Dear Mr. President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu,
It is my sincere hope that this open letter of mine meets you in excellent health. For the task ahead, you will surely need an overdose of good health and mental acuity. Let me also use this opportunity to formally congratulate you on your so-called victory at the February 25 polls. Even though you were evidently not the choice of Nigerians, INEC announced you president-elect while the aggrieved are left with the option to challenge your victory at the tribunal. I wish them all the best even though I know it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the courts to overturn your victory.
Now, to the meat of my letter.
- As the President-elect of Nigeria, waiting to be sworn in, you obviously have a challenging task ahead of you and I am sure that you also appreciate the onerous task ahead of you. You might be aware that the country is grappling with various issues such as ethnic and religious divisions, rampant corruption, poor economic growth, high unemployment rate, security challenges, and inadequate healthcare and educational systems. To address these problems, you must set a clear agenda that will prioritise the interests of all Nigerians, regardless of their background or social status. Always remember that, while you might always be tempted to boast that Nigerians elected you, the majority of the voters voted against you (I cannot forget the gloomy and sullen mood of Nigerians when they woke up on the 1st of March to the realisation that you have been announced president-elect. The country was thrown into a mourning state). Thus, many on the set will be antagonistic to your government and pray and hope that you fail so that they can proclaim themselves prophets that saw the future. The alternative to that is that you can actually be a president for Nigeria and all Nigerians, addressing the most challenging problems bedevilling Nigeria; that is if you truly care for the country.
As a Nigerian, what has always mattered to me is to see a better Nigeria. Therefore, I do sincerely hope and pray that you succeed for a greater Nigeria. Like I told a few friends, if our primary quest is to see a better Nigeria, then we must channel our energy into keeping you on your toes and holding you accountable to your campaign promises. And where the opportunity rises to serve Nigeria, we must avail ourselves to the service of Nigeria regardless of who is president and we must do so diligently and creditably.
As a concerned Nigerian, I have taken time to highlight the areas which I think that you must prioritise in your administration as you prepare to assume the presidency.
As a matter of urgency you must prioritise restoring the unity of Nigeria. The unity of the country has never been this fragile and battered since the 1960s, therefore, you must work assiduously to assuage the grievances and distrust of various ethnic and religious groups. I do not have the confidence that you would attempt to solve this problem seeing that you and your party were major protagonists for divisionary and ethnic vitriol for political gains. You emerged as president-elect in the most polarising elections in the history of Nigeria since 1979 and you profited off the divisions among the people. Your Muslim-Muslim ticket, as much as it was for political strategy, was regarded as insensitive and a slight on the Christian community by many Nigerians. Beyond this, you also campaigned on the rhetoric that it was the turn of the Yorubas to produce the next president and as such it was your turn. This means that you used both religious and ethnic sentiments to your advantage.
Nigeria is a diverse country, with over 250 ethnic groups, multiple religions, and different cultural practices. These differences have often resulted in conflicts and tensions that have threatened the unity and stability of the country such as we just witnessed in Lagos where members of other ethnic groups, especially the Igbos, were threatened, harassed, and harmed for attempting to exercise their civic rights. Your associates in Lagos openly threatened the Igbos that there would be grave repercussions if they did not vote for your party and the Lagos State governor seeking a second term. In the face of all these, you maintained an undignified silence, thereby expressing your tacit approval. This makes me think that, like the current president, you might only exacerbate the ethnic and religious divide between Nigerians. The incivility and barbarism that happened in Lagos this election period has no place in a mega city that you and your supporters claim that you built.
However, I must still appeal to you that you must prioritise national unity and promote policies that will foster greater understanding and cooperation among Nigerians. You will be the president of all Nigerians, whether majority of the citizens like it or not or whether they voted for you or not, and you must be able to rise above sectional, regional and ethnic sentiments to become president for all. My opinion is that wherever Nigerians find themselves, by virtue of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, they are permitted to live peacefully and participate in the socio-political activities of whichever community they find themselves in. It is absurd and ridiculous that Nigerians should be discriminated against in Nigeria by Nigerians. No Nigerian living within Nigeria should be treated or regarded as a foreigner.
Nigeria has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world at 33.3%, particularly among young people. To address this issue, my suggestion is that you must prioritise job creation by investing in infrastructure development, promoting entrepreneurship, promoting manufacturing and industrialisation, and attracting foreign investment. You must also work towards creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, which will ultimately lead to job creation. Recruiting 50 million youths into the Nigerian army is not a brilliant idea for job creation. You must depart from the current administration’s high handedness in dealing with largely youth initiatives it has no control nor understanding of. I am actually saying that when you are finally sworn in, I hope that you will lift the ban on cryptocurrency in Nigeria. You must also direct investments into the creative industry in order to spur job creation. During the campaigns, a lot of creative entrepreneurs supported your campaign because of what you have done for them in the creative space. This is the time to evolve such support from a personal standpoint to a more robust approach that supports the entirety of the creative industry across the country.
Nigeria’s economy has been largely dependent on oil exports, which has made it vulnerable to fluctuations in oil prices. Despite various attempts by previous governments, Oil still remains the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy even though we have made considerable gains in the area of agriculture. Therefore, it is imperative that you must think of ways to diversify the economy by promoting other sectors such as technology and innovation, manufacturing, and services. Under your administration, I would love to see a more vibrant ministry of science and technology which prioritises technological advancement and innovations. Particularly, I would love to see the revitalisation of the National Board for Technology Incubation (NBTI) to meet its mandate on nurturing, growing, and promoting new innovations and products. Almost on a daily basis, I come across brilliant innovations and creations by Nigerians that should be supported to become market products.
There have been various efforts, especially by the current administration to spur local production through various credit guaranteed schemes. I think that it is time that the government also think of a credit scheme for the consumption of locally made products. You should also focus on infrastructure development, particularly in power and transportation, which are essential for economic growth; and build on the initiatives of the Nigerian Start-Up Act to empower and encourage the birth and sustainability of startup businesses in Nigeria.
Nigeria is facing various security challenges, including terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and communal clashes. You must prioritise national security by strengthening the security agencies, investing in intelligence gathering, and collaborating with neighboring countries to combat transnational crime. Your manifesto’s proposal on security was the most robust and elaborate of all candidates. Hence, I’m a bit optimistic that with the right security architecture arrangement and political leadership, we may be able to overcome the security nightmares posed by banditry, terrorism by Boko Haram/ISWAP, secessionist agitations, etc.
I hold the view that you ran a pedestrian campaign where you avoided intellectual discussions and ended up trivialising ideological and intellectual issues. I expressed palpable concern that if you were to emerge, intellectualism amongst the citizens would diminish greatly and intellectuals criminalised. I did not see you as someone who appreciated sound education but a highly educated citizenry may be too sophisticated for your liking. Despite my misgivings of your administration in this regard, I am still constrained to plead a case for the education system. Nigeria’s educational system is in dire need of reform which is why you must prioritise education by investing not just in infrastructure development, providing incentives for teachers, and promoting vocational education. You must also work towards improving access to education for children in rural areas and girls. Nigeria is reported to have over 13 million out of school children. As a Nigerian, I feel quite shameful that Nigeria is the champion of the negative indices, like many other indices where we sit at the top. Therefore, there should be concerted efforts to improve access to education, improve school enrolment and retention. I also think that this is time to also look into our schools’ curricula. I believe that our curricula need to be reviewed to provide the kind of education that is in tune with current market realities and labour demands.
On health, you are fully aware that Nigeria’s healthcare system is inadequate, with a high maternal and child mortality rate. Nigerians will not want to see the continuation of the tradition of presidents seeking medical care abroad. Hence, you must prioritise investing in our healthcare and providing incentives for healthcare professionals to remain in Nigeria. We cannot continue to lose our best health practitioners to the UK, US, Canada, and other countries.
In conclusion, you are also aware that the elections that made you president-elect were shambolic and a disaster. INEC did not live up to expectation as they buckled under the pressure of poor logistics planning. There were also the incidences of widespread electoral fraud, electoral violence, and the questionable credibility of some electoral officials. Even though the 2023 elections might not be as bad as the 2007 elections, I expect that you will acknowledge, even if not publicly, how terrible these elections were and work towards the improvement of the electoral processes.
But I have little hope about you considering you and your party’s antecedents in Lagos where a good portion of Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) are card carrying members of APC. I predict that Nigeria’s democracy will witness a sharp decline and retrogression in whatever gains we have made in the last 24 years. Despite my pessimism, there’s nothing I would love to see more than being wrong about this.
Mr president-elect, a lot of presidents have been told this before but I will love to also repeat it to you that history and fate have beckoned you and you now have the power and chance to lay the foundation for a prosperous, peaceful, and united Nigeria. I look forward to a better Nigeria under your reign.
•Victor Terhemba writes from Abuja, Nigeria. He can be reached on Twitter via @victor_terhemba or email at [email protected]