Answer: Improve Education & Health, Build Agriculture & Transform Energy Sector, and Improve Anti-Corruption Efforts
The majority of international and local civil society observers saw the results of Nigeria's election series on April 9, April 16, and April 26, 2011, as credible. However, they, along with the opposition also noted irregularities such as underage voting, improperly used ballots, and mishandled/misplaced ballot boxes, coupled with the sad fact of election violence killing nearly 800 as noted by Human Rights Watch. Many of these same irregularities have been cited in past elections since military rule ended more than 30 years ago. However, in 2011, these improper actions were significantly reduced with much of the credit for this positive change going to the well-respected Chairman of Nigeria's Election Commission (INEC) -- Professor Attahiru Jega.
With a credibility stamp on the overall 2011 election results, even with the irregularities and violence, the post-election landscape is going to be equally as important as the need to respond to some of the underlying development issues that could have contributed to the election violence, as well as the need to transparently address the voting irregularities.
So how to reach out to all Nigerians, particularly the youth and especially the northern youth, so that they feel, as one nation, they can play a part in the country's future? There are about 45 million youth in today's Nigeria. And, from now to 2025 that 45 million is likely to reach 62 million if Nigeria's population trajectory remains on track. The post-election landscape will have to focus on some of the FEEEDS® issues, especially food security, education, development, and addressing evolving democracy efforts (e.g. anti-corruption).
Social sector reform in education, health, and housing as well as transformative institution building in those same sectors is needed so that youth and women, in particular, can play key roles in the country's future. Transparent investment and value chain development in sectors such as agriculture, energy, and infrastructure, including taking renewables and appropriate technology into account, will be fundamental to Nigeria's advancement over the next 20 years -- or more simply put -- for the nation's next two generations. Changes in these areas will ensure self-sufficient food security, but also maximize the export potential of key commodities from rice and cassava to maize and cowpeas, including increasing trade of unique national products such as shea butter, palm oil, and coco, to northern Fulani and Hausa crafts, and indigenous textiles like indigo-based adire or ashoke. Addressing all of these issues will create two things: an educated and trained citizenry, and entrepreneurs and/or jobs.
If one travels throughout Nigeria (and I have to all 36 states), particularly in the North where negative human index indicator numbers are much higher (infant mortality, out-of-school girls, malnutrition), there is a visible need to respond to these socio-economic issues to meet the aspirations of young people at the poverty level or in the middle class. The youth, as well as Nigeria's 74 million women, will need to have employment opportunities (entrepreneurial, vocational, or formal private sector). The young will need to feel hopeful about opportunities -- or at least know there are transparent frameworks (institutions, processes, and regulatory environments) -- allowing them to outline a way forward for their future. People are hopeful when transparent frameworks are in place. Without them, without hope, then there are few alternatives, leading to frustration or in some cases violence that breaks down often along religious and ethnic lines.
Looking at the violence that mostly took place in the North, and the fact that the 12 core Northern States went to opposition presidential candidate, retired General Buhari, (see stark red & green map), underscores the outreach still needed in the region. Two predominately Muslim states in the East, Adamawa and Taraba, went to the President-elect.
It is okay to have political differences within a nation -- most democratic countries do -- as democracy also means respect for differences in views, culture and religion. But differences cannot also include hopelessness because social sectors needs are not met for parts of the population. So what should be on the post-election to-do list?
• Foster transparent frameworks (institutions and societal structures) so that Nigerians, no matter where they live, or what their political, religious or ethnic backgrounds are, believe that they have a level playing field allowing for a better future;
• Rebuild and resource education, adding possibly a universal program similar to nations like Uganda, and certainly include vocational and entrepreneurial training (too few donors assist with these);
• Creative value chain development using models such as Benin's Songhai, Backpack farms, and programs like MARKETS (see TAP@blogitrrs);
• Improve micro credit and finance mechanisms. Current programs do not meet the high demand, and requirements for lending are too tough for many, especially for small holder farmers, women and entrepreneurs;
• Establish a more reliable and affordable mortgage program so anyone at any point on the social economic scale can count on a framework that provides housing. A viable and affordable mortgage system, available to all, does not exist in today's Nigeria. Housing is a big issue for many.
All in all, Nigeria's post election environment represents an opportunity for the country's leadership to change the key paradigms that will provide a new enabling environment for a new Nigeria. Despite the good macroeconomic news in Nigeria and some visionary Governors (e.g. Lagos, Katsina, Akom Ibom, Rivers, Gombe, etc.), there are real poverty issues for many. I have also seen this poverty firsthand. Also, few job options exist for the educated. If some of the frameworks noted above are transparently addressed, then hopefully, this election -- with its international stamp of credibility -- will be a turning point for many in this nation of 152 million people.