On the 1st day of January, 2018, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, President of Nigeria, and Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces addressed the nation and reeled out the achievements of the administration and rolled out projections for the future.
As has become customary, the President laid out in concrete terms some of the challenges of the nation and the measures the administration has put in place to address the challenges. The President was clear and concise on the issue of what he termed infrastructural deficit in Nigeria and the measures in place to address them. However, the President did not quite get it right in the manner the New Year Presidential Address was delivered and the timing of the delivery.
There are also some fundamental issues the Nigerian people expected the President to address but some of them were not dealt with at all or dealt with in passing. In the New Year Address, the President dwelt on key areas that are fundamental to the administration’s “change agenda”.
He stated clearly that “my address to fellow Nigerians this morning is devoted mainly to informing you about the intense efforts this administration is putting to address our country’s huge infrastructural deficit.”
He listed progress in the power sector, progress on railway projects and progress in road construction.
The President also touched on other issues including progress made in the area of securing Nigeria and stated that security of life and property is still top of the government’s agenda. On the 2019 elections, the President advised the political elite to conduct political discourse with civility, decorum and in a constitutional manner.
On the vexed issue of “Restructuring”, the President stated that the challenges of Nigeria have more to do with process rather than the structure. Finally, the President expressed his sadness at the lingering fuel crisis and characterized the situation as a collective blackmail of all Nigerians and assured that “whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again”. I acknowledge that the President’s address was forward looking and gave the Nigerian people a glimpse of the efforts the administration is making in tackling the decay in the transport and energy sector.
It shows that the President is thinking of Nigeria of tomorrow and not necessarily of the Nigeria of today. It is hearth warming that the railways will cut across almost all the States of the Federation and this will no doubt ease the burden of the Nigerian people who are forced to ply the roads that are more or less like erosion sites while short term measures are in place to fix some of the terrible roads in different parts of the country.
There are a couple of issues with the President’s address and it is in the interest of the country and our democracy that the issues should be highlighted and addressed.
Talking about the missing links and issues in the president’s address will enable the country learn from its mistakes, plant itself as a global player and respond to changing communication and scientific dynamics. Presidential handlers had a responsibility to package the President and his address to reach the teaming majority of our people. This, they could have done taking into consideration that the traditional media of communication and information technology has changed considerably and drastically.
Many of our young people rely on the social media and other “outside sources” for their information. On New Year eve many of the young people thronged to the churches and other social and recreational centres to usher in the New Year.
Some of them went back to their houses after midnight and as at the time of the President’s address a considerable number of our youths were still asleep. There is nothing sacrosanct and secret or confidential about a Presidents New Year address. Presidential handlers should have changed tactics and released the President’s Address on social media outlets to coincide with the ushering in of the New Year.
The issues pertaining to and bothering our young population could be released through the President’s twitter handle. This will ensure that a lot of young people understand the President and what the President is doing on their behalf.
Many of our compatriots cannot afford to buy the newspapers and many of them may not even have light to watch the President’s address on television or listen to him on radio. So, the President’s address and all the efforts put into it will be a waste if majority of our people do not get to listen to the President.
The society is changing and no society or nation should allow itself to be trapped in rituals and “this is the way we have always done it”. The country must not remain with the ritual that the President must address the nation at 7a.m. on January 1 of each year and all “radio stations are advised to tune in or link up?”
A serious country must at all times study and analyse its demography and the changing dynamics of technological and scientific change and package and repackage the President in such a manner that those that elected him will know what he is doing on their behalf.
The President and his team spent considerable time packaging his address and delivering it and it will amount to an exercise in futility if the Nigerian people ignore the address or are not even aware of the address of the President. Democratic governance is anchored on accountability and the sovereign right of the people to know and participate in governance and by addressing the Nigerian people; it is clear that the President recognizes their right to know and his responsibility to be accountable. I may be wrong but I believe that a Presidential Address on New Year Day should be inspirational and contain “quotable quotes” that will give the people confidence in the ability, courage and presence of mind of their President to address their basic worries and challenges.
A Presidential New Year Address should address the heartbeat of the nation and their worries and reassure the nation that their country is in safe hands. A Presidential New Year Addresses should not necessarily be about a review of what has been done in the past or the projects that the administration intends to embark on.
My thinking is that such issues should be left to the ministers in their ministerial briefings or during the breakdown of the budget. Nigerians believe that the Presidential Address should have addressed the lack of cohesion and infighting within the regime and amongst senior ministers and senior functionaries of the administration.
Nigerians expected the President to inform them of his determination to reenergize his team and get them to work in harmony and deliver goods to the Nigerian people. Nigerians are no doubt apprehensive about the future and what the future holds in stock for them.
Most Nigerians are aware that the regime has made recoveries of huge sums of money from members of the past administration that pilfered the commonwealth, but are yet to see the impact of such recoveries on their lives. A lot of young people are apprehensive at job losses and are not even sure of securing employment after school.
These are the issues agitating the Nigerian people. Nigerians are not really interested in the fine distinction of process and structure in the quest for restructuring. A change agenda is an acknowledgement that things are not working well in the country and a change agenda must be open to addressing the process and structure of the Nigerian nation. In 2018, the President should focus more on governance and think less of the politicking. The different political parties should be left to deal with issues arising from nominations and politicking.
The Nigerian people expect the President to deliver and with the right attitude and the right team, the President can still reclaim lost ground.
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