We have a new beginning

General has taken over and is the man of the moment. He must not fail the people. The mandate he has is to fix this country. The general, apart from the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, is the only leader who has relentlessly struggled to rule this country. He is not an opportunist leader.

On April 28th 2015 our nation was given a new lease of life. The nation had one of the most transparent elections ever held in our country. All international observers rated it above average. All thanks to God almighty and Professor Attahiru Jega, the INEC Chairman.

However it was not without challenges. The most prominent one was when elder Orubabe, a former minister, displayed the worst part of himself. He tried to subvert the electoral process after seeing sign the ruling party was losing. But for the wisdom of Prof jega we would have had a hung election. This would have opened us up to another round of violence, deaths and uncertainty.

In an article I wrote in Vanguard in March 2015, I had pointed out that except we have a new beginning our nation risked being sidelined in the comity of nations. The overwhelming support given to the Muhammadu Buhari shows the general disenchantment of the citizenry with the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan and whatever he stood for in the last six years that the government held sway. To be specific, the government of Goodluck, which promised fresh air to all Nigerians, fouled the air and brought more hardship than ever to the people while the key players in the administration became super rich.

That is why the new government must redeem the times and urgently return the nation to the old golden years when we walked the streets of the developed world with pride as Nigerians.
General Buhari has taken over and is the man of the moment. He must not fail the people. The mandate he has is to fix this country. The general, apart from the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, is the only leader who has relentlessly struggled to rule this country. He is not an opportunist leader.

But unlike the great sage the general has earned the opportunity to bring a change to this great nation. While he is not new to this assignment, his current outing is filled with many challenges. He will contend with a near collapse of all sectors of the nation. Also, this time around he does not have the luxury of ruling with decrees. He must work and relate well with the national assembly in accordance with our democratic set up.

At over 70 years of age, and with so much expectations from his teeming supporters who cut across tribal and religious divide, PMB cannot afford to miss this unique opportunity to print his name among the greatest leaders of Africa like the late Nelson Mandela.
There are many areas suffering degradation and begging for attention. But to make an impact the Buhari-led government must speedily tackle insecurity, corruption, the economy, unemployment and decaying infrastructure.

Insecurity has almost grounded the entire Northeast, it is equally threatening and creating palpable feat among Nigerians. The mismanagement of the opportunities in tackling the insurgency is unforgivable. It has cost the nation a lot in terms of human and materials.

The Nigerian armed forces whose constitutional role is to protect the territorial integrity of our country is yet to live up to that expectation. This is surprising considering that our troops have always excelled during external operations. It was so bad that our men had to abandon their positions in the face of Boko Haram superior fire power. When towns after towns were being lost to the insurgents, the military hierarchy was left with no option than to engage the services of mercenaries from neighbouring countries to save its face. When this was initially exposed by the Cable News Network, CNN, Defense headquarters cried foul and vehemently denied it.

Now, it has turned out to be true as the new president recently confirmed it. Engaging mercenaries to fight for us is nothing but a sell out. It infringes international conventions against the use of mercenaries. We also had to employ the services of Chad and Niger to be able to subdue the insurgents. It’s ironical that Chad that came as our saviour got a serious bashing from our troops led by this same Muhammadu Buhari , now the new president, back in 1986 when the Chadian troops crossed into our territory.

The Nigerian armed forces and indeed other security agencies must be revamped to meet current challenges. Lack of equipment that cost our troops so much failure must be addressed immediately. The right procedures to acquire and equip the armed forces with arsenals to confront its enemies must be followed. The fire brigade approach which the army hierarchy currently uses in security vital working tools for its officers and men must be done with. No other nation carries its cash across borders in the name of buying arms and ammunition like Nigeria did with South Africa and earned the wrath of the world.

Corruption is another cancer eating up our nation. We are rated among the first ten corrupt countries in the world. Whether we agree or not it is imperative we address the issue. The scams in the pension fund and the fuel subsidy are very relevant. Some have called for the strengthening of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and making to operate much the same way as the American Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, and concentrating on very serious crime areas like kidnapping, terrorism, financial crimes.

However, the starting point should be to address the inadequacies of the Nigeria Police. Should the unified system continue to operate? Or should we consider police with a federal police outfit similar to the National Guard for quick response to issues that cut across state borders. These are areas begging for answers.

The economy is another area of serious concern. We do not need a soothsayer to tell us that if nothing is done to our economy we are sitting on a time bomb. This is the time for some concrete work to be done to diversify our economy. The monolithic nature which depends on oil as our main source of national revenue is a recipe for disaster of no little magnitude. Our traditional areas of economic strength should be revisited and reawakened. Agriculture and the solid mineral sector should be given more emphasis. The current down turn in the economy is alarming.

The present impasse crippling the country is nothing but sabotage. We have never had it so bad. The sale of petroleum products by racketeers or black market operators has become big business on the streets of the nation.

It appears the fuel importers and marketers who operate a multi-billion scam are blackmailing the government into agreeing to one more massive payout before they leave. They were all taken by surprise at the land slide victory of PMB and they know that it can never be business as usual under him.

They are literally shutting down the nation saying they are owed $1bn in arrears, but no-one gets to see how that figure is worked out. Many government officials, including employees of the nnpc are neck deep in the fraud, it is therefore difficult to know the extent of the scam.

At the heart of the shortage is a row over the payment to wholesalers of the difference between the subsidised pump price and the international market price. It is believed that the new president muhammadu buhari, may move to end the petrol subsidy. This is the time for the new administration to take the bull by the horn and determine the best way forward for this nation. Should market forces dictate the price of petroleum products or should government continue to place a fixed price on it.

We must make it profitable for investors to come and build new refineries in the country and so reduce the dependence on imported refined fuel.

We must move away from this constant fuel strikes when the entire nation is placed at the mercy of the oil cabals. Unemployment in the country is running very high. Our youths now busy themselves doing other things that dent the image of the country.

The new administration must tackle the issue of decaying infrastructure. All our airports require massive interventions. Government must take a look at the ongoing renovation or new projects and see if they meet international standards. Our decaying oil refineries should be revamped and made to work. Should government continue to operate these refineries? So much money has been spent on renovating the national railways. Government must take a second look at these projects to determine if we are having the best system. Our roads are death traps.

The new government must speedily swing into action to repair them and provide new ones to create new avenues of transportation for Nigerians. Government hospitals are nothing to write home about.

These must be addressed and brought up to accepted standards. The new administration must hit the ground running for the interest of the nation and for the sake of the promises it made to the people of Nigeria to bring about change. It owes Nigerians nothing but change. President Muhammadu Buhari has the goodwill of Nigerians and all eyes are on him to deliver; and succeed, he must!

May God help him to deliver and bring about the desired change in a country so traumatised by past failures.

Written by Col Kemi Peters (Retired) wrote from 5b Niger Street, Wuse, Abuja

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