These baskets of electioneering pledges
If wishes were to be horses, beggars could ride. But Nigerians are neither wishful thinkers nor beggars. Likewise, if pledges were to be realities, the Nigerian people would have been the best in the world. This is the time to harvest pledges, just like before, from our politicians. Some have been carelessly making promises for the impossibilities or things that are not rational.
Three promises that have attracted my personal attention and which are being discussed by many Nigerians are from President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
Jonathan wishes to put in place a mechanized farming system to ensure steady food on our tables and improve our economy through the agricultural sector. Buhari wishes to remove immunity clause from the constitution so that politicians in elective offices can be challenged and dragged to court for mismanagement of public funds which is the order of the day. And Ribadu wishes the fabulous creation of 120 million jobs so that even the under-aged Nigerian citizens can work and assist their parents to earn a better living. By this, Nigeria can become the highest in the provision of jobs to its citizens and the country will then have to open a department for green-white-green residential cards for foreigners.
The PDP presidential flag-bearer has made a lot of pledges. By my assessment, if the valour with which he makes these promises is turned to action, the next four years of democratic rule in Nigeria will be different. One hears, “I will do this. I will do that.” And the future seems to be assured by the use of this strong futuristic verb “will”. He often says he despises mentioning what he has achieved in the last one year in office as the president of Nigeria.
I am much more interested in the promise that Nigeria will operate a mechanized farming system. Farming, or to put it appropriately, agriculture has been the most neglected sector of the economy since the discovery of oil and gas in Nigeria. Most of the world powers of today, despite their technological advancement, do not relent in daily development of their farming system. In short, most of the richest men in the world, some who are not known and do not want to be known, are farmers. Food is the most needed thing in life. On normal circumstances, one must eat before actualizing daily activities. A healthy brain is in a healthy body and a health body is primarily built on good food. In the colloquial language, “Man must wak”. It is a must and without farming, life would have been a mirage.
When we talk about farming in Nigeria, many people would disassociate themselves from it, basically because a farmer is not respected. A farmer is regarded to be a poor person who has very little relevance to the society. In our villages, farmers are hard because they are still using archaic methods. Unlike in the olden days when a damsel will choose a husband based on his strength at farming or war, a man can be disqualified for his coarseness, even if he is a big farmer.
So if President Jonathan can assure Nigerians of mechanized farming and its attendant wealth, there is hope that the next four years would be great. Added to this, he should intensify efforts to provide stable electricity and qualitative education. Three point agenda, period: Power, agriculture and education. Nigerians are not asking for too much. Let him say very little and do much more. What he has done in the last one year as the president of Nigeria should speak more for him.
On the expunction of immunity clause from the constitution by the CPC Presidential flag bearer, this could be the great weapon to fight corruption to a standstill. Both national and foreign observers and analysts have maintained that the highest level of corruption is perpetrated in the government houses and the environs. This implies that the elected in particular and the appointed political office holders in general are the corruption mongers. They squander public funds which are meant for human and infrastructural developments on frivolous things and personal aggrandizements.
The immunity clause in the constitution do not allow for their trial while in office. This gives such category of the citizenry the effrontery to spend public funds without accountability. Since the return of Nigeria to democracy in 1999, this singular clause in the constitution has caused us trouble in the management of public funds. They are not accountable. They are not frugal. They are not checked by even the assemblies, because all are partners in this criminality against our motherland and her peoples. I do not know if any Nigerian can precisely say how much Nigeria has lost to this menace since 1999.
So, if Gen Buhari can, amidst expected adversities and challenges, expunge this part of the constitution, methinks in the next four years, Nigeria and Nigerians will have cause to rejoice and give thanks to God. The politicians will then be accountable and the monies meant for development will be properly utilized. All sectors of the economy will witness transformation.
People may claim that the governors or the president will be distracted as some citizens perceived to be opposition will engage them in legal battles. It may be so in the beginning. After all, the political office holders have been using public funds to fight the oppositions. But when the initiative stabilizes, every politician will welcome it.
However, expunging the immunity clause should not end there. The constitution must clearly spell out serious punishments for financial mismanagement. One who is convicted of stealing between one to five million naira should go behind the bars for six months with hard labour. Five to ten million naira should attract one year imprisonment. One to five billion will mean two years imprisonment with hard labour. Ten billion and above should be life imprisonment. Let whoever inhabits the Aso Rock Villa from May 29th try this for our dear country.
As for job creation, it is a necessary antidote for slot, hooliganism and youth restiveness. An idle mind is, surely, a devil's workshop. The rate of crime and moral decadence that are ravaging the country, namely: armed robbery, kidnapping, political thuggery, pick-pocketing, human trafficking, child abuse, prostitution, all forms of examination and electoral malpractices, among others, are natural products of joblessness.
Creating jobs for even two third of the Nigerian population and most especially the youths is enough to reform the society and push the country to its deserved position in the comity of nations.
But these should not be like before when politicians made very empty promises, knowing fully well that they would not deliver. The public should therefore scrutinize these politicians and discover the promises that can possibly be delivered and vote for the genuine ones. It has been discovered that political manifestoes are written by political jobbers who study members of a society and tell them what would stir them up. Enough is enough!
The unguarded waggling of the tongue with promises, just as it used to be during electioneering campaigns has baffled many patriotic and prominent Nigerians. Foremost of them is the Sultan of Sokoto who was moved to demand that the incumbent President Jonathan makes a written undertaking to fulfill all his promises when voted to continue. This is because, in the past, not one quarter of the pledges made by politicians is actualized. Most of our politicians often become incommunicado after winning elections.
Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]