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Opposition sets out its vision for government

08 March 2014, 06:57

Abuja - The main opposition party has unveiled what it hopes will be a blueprint for winning power when voters go to the polls to elect a new president and parliament.

The All Progressives Congress (APC), buoyed by a wave of defections from President Goodluck Jonathan's ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), called the manifesto a "Road Map to a New Nigeria".

The 10-point plan prioritised the fight against corruption, tackling insecurity and made a bold pledge to create more than seven million new jobs across the country.

Provisions were also outlined for free primary and secondary education, greater welfare support for the poorest as well as increasing domestic manufacturing, technology and agriculture.

APC spokesman Lai Mohammed said the roadmap, unveiled at the party's first national conference, held in Abuja on Thursday, was drawn up after a survey and as a result was "what Nigerians need".

But Mohammed's opposite number in the ruling party, Olisa Metuh, dismissed it as an anti-democratic rebels' charter, had no substance and was a "roadmap to anarchy".

Political scientist Nwolise Osisioma, from the southwestern University of Ibadan, said few alternatives were being offered.

"I cannot see any difference between the APC and PDP because both of them do not have any ideological differences," he told AFP, calling the parties "two sides of the same coin".

Professor Dapo Thomas, from Lagos State University, however, called the plan "laudable", assessing: "They are welfarist programmes that if well-implemented will turn the fortunes of Nigeria around."

- 'Zero tolerance' on corruption -

Widespread corruption and poor governance have long been a problem in Nigeria.

Jonathan has faced a series of high-profile scandals and last month suspended the outspoken central bank governor Lamido Sanusi after he alleged that the state-run oil firm had embezzled $20 billion.

Just this week, the United States ordered a freeze on $458 million in assets stolen by the former military dictator Sani Abacha and his accomplices, which were hidden in offshore accounts.

The US Justice Department action -- its largest civil forfeiture action against foreign official corruption -- has yet to prompt an official response, although Abacha, who died in 1998, was honoured by Jonathan's government just days before.

The APC vowed to take a "zero tolerance approach" to corruption and no individual, no matter how powerful, would be exempt.

Laws would also be tightened on the seizure of assets for anyone even suspected of having "inexplicable wealth" and specialist law enforcement bodies would get more investigatory powers.

The government would be more accountable and transparent while political interference in the electoral process would be tackled along with rampant vote-rigging, it said on its website apc.com.ng.

- Tackling insecurity -

Nigeria's Muslim-majority north has been gripped by deadly violence from Boko Haram Islamists in recent years and some 500 people have been killed since the turn of the year.

Jonathan's government has been criticised for not ending the bloodshed, with militant fighters apparently able to launch attacks at will, despite an increased military presence in the region.

Defence analysts have said conventional counter-insurgency tactics and use of heavy weaponry were ineffective against an enemy fighting a guerrilla war.

A change of approach was required, including addressing the root causes of extremism, which has been blamed on the economic blight in the north and resulting social problems.

The APC said it would create a serious crime squad and provide the latest training and equipment to fight "terrorism, militancy and ethno-religious clashes", as well as give local police more power.

"Peace and security are fundamental to Nigeria's social and economic wellbeing. Every Nigerian should be safe and free to work in any part of the country, regardless of tribe, ethnicity, or religious beliefs," it said.

Overhauling the law enforcement system would help change the international perception of Nigeria "as a failing state where violent crime, corruption and fraud are rife", it added.



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