I will restore Nigeria’s lost glory, Buhari says at Chatham House.

I will restore Nigeria’s lost glory, Buhari
says at Chatham House.

The presidential candidate of the
opposition All Progressives
Congress, Muhammadu Buhari, has
pledged to restore Nigeria’s lost glory
if he emerges as the next president of
the country in the March 28 election.

Speaking at Chatham House, London,
on Thursday on the topic: “Prospects
for Democratic Consolidation in
Africa: Nigeria’s Transition,” Mr.
Buhari while specifically talking
about the insurgency in the north-
eastern part of the country said the
Nigerian government’s handling of
the Boko Haram terrorist made the
country and its military a laughing
stock.

The former head of state said as a
retired general, he is well acquainted
with the state of the military in the
past and recalled its heroic
adventures in Burma, the Democratic
Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone,
Liberia, Darfur and in many other
peacekeeping operations in several
parts of the world.

“But in the matter of this insurgency,
our soldiers have neither received the
necessary support nor the required
incentives to tackle this problem. The
government has also failed in any
effort towards a multi-dimensional
response to this problem leading to a
situation in which we have now
become dependent on our neighbours
to come to our rescue.

“Let me assure you that if I am
elected president, the world will have
no cause to worry about Nigeria as it
has had to recently; that Nigeria will
return to its stabilising role in West
Africa; and that no inch of Nigerian
territory will ever be lost to the
enemy because we will pay special
attention to the welfare of our soldiers
in and out of service.

“we will give them adequate and
modern arms and ammunition to
work with; we will improve
intelligence gathering and border
controls to choke Boko Haram’s
financial and equipment channels, we
will be tough on terrorism and tough
on its root causes by initiating a
comprehensive economic
development plan promoting
infrastructural development, job
creation, agriculture and industry in
the affected areas.

“We will always act on time and not allow
problems to irresponsibly fester, and I,
Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the
front and return Nigeria to its leadership role in
regional and international efforts to combat
terrorism,” he said.

On the economy, Mr. Buhari said the fall in prices
of oil has brought Nigeria’s economic and social
stress to the fore.
He said after the rebasing exercise in April 2014,
Nigeria overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest
economy, adding that the country’s GDP is now
valued at $510 billion and its economy rated 26th
in the world.

“Also on the bright side, inflation has been kept at
single digit for a while and our economy has
grown at an average of 7 per cent for about a
decade,” he said.
He, however, said the country’s touted economic
growth is more of paper growth, a growth that, he
said, on account of mismanagement, profligacy
and corruption, has not translated to human
development or shared prosperity.

Mr. Buhari said “a development economist once
said three questions should be asked about a
country’s development: one, what is happening to
poverty? Two, what is happening to
unemployment? And three, what is happening to
inequality?

“The answers to these questions in Nigeria show
that the current administration has created two
economies in one country, a sorry tale of two
nations: one economy for a few who have so much
in their tiny island of prosperity; and the other
economy for the many who have so little in their
vast ocean of misery”.

He argued that even by official figures, 33.1 per
cent of Nigerians live in extreme poverty, almost
the population of the United Kingdom. He said
there is also the unemployment crisis simmering
beneath the surface, ready to explode at the
slightest stress, with officially 23.9 per cent of the
country’s adult population and almost 60 per cent
of its youth unemployed.

“We also have one of the highest rates of
inequalities in the world,” he said.

He stated that it is therefore, not surprising that
Nigeria’s performance on most governance and
development indicators (like Mo Ibrahim Index on
African Governance and UNDP’s Human
Development Index.) are unflattering. With fall in
the prices of oil, which accounts for more than 70
per cent of government revenues, and lack of
savings from more than a decade of oil boom, the
poor will be disproportionately impacted, he said.
What to do
The opposition politician said in the face of
dwindling revenues, a good place to start the
repositioning of Nigeria’s economy is to swiftly
tackle two ills that have ballooned under the
present administration: waste and corruption. And
in doing that, he would, if elected, lead the way,
with the force of personal example.

Mr. Buhari said there would be no confusion as to
where he stands on corruption, adding, “The
corrupt will not be appointed into my
administration”.

“First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the
budgetary process. Revenue producing entities
such as NNPC and Customs and Excise will have
one set of books only.

“Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and
regularly audited. The institutions of state
dedicated to fighting corruption will be given
independence and prosecutorial authority without
political interference,” he said.

Mr. Buhari also emphasised that any war waged
on corruption should not be misconstrued as
settling old scores or a witch-hunt.

“I’m running for President to lead Nigeria to
prosperity and not adversity,” he said.

In reforming the economy, he said he would use
savings that arise from blocking these leakages
and the proceeds recovered from corruption to
fund his party’s social investment programmes in
education, health, and safety nets such as free
school meals for children, emergency public works
for unemployed youth and pensions for the elderly.

“As a progressive party, we must reform our
political economy to unleash the pent-up ingenuity
and productivity of the Nigerian people thus
freeing them from the curse of poverty.

“We will run a private sector-led economy but
maintain an active role for government through
strong regulatory oversight and deliberate
interventions and incentives to diversify the base
of our economy, strengthen productive sectors,
improve the productive capacities of our people
and create jobs for our teeming youths.

“In short, we will run a functional economy driven
by a worldview that sees growth not as an end by
itself, but as a tool to create a society that works
for all, rich and poor alike.

“On March 28, Nigeria has a decision to make. To
vote for the continuity of failure or to elect
progressive change. I believe the people will
choose wisely,” Mr. Buhari said.

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