- What nigerians expect from acting president
PROFESSOR Yemi Osinbajo is back in the saddle to pilot the affairs of the nation as acting president. Before now, he had served in that capacity on three occasions. The first time was from February 5-10, 2016 when President Muhammadu Buhari embarked on a five-day vacation; and later from June 6-16, 2016 when the President took a 10-day leave to attend to an ear infection in the United Kingdom. The opportunity called again on January 19, this year, and he was initially billed to be in the position till February 6, but he ended up holding forth until March 10 as the president later extended his stay citing ill health.
Thus, Osinbajo is not new on the job; but there is something peculiar about his current stint – President Buhari does not know when he would return to his desk and clearly indicated in his letter to the National Assembly that, “the length of my stay will be determined by the doctor’s advice.”
Against this backdrop, all eyes are on the Acting President to stamp his feet on the ground and take far-reaching decisions that will positively impact the lives of Nigerians.
A development consultant and public affairs analyst, Mr. Jide Ojo, who spoke with Sunday Sun on his expectations as Osinbajo mounts the saddle again, said the acting president should take-off by quickly attending to all pending issues the president could not attend to before he travelled.
“I think the acting president should immediately attend to the very important files that may be awaiting the attention of Mr. President before he travelled and there are quite a number of them. The issue of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) is one policy that has to be faithfully implemented. Now that he is in the saddle, he doesn’t have to wait for the president for the implementation of the ERGP. The second issue is that of the 2017 budget, which the National Assembly passed last Thursday. If it was transmitted to him within last week, maybe by Monday after he might have digested it, if there are no issues that would warrant returning it to the National Assembly, he needs to sign it quickly and ensure that budget releases commence immediately in order to stimulate the economy. For instance, part of the budget has to do with payment of Federal Government’s debt to the power generation and distribution companies (DISCOs and GENCOs), which was incurred by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). If the debt is paid, it will stimulate power generation and availability of electricity supply,” Ojo said.
Ojo also wants Osinbajo to faithfully implement the agricultural rebirth plan of the Federal Government, noting that it is tied to the diversification of the economy as captured in the ERGP. “The acting president should actively pursue the economic diversification agenda. All the blueprints of the solid minerals sector, the agricultural sector and the oil and gas sector should be painstakingly implemented. He should ensure that he lobbies the National Assembly for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). If that bill is passed and he assents to it, it will help to generate a lot of jobs in the Niger Delta,” he noted.
Ojo added: “Restoration of peace in the Niger Delta is also very important. I was in a radio programme last week where we were analysing the 2017 budget and I stated that if the budget is not faithfully implemented, the ERGP is dead on arrival. So, he needs to ensure that all critical sectors of the economy are well funded. He also needs to ensure that government contractors, both local and foreign, are paid. He also needs to vigorously pursue the various welfare programmes of the administration.
“The issue of security should also be given priority because there can be no development without peace. And so, we need peace and development around the country. He needs to deal with the issue of kidnapping, armed robbery and unemployment. Once these issues are taken care of, I believe that the gains will be apparent to Nigerians; it will record greater positive impact on the economy and on the standard of living of Nigerians.”
Ojo also urged Osinbajo to work towards having a harmonious relationship with the National Assembly. He, however, noted that, “when he held sway until the return of Mr. President on March 10, he demonstrated, a high capacity for conflict resolution.”
He stressed: “He did that in the Niger Delta; he did that in Southern Kaduna and to a very large extent in the herdsmen and farmers menace. I will expect him to galvanise a kind of positive rapprochement with the leadership of the NASS. As I earlier noted, the PIB, Whistle Blower Bill, Asset Forfeiture Bill and all the anti-corruption bills depend on their passage by the NASS. A good inter-personal relationship as well as inter-government arms relationship between the executive and the legislature will help to smoothen all the rough edges that led to the kind of frostiness we have seen between the two arms.
“For instance, the NASS is accusing the Presidency of only assenting to Executive Bills and not to Private Members Bills that they have passed. If he looks into some of the already passed Private Members Bills and sees those that are capable of deepening our democracy, he should assent to them.
“He should also try to implement some of the resolutions of the NASS. You know that one of the issues between the two arms has to do with the confirmation of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu. If the acting president can have constant dialogue with the leadership of the NASS on the issue, I believe it will be resolved and also improve the relationship between the two arms. Overall, I urge the acting president to do less politicking and more of governance because that is what will help him at the end of the day. You know, a number of times, certain things are not done because of politics or political interests. But if he looks at the larger picture of governance and is able to act in the best interest of this country, he will not have issues with the NASS.”
Speaking from an economic point of view, the Managing Director of Cowry Asset Management Limited, Mr. Johnson Chukwu, told Sunday Sun that Osinbajo should work towards consolidating the prevailing peace in the Niger Delta region and appoint the Boards of some government institutions.
He said: “The first thing is that they have achieved some milestones towards restoring peace in the Niger Delta. He needs to drive the full implementation of some of the initiatives. Secondly, he needs to properly appoint the boards of some of the MDAs. Some of them have been without boards since the advent of this administration. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), for instance, has no board, likewise several of such institutions. Appointing the boards will enable those agencies to have the necessary supervisory bodies for their activities. He also needs to drive the infrastructural roadmap of the administration. I know they have been involved in a lot of road constructions now but the efforts need to be intensified. Moreover, he needs to push for a higher level of harmony between the fiscal policy and monetary policy so that we can have a more harmonised macro-economic environment. I think for a start, these should be his priorities,” Chukwu said.
Niger Delta activist, Joseph Evah on his part, took a swipe at the Federal Government over its failure to visit the Ajapa-Ijaw community in Ondo State to find out the level of damage suffered by the people when the military allegedly invaded the community in search of suspected criminals recently. Evah, therefore, wants Osinbajo to make a trip to the community in the coming days.
“We wish to state that Ijaws all over the world are worried about the Ajapa military invasion without recourse to the United Nations standard of arresting suspected criminals. We are demanding the visit of either the acting president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo or governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu to the community. They should be accompanied by the Service Chiefs, including the Chief of Defense Staff, so that they can explain to the world whether the war-like manner of attack on innocent Ajapa Ijaw community founded during the biblical days of King Solomon is justified in the 21st century? The Ijaws hate criminality and want the law enforcement officials to go after criminal elements. But the failure of the various levels of government to intervene and save the innocent suffering people in the forest, especially women and children, for over two weeks after the invasion of their community is a serious crime against humanity,” Evah noted.
The expectations are indeed high. Nevertheless, the national leader of Better Nigeria 2019 Movement, Chief Charles Udo Udeogranya, does not believe Osinbajo would make much impact in the absence of President Buhari.
Udeogaranya, a 2019 presidential hopeful, told Sunday Sun that it would be foolhardy for Nigerians to be expecting Osinbajo to turn things around within the period he would act as president, saying, “these men have passed their time, so it will still be business as usual; there is nothing to expect.”
He explained: “The issues are still the same. There is no electricity supply; the road infrastructure is still dead; the foreign exchange crisis is still there. Health care facilities are not there, after all the president has left his own country to another country to use their health facilities. So, the issues that were there, based on which they campaigned in 2015, are all still there. Meanwhile, while the president was away on medical vacation the last time, the vice president was in charge as acting president and nothing much came out of it. He is in charge now and I am not expecting anything to come out of it.
“He has been the one in charge of the economy. The constitution says the vice president is the chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC) and what is the state of our economy compared to May 29, 2015 when they were sworn into office. The economy is in shambles. So, I don’t know why people are thinking that there is a new man in the saddle in Osinbajo; it was a joint ticket of president and vice president and they have been performing woefully. To the average Nigerian, nothing new is going to come out of this government and all that everybody is waiting for is to change them in 2019 with younger generation of Nigerians that know the issues and can address them with the jet speed that we are in. People are already giving up on this government and that is just it.”
All said and done, government is a continuum. At the root of the expectations and doubts is the innate desire of Nigerians to build a country they would be proud of. The acting president, no doubt, knows this. How he applies himself to the job towards the realisation of this age-long dream remains to be seen.