President Muhammadu Buhari completes his first year in Office this today. In sports parlance this would be the end of the first quarter of a 4-quarter game. At this juncture he is behind.
Before we explore how and why he is behind we need to express some inalienable truths:
Nigeria is a country of over 100 million fractious people who fight over bread and butter issues, over religion, and over tribe and culture. She is a factitious Nation nearly impossible to govern. Nigeria cannot be turned around on a pin. In this context a year is not sufficient time to see meaningful changes.
PMB came to power at the time that Nigeria economy was heading south due to the plummeting Oil Prices. A country which depends almost exclusively on oil will falter whenever oil prices plunge. Oil prices did plunge into the deep blue sea as PMB assumed office.
Nigerians were dissatisfied with the prior Government and put too high a hope on PMB’s shoulders which PMB himself encouraged and fanned instead of damping down the flame. It has come back to haunt him.
The above are the excuses which have some fundamental truths. But there are many serious issues most of them of Mr. Buhari’s own making.
- He was not prepared. The greatest evidence of lack of preparation for the office is the lack of policy direction on day one. From May to December 2015, nobody could tell which direction PMB would take Nigeria. He had said that Nigeria was headed in the wrong direction and people were expecting a change in direction but alas nothing came out. Without direction the nation started drifting and is still drifting. He continued implementing Mr. Jonathan’s budget since he did not have any plans, but without GEJ’s top notch economic team, and the result was disaster everywhere. To make matters worse, when GEJ’s 2015 budget expired in December 2015, PMB began to operate without any budget for 4 months. Then presented a muddled up budget which the senate returned to the sender. PMB blamed “saboteurs” in his government, which was a ridiculous charge. It was evident that the proper reviews were not done. Nigerians and world gave up. He was not prepared.
- He focused on the wrong crises. PMB focus on corruption was ill directed for corruption was not the immediate crises or the one that can be resolved with political speeches or rabble rousing anecdotes. He had promised that once in power he would create a corrupt free nation; that he would recover pilfered money; and that he would arrest and prosecute all corrupt officials. He did not utter a word on putting into place internal control system and accounting controls that would make stealing difficult but easy to detect. The result has been that stealing continued which was why the first budget was rigged to the extent that he blamed it on the saboteurs. It is still not clear that the system has been restructured. There is for example provisions for salaries, in the passed budget, but the salaries are still not paid as and when due. And civil servants are suffering. Money is not flowing in or flowing out easily. The system is still clogged. Meanwhile not a single corrupt official has been completely tried and found guilty. We are still dealing with finger pointing and trials by news bulletins. We have heard of billions of recovered funds, but nobody has been able to pin down the total amount or to which project/s the recovered amounts have gone. There is strong suspicion that money was recovered from one thief but went into the pockets of another thief just as Abacha’s recovered billions disappeared into thin air in the previous administrations.
- Human rights abuses. The worst failing of PMB’s administration is the abuse of human rights. Mr. Nnamdi Kanu was arrested many moons ago and when the state presented him to court he was ordered to be release but the FG held on to him citing flimsy reasons. Dis obedience of the courts is the beginning of lawlessness. Mr. Kanu’s appeal to a higher court again resulted in the higher court ordering his release and again PMB’s agents disregarded the court rulings. Today Nigerians and the world do not know where matters stand. On the other hand alleged Fulani herdsmen are killing ordinary farmers in all territories south of the Niger River Confluence by thousands, and not a single murderer is under police detention. It is strange that a person who has killed nobody is in jail and those who killed in thousands are parading the streets with their AK47 in full display contrary to the ban on possession of guns. Mr. Kanu’s case is just one of the many cases where bails were granted to the accused but no release followed after the bail conditions were met. Mr. Fani Kayode’s case demonstrated the persecution of those with contrary political views. Indiscriminate dismissal of office holders is now the norm as illustrated by the sacking of university chancellors by the government just because they were appointed by GEJ. Top civil servants have faced the same. These are cases where there are well established processes for terminating a non-performing office holder. The old military dictator who decreed and it was done is calling up the tools of dictatorship. The old dictator and general is still alive and well. The reformed democrat was a fluke.
- The real crises have been ignored. The real crises are economic. Everywhere one looked there is decline compared with what PMB inherited. The volume of power supply has declined by more than 50%. Darkness at all times’ and in all cities is now the order of the day. Prices of all goods and services have quadrupled. Nonpayment of salaries by all governments from local government to state governments to federal government has reached unprecedented levels counted in months of service without pay. Petrol and gas are mostly not available and when available unaffordable. Food production is down at the time food importation is down, a double jeopardy for ordinary folks. Personal security is now a luxury given the Boko Haram efforts, the Avengers in the Delta, kidnappers everywhere, and the roaming Fulani herdsmen in the southern states. Yes these are all changes but they are not the changes that the people expected from a “change government”. To many they would rather have the old GEJ days than the new administration’s.
- Perception is the unkindest cut of all. As mentioned in the top of this essay Nigeria as a large nation and economy cannot be reversed by any master stroke. But one thing that could be changed positively is the people’s perception. If the people saw and believed that things are changing for the better, their mood would be different. They are not seeing things moving in the right direction and are becoming disenchanted every passing day. If one stands at any street corner of any Nigerian city and asks “how are things” the answer would be a resounding “BAD”.
The question now is what can PMB do to change things? There are no easy answers.
This writer believes that the disintegration of the nation is a real threat and this is where the administration must focus. In much of the south the combination of Fulani Herdsmen incursions, the destruction of pipe lines and thus the economy, the continued detention of Mr. Kanu all make the desire to tear down this wall a viable option. There is need to reassure these people that they belong.
The sole administrator role is inexcusable. Right now there is no other name or face of the FG but the president. In both the foreign policy, and domestic arenas it is Buhari this and Buhari that. Where are the minister of foreign affairs and finance? Where is the governor of the central bank? Is Fayose, Amaechi, et al, in charge of anything or “ARE THEY JUST PARLOUR WIVES?” We need to see them, and hear from them. Is education an important priority? It does not seem so from the budget allocations. There ought to be a refocusing of attention from pursuing corrupt ex-officials without reforming the systems and institutions to bread and butter issues or as I have heard “amala and osikapa (rice) issues. Reforming systems and institutions must go before the fight against corruption as the honorable minister of finance was once quoted. That would be putting the horse before the cart.
PMB has still three quarters to go before the game is over. He may still have time.
Written by Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba.