HOW BUHARI WILL FIX NIGERIA
Following the emergence of former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, as the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), on January 4, 2011, at the Eagle Square, Abuja, attention has fully shifted to the issue of what the no-nonsense General will do with power if elected president at the April 2011 presidential poll.
I recall sometime in 2006 when I met the General at his Kaduna residence - a very modest structure on Sultan Road - and teased him with a question: 'Sir, I hope the fire that burned in you as Head of State is still there to fix Nigeria if you are elected president in 2007?' He kept mum, smiling, as he served me a juice drink.
Weeks later, I got a call from his Special Assistant, Sarkin Abba, to come to a suite at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, where the General, who has neither a plot nor a house in Abuja, lodged. There, I was presented with a copy of Buhari's blueprint for Nigeria's transformation. I am glad to announce that he is revising that comprehensive blueprint to fix Nigeria in 2011. It is unparalleled in terms of deep understanding of the problems of Nigeria and its self-evident capacity to fix those problems; not just during Buhari's tenure of office, but for all time.
The blueprint covers a wide range of subjects from power supply to security, topping the list is governance. Buhari believes governance has virtually collapsed in Nigeria or, at best, grossly ineffective under the ruling PDP government. Creating a framework for good governance is therefore a sine qua non for any administration that sets much store by performance. To buttress his thesis of collapsed governance under the PDP, Gen. Buhari spoke in this vein at a recent event in Abuja: Sometime ago, Nigeria's former Minister of Finance who is presently a Managing Director with the World Bank, Dr. (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, issued a document on Nigeria's public finance from 1914 - 2010.
The document shows that the revenue that accrued to the Nigerian government from 1914, when both the Northern and Southern Protectorates were amalgamated into a single administrative structure by Lord Lugard, till 1998, when the second military interregnum in government ended, is not up to accruals between 1999 when the present dispensation of civil rule commenced and 2010. If you are in doubt, simply search the Internet for a database of global oil prices from the late 1960s when Nigeria began exporting oil on a significant scale, till 2010, and the volume of Nigerian oil exports over the period, and you would get your cue.
The import of this illustration of collapsed governance thesis is that the scale of corruption manifesting in diverse guises, ranging from contract inflation/abandonment to jumbo allowances/ under-priced auction of public estates to political leaders in the name of monetization under the PDP-led Federal Government within roughly a decade, is unparalleled in the history of Nigeria or indeed any country under heaven.
More importantly, this illustration underscored the point that Nigeria's problem is neither the lack of good blueprint nor paucity of funds. Nigeria has always had good blueprints. From independence we have had a series of Development Plans. In the late 1980s we switched to Rolling Plans. Vision 2010 soon followed. A few years after, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) came on board. Presently, the regime of Vision 20: 2020 is in vogue. Whatever their defects, had each of these series of blueprints been sincerely implemented in a series of budgets encapsulating their goals, objectives, and targets, Nigeria, in Gen. Buhari's view, would have become an El-dorado.
A core element of the governance content of the Buhari blueprint, in its revised form, is an innovation called Budget Implementation Monitoring System (BIMS). As a quick summary, BIMS is an e-Governance strategy that will virtually wipe out corruption and budget failure in Nigeria's federal government. It is a software to be uploaded on the internet to report, on a quarterly basis, details of public revenue allocation, and expenditure.
In other words, each quarter, it furnishes the public with a breakdown of the budget in a given fiscal year, showing how much is allocated to each Ministry, Department and Agency (MDA), the projects and programmes the allocations are meant to execute, what progress has been made regarding actual execution of projects and programmes as at a given quarter, as well as remarks as to the cause of delay in execution or non-execution.
In effect, both President Buhari and the Nigerian public can monitor the progress of budget implementation by the MDAs. On the president's part, he would be able to correct unintended implementation lapses or outright attempt to sabotage his budget, timeously, and not when it is already too late. If, for instance, a road project carries a remark of delayed execution due to non-release of funds, he could promptly summon both the Ministers of Finance and Works to explain why, and get the project on track promptly. On the part of the public who commute on that road, they would be in a position to cry out that somebody is lying if the road carries the remark of, say 50 percent execution, when nothing has been done.
The vision undergirding BIMS transcends merely making budgets work, which is commendable enough, but to make governance a partnership of the governors and the governed: the quintessence Public-Private-Partnership (PPP). With anyone interested in budget implementation being able to monitor any aspect of the budget on the internet anywhere in the world, feedback ideas on how to post better service delivery with respect to items in the budget can be channeled to government by email or via the pages of newspapers.
In this connection, both the government and the general public have to share blame for budget failure, when either of them fails to do its part in budget implementation and monitoring, respectively. This innovation, it should be pointed out, is a carry-over, albeit an improvement on the practice of Gen. Buhari, as military Head of State, of giving Weekly Statement of Account of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Buhari believes that corruption thrives more when issues of public revenues and expenditures are shrouded in secrecy. By the time BIMS takes off, it would make the much talked about Freedom of Information Bill gathering dust in the archives of an unwilling National Assembly superfluous.
Beyond its obvious, immediate benefits, BIMS, ultimately, is targeted at institutionalising an irreversible culture of probity in Nigeria's public service. Buhari wants a new order in Nigeria where only those interested in rendering service would seek public office. His refrain at every public forum where he has dropped hints of what to expect in his presidency has been 'zero-tolerance for corruption.' I cannot here vouch that Buhari would not propose a bill stipulating capital punishment for thieves of public funds.
As Head of State, we all saw how those who attempted to get rich by short cuts – hard drugs traffickers and armed robbers - were publicly executed. The latter category, if we may recall, got executed right in front of their family compounds. Buhari was that mad with thieves. Pen robbers may expect no less in the coming dispensation, starting 29 May, 2011. My sincerest advice to civil servants and politicians used to easy, unexplainable money is to retire from public service before General Nemesis catches up with them.
I wrote and published a satire titled 'Barack Obama and the African Dreamers' to celebrate President Obama's victory at the polls in November 2008 before he was sworn-in. I then got a couple of emails from President Obama himself and his Chief Strategist, David Axelrod, one of which was an alert to log into the Obama's White House website as it made its debut. I promptly did and beheld a message atop the website so simple and yet so deep: 'Change has come to America.'
Nigerians can say the same of their country from 29 May 2011, if they do their best to elect Buhari as their president this year. BIMS is only a tip of the iceberg. Within a year of Buhari presidency, oyinbo people would struggle to get the Nigerian visa as they now do with respect to China.
'Femi Meyungbe-Olufunmilade teaches Political Science at Igbinedion University, Okada. Edo State. Mobile: +234-80-57345436;