A former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has urged Nigeria’s president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, to be prepared to take hard, painful decisions early in the life of his administration if he wants to succeed in delivering the change Nigerian yearn for.
Mr. Blair was speaking in Abuja at the opening of the two-day policy dialogue on the implement of the Agenda for Change by the All Progressives Congress on the theme: “Implementing Change: From Vision to Reality”.
The former Prime Minister urged the new government to take urgent and decisive actions within the first 100 days in office, particularly to rid corruption, impunity and lawlessness, to assure the people that it was determined to break from the past.
Represented by Lord Mandelson, a one-time business secretary and one of the architects of the new Labour party in the UK, Mr. Blair said while the excitement about the emergence of the Buhari government was still high, the people also have a huge sense of expectation, faith and hope for fundamental changes in the system.
“You have more goodwill and authority now to do the most difficult things at the beginning than at the end,” Mr. Blair told the incoming APC government. “Take advantage of that goodwill that comes with being elected to take difficult decisions that may inflict immediate pain, but in the long-term interest of the country and government.”
Without directly asking for the removal of fuel subsidy, the former British leader however alluded to the fact that it was the best way to go.
Citing the example in Indonesia, he said when the new government was faced with a similar difficult decision in 2014 to cut the inefficient fuel subsidies, it was bold to have done it, noting that although painful, the people appreciated it later as the best option.
“There is something wrong going on in a country like this, with such extraordinary resources of oil and amazing supply of energy, yet power generation is not happening the way it should; people are having to wait hours on end in queues for petrol and end up with huge subsidies that could be invested in long-term good of the country, infrastructure and fundamentals, like human capital, education system, skills for young people,” he said.
With corruption in the country, particularly in the oil sector, Mr. Blair urged Mr. Buhari to ensure within the first 100 days it “cracked the NNPC nut”, to let the people know that it was serious about economic reforms as a solid foundation for the future.
What a government does in its first 100 days, he noted, was important, as it would send a very strong message to the people that the government was courageous and decisive in dealing with the issues that affect the people.
He advised the government to ensure that all oil revenues and other earnings from natural resources went into a common account to take care of some issues vital for the country and the future of the people.
On effort to build confidence, he said the government would not only need to be true to its word, mandate and manifesto to keep the trust of the people, but to show those who did not vote for it that it was also representing their interest as much as those who voted for it.
“If Nigeria must to transformed and evolve towards a politics of performance against politics of ethnicity, religion, patronism, cronyism, it is important that government demonstrated clearly that it is a government for the whole of the country and not part,” he said.
The Vice-President elect, Yemi Osibanjo, who declared the dialogue open, said during the campaigns, the APC had identified various areas of concern to the people.
He said the party’s major concern was the extreme poverty of the majority of the people, adding that not much analysis was required to conclude that dealing with poverty and its implications, was a priority.
“We are concerned that the economy is, perhaps, in its worse moment in history; with inequalities in the country, where most of the resources are in the hands of a privileged few. The party’s manifesto offers a vision of shared prosperity and economic inclusion for all Nigerians in the pursuit of the goals of a robust and prosperous life.”