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After victory validation, the tasks ahead of Buhari

With last Wednesday’s dismissal of the petition of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar challenging President Muhammadu Buhari‘s re-election for failing to discharge the burden of proof, the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal has strengthened the president’s hands on the reins of government.

A dissatisfied PDP and its candidate had shortly after the judgment signified the intention to pursue their claim to victory at the February 23 presidential poll at the Supreme Court. The decision is within their rights and better than a resort to self-help.

Those castigating Atiku Abubakar for seeking redress in court would do better to let him be and rather focus on the task ahead for President Buhari and his cabinet.

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Four years may seem far, but the truth is that since the president was sworn in on May 29, he is now close to clocking four months in his second and final term. Coincidentally, the tribunal judgement was delivered on the day the president had the first meeting of the newly constituted Federal Executive Council.

The challenges before the president are well defined and they are in the least enormous. Insecurity tops the chart. After 10 years, the Boko Haram is still thriving alongside the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), which is affiliated with the global terror Islamic State group. As recent as Monday, last week the insurgents still succeeded in ambushing a military convoy in Borno State, reportedly killing nine soldiers and 27 others declared missing.

President Buhari, his newly appointed Defence Minister, retired Major-General Bashir Magashi and the security chiefs must demonstrate a new vigour to end the terror the insurgents inflict on the nation’s armed forces and the people of the North-east region. Banditry and kidnapping for ransom, cultism and armed robbery have escalated in recent times, making living in the country nightmarish. These are not just begging for the president’s attention, but quick resolution.

Another major challenge for the administration is the economy, which handling has not really made a significant impact on the lives of everyday Nigerians. Unemployment of graduates and artisans is still rampant. The plans to shift the economy from reliance on oil to agriculture and non-oil resources have yet to yield ripen fruits. An indication of how deeply the ordinary citizens are drowned in deprivation and desperation was the recent anti-xenophobic protests in Lagos, which turned into an opportunity for some to loot shops in malls attacked. Several people also were also attacked and robbed simply because they rode in exotic cars. This dangerous tendency must not be allowed to fester.

The economy also continues to be hurt by citizens exhibiting lack of understanding of the good intentions of government by engaging in large-scale smuggling of rice, vegetable oil, poultry products and other items. Not even the recent closure of borders with neighbouring countries has deterred the smugglers. Government must intensify the battle against smuggling. Otherwise, the efforts to improve the economy through agriculture would remain a dream in the remaining Buhari years.

With the approach of another global recession, the government needs to adopt a more intelligent approach to rebooting the economy.

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Provision of infrastructure to stimulate the economy should be given more attention and since the funds to execute the road, rail and other critical projects are inadequate, government should explore more of direct investment and public-private partnership financing. One advantage of the validation of Buhari’s victory at the election tribunal is elimination of uncertainty, which the reversal would have inflicted on the polity and discourage investors.

The government will also do well to continue and improve upon interventions to encourage the growth of SMEs.

The fight against corruption remains a major focus of the Buhari administration. The main anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had lately been celebrating the arrest of suspected fraudsters and money launderers and recovery of huge amounts in collaboration with foreign security agencies.

We are of the opinion that the anti-corruption campaign has only succeeded to that extent and fear that the success may not outlive the current administration so far as it has failed to change the get-rich-by-hook-or-crook mindset of many Nigerians. A successful anti-corruption war will not just celebrate the recoveries of crime proceeds and court victories. It will instil in the psyche of the average Nigerians the values of hard work as well as decent and lawful living. The ‘Change Begins With Me’ reorientation campaign launched in the first term of the administration made little or no impact. Nigerians need ethical rebirth in view of the growing resentments to the criminal behaviours of some of our citizens at home and abroad. This is one more area this administration must not leave unaddressed.

The levers are in the hands of President Buhari. He has the yam and the knife. He had himself urged Nigerians to trust him to live up to their expectations in this second term in office. And with his polls victory sealed with a judicial validation, it is now up to him to fulfil his pledge to take Nigeria to the next level.