On Buhari’s commitment to free, fair polls…

President Muhammadu Buhari, this week in Abuja, assured that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would bequeath strong political institutions to Nigerians at the end of his tenure.

He, also, said that he would not interfere with the conduct of the general elections billed to hold next year. Specifically, the President said that peoples’ choices will be the sole determinants of the elections.

To prove his record of non-interference in the areas of the conduct of elections, the President cites examples of the recently held elections in Ekiti, Anambra and Osun states, where the wishes of the people counted.

The President spoke when he welcomed members of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) led by the Chairman and Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, at the State House.
Truthfully, the President said that the principle of non-interference in elections gives credence to the political process, ensures participation and inclusiveness and it will, ultimately, show that the APC-led government respects the electorate.
In acceptance of the fact that in any country, the authority of the government can only derive from the will of the people as expressed in genuine, free and fair elections held at regular intervals based on universal, equal and secret suffrage, the President said that the APC, under his leadership, would continue to respect Nigerians by ensuring that their votes count and the people’s voice matter in choosing political leaders at different levels.

“I want Nigerians to know that we respect them, and for us to show that, we will allow them to vote who they want,” he said. “We all witnessed what happened in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States. What happened in those states gives me a lot of hope that we are succeeding.”

However, while the President said that the federal government would ensure that Nigerians don’t get intimidated or humiliated by those in privileged positions, the need for the APC and, indeed, all other parties to educate their faithful cannot be overemphasised.

In fact, in every election, voter and civic education are necessary to ensure that all constituents, men and women alike, understand their rights, their political system, the contests they are being asked to decide, and how and where to vote.
For an election to be successful and democratic, voters must understand their rights and responsibilities and must be sufficiently knowledgeable to cast ballots that are legally valid and to participate meaningfully in the voting process.

Voter and civic education are even more critical in conflict-prone countries like Nigeria, where political situations may be volatile and where elections may have an unprecedented impact on the country’s future.

Thus, voters must be educated to vote to power only those who have shown the capacity, will, zeal and determination to deal with the insecurity now plaguing Nigeria, not those who will be interested only in amassing wealth to the detriment of the masses who vote them into office.
It is in this context, therefore, that the statement made by the President should be appreciated. “We will not allow anyone to use personal resources or their influence to intimidate other Nigerians,” the President said. “We will not allow intimidations, materially, morally or physically. This is the kind of leadership that can emerge and consolidate our nation.”

Like the President, Nigerians look forward to the enthronement, next year, of the kind of responsible and responsive government that Buhari envisages.

Osinbajo’s timely charge on the economy, ASUU strike

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, this week, during a meeting with the governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), said there was the need to act fast on the country’s economy and the ongoing strike embarked upon by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

The governors visited Osinbajo on a felicitation visit as he recovers from the surgery he underwent last month.
Of course, Osinbajo is right to speak about the economy whose growth has cooled in the first quarter of the year due to a further deterioration in the key oil sector. This unfortunate development more than offset a strong performance in the services sector, leading non-oil sector activity to the firm.

The second quarter’s data paints a mixed picture. Private sector operating conditions improved at a fractionally slower pace between April and May, while credit growth was also broadly stable in April. That said, inflation rose markedly in the months.
A pickup in core inflation highlights that price pressure is farther reaching than energy and food prices increase.

Meanwhile, sectarian violence spread to the country’s relatively safe Southwestern region. Social tensions and violence increased in virtually all areas just as religious and regional divides are heightening the stakes of the February 2023 general elections.
On other hand, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Monday extended its six-month-old strike indefinitely until the federal government meets its demands.

ASUU members embarked on the strike on February 14, 2022. The union had initially declared a four-week warning strike. But after a month, the lecturers extended it by eight weeks, saying the government needed more time to look at their demands.

Following the federal government and lecturers’ inability to reach an agreement, the union, on May 9, 2022, further extended the strike by 12 weeks.
University teachers are seeking improved welfare, the revitalisation of public universities, and academic autonomy, among other demands. Several meetings between government representatives and ASUU have ended in deadlock.

Indeed, Nigeria is currently faced with the multiple challenges of a dire combination of spiralling inflation, rising energy cost, scarcity of foreign exchange (FOREX), the dwindling value of the naira and an almost comatose aviation sector.

Also, a stuttering education system, rising debt, depleting foreign reserves and rising fuel subsidy expenses, among others, threaten to lay bare the country’s economy.
Therefore, it is heartwarming that the Vice President and governors agreed to work together on the economy, ASUU strike and other pressing issues to find urgent solutions for the benefit of the Nigerian people.

Before now and on many occasions, financial experts and other economic stakeholders have stressed the need for the government to create policies and implement measures to tackle the challenges facing the nation’s economy while providing an enabling environment for investments to thrive. Doing so, according to them, would enable Nigeria to improve the standards of living for its citizens.

After all, Nigeria had always lived dangerously on the precipice, with a major chunk of its revenue dependent on the complexities of global crude demand and supply.

A dangerous blend of self-destructive tendencies, insecurity and fiscal and monetary policy inconsistencies, have also conspired to make situations worse in the country.
Consequently, in April 2022, the World Bank warned that the rising cost of fuel subsidies could significantly impact public finance and pose debt sustainability concerns.

It is against these disturbing scenarios that Osinbajo called on the governors to put their heads together and fashion out solutions to the problems that the country faces.

Fortunately, the solutions are not far and only require willpower and determination on the part of the government to implement them.

Of course, while the challenges of revenue shortage are acknowledged, burdening businesses with new taxes or levies, an option that the government seems to favour, will be counter-productive and not quite the desirable solution in the end.

Burdening the already burdened businesses will only lead to business closure and an escalation of job losses with consequential effects on the nation’s social and economic stability.

Government should, therefore, in the short-term widen the tax net, reduce wastage in governance and focus on economic projects that will stimulate the Nigerian economy and guarantee an enabling environment for businesses to operate.

Hopefully, creating an enabling environment for local businesses to thrive will provide the platform for a new foreign direct investment, which could increase foreign exchange inflow into the country. Again, the government, as a matter of urgency, should fix the four national refineries and encourage the development of modular ones as a precursor to the total removal of fuel subsidies next year.

Essentially, the government should make interventions that will be tailored towards improving living standards, stimulating consumption and sustenance of businesses with a view to creating and promoting job opportunities.

While forex scarcity persists, allocation of the available forex to manufacturing and other productive sectors of the economy should be given priority by the government.

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