeria would never see truly free and fair elections or a peaceful transition of power from opposition to government. There were others who said because of the profound differences divisions in your country between Christain and Muslims, North and south, haves and have not, these were too great to be overcome, that the election would only divide Nigeria and make her weaker. Well, you have proved all those people wrong and I congratulate you.”
He also asked Buhari not to derail from their mandate
“I remember when we, Tony and I and the rest of office in Britain in 1997, the first time in time in 18 long years in opposition and many of us Ministers, including the Prime minister himself, had never been in government before, not even a junior parliamentary or Secretary of State, the lowest for ministerial life. We were all new. I was the third man. I want to share with you the first rule of government because it is irrelevant to you. Be true to your word. Be true to your mandate.”
110m Nigerians live below poverty line – Osinbajo
While declaring the event open, the Vice President-elect and chairman of the occasion said that the priorities of the incoming government were to tackle poverty and stamp out corruption from the system.
He said: “In the course of the election campaign, we ran an issues-based campaign that identified certain areas of public policy as high priorities for propelling Nigeria forward. We addressed the challenges of the Economy, Insecurity, Corruption and Jobs Creation. We spoke to the challenge of providing opportunities for self-actualization to millions of our young people who face an uncertain future with understandable anxiety.
“The figures of extreme poverty in our society – 110 million by current estimates – make it clear that our biggest national problem is the extreme poverty of the majority. Thus, no analysis is required to conclude that dealing with poverty and its implications is a priority.
“We are concerned that our economy is currently in perhaps its worst moment in history. Local and international debt stands at US$60 billion. Our Debt servicing bill for 2015 is N953.6 billion, 21% of our Budget. On account of severely dwindled resources, over two-thirds of the States in Nigeria owe salaries. Federal institutions are not in much better shape. Today, the nation borrows to fund recurrent expenditure. This is also against the backdrop of a highly unequal society in which, by some reckoning, the largest chunk of the benefits of our national wealth accrues to a small percentage of our population.”
According to him, the event must not be another talk-shop but one that will produce workable templates on country’s development drive for the incoming administration.
Why we organized the event – Fayemi
The Director of the Policy, Research and Strategy of the APC campaign, gave insights on what motivated the Directorate to embark on the dialogue.
“Our task, as we saw it, was to undergird our campaign with an intellectual and strategic rigour that positioned our party as the pre-eminent movement of ideas in the recently concluded electoral cycle. Our desire, right from the onset, was to open a new chapter in the annals of partisan politics in Nigeria – one that departed from the personality-centered incivilities of the most banal kind that characterized the electioneering season.
“I can disclose with some pride that a majority of the lead presenters in this dialogue are members of the Directorate of Policy, Research and Strategy and have all been instrumental in crafting the policy priorities and propositions that helped decisively swing the fate of Africa’s largest democracy in favour of progressive forces. Our group has been one big family that has thought deeply and broadly about Nigeria. We conducted our work not in a spirit of competition but in one of collaborative problem-solving dedicated to a higher goal of giving our nation an unprecedented opportunity for progress.
One of the discussants, Mrs. Ifueko Okauru, who also delivered a paper on “Improving the National Economy for Shared Prosperity”, told Sunday Vanguard that for the incoming regime to deliver on its campaign promises amid a bleeding economy, it must pursue “Revenue generation and expenditure reduction.”
She also called for all hands to be on deck to enable the government succeed.
“I think we need to go beyond this “since it is Buhari or APC that won, let’s see what they can do”, attitude. It is not what they can do but what we can do. I think we need to realize that and focus on what we can we can get involved in the discussion, hold your public officers accountable because we need to get out of where we are today. We have been told that the incoming government may not have the money to run government the way it should be if they don’t get a loan.
Governor-Elect, Mallam Nasir El-rufai
From the NNPC to civil service down to core issue of governance, El-Rufai who spoke on the topic “Governance and Improving Efficiency in Public Service”, blew hot, canvassing for zero budgeting system.
Hear the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT:
“We must operate a zero based budgeting system. We must draw a line and say no more let every agency justify every penny from personal cost how many people do you have? What are their salaries? Why are you paying them this salary? If it is recorded why are you taking more teas than any other in the world?
“Why do your vehicles consume more petrol than all the vehicles in Kaduna state? We must ask this question and start the budgeting circle now; it has to be zero based. In Kaduna that is what we are doing, I am not going to even look at budget that is there we are going to do a budget from 30 May.
Giving details of the public expenditure by government institutions, the governor-elect said that unless the incoming administration takes some drastic decisions, the road to success would still be far.
“Now this is a graphic picture of how things have deteriorated in the last 5-8 years and I think it is important to put this in perspective because when things go wrong, it is easy to blame those that are there without looking at what legacy they are inheriting.
“What I am trying to say here is APC is inheriting perhaps the worst ever set of human development indices in Nigeria’s history than any government has ever had to face and this change of 2015 arose because of this deterioration actually. People just got tired of this lack of progress and tendency to go into denials that there were no problems. And we have promised that we will focus on anti-corruption, security, economy and employment.
“I am putting this in perspective because if we are going to have to achieve anything we have to go in with a knife and take drastic actions in the shortest possible time to put things in perspective”, he said.
He put the blame of the bleeding economy squarely on the door post of the outgoing administration even as he stated that challenges facing the APC administration were enormous.
The challenges before APC government
“So what are the challenges ahead for us? The challenges for us are only five but they are big issues; first is rising governance cost. Jonathan legacy of waste, debt, corruption and institutional destruction. One of the things I think Jonathan deserves a noble prize for is the capacity to take functional institutions and destroy them within the shortest period of time.
“Functioning institutions that we left have been destroyed and I don’t know how; it is magic, Jonathanian magic. The second is manifest injustice. We live in a country where 3-4 million people that work for the public service consume about 90 percent of the revenues of the government.
“That is injustice and we must ask ourselves whether that makes sense. We must ask ourselves whether we should live in a country with this kind of perverse prioritization. How can spending only 10 percent in this budget on capital expenditure and the entire 10 percent will be borrowed?
“So the entire revenues of the federal government are going to be spent on running the federal government so that one million people that work for the federal government wear nice suits meanwhile we don’t have roads, electricity is not working, no rail system. What kind of people are we?
“We have to ask ourselves this question and all of us here that are elites need to ask if that is sustainable and this is why I ended by saying the selfish attitude of the elites needs reconsideration and there are also significant issues around quantity, quality and administrative capacity of the public service. So what do we need to do?”
He answered the question himself.
“I have 10 points. I am sure they are not exhaustive but 10 is enough. First we need to accelerated implementation of the national ID scheme. Now I am sure you are surprised why I put that as number 1 but one of the biggest problems we have in this country is tracing wrong doings and criminals.
“People do things and just disappear. People from neighbouring countries come into Nigeria and just take our passports and do things in our name. The national ID card scheme is the most important infrastructure we need not only to identify who is a Nigerian but to count ourselves and eliminate many areas of wrong doings.
“Secondly we need to review inland status on falsification of records and perjury to its conviction. Nigeria is the only country where people lie on forms, change their age, do any kind of stuff without any consequence.
“I don’t think we will make progress because it starts from there. The moment a person feels comfortable about altering records it is even easier to steal and disappear since there is no identification.
Away from the issue of governance and civil service, infrastructure and electricity generation also featured at the conference.
Ms. Onagoruwa, the Acting Managing Director, Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company, who delivered a paper on Developing Infrastructure for National Development, told Sunday Vanguard the thrust of her delivery.
“It is about infrastructure development in Nigeria and basically what government can do to accelerate it given the quantity of resources available to it because you have to now start thinking out of the box, to look at ways you can raise finance. The problems are well known because we looked at power. We looked at rail. We looked at roads, ports and one thing cuts across; finance”, she said.
From the deluge of papers and ideas espoused at the conference, there is no doubt that the APC has pinpointed where it pinches Nigerians most. But it is one thing to think out an idea and brainstorm over it, yet another thing to implement it. APC has thought out this blueprint adding it to its manifesto. It is now left for the president-elect to walk the talk immediately after he is sworn-in in five days’ time. Like the Vice President-elect remarked, “this forum cannot and will not be another talk shop.”