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An Open Letter to Our President-Elect

‘As you warm up to assume office, you must consult widely, engage constructively and reflect deeply on your mandate.’

Dear president-elect, I must begin by congratulating you on your electoral victory. In a couple of days, you will be sworn in as president to pilot the affairs of the nation for the next eight years. It is my earnest desire that you do not toe the line of your immediate predecessor who flagrantly betrayed the trust reposed on him by Nigerians.

Your Excellency, this letter is premised on several assumptions. First, you won the election freely and fairly. Second, you are not among the caucus who feel that it is their entitlement to rule. Third, you will not repudiate your campaign promises as contained in your advertised manifesto like your immediate predecessor. Lastly, you are not among the drones that brought this nation to its present pitiable situation, otherwise, this letter would be unnecessary.

Dear president-elect, the purpose of this letter, essentially, is to draw your attention to what you presumably know already: the sorry state of affairs in the country and the enormous task ahead of you. It is also assumed that you know how we got into this mess and probably already know how to get us out of it. I also believe that you know the variegated nature of the country, our challenges, potentials and opportunities for growth and development.

I am sure that you know the current state of affairs in the country at present. But just as a reminder, I will like to present to you in a condensed form the current situation in the country so that you do not forget while basking in the euphoria of victory at the polls. The country is in very bad shape. 

You are coming to superintend over the affairs of a country with serious security problems. Insecurity has metastasised to every nook and cranny of the country as insurgents, bandits, kidnappers and terrorists operate freely without fear, controlling a huge swathe of our territory. National unity is bastardised by the apartheid policies of the outgoing regime that has accentuated our fault lines, creating discontent, anger, mutual recrimination and separatist agitations.

The economy of Nigeria has been crippled as a result of the mismanagement of the nation’s resources and institutionalised corruption. Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world as about 133 million citizens are multi-dimensionally poor. The unemployment rate is now 33.5 per cent with youth unemployment put at 42.5 per cent. At 21.4 per cent, the inflation rate is growing exponentially and so is our national debt burden which is over $100 billion.

Infrastructural facilities are grossly inadequate. The dependency burden is high and asphyxiating; Nigerians now live in misery and squalor. The morale of the masses is at the nadir and scores of citizens commit suicide on daily basis due to hopelessness.

Our educational system is in shambles. In the last eight years, students in public tertiary institutions have stayed out of school for over 450 days cumulatively due to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)–federal government dispute. There are over 20 million out-of-school children while the government fritter billions away on the bogus school feeding programme. And externally, Nigeria is now seen as a pariah state because it is one of the most terrorised countries in the world today.

Our dear incoming president, you have a lot of work to do. You will work to provide adequate security for the citizens and inspire the citizens whose morale and sense of patriotism have been dampened by bad governance. You will have to work to revamp the economy and create an enabling environment for economic activities to thrive for the well-being of the people. 

You will have to work to improve the educational sector, build institutions and engage the youths productively. You will have to work to improve our image internationally so that we can take our rightful place in the comity of nations. And you will agree with me that it is not going to be an easy task given the rot in the system but with determination, it can be done.

Sir, I believe that you were voted in because of who you are and your antecedent and probably because of the contents of your manifesto and so it is expected that you will keep to your campaign promises. I also believe that you are willing and have mapped out the strategies to implement the contents of your manifesto from day one. 

Again, I expect you to be magnanimous. National interests should be placed above sectional interests as Nigerians expect an inclusive government that will accommodate disparate interests.

Without a doubt, the nature of the appointments you will make will determine, to a large extent, the success of your regime. Your lofty ideas and programmes can only be dutifully implemented by experts who share your vision. Nigerians expect professionals and technocrats in your cabinet as opposed to the practice of giving appointments as political compensation. 

Nigerians also expect a lean government and a reduction of unproductive investments at the centre as is the practice globally. Moreover, we expect that you bring governance and development closer to the people by devolving more resources to the states and local governments.

Dear president-elect, if you must succeed, you must fight corruption. Nigerians expect transparency and accountability and prudent management of our commonwealth. You must clear the Augean table. The Nigerian political space is filled with drones, political pettifoggers and hangers-on who thrive on corruption. You must do away with them. They are a distraction and a clog in the wheel of the nation’s progress.

You can be rest assured that the rabble-rousers and the conflict instigators that have been culpably quiescent these past eight years while this nation is a pitiable state will come up again from hibernation and resume their activities. And from Lagos, the press will roar as it is characteristic of them. There would scream headlines and sensational narratives but do not be intimidated; the mainstream media no longer have the monopoly of dictating the direction of public discourse.

As you warm up to assume office, you must consult widely, engage constructively and reflect deeply on your mandate. You must know that the way it is outside is not the way it is inside the corridors of power. You must therefore be willing to learn. Remember that you will not stay in office forever. What type of legacy do you want to leave behind? How do you want to be remembered? I believe these questions should guide your conduct while in office. Some people do not care about posterity, being blinded by power and ephemeral issues but a good leader should.

Furthermore, since you are a leader, you should be willing to accommodate dissenting views; encourage robust engagement and civil advocacy. You should be open to criticism and not be deceived by political hangers-on that may trickle down to you. You know that leadership is about people – peoples’ interest, people’s engagement, people’s welfare etc. The scorecard of your administration will be based largely on the impact of your programme on the people.

Finally, I apologise sincerely if I sound didactic or pedantic. It is the way I feel. I am convinced that your government will greatly benefit Nigerians for as the scripture says, ‘affliction shall not come a second time’. ◆

Gozie Irogboli is an economist and a public policy analyst.

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