Buhari’s One Bad Choice


Hometruths By Adeola Akinremi, Email: adeola.akinremi@thisdaylive.com

 Now that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has earned his political party, the All Progressives Congress, the sobriquet, All Promises Cancelled, the next question is whether, over the coming months, the government will be able to do something about its battered image, or whether it’s going to take more chances and finish so poorly.

True, were Buhari to be a footballer, he will be scoring against his own team and having own goal recorded against his name.

Conversely, while on the surface the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) pretends that APC is a party to beat at the next round of elections, a panicky reality exists at the party’s backroom.

It all comes down to Buhari’s penchant for ignoring good advice or delay unnecessarily before acting. It is one bad choice a leader can make.

Just before he was sworn-in, I remember the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, visited Buhari and propped him with good counsel.

“You have more goodwill and authority now to do the most difficult things at the beginning than at the end. Take advantage of that goodwill that comes with being elected to take difficult decisions that may inflict immediate pain, but in the long-term interest of the country and government,” Blair said at a meeting in Abuja.

Blair specifically said: “What you do in the first 100 days is important and symbolic and can also have tremendously positive repercussion for the government and throughout country. You have a limited window of opportunity to make an impact as a government.”

Unfortunately, Buhari waited for too long before acting. In removing the subsidy on petroleum, Buhari obviously acted when he has expended his goodwill and that’s why the response from majority of Nigerians to his government and political party is no longer positive.

Yes, we can say that Mr. President has it going for him with his anti-graft campaign, but doubt is beginning to creep in, after he has refused to probe how his own campaign was funded by some of those currently working in his government.

The recent sentiment by the West that the Buhari government is using the anti-graft campaign to persecute political opponents is perhaps the most worrisome since the anti-graft war has so far been his stronghold of re-engineering Nigeria.

Indeed, the president’s delay in acting until things boomerang is of concern to a lot of people who understand the act of governance to mean performance and accountability.

Since Buhari got to power he has missed important milestones to celebrate, because of his inaction and slow response to stimulant that is now robbing his government and party necessary goodwill.

Now, with a few days to his one year in the office, an important milestone, Buhari is struggling to explain how his policies have now made Nigeria one Orwellian dystopia of endless social depression.

That he inherited a huge problem from the past government is no more a serious discourse, but that Buhari has failed to fix the problem he was elected to fix is now a serious discourse.

Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with the removal of subsidy on petroleum by the government. It’s one thing we’ve all canvassed for since we came to that reality that the subsidy on petrol has been a sort of conduit pipe, especially with the revelations of how subsidy was being diverted.

Sure, there’s definitely more gain, when we remove the subsidy, allow petrol marketers to source for dollars for their imports and sell at competitive price, because the government will then save more money and put that money in its development project.

And I know a lot of factors are combined to make the decision to increase the pump price inevitable.

The dwindling global oil price, the scarcity of forex that has made it impossible for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to meet its obligation to petrol marketers, the landlocked situation of the Central Bank of Nigeria in getting petrodollar inflow and the renewed militant activities in the Niger Delta that has reversed our outputs from 2.2 million barrels per day to about 1.4 mbpd, all combined to make Buhari’s decision inevitable, but it came rather too late and without thought for the poor.

So to choose this time when inflation has reached high heavens to raise the price of petrol is the height of insensitivity. The electricity tariff has gone up higher, the cost of food and transportation is rising daily; the minimum wage can no longer feed its earner and salaries are being owed by governments across the country.

And this, in Nigeria there’s hardly any household that will not require petrol to do something. It is a country where majority of the population uses petrol to service generators and not cars.

So far, this government has been unable to address the power problem despite all the promises made during the electioneering to turn the tide as soon as possible.

The generous campaign to rebuild the petrol refineries and make the cost of fuel go down under Buhari has been unrealisable and that means the poor who needs petrol and kerosene to keep their lives going in a country where life expectancy is extreme low will face more hardship.

Thankfully, the division in the labour union is giving Buhari some respite, but the ultimate lesson is to stop dilly-dallying in putting the gear of the vehicle of this government in drive.

For now, let us all pay the price and feel the pain. In the long run, he that sows in tears will reap in joy. I’m an optimist that the anti-corruption crusade will succeed, our economy will rebound and we’ll smile again.