Even before Nigerians went to their polling boots on March 28, 2015, objective polls could safely predict a victory from opposition candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari. Little wonder the spontaneous jubilation that greeted his victory even when counting was still on. One year after, Nigerians are not too certain as to whether they made the right choice.
Buhari’s first year in office as a democratically elected president is sure to come under intense reviews like his predecessors, but if he will get “fair” reviews is another matter altogether. In a period where one’s political perspective(s) is largely coloured by one’s religion or ethnic origin, scientific analyses of a presidential administration can be truly challenging.
Before we proceed, let us be quick to admit that this present writer was a volunteer for the Buhari campaign in 2015 and has no regret whatsoever on his decision.
Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), campaigned largely on the platform of “Change”. Many Nigerians had thought that the “Change Mantra” simply meant improvements in standards of living translating in upgraded socio-economic infrastructure, but soon found out that it is not necessarily so.
Several polls conducted before and after the 2015 elections show his approval soar, peaking into astronomical proportions. Not until recently did Buhari’s approval ratings reach an all-time low. A poll by the Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria(GAIN), reveals that more Nigerians scored President Buhari low on his administration’s handling of the economy, power and fuel shortage. The same poll which puts his approval rating at 63 percent in January now shows that the President has a little over 30 per cent in ratings among Nigerians. This only goes to show that all is not well, and this poll (even though one may have reservations about is methodology), needs to worry the President and the APC!
Of course, there are challenges for the administration. The president has corruption to contend with head on. He has had to cope with the rising incidences of Boko Haram insurgency in the North East which, according to a report by Al Jazeera , killed over 400 Nigerians in the first 39 days of Buhari’s administration. The rising agitation for Biafran independent state in the South East in addition to reported building or regrouping of militants in the South-South appear to be the on the front burner of challenges facing his administration.
Challenges, notwithstanding, Nigerians have many expectations from the retired General. He is expected to make policies to create jobs. They want him to reduce the cost of governance and corruption; they want him to assure Nigerians of security and created favorable environments for businesses to thrive including making the dollar equal to the naira! Facing challenges cannot be an excuse for negligence in these duties.
Has the President been able to deliver even after one year? It does not appear that after three previous attempts at the presidency with one stint as military Head of State, President Buhari appears unprepared for governance. If not, how does one explain the fact that in about a year, the administration has no economic policy direction? How better does one describe the seven months search for the “Wise men” he appointed as ministers? Can anyone comprehend why it took so long to constitute an economic team?
Understandably, President Buhari defeated an unfriendly incumbent who will not help him settle easily in office, but will Buhari be the first to unseat a sitting president in Africa? How did they achieve ‘smoot’ transitions in Zambia or Malawi for instance?
Instead of the Buhari administration to continue to lament like Jeremiah, he simply should have set up a Change Management System (CMS) to reduce the shock that the sudden “Change” may have on public service and the political system. These would also have in a long way covered up the seeming unpreparedness of the General!
For instance, a good CMS would not only have taken care of changes at the strategic level (the Ministers) or the operational level (the Permanent Secretaries) but also at the tactical level (mostly junior Civil Servants) where corruption really starts from.
In parenthesis, it appears in several news reports that the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) have saved the country some millions or even billions of Naira from leakages. Good, but except these funds are invested in infrastructure or put in productive use(s), they are bound to be re-looted. Please, which economic sense is there in recovering funds for others to loot?
Buhari’s unpreparedness manifests the most in the constitution of his cabinet. An eagle view of those appointed shows the long wait for these people were just unnecessary. Some ministers are yet to justify the confidence imposed on them. Or put differently, some of them have not had their results speak for them. Kemi Adeosun in Finance; Fashola in Power and Works; Kayode Fayemi in Solid Minerals; or Lai Muhammed as Information Minister reveal a lot to rational minds of the potency of President Buhari’s first eleven. The results speak for themselves!
My choice of these ministers as case studies is deliberate. Apart from three of them coming from South-West geo-political zones and the fourth, Lai Muhammed, coming from my Local Government area in Kwara state these are persons I hold in high esteem in and out of public service. This will at least save us the “ethnicity” arguments that would have arisen. As far as this article is concerned, personal opinions have to take the back seat!
Recently, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kashikwu, while his boss was attending an anti-Corruption conference in London, did his utmost to convince Nigerians about their new reality. The reality today is that Nigerians will now officially purchase PMS or petrol at N145 per litre. This must have been a wonderful anniversary gift given the hardships Nigerians have so far faced. Bad as this looks, the Labour movement’s reaction to the hike in fuel price was equally ridiculous.
To show how poor the government’s information management system was, senior government officials disagreed on what to call the new policy. Some said, like Lai Muhammed, that the administration had to increase the price because the treasury was empty and the government needed money to run the country. Others said, like the Vice president in his own words, that, “…the real issue is not a removal of subsidy. At $40 a barrel there isn’t much of a subsidy to remove.” Again, even if the Vice President has come out to say that “there isn’t much subsidy to remove” some of us still have the suspicion as to whether the so-called subsidies is not just another way some persons are cutting their own portion of the national cake. Some said it was subsidy removal since the government can no longer sustain the subsidy regime. If one is not confused on this, it is either one is sincerely ignorant or deliberately mischievous!
Still on the London conference. President Buhari on arrival was told of an unfortunate statement credited to the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to the effect that Nigeria and Afghanistan were “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world”. The statement which was not given to the press, but made in passing, somehow found its way into the media, and made big headlines back home in Nigeria. As usual it took different interpretations.
For several hours, the unfortunate statement trended on social media and as usual, there was no response from the President until I saw the full video of the incident. The Prime Minister truly made the statement but was put immediately in order by the Archbishop of Canterbury who said (about President Buhari): “But this particular president is not corrupt… he’s trying very hard…” Let’s not go further into the politics of it, but one thing I like most about the whole matter is the President’s maturity in responding to Cameron’s comment that he had no use of anyone’s apologies on the incident, but for a refund of assets “stolen” from Nigeria now hidden in Western countries. If recovering these assets and more is the only thing the administration achieves, it will probably solve other challenges plaguing the nation. For now, there is still a long way to go!