Oguche Agudah, Chief Investment officer, Natanel Florens
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An open letter to President Buhari ahead of his second inauguration 11 Apr 2019
As may be imagined, it's May 29th, 2019. You've just been sworn in for a second term as Nigeria's president. Congratulatory messages are coming in, from various groups, world leaders, party members and ordinary Nigerians. The atmosphere is cheery and celebratory.
However, Mr. President, much of the country would not share in that atmosphere. The country you have just been given a mandate to rule for the next four years has deeply structural issues. The way you handle these issues over the first 100 days of your second term will either set the tone for true change in Nigeria or heighten the crises the country faces.
Mr. President, Nigeria has the unenviable record of having the largest number of poor people in the world – a whopping 90 million of your fellow citizens live on less than $2 (N720 naira) a day, according to the World Poverty Clock. Whilst I believe that you are aware of the country's declining socio-economic statistics, I would like to offer the following practical and frank advice as a concerned stakeholder.
1. Restore Hope. Mr. President, you carry the hope of a generation. On your shoulders rest the hope of nearly 200 million Nigerians, with a median age of 18.5 years. Most of the country's young population have lost hope and faith in Nigeria, a country they no longer consider as holding a future for them. This reality is manifested daily in the myriads of Nigerians who make the journey across the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better future.
Mr. President, you need to restore hope. People need to believe again that they can fulfil their God-given potential in this country. You need to become the Hope Officer in Chief (HOIC). Your role as the President is not necessarily an operational role. No one is looking to you to fix all the problems. Many are, however, looking to you for direction. Mr. President, your first task in the first 100 days of your second term is to revive hope and provide a roadmap.
You need to engage via different mediums. Use every opportunity to connect with the Nigerian people and sell the Nigerian dream that is worth pursuing. You need to be the chief salesman of the Nigerian dream and cause people to believe again.
2. Build a strong team. Given the enormity of the issues that confront you and the nation, this is not the time to reserve critical positions for party stalwarts, friends, cronies or tribesmen that are not competent. We can't afford this any longer, Mr. President. Not when 2,200 children under five years of age die every day in Nigeria from largely curable diseases. We need the best people to manage the critical sectors of our economy and they need to be held accountable because Nigerians will hold you accountable.
Mr. President, I suggest you publicly advertise ALL the ministerial roles. Throw it open to Nigerians across the globe to apply. Let every role have specific deliverables within a specified timeframe. Appoint a respectable recruitment agency to handle this exercise. Work with the National Assembly and your legal team to get the nominees through the screening process. The knotty issue of federal character is, frankly speaking, not a challenge with the current realities. For example, Nigerians do not care if the Minister of Power comes from their side of town. What is important to them is access to constant power supply.
You need a competent team of next-level leaders who share the vision for a new Nigeria, are competent and can deliver. Evaluate the performances of your ministers every year based on agreed-upon Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). If they fail to meet set targets, replace them. That's what's done in all serious organisations that are goal-oriented. Nigeria should be no different. This will begin to instil meritocracy across the country, ensuring the dividends of democracy are felt by many.
3. State of emergency. Mr. President, some particular sectors require special focus and attention. When 13.2 million of our young children are out of school, this bothers on irresponsibility for us as a nation. We cannot allow this to continue. Not on your watch Mr. President. We are robbing these children of not only their present, but also their future. The world is so highly-knowledge driven. These children will not be able to compete. You should institute a state of emergency on the education sector.
Equally deserving of a state of emergency is the health sector. We have one of the highest child and maternal mortality rates in the world. We need to reverse these negative trends to boost the human capital stock of the country.
4. Digitization agenda. Mr. President, even with the negative statistics, we still have a lot going for us. We have extremely talented individuals and companies that are making Nigeria proud globally. A recent example is Andela. Their business model is built around training local software developers and placing them with the largest technology companies in the world. Their services are in high demand and meet a genuine need. These software engineers are also needed back home. Nigeria needs to tap into this pool of young and talented software developers to develop solutions for our country.
Corruption for instance, can be greatly reduced with focused technology solutions. Much of our current fight against corruption starts after the money has already been stolen. Technology can help us minimize theft and corruption by removing many of the cracks that officials exploit to perpetrate these vices.
Mr. President, you need to engage this community of technology enthusiast and empower them to come up with solutions to enable a more efficient fight against corruption. By engaging Nigerian software engineers, the government will not have to engage foreign software companies when we can build the solutions locally. Our civil service and ministries should be run by local software solutions to improve efficiency. In the process, we will also create jobs for the young digital natives.
5. Restructure the country. Mr. President, we will only be fooling ourselves if we say the current system of government in the country is optimal. It might have served previous generations and purposes, but it is not fit for the current and future direction of this country. The current structure will only ensure that all the policies and strategies proposed will not produce the desired outcome. The current structure is so expensive and only seeks to serve a few.
For this reason, there have been many calls to restructure along regional lines in order to free resources for the regions to better serve and be accountable to their immediate constituents. This is not an issue that can be swept under the rug. If you must lead a Nigeria that works for all, restructuring the country should be seen to be a top priority in your second term.
Whilst there are other important issues that will require your attention and focus, I believe these five should be prioritised within the first 100 days.
You will need to address the knotty issue of fuel subsidies, Nigeria's role in Africa and the world, civil service reforms and improving the business environment. However, you need to start first, by instilling hope in the people, having the best and brightest Nigerians on your team, addressing the human capital challenges while leveraging technology to optimise efficiency. These and restructuring the country should be the springboard for other activities.
Right now, there is a Nigerian orphaned child in need of hope. There is that fellow citizen waiting to take the risk of crossing the Mediterranean aware it might be a journey to the bottom of the sea. The widow of a soldier killed in combat is wondering how she would feed her five children. Mr. President, all these and more, look to you. You can't afford to fail them.
All the best Mr. President. God bless Nigeria.