By Henry Ojelu & Prudence George
FORMER President of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, has identified insecurity, poverty, unemployment, ailing economy, disunity, restructuring and legitimate constitution as some of the major challenges the next Nigerian president would have to tackle to move the nation forward.
Speaking in Lagos during the presentation of Olisa Agbakoba Legal, OAL, “Policy Report 2022, Big Issues for the 2023 General Elections”, Agbakoba criticised the manifestoes of the various presidential candidates, noting that some of them lacked specific timelines and clear plan on how to solve the nation’s challenges.
Agbakoba further stated that Nigeria has never been so divided and noted that to unite the country, ensure security and order, the next president must address the challenge of a legitimate constitution, restructuring and strengthen the local government system.
He said: “The 2023 general election is a defining moment for Nigeria which raises the need for a thorough and insightful search for who will preside over the country’s affairs after President Buhari’s administration. Overall, we are happy to note that this is one of the first presidential elections that issues are coming to the fore, and that is how it should be.
“OAL’s Policy Report 2022 has highlighted a few of the big issues that should engage any Presidential candidate interested in leading Nigeria some of which include: lack of unity, disorder, and insecurity and it must be tack-led head-on.
“The other big challenge is the weak legal institutional and regulatory framework; this needs to be strengthened. The third is the economy especially as it relates to rising budget deficit, debt, and shrinking revenue. Nigeria needs innovative and transformational tools to deal with all the issues highlighted in this report. Our contribution here is to make suggestions. Presidential candidates are to rethink some of the issues, especially that of poverty.”
Speaking on how to tackle some of the issues, Agbakoba said: “A legitimate constitution is the most vital political framework. However, to succeed, four vital elements must exist and they include Inclusivity, Authority, Validity, and Legitimacy. Previous attempts at constitution-making have failed on the issue of legitimacy because the Constitution is generally perceived as imposed by the military. This issue ought to engage the attention of all the Presidential candidates.
“On fiscal federalism, which is a core issue, it is suggested that arrangements around the raising, sharing, and spending of money are critically important to the functioning of a Federal system, as this evokes strong political tensions.
“On devolution of powers, It is suggested that massive devolution of powers from the Federal to the State Governments is vital. There are two kinds of devolved power – Political and Technical. Technical devolution is easier to agree on than political.
Nobody will argue that the States are better able to manage driver’s licenses, trade within States, prisons, marriage certificates, primary health, education, etc, than the Federal Government. State Police may be more difficult as it is perceived to mean the exercise of political control.
“On Police, the concept of municipal policing for States is a possibility, while streamlining the present Nigeria Police Force in a shared power scheme between Federal and State Governments.
“Also important is empowering the local governments as the source of power at the base of the Federal structure. This can be achieved through the principle of subsidiarity which is ensuring that governance is delivered at the lowest level.
“Poverty is the single biggest issue confronting the Presidential candidates. 133 million Nigerians cannot be poor and there will be development. To address this challenge, a President needs to engage in critical thinking and develop a design that will ensure that funds are allocated to the most important sectors. Four sectors identified by MPI include Education, Health, Living Standards, and Employment. Funding for these key sectors must be sustained over a period of time.”