Issues for Successful APC National Convention

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ISSUES OF SUCCESSFUL APC NATIONAL CONVENTION

Salihu Moh. Lukman

Progressive Governors Forum

Abuja

In the book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen argued that ‘factors that determine whether or not a company becomes truly great, even in chaotic and uncertain world, lie largely within the hands of its people. It is not mainly a matter of what happens to them but a matter of what they create, what they do, and how well they do it.’ Company may as well be any organization, community or society. Whether such organization, community or society can become great is a function of what members or citizens are able to do and how well they do it individually and collectively.

Success or failure may simply reflect ability or inability to come to terms with the need to take responsibility in any given situation by individual members and act in ways that should contribute to producing desired outcomes. Even when members or citizens can take responsibility, organizations, communities or societies may graduate to bigger challenges, in which case, initiatives meant to respond to old challenges may be inadequate. Therefore, ability of leaders to expeditiously recognize such new reality and initiate appropriate responses become a critical determining factor for success or failure, however defined.

Without doubt, the world has been going through very difficult period since 2019. The presence of Covid-19 virus imposes additional challenging realities, which has crippled economies, destroyed businesses and human lives. In Nigeria, in addition to challenges imposed by Covid-19, problems of insecurity have graduated from insurgency to sophisticated acts of terrorism by so-called bandits. Unfortunately, public debate around these challenges is limited to partisan considerations with hardly any substantive specific recommendations by political leaders.

Consequently, challenges are reduced to partisan choices and the debate narrowed to what is happening without necessarily linking it to the bigger question of what needs to be done and how it should be done. Even when leaders initiate the right responses, excessive politicization based on partisan choices is used to dismiss such actions. For instance, in relation to addressing the problem of insecurity in the country, the Federal Government has commenced the recruitment of 10,000 police personnel as well as increased the salary of police by 20%. These are hardly recognized by opposition politicians and critique of government.

While it is true that 10,000 additional police personnel may be inadequate to mobilize enough responses to Nigeria’s current national security challenges, it is important to recognize that within the context of the present institutional and legal framework whereby management of police services is exclusively the responsibility of the Federal Government, 20% salary increase and additional 10,000 police personnel in the country are commendable. Part of the problem of responding to national challenges in the country, is the false mindset that government has all the resources required. Such mindset is responsible for why in most cases public conversations hardly acknowledges costs of initiatives. For instance, how much it will cost the Federal Government to recruit additional 10,000 police personnel and award 20% salary increase is simply taken for granted.

Unless and until Nigerians come to terms with the reality that financing government initiatives is the collective responsibility of all citizens, capacity of government to implement initiatives that can meet the expectations of citizens will remain weak. The whole debate around reforming the Nigerian police for instance such that whether community or state policing can support the recruitment of more police personnel is practically about how much resources can be mobilized to sustainably manage the operations of the police force. Currently, the total number of police personnel in the country is less than 400,000.

With less than 400,000 police personnel, it simply means an average of about 500 per Local Government, which is far more than what exist. In fact, coming from Zaria Local Government of Kaduna State, there are far less than 250 police personnel in all the police stations across the Local Government. Together with Sabon Gari Local Government, with combined population of about 1.5 million, there are less than 500 police personnel. Officially, the Federal Government is said to be working on a plan to recruit additional 280,000 more police personnel in all the 774 Local Governments. The additional 10,000 therefore is a far cry. 10,000 additional police personnel mean an average of about 12 police in each of the 774 Local Governments. If the target of 280,000 additional personnel is to be met there should be at least 350 more police personnel in each Local Government.

Achieving the target of recruiting enough police personnel is a function of how much financial resources can be mobilized. The risk of recruiting, training, providing arms and meeting the operational costs of the police without guaranteed funding could only compound the problem of insecurity in Nigeria. Sadly, we exist in a country where citizens only think in terms of what they can get from government and not what they can contribute to strengthen the capacity of government to meet citizens’ expectations. Largely because of such mindset, during the sixteen years tenure of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), between 1999 and 2015, at a time when Nigeria earned trillions of Naira annually from sales of crude oil alone, when oil sold for more than $100 per barrel, PDP leaders converted government revenue to private wealth. Typical case was when under former President Goodluck Jonathan, in 2014, $2.1 billion meant to procure arms to fight insurgency in the North-East was shared among PDP leaders as inducement for 2015 elections. The current PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, got about N350 million out of the money.

Unlike the PDP administration, under the APC led government of President Muhammadu Buhari, the biggest investments in weaponry and equipment are being undertaken. Hundreds of new platforms are being acquired for the Army, Air Force and Navy. The Nigeria Air Force has received 23 new aircraft since 2015, including the newly acquired A-29 Tucano jets. The Navy has similarly acquired its first new Landing Ship Tank (LST) since 1979. The Administration has also launched a Nigeria Police Trust Fund. Sadly, public discussion in the country is taking place as if nothing is being done. Opposition politicians and critics of government have even argued that these are wrong investments. Some have argued that rather than invest in acquiring arms, including the A-29 Tucano jets, government should have recruited more military personnel.

There is no doubt that Nigeria needs more military personnel, just like the country needs more police personnel. Some security experts have suggested that to end the war against Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, there is the need to deploy not less than 200,000 ground troupes. Now, there is less than 50,000 ground troupes in the whole of the North-East, which is partly responsible for the inability to hold on to liberated territories after defeating Boko Haram insurgents.

Without doubt, government has succeeded in strengthening the capacity of Nigerian security personnel across all services to be able to respond to national security challenges in all parts of the country. The fact that Nigeria is still faced with the current security challenge arising from activities of terrorists and insurgents, require deeper introspection from citizens. It is true that problems of corruption in Nigeria must be won to ensure that government resources are optimally directed towards resolving national challenges. Reality of corruption should however not continue to serve as excuses for why citizens should not take responsibility. Once, as citizens, Nigerians continue to indulge ourselves with the false notion that government has all the resources, government’s initiative will continue to fall below public expectation, irrespective of partisan choices.

As things are today, only workers in public and private sectors pay taxes. Businesses and private citizens are mostly defaulters. Largely because of endemic culture of default in payment of taxes by citizens, Nigerians have gradually taken over government responsibilities. Instead of paying tax to government and expect government to provide security, Nigerians recruit personal security guards for homes and businesses. With that, Nigerians incurs expenditure multiple of what could have been the value of tax to government. Similarly, instead of paying tax to government to ensure that public schools and hospitals are managed efficiently and effectively, Nigerians patronize private schools and hospitals and pay prohibitive rates far below standard services. Even teachers and health workers are active practitioners in the default culture that pervade the Nigerian tax landscape.

Because of problems of insecurity, farming activities is on the decline. For the last three years, many farm owners have become absentee farmers. For those who have valid Certificate of Occupancy for their farmland are required to pay ground rent to governments to retain ownership of their farmland. For a farmland as small as 10 hectares, ground rent charge per annum may be up to N50,000. Once paid, such money goes into the revenue pool of the government, with hardly any commitment to dedicate any part of it to address the problem of insecurity affecting farming communities. Also because of poor organization of farmers, but more because most farmlands don’t have valid Certificate of Occupancy issued by governments, nobody is making any demand for waivers of payment of ground rent or any form of reliefs, not even the affected owners of the farmland.

Coupled with challenges created by Covid-19 realities in the last two years, economic activities have been on the decline. Yet, Nigerians want to maintain the same consumption habits. Trade unions continue to demand the same level of wages, if not increased wages, even when production activities are on the decline. Both Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) continue to insist on payment of subsidies on petroleum products even when challenges of mobilizing more financial resources to address the problem of insecurity demand that government must restructure its expenditure. NLC, TUC and indeed all Nigerian trade unions believe that it is the sole responsibility of government to mobilize all the needed financial resources. Already, as things are NLC has already issued strike notice to protest any proposal to withdraw subsidy on petroleum products, scheduled for January 27, 2022.

Because of problems of insecurity, farming activities is on the decline. For the last three years, many farm owners have become absentee farmers. For those who have valid Certificate of Occupancy for their farmland are required to pay ground rent to governments to retain ownership of their farmland. For a farmland as small as 10 hectares, ground rent charge per annum may be up to N50,000. Once paid, such money goes into the revenue pool of the government, with hardly any commitment to dedicate any part of it to address the problem of insecurity affecting farming communities. Also because of poor organization of farmers, but more because most farmlands don’t have valid Certificate of Occupancy issued by governments, nobody is making any demand for waivers of payment of ground rent or any form of reliefs, not even the affected owners of the farmland.

Coupled with challenges created by Covid-19 realities in the last two years, economic activities have been on the decline. Yet, Nigerians want to maintain the same consumption habits. Trade unions continue to demand the same level of wages, if not increased wages, even when production activities are on the decline. Both Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) continue to insist on payment of subsidies on petroleum products even when challenges of mobilizing more financial resources to address the problem of insecurity demand that government must restructure its expenditure. NLC, TUC and indeed all Nigerian trade unions believe that it is the sole responsibility of government to mobilize all the needed financial resources. Already, as things are NLC has already issued strike notice to protest any proposal to withdraw subsidy on petroleum products, scheduled for January 27, 2022.

Nigerians must break away from all the fallacies that deceptively guarantee certain levels of consumption habits in the country at the expense of productive activities. Ability of government to succeed in resolving the current national security challenge will be dependent on the capacity of Nigerians to support government to mobilize all the financial resources required to recruit, train, fund and provide arms to all Nigerian security services. How much sacrifices Nigerians at all levels are ready to make will determine how quickly government can succeed?

As a party, APC need to do everything necessary to refocus national debates towards strengthening the initiatives of President Buhari led government to produce the desired outcome of securing the country. Strengthening the capacity of APC led Federal Government to produce the desired outcome, in the short run, is about massive recruitment of police and military personnel in the country, in addition to the investment that has been made towards procurement of arms, including the A-29 Tucano jets. In the long run, it is about providing good conditions of services and sustainable funding framework for the operation of police and security services in the country.

As a party preparing for its National Convention in February 2022, we must appeal to APC leaders to include debate about what needs to be done by all APC government to mobilize the support of Nigerians to bring to an immediate end the current national security challenge in the country. Recommendations that emerge from the Convention should guide the process of reviewing the APC’s manifesto. Unlike other parties, including the PDP, APC must continue to set the needed political agenda to drive the process of mobilizing Nigerians for change.

As a party envisioned to be social democratic, in addition to the challenge of insecurity facing the country, the issue of massive mobilization of financial investment towards the development of education and health sectors in Nigeria must also be debated at the Convention. Having demonstrated political commitment towards infrastructural development in the country, which has led to the revival of rail transportation and reconstruction of road networks in the country, APC must initiate the rebirth of public education and public health in the country through similar massive investment to build new schools and hospitals, rehabilitate old ones, mass recruitment of teachers and provision of teaching materials. These are not issues that can be achieved based on the current budgeting structure in the country at all levels.

As we say goodbye to 2021, therefore, APC leaders must focus the planning for its February National Convention towards mobilizing the support of Nigerians to contribute in every way necessary, including making personal sacrifices to create the New Nigeria every citizen desire. The New Nigeria citizens desire will be a product of collective responsibility, shared values and sacrifices and therefore guaranteed security and abundant wealth. Success or failure will be practically about how much sacrifices APC leaders are able to convince Nigerians to make. Once the debate at APC Convention in February is limited to who emerge as leaders of the party without addressing these fundamental issues, the ability of APC to mobilize Nigerians to build a New Nigeria would have been sacrificed. APC leaders have since 2013 demonstrated capacity to mobilize Nigerians based on clear political agreements. The February 2022 National Convention shouldn’t be an exception.

Happy New Year 2022!!!

This position does not represent the view of any APC Governor or the Progressive Governors Forum

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