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2019 Presidency: The candidates, their cardinal programmes? (Part 1)

Buhari cent
Buhari and Atiku

KUNLE ODEREMI with reports from Hendrix Oliomogbe, Michael Ovat and Joseph Enna, examines the impact or otherwise of the manifestoes of the presidential candidates for the 2019 elections with a view to engraining the contents in the subconscious of prospective voters.

Electioneering, as a critical stage in a political process, provides the window of opportunity for interface between the electorate and candidates of political parties seeking elective offices. It is part of the mechanism to make those who secure the mandate of the people are faithful and accountable based on their pre-election promises.

A few moment after the official ban on campaign was lifted on November 18, presidential candidates for the general election that is 75 days to go, began to unveil their individual manifestoes, with the standard-bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari and the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, leading the way. The other candidates followed suit, utilising different media platforms to showcase their programmes, if elected. Their gamut of promises cuts across a broad spectrum of human existence.

Both Buhari and Atiku are on a familiar terrain, having traversed the same path in 2007 and made a legion of promises each.  Weeks after they unveiled their manifestoes, the slogans of their campaigns have subsisted rather than the contents that ought to form the subject-matter of serious public engagement, discourse and analyses with a view to providing a guide for the people to make the right choice at the appropriate time. Talks of Buhari’s slogan about taking Nigeria to the Next Level and that of Atiku of making Nigeria to work again or Artikulated subsuming the substance. Only snippets of their manifestoes capable of stirring controversies are played up.

In the past, presidential candidates painstakingly inform and educate the electorate on their agenda immediately they hit the ground running. The tradition crystallised in the cardinal programmes that became the signposts of their parties and individual identities of the candidates.  In one of his series of lectures, immediate past chairman of the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, claimed most politicians had abdicated the onus of galvasing the voters on their manifestoes. In the piece entitled, Party Politics and Elections in Nigeria, he had observed that “there is poor organisation and mobilisation, very clearly. It is no longer important to go out and sweat in terms of mobilizing people, in terms of selling party programmes. No serious thinking goes into preparation of party manifestoes, and certainly little action goes into selling to the public what is regarded as the manifesto.”

In his quest for the presidency in 2007, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had hinged his bid on a Seven-Point agenda. Its sustenance suffered a setback following his sudden death two years after he became president. His deputy, Dr Goodluck Jonathan rebranded it Transformation Agenda as substantive president. But the progamme witnessed a seeming reversal as the Buhari administration came with the Change Agenda underlined by a war on corruption, security, economy and infrastructure.  However, a number of other promises were ascribed to the president, including the one in the constitution of his party — a restructuring agenda — which are being kept in abeyance.

In 1979, the candidates of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) were known for holding onto the campaign of qualitative education, with sound moral contents. However, those of Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and UPN were distinct with ideological inclinations (welfarism and populism, in that order). In their campaigns, the Nigerian peoples Party (NPP), led by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe promised, to revamp the educational system such that a primary school teacher could graduate to a university lecturer. UPN defined the pragmatic steps it would take to increase pupils’ enrolment in a geometric proportion.

When the candidate of the party, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, unveiled his campaign on January on January 29, 1983 at the Tafawa Balewa square in Onikan, Lagos, he provided figures, statistics, on how he planned to implement the five cardinal programmes of his administration. His acceptance speech after his nomination as presidential candidate summarised the burden and responsibility that is on the shoulders of a candidate. This was how captured the scenario: “In 1979, we said that it was feasible to embark on free education at all levels as from October of that year. Others countered by declaring that we were telling a lied and that it was impossible. Today, no one in his senses can make this declaration any more. But of course, our inveterate critics and detractors are now looking for new lying and deceitful weapons with which to denigrate these most beneficial and supremely historic schemes—education and health—introduced in the country for the first time and successfully implemented by us. Future historians, who will not be as petty-minded as some of our contemporary commentators, will speak of these schemes as the brightest and most glorious landmarks in our march to modern technology, rapid development and progress.”

Awolowo had underscored the import of promises made by politicians during campaigns, saying their words should be their bond with the people. “In other words, we never make promises light-headedly, or with a view to deceive and beguile. We make them with stern deliberation and leave ourselves no room for excusing ourselves from, or pleading alibi to, any breach. We tell you precisely what and what we can do, and then proceed to do them as soon as you put us into office with your votes. And we are blunt enough to tell you we cannot do.”  Will such spirit and value prevail after the 2019 elections?

 

2019: What the candidates have promised

Naturally, the promises of the candidate should be reflective of current realities in the country, especially against the backdrop of unemployment, security challenges, infrastructural deficit; question of disproportionate representation in both critical arms of government like the Executive, National Assembly, security architecture and unjust federal allocation formula, all of which constitute the source of friction, and general instability in the polity. Statistics from local and international organisations are not favourable for the country on human capacity building and other necessary indices for national growth and development, thus the views of experts that Nigeria needs to get it right through the next election to avoid further deterioration of the existing economic situation.

Buhari, however, believed his government had delivered on his pre-election promises on security, economy and anti-corruption that won him the 2015 election for his current term. “We have worked hard to fulfil our promises – and while the road may have been difficult, over the last three and a half years, we have laid the foundations for a strong, stable and prosperous country for the majority of our people. Foundational work is not often visible, neither is it glamorous – but it is vital to achieving the kind of country we desire. Judging by the prior depth of decay, deterioration and disrepair that Nigeria had sunken into, we are certain that these past few years have put us in good stead to trudge on the NEXT LEVEL of building an even stronger nation for our people.”

So, this time, he is dangling a manifesto based on five areas: Human Capital Enhancement Services – Healthcare, Education; Business, Entrepreneurship Development; job; infrastructure; politics and governance.

Conversely, Atiku launched his campaign for the  election the following day after President Buhari launched his, with his slogan “The Atiku Plan,” which was officially broadcast on his verified Twitter handle, where he promised be pro-active in attracting investments, supporting the 50 million small and medium scale enterprises across Nigeria for the purpose of doubling the size of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product to US$900 billion by 2025 and other developmental policy that will better the lives of Nigerians.

 

One-on-oneHigh points of Buhari’s manifesto

Increase power generation by 1000MW every year. Raise power distribution to 7000MW; 9 universities, 300 markets and clusters to have interrupted power.

Implement $550m rural electrification programme. Provide N1million soft loans to artisans.

Increase TraderMoni beneficiaries from 2.3 million to 10 million. Establish 109 One Stop Shops of all regulatory age

To retrain all teachers in public primary and secondary schools. To remodel 10,000 schools every year.

Use co-payments to share cost of health insurance between individuals, the private sector and government.

Poorest 40 per cent of Nigerians to be exempted from co-payments. Increase population covered by primary health care from 12.6 per cent to 45 per cent in 2023. How I will get Nigeria working again – Atiku to produce 5 million bpd of petroleum in 2025.

Engage 1million N-Power graduates.

Train 10 million Nigerians in various skills.

Give 1 million farmers inputs and jobs via Anchor borrowers’ scheme.

Create 1.5 million jobs through livestock, beef, crop programmes.

Create 5 million jobs through mechanised agriculture. Provide $500m innovation fund for Tech and creative sector to create 500,000 jobs.

Train 200,000 youths for outsourcing market in tech, services and entertainment. Create 6 regional industrial parks and economic zones.

Increase children fed through the school feeding programme from 9.3 million to 15 million. Feeding programme to provide 300, 000 extra jobs for vendors and farmers.

Complete coastal rail (Lagos-Calabar), 2nd Niger Bridge, East-West road, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria to Kano road among others. Complete Ibadan-Kano rail, Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail, etc.

Move broadband coverage to 120,000 km of fibre network across the country.

 

Nuggets from Atiku’s manifesto

But while the Buhari government promised the above, Atiku on the other hand rolled out a policy statement to wholesomely address the national problem. For instance he promised to match state’s IGR up to $250 million per state. Launch National Anti-corruption strategy that is based on the rule of law, separation of powers, neutrality and non-partisanship to reposition and refocus Anti-corruption and Law Enforcement Agencies within the first 100 days in office.

Set up major Corruption Case Monitoring & Review Committee for all major corruption cases under the Office of the Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Justice that would include Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Media Eliminate arbitrary or selective investigation and prosecution of major corruption cases by all anti-corruption agencies within the first 100 days in office.

Resolve Niger Delta militancy issue by implementing the Niger-Delta Master Plan; and move the Niger Delta Ministry to the region. Address North East development issues via effective and efficient intervention funds; return IDPs to their homes and schools; rebuild damaged infrastructure.

Increase downstream oil sector contribution to GDP from less than 0.5 per cent to 2 per cent by 2025. Refine 2mbpd of oil in Nigeria and export 50 per cent of it to ECOWAS member states. Export 10-15 per cent of manufacturing output by 2030 and 25 per cent by 2035.

Lift 50 million people out of extreme poverty by 2025 with one million youths to benefit annually from apprenticeship scheme.

Sign African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, agreement, and mitigate the potential risks. Increase Export Stimulation Fund from N700 billion to N1.5 trillion to enhance access to credit by manufacturers. Will stimulate the economy absorb 50 -60 per cent of the 2 million new entrants into the labour market annually.

Reduce unemployment and under-employment rate to a single digit by 2025. Creation 3 million self-and wage-paying employment opportunities in the private sector annually. Re-launch the National Open Apprenticeship Programme (NOAP) which will recruit, annually, 100,000 Master Craft Persons (MCPs) who will train 1,000,000 apprentices in various trades.

Ensure speedy passage of the National Research and Innovation Fund Bill, in order to produce 100,000 entrepreneurs every year Increase the absorptive capacity of the formal post-basic, TVET and Vocational Centres from the current total enrolment and completion of less than 200,000 students to 500,000 in 2025 and 1,000,000 by 2030. Facilitate $250 million SME Venture Capital Fund by the private sector to provide for longer-term capital for targeted small firms.

Increase the MSMEs funding window currently from N200 billion to N500

Facilitate $250 million SME Venture Capital Fund by the private sector to provide for longer-term capital for targeted small firms.

Increase the MSMEs funding window currently from N200 billion to N500 billion. Work with existing Micro Finance Banks (MFBs) in each local government area to administer a new N15.48 billion Community Micro Enterprise Fund (CMEF) to stimulate community enterprise development.

Double current infrastructure stock to approximately 70 per cent of GDP by 2025 from current 35-40 per cent of GDP.

To invest $35 billion annually in the next 5 years to finance core public infrastructure projects. Rehabilitation and develop 5,000 Km of roads across the nation by 2025.

Deliver 1 million housing units every and reduce housing deficit from 15 million to less than 10 million by 2025

Reduce the share of recurrent revenue in the budget from 70 per cent to 35 per cent by 2025. Increase primary school enrolment from 60 per cent to 90 per cent and graduation rate from 63 per centto 82 per cent by 2027. Increase secondary school enrolment from 47 per cent to 80 per cent and graduation rate from 56 per cent to 75 per cent by 2027.

Ensure that 65 per cent of Nigerians have access to basic Primary Health Care (PHC) and services package by 2024, and 80 per cent coverage by 2030. Current baseline PHC coverage levels range from 35 per cent to 49 per cent.

Reduce by 40 per cent the number of Nigerians who are impoverished due to out-of-pocket health care expenses by 2024.

Restructure Nigeria and devolve power to lower tiers of government. Issues bordering on minerals and mines, internal security including Police, law and order, railways, communications, transport, environment, land matters, etc will be devolved to the Concurrent List so that, states can partake in them. Local Governments shall remain as independent tier of government.

 

Perception of voters

In advanced democracies, parties are largely identified with ideological tendencies. Until the fall of the Second Republic, political parties in Nigeria also had a semblance of ideological underpinning such as the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).  A survey indicates that most Nigerians could not categorically say what the two candidates stand for or are promising.  Some prospective voters in parts of the country spoke on the candidates against the backdrop of their manifestoes.

An electrician on Agho Street, Benin, Edo State, Mr. Peter Ighodaro, confessed that he was swayed by Buhari’s promise of change in 2015 and gladly stayed on the line at the popular Garrick Memorial School for hours to vote for him. Now, a disillusioned Ighodaro said that he is no longer interested in Buhari or the APC because they did not keep their promises of job creation, power supply, rehabilitation of refineries and truly fighting corruption. On Atiku, the auto electrician said that he was yet to come out with his agenda as he is yet to commence full campaigns. He said: “That of Buhari, I know. He never fulfilled his promises and I am not interested in his declarations any more. I am not still too unclear about Atiku. We are waiting.” Speaking in the same vein, a welder on Ekenwan Road, Benin, who simply gave his name as John, said that all he knows under Buhari is that “things have been very rough.” He said that he never believed in his promises of a better Nigeria during the 2015 campaign. He lamented: “I am not interested. Buhari talks of taking Nigeria to the next level. Is it to poverty or deeper darkness? I don’t know anything of Atiku. He has not fully come out. I’ll assess him based on his promises. As at now, I don’t know anything about his programmes but for Buhari, I am not interested. He broke all the promises.”

A fashion designer cum politician, Mr. Emmanuel Chimezie, who spoke to our correspondent on the political campaign slogans of the two major contesters, President Buhari of APC and Atiku of the PDP in 2019 election, opined that the two will not change the present situation of the country. “These people have the same agenda, so Nigeria’s should not expect anything new from this old men. Mr. Journalist, let me tell you the simple true, this country called Nigeria can only grow for good if all eligible voters come together during the election and vote out these capitalists and allow a fresh breed who can listen to the call for restructuring and true federalism to head the affairs of the country.”

A property developer based in Awka, the Anambra State capital, Mr. Benjamin Onwo, frowned on the current trend of politics in the country, which he said bordered on mere sloganeering and desperation, saying: “The slogan of Next Level and The Atiku Plan are just political slogans.” According to him, “President Buhari came into office on May 29, 2015, with the Change Agenda; this was a compelling slogan, but as I speak to you, the reverse is the case. Unnecessary annoyance, divorce, killings, kidnapping, raping and jumping to into lagoons have become the order of day; people are living in fear in their fatherland. Neither Buhari nor Atiku would bring the desired change Nigerians are yearning for. What we need now is a fresh breed that would run an inclusive government, devoid of religious, ethnicity and political affiliation.”

Similarly, Thomas Attah, who is a technician said: “In regard to Buhari and Atiku’s programmes, are welcome ideas because Buhari came up with change agenda in almost four years now, but we are yet to see the proper change he promised us in 2015, because he failed to execute the top priority agenda of his administration. So, for this reason, we equally need a change of governance in this nation. Atiku should come and also bring his own kind of leadership style. He was vice-president to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and we knew the role he played and now he is talking about restructuring the country, which is a key issue that needs to be addressed regarding our national unity.”

Another respondent, Ovye Francis, who is an Electrical Engineer resident in Lafia, Nasarawa State, noted that: “Of a truth, I can’t talk about Atiku because I have never tested him. But we are talking about Buhari’s programmes, from the outset in 2015; I think he has never actualised anyone.”

 

 

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