By Hassan Adebayo
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, at the start of the week launched his re-election campaign manifesto in which he boasted of having built the ‘foundational work’ to trudge up the stairs to the ‘next level’.
Campaigns for the 2019 elections started Sunday, triggering a renewed scrutiny of the candidates, especially Mr Buhari and his main challenger, billionaire Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, a former vice president between 1999 and 2007.
As he is the incumbent, the candidacy of Mr Buhari faces critical reviews – no less than Mr Atiku’s though – as the country footslogs around economic and security challenges.
More Nigerians are falling into joblessness, and herdsmen-farmers conflicts have claimed thousands of lives in the past years, with implications for the country’s stability and unity, local and international reports show.
Nigeria has recorded big gains regarding the war against the Boko Haram terrorists who once controlled close to a score of local government areas in the country’s North-east under the PDP – but they still fatally hit targets, including the military and civilians, and many people displaced are not able to return home.
But Mr Buhari insists he has not reneged on the promises -security, economy and anti-corruption – that he rode on to win the 2015 election for his current term.
He argues his efforts have only amounted to helping the country out of a ‘depth of decay’ and then a foundation, which, if re-elected, would serve as a basis for a stronger country – the next level.
“We have worked hard to fulfil our promises – and while the road may have been difficult, over the last three and a half years, we have laid the foundations for a strong, stable and prosperous country for the majority of our people,” reads the campaign manifesto of Mr Buhari.
It adds: “Foundational work is not often visible, neither is it glamorous – but it is vital to achieving the kind of country we desire. Judging by the prior depth of decay, deterioration and disrepair that Nigeria had sunken into, we are certain that these past few years have put us in good stead to trudge on the NEXT LEVEL of building an even stronger nation for our people.”
PREMIUM TIMES has reviewed the document. The president is seeking votes to pursue five-pronged agenda if he is re-elected, according to our analysis.
Government’s own official information shows Mr Buhari has presided over a worsening national job situation, with unemployment rate standing at 18.8 per cent -15.9 million people – by the third quarter of 2017 up from 16.2 per cent in the earlier quarter.
The country’s statistics bureau has not released new data on the job situation since 2017, warranting criticisms the body is failing due to political considerations.
This situation negatively relates to the government’s efforts such as Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, N-Power, improving Ease of Doing Business.
In the re-election manifesto, not much is different, however, but the targets are bigger. There are five main ways it says the jobs creation agenda would be pursued if re-elected.
One, in the second term, which Mr Buhari calls the next level, N-Power would engage one million graduates and then there is a promise to skill up 10 million people under a voucher system in partnership with private sector.
Two, several millions of jobs are to be created through agriculture, including having the “Anchor Borrowers’ Programme to support input and jobs to one million farmers; Livestock Transformation Plan to create 1.5 million jobs along dairy, beef, hide and skin, blood meal, crops; and Agriculture Mechanisation Policy with tractors and processors to create 5 million jobs.”
Three, Mr Buhari promises to provide $500 million in funding for the tech and creative industry to create 500 thousand jobs and train 200,000 youth for outsourcing market in technology, services and entertainment.
Four, further jobs would be created with the creation of Regional Industrial Parks and Special Economic Zones, and “Next Level of 109 Special Production and Processing Centres (SPPCs) to spur production and value additive processing (as well as) Tractors and Processors Plan in Each Senatorial Districtv.
Five, Mr Buhari also vows ‘300,000 extra jobs’ for vendors and farmers by increasing the number of children fed under the school feeding programme from 9.2 million to 15 million.
Unveiling his second term plans toimprove the country’s infrastructure desperately needed to buoy the economy and ease living for citizens, Mr Buhari commits to four areas, expectedly roads, rail, power, and the Internet, marked to be treated as ‘a critical infrastructure’.
Mainly, he promises to complete the Second Niger Bridge, in the works for years before his coming, and “the phased works in each state of the federation”.
Several roads in Nigeria are in a bad state and works on them have been for several years, gulping billions of taxpayers’ money with dismal results. Mr Buhari now promises to complete these projects if he is re-elected.
On the railway, he says he would complete the Lagos- Ibadan-Kano Rail, Eastern Rail (Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri) taking the network through Aba, all South-east state capitals, Makurdi, Jos, Bauchi and Gombe, and the Coastal Rail (Lagos-Calabar).
The Abuja Metro Rail Station inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on Thursday (12/7/18) 03727/12/7/2018/Callistus Ewelike/NAN
He promises to move broadband coverage to120,000km of fibre network across Nigeria, after ‘addressing uniform Right of Way charges’, and prioritise Internet access to education, markets, primary healthcare and business clusters.
Through renewable, clean energy sources such as solar, he wants to ‘energise’ universities and up to 300 markets across the country to have an uninterrupted power supply.
Then, further on power, he promises “a minimum of 1,000 MW New Generation incremental Power capacity per annum on the Grid; Distribution to get to 7,000 MW under Distribution Expansion programme”.
3. Business, Entrepreneurship Development
A string of plans towards facilitating business and entrepreneurship also feature in the Buhari next level plan. These include ‘people moni bank’, ‘entrepreneurship bank’, easing business process, and MSMEs clinics.
Under the people moni scheme, there would be a consolidation of the current trader moni, market moni and farmer moni schemes, targeting 10 million Nigerians from ‘the current 2.3 million’.
Then, the entrepreneurship bank is proposed to be tech-enabled and offer credit, capacity building and business plan support to young entrepreneurs.
For ease of doing business, he promises to “legislate and enforce deadlines for issuance of government licences and permits” and “simplify investments, customs, immigration, trade and production procedures”.
Then, there would be one-stop shops of all regulatory agencies (CAC, NAFDAC, SON, etc) under one roof in each senatorial district as Next Level for MSMEs (MSME Clinics) in each Senatorial District.
4. Human Capital Enhancement Services – Healthcare, Education
“Every child counts will make our students digitally literate in Science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics,” says the Buhari manifesto, adding: “all teachers will be retrained to deliver digital literacy”.
The president further vows 10,000 schools per year will be remodelled and equipped.
This may require working with states and local governments since the federal government only runs an inconsequential number of secondary (unity) schools in comparison with huge number the president says he is targeting if re-elected.
One of the classrooms at the Community School, Koola with broken chairs and tables
For the healthcare, he promises insurance for all using “co-payments to share the cost between individuals, the private sector and government,” while “the poorest 40 per cent will be exempted from such co-payments”.
5. Political Inclusion
The president promises to ensure 35 per cent of his appointments go to females. He does not mention if there would a piece of legislation compelling 35 per cent affirmative action on women inclusion in government – a proposal that failed in the National Assembly last year.
He also says he would increase the number of youth for appointments to boards of public agencies.
He also promises “special mentoring programme in governance with young graduates working with ministers and other senior government appointees”.