By MARIAM ALESHINLOYE AGBOOLA JOS
The role played by civil society groups in installing All Progressives Congress, APC in predominantly, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP states like Plateau cannot be underestimated. Director of Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Steve Daniel Aluko was on air on a radio Programme Unity Train of a privately owned station Unity FM to argue the need for a change. Now the change has come on the Plateau and tongues have started wagging on the moves of the new administration in the state.
Aluko who was a member of the National Conference convoked by former President GoodLuck Jonathan speaks on this, events in the National Assembly, probing the past administration and the recommendations of the National Conference, among others.-
Plateau government seems to be starting on the wrong note
First and foremost I want to say Plateau government has no reason not to perform because the bond that brought it on board was the bond of unity of Plateau people in general, and the deliberate decision by the people of the state to say no, to the bad tradition of the past. Now that it has come on board, it needs to act fast. The speeches and body language of the government must be made clear. It is really out of place for the State Assembly members to go to Obudu ranch for a retreat considering the fact that APC, as a party campaigned that it will guide against waste and abuse of power. It has become a recurring decimal from the time of former Governor Joshua Dariye to date for the House of Assembly members to always have cause to go to Obudu. It is a drainage pipe of resources as far as some of us are concerned. There are many hotels on the Plateau that can comfortably accommodate them to enable them to have their retreat as it may be. We are crying that we have a very lean purse and backlog of debts to be paid and salaries are still being owed here and there and this government could still embark on such wastage. What people will have appreciated is for this government to cut some of these expenses and make sure money is channeled to the right place. The APC government had assured the people of the state that, it would pay civil servants’ salaries. It is out of place to hear that they have jetted to Obudu Ranch. Secondly Governor Simon Lalong having spent barely few weeks in office is already on his way to Brazil. It is very important this government cuts this trend of spending too much money. The hard earned revenue of the people of Plateau must be channeled to areas like human development where the change will be accepted and properly consolidated.
We must however commend the governor for saying he will not move into the newly constructed Government House at Little Rayfield. It is important to see him stay by his words and not give excuses to move in. The best thing the building can serve for now is to be used for generating fund. The state Assembly members should have taken advantage of that place instead of going to Obudu Ranch for retreat.
The people of Plateau State expect a lot from this government. It must follow the examples of some APC states where for example, deliberate actions have been taken to cut down on the number of ministries that would exist by merging some of them and reducing the number of special assistants. The governor was part and parcel of Dariye’s government and must learn from the past and must also learn from the mistakes of the Jang administration. Beyond talking, he must be acting. He must also look into other areas of wastage and cut it and let Plateau people see that there is a change. One thing he must keep in mind is that PDP has a consolidated hold on Plateau before now and the only way he can tilt peoples’ mind from it is to be seen to be running a different pattern of government. It must have its priorities spelt out from the onset. Otherwise it might be somersaulting. It must learn from what happened in Ekiti state if it must hold on to power. The APC must not just sit on the corridors of power and not seen to be playing critical act of governance. The people’s interest must be given the highest priority and they must enjoy the dividend of democracy and there should be security on the Plateau. It must cut unnecessary journeys and if the governor must go out of the country, he must hand over power to his deputy. That was the first thing the former governor got wrong. He was moving out of state without handing over power to his deputy. Change must be seen in its real sense. The people he would bring on board as commissioners must not be the same old people but those who have value to add to governance. It must not be on the basis of patronage but be on the basis of governance and integrity. Or else change will just be a fallacy.
Why Buhari needs to implement recommendation of the National Confab
People are calling on Buhari’s administration to implement the recommendations of the National Conference because it is about Nigerians accepting that some of its recommendations needed to be looked into. I am against the government implementing all the recommendations of the confab because some of them will not necessarily tally with the realities of the day and moreover Jonathan’s administration did not allow the people to vote on it. There were some critical issues which need to be revisited, One credit one must give to the Buhari regime and APC is that though it was not represented there as a party, it has been able to upgrade some of its documents beyond the recommendation of the confab. For instance regarding the issue of security, Buhari regime has said it is going beyond state Police, to also have that local government council police. This is a good development. It is not enough to box a government to one document. The best the confab represents is that it provided template for which subsequent governments could improve upon. In its life span of four years all the recommendations we had at the confab, cannot be implemented by this government. But there are some critical areas it needs to resolve. These are areas like security, job creation, fighting corruption, engagement of the youths; as well as taking away immunity which the Buhari’s administration has also said it would take away and the diversification of the economy above dollar driven economy. This government has already picked interest in these areas and must see how it could improve on them. The recommendations of the confab will be the minimum standard in which we would measure the performance of this administration.
The recommendation of the confab cannot be treated in isolation of other issues that will be coming up day by day. National confab has gone beyond the fact that Jonathan government convoked it. It was a disservice to the nation that the government that convoked the confab and had eight months after could not implement any part of it. It means that the confab has taken itself beyond the programme of the PDP. Otherwise, if it has faith in it, eight months was long enough to implement part of it. So APC should use the recommendations in those critical areas as benchmark which they can improve upon.
One recommendation this government must also borrow from the confab is running a compact government. One is happy that the president is already cutting down on the number of special advisers, from over 150 to15. This is a good development. Despite Jonathan not implementing the report, this government should not throw it away. It is very important it uses it for posterity to judge it right. .
Buhari is on right track on Security
The fight against terror cannot be done by only one country. Part of the logjam of the Jonathan’s government was its inability to link up with necessary regional interests like the Chad region which the president has now visited. Even the developed countries do not just stay at home to fight terror. They make sure they cultivate the diplomatic interest of the neighboring countries. That is important. We should remember that at a point the Chadian and Nigerien governments were having problems even with Nigeria. The last administration was not even giving them support as at when due to take the fight to the level they wanted to take it. Visiting these countries by President Buhari is a good thing and he held strategic meetings with the leaders. If we recall, at a point, even the AU said it would not be able to come into the Boko Haram fight unless the Nigerian government gives it the go ahead to do so. Of course in International Relation, there is room for it; you must have exhausted all your energy and seek for intervention before others can come into your country. , Buhari has also gone to the AU and the G8. The beautiful thing about going to G8 was that we have unconditional commitment unlike in the days of Jonathan that all of them were putting conditions. The condition they were putting then was that Nigeria had the capacity to fight her war and that it was deliberate and self infliction for her not fighting it. They have now picked interest in this government fighting the war and have seen its commitment. The body language is now clear and the morale of the military is also high unlike during the Jonathan regime when they were controlling the war from Abuja. The command has also relocated to Borno State. This has also given the people some sense of empathy; that they are not alone in this fight. It took the president three years and close to the election time before he could visit the area. There is confidence building in winning the war. With the support and confidence that has come in, it will just be a matter of time before the war would be taken to another level. Even in international relation, when the Head of state is involved in international matters, it is taken more serious than when foreign affairs minister or any other person is involved.
If you notice the sitting position of Mr. President at the G8 meeting, he was deliberately placed between President Obama and the French Chancellor. These are the leading countries in fighting terrorism. Beyond speaking at the meeting, it avail our president the opportunity of speaking with them on personal level. It also gives Nigeria the opportunity to speak on the real situation of things about what it planned to do and how it will go about them. This is a departure from what we had in the past.
The neighbouring countries have also made some financial commitments beyond that of the US and France. This is a good development. The fight against terror must not be seen as an isolated fight. It must be understood to be an international war across the entire sub Saharan region. The message Buhari gave was clear in places like Chad, Niger and Cameroun; that we must also cultivate the interest of their external friends. His taking it headlong and getting involved is very important.
Why Boko Haram still strikes
The bloodbath we are still experiencing is expected. The war against terror cannot be fought and won immediately. It took them some time for them to build up so will it take time to subside. They have also been able to hypnotize a lot of people. What we are now experiencing is the scattered effect of the fight against terror. Their safe zone is not as sealed as it was before. Some of them are the ones moving around. They are the ones doing some of these hit and run tactics. If we had nipped this problem in bud when it started, it will not have gotten to this point. People must continuously take precautionary measures because those areas they have been able to hit are the places where people have relaxed their security unnecessarily. They must tighten up their security and ensure it is a 24 hour thing, seven days a week and done for the whole year. While government is playing its role, we must take measures too. We must also go beyond talking and be seen to be acting.
One other thing this government must also include is a reward system so that gallant soldiers are rewarded and those not meeting up are sanctioned appropriately. The war has gone beyond Nigeria and definitely it will be won but we cannot say how soon. But in no time, we will see the effect. But we, as a people must be security conscious.
Government should not remove subsidy
In my university days, I had fought against the removal of petroleum subsidy. Subsidy must be understood as a welfare concept. It is the abuse of it we must guide against. It was the abuse we saw under the last regime. After the January 2012 uprising, how many of those thieves which the government called cabal have been brought to book? It is the justice system that is missing in that point? Part of the reason capitalism has survived up till this moment in advanced countries is because they have some welfare programmes. We cannot run away from subsidy. The multiplying effect of removing subsidy is higher than what people are saying. The other time there was problem in the country, the banks were closing by one in the afternoon, the telecommunications were threatening to shut down etc. Government exists for the people and the only way people can enjoy government is to have some level of subsidy. If you cannot give them free gifts, they must be able to enjoy some level of subsidy. If our refineries are running optimally, we will not need any subsidy because we will get our oil at a cheaper rate. Now the government is saying that the Warri and Port Harcourt refineries would soon come on board. If they are working as Buhari promised during his campaign, we will not need subsidy as much as we need it presently. We will not be paying in dollars to have the oil. We will need to have a subsidy managing system which will make sure that the government is paying subsidy for what we are enjoying and not for things what we do not get. During Jonathan’s regime; the subsidy programme was infested with corruption. Those who collected subsidy on petroleum supply the product and also drain it back and resupply it again. These are the issue the government must guide against.
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