It’s Jagaban O’clock
He said it was his turn. Jagaban will now be tested. At the start of the 4th republic, he had passed the test in Lagos.
While Lagos can pass for a miniature Nigeria, the political temperaments are different. In 2023 Nigeria, teeming with hungry and tempestuous youths and riven by ethnic and religious sentiments, the task will be tricky. But of all the governors of his era, Asiwaju had the best cabinet and was the most innovative.
Though the presidency has come to him when he is much older, it is hoped the wisdom earned by age will offset the shortfall in vigour. He needs to stay on his feet. Unlike Buhari who had the luxury to watch and pray for six months before lifting a finger, Jagaban can’t take an inauguration nap before launching into the deep.
The country is floundering in troubled waters. If Jagaban’s team doesn’t start to take shape by the end of the first week, he would seem unprepared. He can’t afford to trigger apathy. The Nigeria he is inheriting still has great potential but its existence is threatened by imminent socioeconomic and political deterioration.
Unlike Obasanjo, who came when West Africa was enjoying a honeymoon with multiparty democracy, Jagaban has come at a tempestuous time. Coups are no longer fashionable, but West Africa’s romance with democracy has been punctured badly.
So Jagaban can neither snooze nor slouch. After the Arab Spring and EndSars riots; after Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Chad; the idea that democracy can’t fail is no longer unthinkable.
So the situation is urgent. Jagaban must find national unity, secure the country and put it on the path of inclusive prosperity.
To do this, Jagaban must be honest, firm, bold and innovative. Personal attributes inspire. His lifestyle will be critical. The public is fed up with sybaritism. If his government sticks with the old babanriga ways of bloated systems and expenditures, this country will slide into confusion.
Fortunately, Jagaban’s manifesto is not timid. It’s promisingly experimental. If the country will fail let it fail in trying new things boldly and conscientiously. That’s better than rotting in shiftlessness. Some of the bold and creative steps promised by Jagaban might renew hope. Slogans won’t cut it. His symbol is broken chains. To succeed Jagaban must find humility, walk his talk, and fulfill his crucial promises with a keen eye on posterity.
REMOVAL OF PETROL SUBSIDY
In 2015, Buhari was swimming in public trust. He could have removed the petrol subsidy without batting an eyelid but he dithered and dithered.
That consumption subsidy is now a 3-4 trillion naira albatross on the neck of a floundering nation. The president-elect was emphatic in his vow to remove the petrol subsidy once he had the reins of power. Let’s hope he doesn’t decide to forget like Buhari.
Because our income streams are pathetic. Our revenues can’t service our debts and pay salaries. We depend on China to build roads and buy bullets for the armed forces. The situation is not sustainable. A giant being bottle-fed by China. But Jagaban might not have it easy. In the aftermath of the elections, the country has become more divided. The removal of the subsidy will
impose an immediate but temporary hardship. Therefore removing the subsidy in the post-election climate could be riskier than earlier envisaged. But Jagaban must be resolute. The leader that will rescue this country and make it great again must overlook personal political calculations and take bold actions. If the subsidy lingers, our debt problems will worsen. This will be a test of Jagaban’s mettle.
WIDENING THE TAX NET
It’s a double-edged sword. Jagaban promised efficient collection and utilization of taxes. But our productivity has slumped because of insecurity and naira instability. His priority can’t be to overburden the flagging productivity.
He must spur output and improve public confidence through judicious utilization of resources. The economy can only flourish if we become less oil-dependent. When Buhari’s Economic
Recovery and Growth Program (ERGP) was still alive, before covid got it bedridden, the FG had planned to widen the tax net and push Tax/GDP ratios from 6% to 18-20%. Jagaban must be clear-sighted on tax. He can’t widen the tax if his government isn’t demonstrably frugal and if the public has no confidence in the anti-corruption program of the president. More important than
making speeches would be a practical demonstration that he would not shield any of the corrupt politicians, even his political benefactors and aides.
When the people have no confidence in the ability of the government to protect national wealth from embezzlement and impunity, they would regard any tax drive with cynicism. The public is restive.
The government awaken to the new consciousness. Only a visible and thoroughgoing effort by the new govt to cut costs and wastage can placate the hungry masses. There is no other route to Renewed Hope.
Governments at all levels must be lean and must forsake gluttony. If the government officials don’t show that they appreciate the times and the perilous economic state by their lifestyle then the new govt could be in trouble.
STUDENT LOAN and its DOMINO EFFECT
Jagaban promised education loans. If he keeps his promise then he might kill many cherished birds with one stone. If indigent students can borrow to study, society will have more diverse educated folks and the gap between the rich and the poor will reduce. If the poor can borrow freely for education, then schools will have the moral liberty to charge competitively and deliver quality
Student loans will ultimately lead to the autonomy of universities. The incessant strikes won’t just become history, our university teachers and staff will get better remunerations, equipment and training to maximise their potential. But the student loan domino effect won’t stop at democratizing tertiary education and improving teaching and research, it will enhance national productivity.
That’s what quality manpower breeds. The social effects will be rife. Many Nigerians missed out on life just because of school fees. When those who would have missed out get on track because the nation provided them loans, their sense of belonging will improve as their standard of living. Ultimately patriotism and a sense of nationhood will rise. Yet student loans without jobs could be problematic.
Jagaban plans to expand consumer loans. The idea is to grow the economy and enhance the standard of living. It’s a tricky adventure but Nigeria can’t remain stagnant. It remains to be seen how the required money will be sourced and the reticence of banks will be overcome.
The impact of further exponential growth in ‘Ways and Means’ on the economy could be unpredictable. But if judiciously crafted
and matched with aggressive job creation in all sectors, an increase in consumer loans for house and car ownership can trigger many beautiful things. Jobs will rise in the construction industry. Young people will save more by tying themselves to housing commitments rather than playing bet naija. Corruption in the civil service might reduce because civil servants can own houses and pay in easy installments over a long time. Consumer loans for locally manufactured cars can boost the car manufacturing sector with more car companies flocking in to set up plants. However, indiscriminate consumer lending can damage the banking sector. So any massive expansion of consumer credits must be backed by a sustainable increase in productivity and jobs. And that’s where Power comes in.
In the early 2000’s Jagaban was adventurous in power generation. He started the first Independent Power Plant in the 4th Republic. He can’t renew any hope without defeating darkness. The power challenge has been our Achilles heel. However, Buhari has done Jagaban a favor with the Siemens deal. Before Siemens, the power road-map had been shambolic. Jonathan privatized power by
servicing cronyism and mediocrity.
Siemens have brought in methodology. Jagaban must review the Siemens agreement to strengthen, quicken and augment it. We should be more ambitious than the German company. If power becomes available, youth unemployment and banditry will reduce drastically.
Without a significant change in current power distribution levels, waiting for Jagaban’s economic revival could be a Waiting for Godot. Power is imperative. But without sourcing fresh funds in titanic proportions Jagaban could be a lame duck.
CAPITAL FLOW and theNAIRA EXCHANGE RATE
Since Russia and Ukraine started their roforofo, lenders have zipped up their wallets and shut shop. Covid was when it started. Many Borrowers have gone to lenders and returned with empty plates.
We must creatively generate real capital. Subsidy removal will save a few trillions per annum. But Jagaban needs immediate liquidity. It’s unlikely he will hit a jackpot with FDIs now. He has promised to beef up the naira. Defending the naira aggressively, fashioning student and consumer loans, expanding the military and security agencies will require money if we don’t intend to do more damaging wayward ‘Ways and Means’.
Jaganban promised to sell LPG in advance. That’s a bold step. But he might have to liquefy more national assets. The risk is that we could be mortgaging the future. But there is no getting out of a deep hole by hopping. If we discount 15 years receipts in advance and plough the money deftly and judiciously, we could be on our way to prosperity. The danger is, in Nigeria, virtue is scarce and Jagaban needs the public to trust him. When a firstborn decides to sell the lands his ancestors have kept for 100 years, he must beseech the gods. If he fails his carcass will be consigned to the evil forest.
Jagaban’s acid test is his cabinet. The Naira exchange rate could make or mar. Jagaban has promised a unification of rates thatwill float. he has promised to engineer a respectable rate for the naira. The taste of the pudding is in the eating. Buhari made many of such promises but Jagaban claims authority inthe sector. Nigerians can’t wait. Their purchasing power has been left for the dogs inflation and high exchange rate to devour.
NATIONAL UNITY AND INSURGENCIES
Jagaban promised to increase the capacity of the country to contain nuisance by expanding the military and police. We can’t absorb 50 million youths but smart new agency to handle banditry and violent crimes may be necessary.
But he has to be methodical. Immediate improvement in the welfare of officers and men of the police and other security agencies will be a good start. Then a riot act must be read. Subsequently training facilities and programs must be audited and modernized. There is a need to build more training centres for the military and police and spread them across the country. Lopsideness is short-sightedness.
We will exacerbate the situation by recruiting chaff. Standards must be standards. To achieve this, retired officers and men may be needed to man the training depots. A larger military and police would need more than Agbado. They will need the best technological tools.
Modern counter-insurgency relies on technology, while more young men are needed to occupy our vast grounds and liberated areas.
Our focus must be on drone technology. Whatever we choose we must buy smartly and sufficiently to seize control and make
violent crime exorbitant for bandits and terrorists.
But beyond law enforcement and military kinetics, political solutions to insurgencies must be devised. Politicians should be politicians. If there are ways to placate groups and lure them into reformation then that must be pursued with vigor. The Boko haram war has lasted forever.
Once we decapitate and decimate groups, we must find a way to negotiate a settlement. The IPOB issue must also be checked with both counter-insurgency and law enforcement. But serious political engagement with principal actors might yield
Ultimately the country must fashion a coherent decentralisation strategy. Decentralisation with regional financial autonomy and policing will save the country a thousand troubles.
THE CABINET and PRESIDENT’S BODY LANGUAGE
Jagaban’s cabinet composition can win him public confidence. Jagaban needs to win the hearts and minds of many skeptical youths and fence-sitters. If he rejects lopsidedness, cronyism and compensatory politics and embraces merit, inclusiveness and professionalism, he will earn trust. The jury is out. If he peoples his cabinet with big politicians running away from the EFCC, he will
leave neutral disenchanted and apathetic.
If he uses the same metric he used to pick Fashola, Akabueze, Wale Edun, Femi Pedro, Osinbajo etal, he will have the wind in his sails.
Public confidence in the moral stature of his cabinet will be a deciding factor. Yet, the most important signal would be how much aversion he shows for corruption and ineptitude. Trim the cabinet.
No ministers of state. The federal cabinet will not be the grounds to begin playing 2027 game. In any case, recent happenings have shown that Nigerians are hungry and impatient, and they can sniff charlatanism, reject feudalism and march on to express disenchantment with their votes. The president’s body language will be more important than the long speeches. If the EFCC is allowed to become a pet pigeon which lousy politicians can toy with rather than a watchful eagle, then impunity will mushroom
and eat the country.
Regardless of what the courts might decide, Jagaban will be in charge for some time. His time has come. If he makes justice and posterity his priority, he will write his name in gold. The test is on. The clock starts now