By ANIEBO NWAMU

A day before President Muhammadu Buhari’s return to the country after a 50-day leave in London, INEC announced the time-table for the 2019 general election. All discerning Nigerians were taken aback. I too was.

Could INEC have made the announcement on the grounds that it’s ready to conduct the polls? Not likely. Or is the electoral body seeking to make the National Assembly appropriate funds for the elections? The INEC funds can only be captured in the 2018 budget which has not even been mentioned yet.

What then is INEC’s motive?

The cabal seems to be at work. It could have foreseen the improbability of Buhari seeking re-election in 2019 and therefore wanted to pick his replacement early for electioneering. If there’s evidence that no cabal means well for its country, that’s it. By driving Buhari home from London where he’s still receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment, the cabal, I guess, wanted to dampen Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s rising popularity.

A power struggle is on. And there’s nothing better to expect from idiots, charlatans and ruthless criminals that make up the cabal. Not for them thoughts about a sinking economy. Or the mass deaths from hunger and starvation. Only politics and power matter to them.

Their politics has no limit – even the health of the nation’s leader has been politicised. As Buhari has demonstrated since his return, the cabal did not get his consent to treat Nigerians the way they did. He acknowledged that he’s very sick – the kind he had never suffered in his life and which necessitated even blood transfusion.

I strongly believe that Buhari will henceforth become a better leader. It’s after one has had a close shave that they understand this life better. I say so because my own perspective on life did change after I literally came back from the dead many years ago. So Buhari meant what he said: that he would rededicate his life to serving Nigerians. We should pray harder so this illness would give him a chance to fulfil his promise this time round.

There’s little time left. Soon after Buhari and Osinbajo were elected two years ago, this column did propose revolutionary steps they should take to heal the nation. My advice has largely been ignored, but where has that left the nation? No amount of propaganda can deface the truth. You can’t convince a starving family or a hopeless jobseeker that all has been well since June 2015, or ask them to extend their patience.

Having failed to adopt a workable plan from inception, Buhari and Obasanjo should use the next two years to truly “rededicate” themselves to the service of the nation. I must add, however, that they must make one sacrifice: their ambition in 2019.  To really deserve to be called statesmen, neither of them should run for any office in 2019. For health and age reasons, Buhari should step down. And retaining Osinbajo would upset the country’s political equation: the No. 1 slot shouldn’t return to the south-west before reaching the south-east. For Nigeria was founded on a tripod: north, east and west. Any wonder why the pot (Nigeria) has not been stable since one leg of the tripod has been tampered with?

In 2019, every political party should, then, field as its presidential candidate somebody from the north or east. Each candidate’s running mate should also come from either region, for the sake of fairness and for the sake of peace. Osinbajo will certainly make a good president, but so will many other Nigerians from every tribe and region.

A decision to step down (or “step aside”) would enable Buhari and Osinbajo to, in the next two years, carry out a surgical operation that this country direly needs. Without a major restructuring, Nigeria is not going anywhere. Corruption won’t stop. The economy will remain in a cesspit.  I’ve said this several times in the past seven years.

Are Buhari and Osinbajo now equal to the challenge? They should start by, first, disappointing the cabal and, if necessary, slaying it!

The revolution I envisage would give birth to a credible census. We don’t even know how many we are. Yet, in this age of ICT, having a national database is as easy as swallowing a ball of fufu. The population census should go hand in hand with issuance of a national identity card to every adult Nigerian. The ID card would then serve as voter card and also be used for tax payment. That will solve for us a mountain of problems including insecurity, election rigging and tax dodging.

There would be something akin to a state of emergency throughout Nigeria during which the president would suspend some sections of the constitution. A conference to draft a new constitution within three months would be inaugurated. (The conferees would, of course, review the reports of previous conferences.)  It could consider having a weak centre in a two-tier structure: the provincial and federal governments. There would be no state or local government anymore nor a money-guzzling presidential system.

Next: a state of emergency on the economy. The presidency would proceed to abolish payment of salary to all public officeholders:  Only a token sitting allowance would go to members of the legislature at the federal, state and council levels – same to presidents, governors, ministers, agency directors and commissioners – until a new constitution becomes effective, preferably October 1, 2019.  Anyone wishing to serve shouldn’t expect riches anymore. That would save the nation N3 trillion each year.

Next: Possession of foreign currency in cash would be a criminal offence. Only in a domiciliary account would any Nigerian be permitted to keep the dollar or pound and, through it, also pay for foreign goods and services. There would be close monitoring of revenues from oil and others; there would be no excess crude account.

Let all our borders be thrown open to foreigners. They should come, invest in Nigeria and compete with Nigerians. Allow them to generate and distribute power sourced from coal, solar, water or nuclear plants. Lease our vast farmlands (including Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad) to serious farmers from Zimbabwe, South Africa, India, China and Israel.

The threat of insecurity would cease when jobs are created for the youths. We must de-emphasise paper certification and emphasise skills in order to stop producing job-seeking graduates. Our education system should be tied to job creation – institutions would run only courses relevant to available industries.

The weekly sale of foreign currencies would end; banks or importers should be free to source their foreign exchange anywhere but the Central Bank. That way, the naira would find its level. If N5, 000 exchanged with $1, things won’t get worse than they do now. It would be interesting to watch those that would buy private jets, imported fuel or toothpicks.

There should be no cause for alarm. I’m merely referring to the inevitability of redenominating the Nigerian currency. The naira would be transformed as we transform to a cashless society. It means the kobo would become legal tender once again. Coins would be reintroduced. [Young people note this: N1 = 100kobo. I bought a packet of detergent for 20kobo in 1981; it’s now sold N600.]

It would be compulsory for everyone to declare their assets and liabilities publicly. Every source of wealth must be laid bare, and all unexplained assets would be forfeited to the state. Any act of corruption would attract the death penalty.

Sounds impossible? All the conferences held in Nigeria and abroad over the past 50 years have produced nothing good. But if we desire change, there it is. We’ve been dying in instalments because we’ve refused to do what is right.

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