May 29, 2015 — date of the power shift, paradigm shift, political shift marking the New Democratic Dispensation for Nigeria and its people. May 29, 2015 ushered in in a New Nigerian President — General Muhammadu Buhari — who gracefully, but emphatically laid out his change-agent strategies for Africa’s most populous country. As he spoke before an enthusiastic inaugural crowd at Abuja’s Eagle Square, it was clear that he was further outlining things he had previewed, in what FEEEDS® is calling “The Buhari Doctrine.” His speech was a mission statement, road map of where he wants the country to go, how to get there, and the fortitude required of the nation to make real, sustainable change happen.
Buhari — after complimenting the statesman-like transition behavior of outgoing president Jonathan — kicked into high gear with two phrases which FEEEDS sees as defining statements as to how he will govern: “I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody,” and the “past is prologue,” the intensity of these words were not lost on anyone:
— Influence peddling and corruption will not be tolerated;
— Post-election political animosity needs to be set aside so the country can move forward.
Buhari has been on a 12-year mission for change, which includes several presidential bids. So now the mission is a Government Administration with Nigeria in a different “league of democratic nations,” setting an example for Africa, and all evolving democracies. The Buhari Doctrine set forth focuses on the core goals of reducing poverty, improving political conditions and diversifying the economy as well as:
1.) Strengthening security in the Northeast and relationships with neighbors in fighting Boko Haram. (Buhari thanked Chad, Niger, and Cameroon for being good allies);
2.) Improving plight of internally displaced by Boko Haram;
3.) Working on a range of sectoral reforms, particularly in the oil sector and on hot button subsidy issue;
4.) Re-establishing good education and health systems;
5.) Encouraging the private sector to expand job creation for young people;
The inaugural crowd called Buhari “Baba” (meaning Father-Leader) as they reveled in the 4-hour historic moment — setting aside momentarily worries about one of the worse fuel shortages Nigeria has ever seen.
Sensing the need to manage mission with implementation, Baba Buhari added the watch words “patience and time” to his inaugural speech to manage expectations from his countrymen and international community as he will need lots of both to fix, correct, and improve challenges outlined above.
It seems President Buhari had truly taken on the father figure of the nation as his message was part counsel, vision, and a preview of his leadership style. There is a Nigeria he envisions, one that functions better economically, politically; where Nigerians honor each other; which has a vibrant civil service; and where there is discipline. Yes, he was a military ruler; yes, he came to power in a coup (1983-1985); and yes he was removed by a coup.
This does not diminish his inaugural message, his 12-year doggedness to become president, and his mission to be true to Nigerian voters. He wants a mature democracy that includes action against corruption, impunity; and a democratic philosophy for Nigeria’s future built on transparency. Nigeria has already turned a page, deepening its democracy with the 2015 election, and May 29, 2015 transition.
One interesting take-away of the inaugural activities was they reflected the diversity of Nigeria. They were inclusive: regionally, ethnically, religiously, and surprisingly, to some extent politically. In attendance, were a fair number of previous ruling party (PDP) stalwarts, Muslim and Christian leaders, activists, academics, media, and captains of industry. It was one of the most inclusive events Nigeria has had in a while — an important early achievement of Buhari’s victory. Yes, sour grapes do remain within PDP, but some (not all) dusted themselves off following post-election shock, and behaved as conciliatory as former president Jonathan.
It would be hard for any fair-minded person not to support the notion of every Nigerian having the opportunity not to live in poverty or fear, providing there is no intent on harm, human rights violations, or abuse. Democracies are not about one voice, but “inclusiveness” (all political and religious views, ethnic groups, women, youth, disabled, civil society), albeit fairly, constructively, transparently, and without malice.
The hard part will be the first 100 days, the first year. However, there are a few positives which are worth recapping. Nigeria is:
— Africa’s largest economy;
— World’s Fourth largest populated country;
— Only nation having 100+ mobile phones (important for business and education);
— Premier African investment destination;
— Africa’s third largest middle class at 30 million;*
However, the list of challenges, on top of security and corruption, are a lot longer. With this New Dispensation comes the responsibility to “lean forward” more vigorously to:
• Reduce poverty, as about 60 per cent of Nigerians live on naira 290 a day ($1.25) , with same number facing food security;
• Address education. Nigeria has world’s largest number of children [10 million]not in school; children under 15 are 44 percent of population; 39 percent of Nigerian adults cannot read or write;
• Improve health and provide housing to the 17 million without shelter;*
• Expand SMEs from its current 17 million;*
• Create 1.8 million jobs yearly from current 1.2 million to outpace poverty and keep pace with population;*
• Secure energy-fuel needs, including rural electrification;
• Focus on women and at-risk girls from education to financial inclusion as they lag on all human index well-being indicators.
Changing any of the above will improve the life of the average Nigerian. The peaceful transition is just the start and we need, as the international community, to do all we can to support President Buhari and Vice-President Osinbajo to implement their positive mission for the nation.