It is exactly one year since President Muhammadu Buhari took the oath of office. He and his All Progressives Congress came chanting “Change” and waving the broom as a magic wand, for which some Nigerians seemed to have believed that some magic was in the offing. It is therefore typically at this time to analyse how well the President has performed in the task, even though his tenure still has three more years to go. The monitoring and evaluation of the Buhari Presidency has been ongoing for all of the year though, to see how much of the promises made to Nigerians and the expectations from the citizens had been met.
Apparently on some occasions, what the citizens thought they heard during the campaigns seemed to be at variance with what Buhari and his team later claimed or insisted they promised. This has therefore created some divergence. In truth, during the campaigns for the 2015 general elections, there were so many too-good-to-be-true promises made by candidates, political parties, supporters, official and unofficial spokespersons, even from self-appointed campaigners. The social media, not known for regulation of operation, became a free agency for deliberate falsehood, propaganda and half-truths.
While we may say some citizens were too ignorant, naïve or brain-washed to believe just any type of ridiculous “promises”, it is also true to say that some candidates and political parties never bothered then to deny some of the promises and claims if they knew that such could sway votes in their favour.
However controversial the promises may have been, the inaugural speech of President Buhari certainly stands as a reference point for his administration’s promises worthy of assessment, one year after. I would therefore like to dwell majorly on the contents (or promises) in that speech, in assessing the President.
Arguably, the most popular quote from the inaugural speech was the “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody” statement. It brought hopes of a President who was going to see the entire country as one single constituency for his Presidency and one who would not pander to the pressures of any sectional interest. But in a Freudian slip of a commentary he made a few weeks after, during his visit to the US, it was highly doubtful if the President really planned to be neutral.
Try as much as they could afterwards to douse the situation, the President’s response to a question in the US became a gaffe too glaring to ignore. There, he suggested that ordinarily, he would be expected to first take care of the interest of those who supported him in the election before considering others. He added however that he was bound by the constitution to also consider the interest of the rest of the country. The facts are however too glaring to show, for instance, that there has been an uneven spread of favours to the various component units of the country, as represented by political appointments made by the President.
On a happy note, the President made good his promise to collaborate with the neighbouring countries and the international community to combat various cross-border crimes, including the Boko Haram insurgency. No doubt, those criminals have been largely decimated. But then, even the President in the said speech also stressed that the war against Boko Haram would not be deemed totally won until the Chibok girls were found. And since the girls have yet to be fully accounted for, even the victory over the insurgents remains inchoate.
Interestingly, the President also admitted that Boko Haram was not the only security issue confronting Nigeria but recognised “the spate of kidnappings, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmers clashes, cattle rustlings” as all adding to the general air of insecurity. The question therefore is what the President and his government have done to address the above issues. In the last one year, there has been an increase in the incidents of clashes between itinerant herdsmen and farmers, leading to huge losses of human lives in circumstances where the losses of lives were clearly preventable but the responses have been largely inadequate. We have seen whole communities attacked and even sacked with impunity.
It is a clear negation of another quote of the President in his inauguration that: “I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.” Added to this is the slow action by government to proffer a generally-acceptable and permanent solution to the problem. This has led to the further widening of the gulf of distrust among the various ethnic diversities in the country.
President Buhari also promised to address what he described as “seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages”, promising immediate actions to tackle them head on. The truth though is that the power situation has not improved, even as electricity consumers are forced to pay more for the services. And the fuel shortage had dogged his administration during much of the last one year, leading eventually to the sharp increase in the official price of petrol.
While acknowledging the existence of a national consensus for democracy as route to Nigeria’s development, the president agreed that we must consciously work the democratic system. But it is disappointing that one year after, the same president who promised to work the democratic system has not as much as constituted the full complements of the Independent National Electoral Commission. For such a key institution which ought to have 12 national commissioners and a chairperson, it currently has just a chairperson and five other national commissioners. In addition, many of the states are without resident electoral commissioners. How then does the president expect to not only work democracy but be seen as waking the talk thereof?
Buhari pledged to reform the public service to become more effective and more serviceable, by ensuring that they “apply themselves with integrity to stabilise the system”. This obviously remains a long walk away from actualisation. What with the less than transparent methods various government agencies have conducted recruitments to provide ‘lucrative’ jobs to families and friends of the privileged.
The President equally pledged to reorganise the military in a manner that would ensure that in the course of their operation, they would not carry out human rights violations. “We shall improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human right violations by the Armed Forces”, said the President. But we all recall how the military went overboard in their response to the clash between it and the members of the Shiite Islamic group in Kaduna State. This is despite the fact that the President in his inaugural speech admitted that the Boko Haram conflict got out of hands due to official bungling of an initial response to a group whose leader he described as “eccentric and unorthodox”.
On the economy, the President acknowledged that we were faced with depleted foreign reserves, falling oil prices, leakages and debts which placed the Nigerian economy in a terrible state. But he promised careful management to bring it round. Now, this is one area of governance Nigerians are in agreement that we have gone much worse than we were a year ago. And this is not only visible physically in the lives of Nigerians but even the economic indices issued by the appropriate government agencies.
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