UMAHI; Realities And Pretences About The Next Nigeria's President

By Barr Emeka Nwode

''Nigeria on the match again, looking for Mr President ..,''

The above was a popular and catchy signature tune of the 1993 Presidential election campaign. The simple message of that campaign song was as persuasive as it was both symbolic and effective in mobilizing massive interest in an election that presented a lot of opportunities for a truly great Nigeria. 

Once again, Nigeria is edging towards yet another turn in its political match. The building materials for the choice of the next President is gradually being assembled. The weak, the strong, the sublime, the perfidous, the confounded and the astute are all beginning to create real or imaginary ripples in the political space with respect to the successor of the incumbent President in 2023.

Interestingly, the drumbeats at this point seem to place premium on the zone that will produce the next President. Geopolitical balancing has, so far, dominated most contributions on the form, features and texture of the person that will steer the Nigerian craft after President Mohammadu Buhari. 

There are, no doubt, plausible reasons to advance the cause of the zoning principle in the election of the next President. From the obvious and present feeling of being  marginalized to the need to adhere to the Federal Character principle enshrined in the 1999 constitution (as amended), there is no doubt that sustaining the zoning formula will engender mutual trust, quell the separatist agitation in the Southeast, promote political cohesion and catalyze the socio-economic advancement of Nigeria. 

Conversely, truncating the rotation of the office of the President between the North and the Southern divide of the country and, in particular, between the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria will be, to say the least, a confirmation of the loudly held silent view that a section of this country, the Southeast zone in this case, is a mere appendage and an expendable surplusage in the Nigeria project.

While it is very vital to promote corporate integration, it is equally necessary to consider other prominent factors that should drive the quest for the next President. These must include the ability to understand and the capacity to address the debilitating challenges that presently pervade Nigeria.

The deployment of dynamic strategies in the wars against insurgency, banditry and general insecurity, a genuine curtailing of corruption, fiscal discipline, the development of the transportation infrastructure, arresting  the almost comatose power generation and distribution sectors, industrialization, improving agricultural practices and agro value chain, and a robust foreign policy thrust based on informed derivables are the critical and hard issues which the choice of the next President should aim to address.

Confronting these Herculean tasks is not a walk in a leisure park. It is not for the lilly livered. It is not for anyone that is enamoured by the glitz and allure of the office of the President or enthused by the title of 'Mr. President'. The enormity of this task is further compounded by the ever evolving and unpredictable global economy and diplomacy.

The problem here is not with the persons who are overtly or covertly wriggling to the political space as contenders. The problem is, rather, with the ability of Nigerians to see through the veil of the ritual of voting for a President every four years, and appreciate the enormous opportunity and responsibility they now have to steer the destiny of the country away from mere wishful thinking to the functional reality of a land of grand possibilities  through their votes.

While each name that has, so far, been mentioned may lay claims to some propelling virtues, the era of tentative and experimental Presidency should be permanently interred. This is the time for a physically, mentally, intellectually and a spiritually enabled candidate with good health, temperament, exposure, verifiable track record of policy formulation, execution and supervision, fiscal and moral probity which must be prerequisites for any Nigerian President with focus on appreciable  performance. 

For instance, in tackling the insurgency, banditry  and separatists encased insecurity in Nigeria, the  multinational military countermeasures that were cobbled together sometime ago need to be reviewed by the next President. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on the free movement of the citizens of member States within the region seems to be a porous  link that is being exploited by killer gangs to create fiefdoms across the Northern part of Nigeria which, in turn, has led to scrambled migrations from the affected areas to Southern Nigeria with attendant dire socio-economic, cultural and criminal consequences. The protocol, therefore, needs to be amended in accordance with the presents global terrorism realities. 

The rehabilitation and expansion of the transportation infrastructure should include the eradication of unwholesome practises in our few functional seaports, the construction of new seaports at Ilaje (Ondo  State), Koko or Warri (Delta State) and the rehabilitation of the Calabar port. The inland waterway port at Onitsha holds tremendous economic potentials for the South East and the North Central States, and beyond, if completed and put to use. The dredging of the River Niger up to Lokoja, which was inexplicably abandoned midway, will be of inestimable economic  value to the entire country. 

While the present Federal Government should be commended for initiating the restoration of railway services in Nigeria, the Portharcourt to Borno railway corridor, Lagos to Calabar via Abakaliki, and Calabar to Abuja via Makurdi are the necessary inclusions that will give the requisite essence to the ongoing Lagos to Kano railway reconstruction and integration projects.

The dismal condition of most  Nigerian major roads is an immediate emergency for the next administration. 

The privatization of the power sector seems to have created more problems than it was designed to solve The failure of the numerous efforts of individuals and corporate organizations to make meaningful inroads into profitable industrialization can be traced to the failure of the power sector reforms. Reversing this destructive trend awaits the next President and his team.

Beyond a reliable source of power, access to iron and steel is the fulcrum of the manufacturing industry. To reduce our reliance on imported goods and the resultant pressure on foreign exchange reserves, foundry factories must have supportive and viable Steel industries. Whatever has held down the Ajaokuta, Alaja and Oshogbo Steel Industries are effectively holding down the industrialization and  fortune of Nigeria. No economic or mass employment milestone  can ever be achieved  without dealing with this anathema. 

In all, it should be acknowledged that the challenges that have been identified here are not mainly as a result of policy making deficits or failure to make the necessary budgetary allocations. The empirical fact is that the inability  of succeeding Presidents to effectively monitor the deployment of funds appropriated for most critical infrastructures, the failure to comprehensively inspect the projects that are marked off as completed and commissioned and inadequate appreciation of the complex current financial principles, policies and codes of the various international financial institutions and hubs have placed most Presidents in such precarious conditions as to compel them to rely virtually on lieutenants who may not share the President's vision and passion in their entirety. 

These albatrosses around functional and purposeful leadership  call for a deliberate choice by Nigerians of a President that is properly equipped to clean the augean stable and deliver on the reasonable expectations of the people.

A dispassionate assessment of the records of all those that have been previously or currently entrusted with leadership in both private and public sectors will certainly sift through the glut of names being bandied about as probable Presidential aspirants. While some are formidable, others are pretentious; if not outrightly comical.

At the peak of the pack of the serious eligible Presidential choices is His Excellency, Engr. (Chief) David Nweze Umahi, FNSE, FNATE, the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State. 

The transformation of the economy and the social landscape of a State that ranks among the four poorest States in Nigerian, in terms of allocations from the Federation Account and internally generated revenue, by Governor Umahi has been achieved through a leadership strategy that places premium on detailed appraisal of projects impact, cost efficiency,  supervision and accountability. This much has been attested to by non partisan individuals, State and corporate actors which include the World Bank and Pricewaterhousecooper, a leading international fiscal transparency assessment organization.

The State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS), a World Bank support and intervention programme designed to support States to implement a fiscal sustainability plan, has severally commended and given cash grants to Ebonyi State Government as prizes for the latter's diligence in fighting corruption and enhancing transparency in the use of public fund, reducing the cost of governance and raising productivity across all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the State.

The provision of world class intra and inter city road networks, an international airport which construction is nearing completion, the construction of markets and shopping malls that have attracted favourable international reviews, the enactment of Laws to protect investors' interests and promote policies on ease of doing business in the State and the various intensive farmers and youths empowerment schemes, amongst other programmes, have all been made possible by conscious policies that include the  strengthening of the security architecture of the State. 

A symbiotic relationship between the State Government and the security agencies operating in the State is effectively complemented by a community based intelligence gathering and crime prevention local vigilante group, EBUBEAGU, coordinated by the office of the Security Consultant to the State Government. This explains the near zero crime rate in the State.

Also, the ability of Governor Umahi to initiate proactive measures in dealing with all issues affecting the various clans, ethnic and religious groups in the State attests to his capacity to resolve the clan and tribal contradictions that have crept into our local and national lives.

The passion with which this ebullient Governor conducts physical and detailed inspection of every project being constructed in the State and by the State Government is the antidote to the numerous substandard, poorly executed, abandoned and failed projects lining the length and breadth of the country, and causing inestimable retardation to the growth of Nigeria. 

As a patriot who believes that Nigeria is stronger together, Governor Dave Umahi is the realistic choice Nigerians have to make as a President imbued with the capacity to address and tackle the deluge of problems that have held down a Country with obviously enormous potentials. 

The 2023 Presidential election presents another opportunity for Nigerians to confront the reality of national redemption through the election of an efficient President, as against any temptation of self destructive pretences.

Barr. Emeka Nwode is the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Legal Services and Conflict Resolution

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