Letter to Nigeria’s in-coming president

Dear president-in-waiting, I must begin by congratulating you on your electoral victory even though it has not been announced. But very soon, you will be unveiled to the 200 million Nigerians who voted for you to pilot their affairs in the next four years. It is my earnest desire that you do not tow the line of your immediate predecessor who flagrantly betrayed the trust reposed on him by Nigerians.

Your Excellency, this letter is premised on a number of assumptions. First, that you won the election free and fair. Secondly, that you will not emerge from among those who feel that it is their entitlement to lord it over us. Thirdly, that you will not repudiate your campaign promises as contained in your advertised manifesto as did by your immediate predecessor. Fourthly, that you will not emerge from among the drones that brought this nation to this pitiable situation and has vowed to continue with the obnoxious policies of the outgoing regime, otherwise this letter would be unnecessary.

Dear president-elect, 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 know how you will get us out of it. I also believe that you know the variegated nature of the country, our challenges, potential and opportunities for growth and development.

I am sure that you know the current state of affairs in the country. But just as a reminder, I will like to present to you in condensed form the current situation in the country so that you do not forget while basking in the euphoria of victory. Nigeria is in a very bad shape. You are coming to superintend over the affairs of a country with serious security problem. Insecurity has metastasized to every nook and cranny of the country as insurgents, bandits, kidnappers and terrorists operate freely without let or hindrance, controlling a swathe of our territory. National unity is bastardised, our fault lines deepened, creating discontent, anger, mutual recrimination and separatist agitations. The economy of Nigeria is bastardised due to mismanagement and institutionalised corruption. 

Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world as 133 million citizens are multi-dimensionally poor. Unemployment rate is now 33.5% with youth unemployment put at 42.5%. At 21.4% inflation rate is growing exponentially and so is our national debt burden which is over $100 billion. Infrastructure are grossly inadequate. The dependency burden is high and asphyxiating; Nigerians now live in misery and squalour.

The morale of the masses is at the nadir and scores of citizens commit suicide on daily basis due to hopeless. Our education system is in a shambles. In the last eight years, our university students have stayed out school for over 450 days cumulatively due ASUU/federal government dispute. There are over 20 million out of school children while the government fritters away billions on the bogus school feeding programmes. And externally, Nigeria is now seen as a pariah state being one of the most terrorised countries in the world today.

Our dear in-coming president, you see that you have a lot of work to do. You will work to provide adequate security for the citizens, inspire the citizens whose morale and sense of patriotism have been dampened by bad government. You will have to work to revamp the economy and create enabling environment for economic activities to thrive for the wellbeing of the people. You will have to work to improve the education 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 will 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 your campaign promises, believing that you have the strategies, the willingness and the wherewithal to implement the contents of your manifesto.

Again, we expect you to be magnanimous in victory. As the elected president of the country, you should see the whole country as your primary constituency and not your party or ethnic affiliation. We expect an inclusive government that will accommodate disparate interests. You will strengthen national unity and douse youth restiveness and needless agitations when you carry everybody along.

Without 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 based on political compensations. Nigerians also expect a lean government and a reduction of unproductive investments at the center 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 elected president, if you must succeed, you must fight corruption. Nigerians expect transparency and accountability and prudent management of our common wealth. You must clear the Augean’s stable. 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 progress of the country. But they will not surrender without a fight. They will fight dirty by instigating violence. Fighting corruption also may lead to sabotage from the civil servants because of entrenched corruption in the system.

You should rest assured that the rabble-rousers and the conflict instigators that have been culpably quiescent these past eight years while this nation is in 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 be screaming headlines and sensational narratives but do not be intimidated; the mainstream media no longer have the monopoly of dictating the direction of public discourse. The power of the mainstream media has been swamped out by the new media platforms. Ironically, it will shock you to note that the more you perform the more you will attract snarky criticisms from the Lagos press. 

All over the world, criticisms are supposed to be inversely related to your performance but not so for the Lagos press. For the Lagos press, the volume of criticisms you get is directly proportional to your level of performance. You can find out from former president Goodluck Jonathan, who despite his performance and democratic posturing, was demonised and vilified by the Lagos press. Clemence Westerhoff, the best coach this country has ever had, received the worst form of criticisms in his time by the Nigerian press. IBB who despite his performance while in office was maligned and demonised.

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? 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 leading people you should be willing to accommodate dissenting views; encourage robust engagement and civil advocacy. You should be open to criticisms and not be deceived by political hangers-on that may truckle down to you. You know that leadership is about people—people’s interest, people engagement, people’s welfare, etcetera. Your appraisal will be based majorly on the impact of your programmes on the people.

Finally, Sir, I apologise sincerely if I sound didactic or pedantic. It is the way I feel. I am convinced that the success of the in-coming government will be for the benefit our country. We can’t afford to fail. I believe as the Scriptures say that, “affliction shall not come a second time”.

Irogboli, economist, novelist and a public policy analyst, writes from Enugu, via [email protected]