Nigeria: Boss Mustapha and Buhari's Next Level Agenda

A week before the inaugural Democracy Day on June 12, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, had told journalists that President Muhammadu Buhari would deliver a speech that would not disappoint Nigerians.

He expressed such optimism either because he had seen the speech (or got information about it) or because he knew the mind of the President and the issues dear to him. Whatever was the case, the President eventually delivered an unusually long and memorable speech. It was a speech that dwelled on the past, present and the future.

What made the speech unforgettable was how it so lucidly captured the vision, character, achievements and the destination of the Buhari administration. The speech exhibited the President as a leader familiar with his country and it diverse ethnicity and resources, all of which he rightly believes are ingredients for building a great nation on a strong economic infrastructure.

But he is also aware of the challenges facing the country. And one of those challenges is that of inter-communal and inter-religious strife and violence which is the result of sponsorship and incitements by political and religious leaders hoping to benefit by exploiting fault lines that weaken the country. And there is no doubt that the Buhari had seen plenty of that in its first term.

The President acknowledged the diverse natural resources of the country such as arable land, water, forests, oil and gas and vast quantities of solid minerals. But he believes the real wealth of the nation lies in Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry and Mining.

This informed his administration's focus on agriculture and mining which had lifted at least one million Nigerians from poverty through initiatives such as the Anchor Borrowers Programme. The Administration is laying the foundation for a great country and taking bold steps in transforming it and liberating her people from poverty.

At his inauguration for a second term, Buhari had told Nigerians to prepare themselves because his administration would take "tough decision." And many had thought it meant more hard times for Nigerians. But again, it was the SGF who explained the import of the President's statement.

The tough decisions, according to Mustapha, are the things the administration would do to reach the goals it has set. He said when the Administration placed a ban on rice and fertilizer importation to encourage local production, it was a tough decision that produced positive results. The Government was able to raise the number of rice farmers from 4 million to 12 million which has made the country achieve about 98 per cent self-sufficient in rice.

On 29 May 2015 when Buhari was sworn in as President, Boko Haram occupied 18 local governments in the North East and regularly attacked cities in North including Abuja. But that is no longer the story.

While the President acknowledged there were still challenges of kidnappings and banditry in some rural areas, it has changed the security architecture of the country and confronting the challenges through much greater support to the security forces in terms of funding, equipment and improved local intelligence.

The almost 60 percent drop in oil prices between 2015 and 2016 forced tough monetary and fiscal measures which stimulated economic growth, curbed inflation and shored up external reserves. This has resulted into 8 quarters of positive growth in the economy and the GDP is expected to grow by 2.7 percent this year. External reserves have also risen to $45 billion enough to finance over 9 months of current import commitments.

But when Boss Mustapha emphasized that the President's Inauguration speech would not disappoint Nigerians, he probably had in mind the last part of the speech where Buhari enumerated his agenda for the next four years. Not only did the President show he had a clear idea of his destination for the country, but that he and his team also have a road map.

The President admitted that infrastructure development was not at a satisfactory level yet despite huge resources his administration had committed to it in the last four years. He stated he realized an "urgent" need to modernize roads, bridges, electricity grid, ports and rail systems. Whilst agriculture and industrial output have recovered since the recession, with Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index haven risen for 26 consecutive months since March 2017, the President expressed commitment to work with the private sector to improve productivity and accelerate economic growth.

But perhaps it is in the outcome of Government's desire to reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programs, education, technology and improved information that the Administration's legacy would rest.

The social intervention programs of the Administration have become models for other nations. It is providing millions of school children with meals in primary schools, micro loans to traders and entrepreneurs, skills and knowledge acquisition support to graduates and conditional cash transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

The program is set to bequeath to the nation a database of poor and vulnerable households built based on age, gender, disability, educational levels for proper planning. Buhari's administration has declared war on poverty and this database would be a useful instrument in the fight.

Also, a database of the unemployed but qualified youth has been developed under the National Social Investment Programme which can be used by the public and private sectors for recruitment purposes and help government's planning. About 2 million beneficiaries have received aid under this Programme alone.

No least is the President's determination to tackle insecurity in the country occasioned by rising cases of banditry, farmers/herders' clashes and kidnapping which have led to the death of hundreds of people. The President revealed he would intensify regional and international cooperation to develop sustainable solutions.

But Boss Mustapha has sounded a warning to Nigerians who yearn for the Next Level promised by the Buhari administration. Speaking shortly after Buhari was sworn-in for the second term at the Eagles Square in Abuja, Mustapha, warned that unless Nigerians rallied round the President, the goals may be difficult to attain. He said government alone cannot provide all the needed development of the country without the support and cooperation of Nigerians.

No doubt, it is in the interest of Nigerians to give the President all the support to make the country better. But many may not see the correlation between citizens' support for Government and national progress. The latter is a corollary of the former. This is what Boss Mustapha seems to remind us.

Solomon writes from Lagos

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