It’s refreshing to see President Buhari recognize that he’s on the verge of failing.
There was a fear that Buhari, posing as a sanctimonious man living an aloof life and locked up in a small cocoon surrounded by sycophants, was incapable of introspection.
However, following yet another meeting with his service chiefs last week, Buhari’s own National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, admitted that the president did not want to be a failure.
Some would argue that it is too late.
However, he still has 642 days before leaving Abuja for retirement in his hometown of Daura, which is enough time to turn the Nigerian ship in a different direction. After all, Nigerians who voted for Buhari in 2015 expected nothing more from him.
They expected Buhari to set Nigeria on an unstoppable path to progress, if not greatness. They voted for Buhari to put a stop to the expanding erosion site, not to ignore it, and build roads and railways that the erosion will eventually destroy.
Even though Buhari promised to return the Naira to an exchange rate of one Naira to one dollar, those who voted for him knew deep down that the Naira had nowhere to go but down, against currencies of countries that produce things. They did not expect Buhari to print so much Naira and borrow so much money that the country would devote more than 97 percent of its revenue to debt service.
Despite Buhari’s promise to defeat Boko Haram militants in six months, those who voted for him knew it would take much longer. They had no idea that Buhari’s incompetence would open new insecurity fronts in the North West and Middle Belt, propelling Nigeria to the top of the 2020 global terrorism index, ahead of Syria, Somalia, and Yemen. Despite the fact that Buhari, backed by the likes of Bola Tinubu and Rotimi Amaechi, promised to fight corruption to a halt, the people who voted for him knew deep down that corruption was as Nigerian as suya. They had no idea, however, that Buhari would open the floodgates for corruption to thrive in his ruling party.
Having said that, Buhari has 642 days to do something to redeem some of the worthiness associated with his name. In the eyes of history, he could still avoid the label of a complete failure. He could save what remains of his much-touted but unproven integrity if he did the ten simple things listed below. They would not solve all of Nigeria’s problems, but they would relieve pressure at the headwaters of Nigeria’s rivers of discord and destruction.
1. Buhari must immediately declare publicly that in order for Nigeria to remain the same, fundamental changes must be made. He must immediately summon his class of old warriors, including Ibrahim Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo, and others, and persuade them that nothing about Nigeria is non-negotiable. In concrete terms, he must say it and initiate steps to renegotiate everything. This will force fighters for a “one Nigeria at any cost” to pause and reconsider the harm they are causing with their irrational dogmatic postures.
2. Buhari must declare, on or before October 1, 2021, that the 2023 election will not take place under Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution. He would offer to spend whatever political capital he had left to ensure the establishment of a new liberating, robust, and reasonable constitution. If a country like Kenya can do it peacefully in 2010, so can Nigeria. He must be willing to stake “his life, honor, and fortunes” on that goal.
3. Buhari must publicly acknowledge that Nigeria, as it currently exists, is unfair, unhealthy, and unsustainable. He must declare that he is willing to give up everything to establish a just nation in which everyone feels respected and has a sense of belonging while remaining safe, grounded, and not under threat of annihilation by any group. There is no greater mission for Buhari to complete before leaving office on May 29, 2023. His new campaign slogan should be, “For Nigeria to survive, the ethnic groups that makeup Nigeria must thrive in all their glory.”
4. Buhari must declare the report of the 2014 National Conference as the foundation for a new Nigeria. He should begin looking at the report of President Goodluck Jonathan’s imperfect National Conference with his party, which is the majority party in the National Assembly and states across the country, to incorporate some of its recommendations into a new constitution. His promise must be to free Nigeria’s constituting federating units to pursue their dreams without interference from the federal government.
5. Buhari must fire all of his ministers, service chiefs, and heads of strategic government agencies immediately and form a true interim government of national unity. This move would shake up today’s stagnant and regressive political culture and signal his seriousness about changing the tone and mood of the nation during his final 645 days in office.
6. Buhari must persuade the National Assembly to enact the changes he is proposing. That shouldn’t be too difficult, given that he has both the Senate President and the Speaker of the House in his armpit. If necessary, persuade the National Assembly to pass legislation abolishing the National Assembly as it currently exists and making way for a new body to take its place on May 29, 2023.
7. Buhari must declare his assets publicly and require all public officials to do the same. He would also publish all public servants’ salaries and allowances in the same way that all advanced societies do. Every citizen in the country should be aware of how much a public official earns each month and how it compares to their lifestyle.
8. Following the public disclosure of assets declarations, salaries, security votes, and allowances, Buhari must convene a judiciary inquiry to review ongoing corruption cases with the EFCC, the ICPC, and other relevant agencies. From 1999 to the present, the EFCC must reach a plea agreement with former and current governors, as well as other officials. The government will devise a formula based on their asset declarations, salaries, allowances, security votes, and known and unknown loots to determine the percentage of their wealth that must be forfeited in order for the cases to be closed. Those who have no cases but have benefited from these massive packages would voluntarily refund a portion of the money.
9. All past governors, legislators, and political office holders at the local, state, and federal levels must make their retirement benefits public. Buhari must collaborate with the National Assembly to develop a standard template of reasonable compensation for retired public servants based on a standardized system. Those who have received excessive compensation, particularly those who approved the compensation they received, must be made to repay what was unjustifiable.
10.Buhari must state unequivocally that Nigeria does not belong to anyone who enters through the borders. Buhari must clarify that he has no special interest in the Fulanis of Nigeria or West Africa, just as he stated during his inauguration speech in 2015. He would publicly state that he would now pursue modern policies that benefit all Nigerians rather than just some Nigerians. This means that his government will stop pursuing ancient grazing rights and grazing reserves and will start acting like a government in the twenty-first century.