What Nigerian Muslims Needs From The Next Government – NSCIA
|– The Muslim Voice |
Feb 28, 2023
In a letter titled “The Charter Of Expectation Of Nigerian Muslims From The Next Government” and signed by Professor Salisu Shehu (Deputy Secretary General) and Architect Zubairu Haruna Usman-Ugwu (Director of Administration) on behalf of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), reads:
The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) is the apex body overseeing the affairs of about 150 million Muslims who constitute majority of Nigerian citizens. It was founded in 1973 to “cater for, preserve, protect, promote and advance the interest of Islam and Muslims throughout the country.” Ably led by its President-General and Sultan of Sokoto, the Council for about 50 years has been contributing to religious harmony, stabilising the country and collaborating with other stakeholders within Government and non-governmental circles to achieve peace, stability and national development. While remaining avowed to its mandate of protecting the interest of Islam and Muslims in a multi-religious Nigeria, the Council has also been championing the cause of good governance, convinced that it is only in the atmosphere of good governance that the whole country can enjoy peace, progress and development. It is in this regard that the NSCIA wishes to discharge its responsibility to both the country and its citizens by engaging with the process of leadership recruitment and sharing its views and concerns with its members on the coming general elections. Let us first set the context.
About fifty years ago or so, Nigeria emerged from a devastating civil war determined to overcome the challenges of nation building, create a united country with a strong economy and lead the liberation and repositioning of Africa in the global community. It initiated schemes like the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to boost national cohesion and social integration, launched National Development Plans to drive human capital and economic development, accelerated infrastructural expansion and commenced the building of defense capability commensurate to its role as a regional power. Rather sadly, a number of factors emerged to supplant the post-civil war dream and today, after alternating military and civilian administrations, our country is still far from the expectations of its citizens and the global black community, which is still looking up to Nigeria for leadership.
At this juncture of democratic change of leadership, the lessons of the past 50 years should be very clear. One of such lessons is that, at this juncture, Nigeria needs statesmen with vision to strengthen our institutions of governance, fight corruption tooth and nail and prioritise competence, ethics and moral character. We particularly need a leadership that will appreciate the future and plan for it. Here, it is pertinent to note that by UN projections, Nigeria’s population will rise to 300 million by 2030; and by 2050, we are expected to be well over 400 million, which will make us the third largest country in the world, after India and China. We need leaders with the vision, courage and discipline to plan for this teeming population. We expect that the discussion around our political circle should be about how to provide food, health care, housing, education and jobs for this population over the next 25 years; knowing very well that failure to do this is a recipe for another disaster.
It is this context that the NSCIA wishes to convey to our presidential candidates, as well as Nigerian citizens who will be electing them in the coming general elections, our concerns and our expectations from the incoming President/Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The NSCIA believes that leadership is bestowed by God; it also believes that leadership is a trust, and this trust remains a burden on leaders, until they discharge it by delivering on the promises they made to the electorate. As Shaykh Abdullahi bn Foduye said, “Verily, political power is a vicegerency from Allah and stewardship from God’s Apostle. How great then, its dignity and how heavy its burden.” It is our conviction that leaders should strive to deliver on their mandates and meet the expectations of the citizens, as much as possible and the extent to which our presidential candidates will receive the Nigerian Muslims’ support is proportional to their level of willingness to consider those issues important to the NSCIA.
Below are some of the key issues:
1. Security: For almost one and a half decade, Nigeria has been traumatised by an unprecedented level of carnage with losses of hundreds of thousands of human lives and millions of displaced peoples and a kidnapping industry that has caused havoc and pauperised both urban and rural communities. This growing and seemingly unending insecurity has crippled agriculture, commerce and education, with all the consequences in its trail. Assurances of successive governments have been to no avail. Rather expectedly, this failure has created a huge trust deficit between political leaders and citizens, particularly when experts have proposed various solutions to the authorities. The incoming president is expected to make this his top priority and to deploy the highest political will and resources to bring this menace to a quick end. Some of the key lessons to note here include the dismantling of the war economy from which a few officials are feeding fat, the integrity of commanders, the absence of synergy between the different security services, building local trust for effective intelligence and working with local authorities who would know their terrain better than any outsider. Besides, the incoming government must curb the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
2. Economy: All is not well with our economy. So, the incoming government is expected to reconstruct our economy and to do so in ways that will address the grinding poverty, joblessness and severe inequities across the populace. The statistics are frightening, as they suggest that nearly 2/3 of the Nigerian population live below poverty line. Given the structure of our economy, the greatest sector and one with the capacity to expand and absorb the most is agriculture. We therefore expect the incoming government to give it priority. Here it is important to emphasise the need to make a paradigm shift from production to processing, because that is how value chains are fixed, jobs provided and prosperity created. The shift to processing will create demands for skills and allow the shift from academic degrees to skills, which China did to emerge as the strongest economy on the global scene today. The enduring truth about economies is that no country gets rich from revenues; countries get rich only through production. There are a number of other policies that experts have proposed that need to be considered with diligence and discipline.
3. Infrastructure: Over the last quarter of a century, our infrastructure has continued to decay and this has affected the economy. One sector which is particularly critical is the power sector. From 1999 to date, we have compromised our power sector reform, not because of dearth of ideas but because of the absence of political will and the inordinate greed of government officials. We expect the incoming president and his government to end this anomaly. There are experts with the knowledge of the sector, who have what it takes to bring back sufficient electricity to power our industries. We expect the incoming government to identify them and work diligently to restore power to this country which has groped in the dark for too long. We also need to have a sustainable energy plan that will unleash our natural resources while protecting the environment. Other critical areas of infrastructure include improving roads and rail, recharging the Lake Chad waters to boost agriculture, arresting desertification and boosting digital literacy.
4. Human Capital Development: This is critical to our economy recovery and the future of this country. In global competitiveness, this is our area of comparative advantage as 65% of our population are under 35 years of age. At the moment, the records show that we have the largest out-of-school children in the world. Our girl-child enrolment presents another worrying statistics, with implications for our development. If we can educate this population and give them basic health care, they alone can be a powerful momentum in our economy. About 40 years ago, India built IT institutions. Today, they make more money from IT than we make from oil, even when oil was selling at $100 a barrel. Today, most of the CEOs of the Silicon Valley like Google and Microsoft are Indians. We expect the incoming government to come up with a plan to educate and skill these nearly 20 million out-of-school children. We also expect the incoming government to come up with a plan to fund education and to re-invent our public universities so that they can rise to international standards and meet the manpower needs of our industries at home. Similarly, our health care, which is currently in shambles, must be revamped to meet our growing population. This investment will boost productivity and pay off in terms of healthy and productive manpower as well as reduce the use of foreign currency for medical tourism. One area that the incoming government is expected to pay special attention is mental health. The trauma accumulated over a decade of violence across the country must be healed if we are to avoid a repeat of these conflicts in the near future. We need to pay attention to and address the trauma therapy need for a healthy society.
5. Governance: Governments exist to protect lives and property and provide for the welfare of citizens. The first parameter of evaluation of governments is service delivery. Today, no one doubts that the service delivery of our governments at all levels is dismal. We need an incoming government that will pay immediate and serious attention to this all-important issue. In modern governance, this is usually done by developing what is called ‘Key Performance Indicators’ (KPI) for every ministry and government establishment. This is evaluated periodically against pre-determined and established deliverables. One of the greatest challenges to delivering KPIs and government performance is of course corruption. Our country has featured on the wrong side of the corruption index and we must make a firm resolve to fight corruption. We want an incoming president who will demonstrate his political will from the quality of people he will appoint and the zero tolerance he will show for corruption. Another important issue of governance is inclusion. It is important for the incoming president to develop a framework for inclusion which should be both scientific and accountable. This will promote trust and national cohesion as well as allow the country to focus on the great task of development.
While these are some key areas for the attention of the incoming president, they are by no means exhaustive. There are other issues that will only be necessary when a new president comes on board. The NSCIA will be very happy to make available its team of experts for subsequent engagements with His Excellency, the incoming president and his team.