Buhari’s One Year: The Sparks, the Barbs

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By tomorrow, it will be exactly one year since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office as the president of the country. In one year, a lot has happened. No doubt, it is mixed bag of the good, the bad and even the ugly. While he has scored quite high in some aspects, he has also scored very low in other areas. In all, it will almost be a matter of from what prism we are doing the Buhari assessment. It is like saying the bottle is half full or half empty.

Perhaps, I should start with Buhari’s deficits which is essentially on the economy. It has been terribly tough for many Nigerians. The poverty index had risen very sharply. There is just no money in circulation. Life and living has become a little nastier, and that is why there is a questioning of the Change Nigerians willfully voted for. The previous administration had taken Nigerians to the brink of misery, that was why there was a huge quest for a new experience. The Buhari administration represents the new experience, but now serving Nigerians  with a harsh and hard diet. Attempting to pull Nigerians back from the brink has been torturous both for the puller and those being pulled.

The twin evil in this regard is the increased cost of petrol (from N86.50 to N145 per litre), and the sharp drop in electricity supply. These have helped to further strain the people’s patience.  It is however true that the present hardship is as a result of the gross mismanagement of the past administration. But Nigerians are not smiling whatsoever about it.

With electricity generation and distribution which peaked at about 5000megawatts in February, but now at a dismal 1000 plus megawatts, Nigerians are merely trudging through hard times.

The global fall of the price of crude had further made matters worse for Buhari. This has, in a way, delayed the fulfillment of many of the campaign promises. In fact, some uncharitable persons have tweaked APC to mean All Promises Cancelled on account of the delay in fulfilling the promises.

 But who can deny the great milestone recorded in the fight against insurgency? Haven’t Nigerian soldiers become more courageous and tactful in degrading the Boko Haram terrorists? Haven’t all territories previous seized by the terrorists been long recovered and many hostages freed and being returned to their homesteads? Two weeks ago, one of the Chibok girls was recovered from Sambisa forest. The dreaded Sambisa forest has now been demystified. Although the terrorists have not quite been completely crushed, they have been significantly routed. No wonder many international allies, like America, Britain, Israel etc., are back in supporting Nigeria’s fight against terrorism through donation of fighting equipment or training of our soldiers.

 On the anti-corruption fight, Buhari has left no one in doubt, that he means real business. The messy past has been and is being uncovered. Previously highly-held Nigerians have been shown to be part of our problems. So much stolen public funds are being recovered. Contrary to the belief by some that it is a selective fight, it is true that even APC members whose hands have been found in the cookie jar have been reined in. Remember Jafaru Isa, an APC chieftain, arrested by EFCC over the Dasuki-gate?

There has been no friend, no foe in the battle to recover Nigeria’s looted funds. The fight, indeed, has reinforced international confidence in the Nigerian system.

 The fact that the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy and the BVN has saved Nigerians trillions of Naira is praiseworthy. The country has saved over N3 trillion from the TSA regime, just as many ghost workers have been uncovered and are  being dealt with as a result of the BVN enforcement.

 With the determination to complete the Kaduna-Abuja-Ajaokuta railway line, as well as the construction of the Lagos-Kano standard guage rail lines, there is great hope that the nation’s transport infrastructure will witness a rebirth.

The plan to also diversify the economy from oil to other sectors like agriculture and solid mineral development are acts that are bound to rejig the nation’s economy. The plan to cultivate 5,000 hectares of land in some 12 River Basin Development Authorities are sure avenues of creating thousands of jobs and boosting the nation’s economy with food exports and self sufficiency.

 The recent trip to China which extracted a $6 billion commitment is bound to reinvigorate both the nation’s railway projects and the electricity challenge.

 The independence of the judiciary and the media under the Buhari administration are attributes that cannot be taken for granted. They sure deepen the roots of Nigeria’s democracy.

 All said, what seems to be the greatest asset of the Buhari’s government is the hope Nigerians have: that things will get better. Little wonder they refused to massively protest the hike in price of petrol few weeks back. That explains why in wading through the present suffering, there is the expectation that soon, Nigerians will get to the promised land where the proverbial milk and honey will no longer be scarce.

Buhari seems poised to march on in this direction. But he must be decisive and tactful in dealing with the threesome menace of Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), the Biafran separatist movement and the roving Fulani herdsmen. Left unchecked, the trio crisis flanks can upturn all gains made.

When Okota Waited for PMB

Okota is a neighbouring community to my Festac Town abode. For many years, they had suffered acute and incomparable neglect from government. Their road was literally hell on earth. They groaned with no one listening, or so it seemed. Some persons had blamed their fate on their political stance. It is a community largely populated by people from the South East, many of whom were (and still are) anti-APC. So the deduction was that they were being punished  for hardly voting for APC. But last Monday, their story changed. In fact, their story had changed a few months back, when the road got completely fixed. Beside Lawanson, Lekki road, Ikotun-Igando  and a few other lucky roads, I do not know any other road in Lagos that is as beautifully and solidly done.

But that is not the story.

Last Monday, as I drove through the road in the morning, it was a different experience. That Monday, President Mohammadu Buhari was billed to visit Lagos and part of his assignment will be to commission the Okota road. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo eventually did.

Suddenly, the road and its atmospherics got transformed. Everywhere looked dazzling. Perhaps a third of all the street cleaners in Lagos were deployed to Okota that day. They swept every inch of the road with uncommon diligence and thoroughness. Every pole along the road had been decorated with colourful posters and flags welcoming the President. The three-lane road had been marked. From the median to the drainage was markedly neat, as if it was machine-washed. What is more, all the street lights were shining with cherubic brightness.

Here are street lights that hardly shone even in the  very dark hours of the night, suddenly and needlessly  beaming bright  at noonday. Security operatives of all shades and callings were every where. The exhibitionist dress up was loud. The power of a presidential visit!    Contrary to my fears, the road was not blocked. Rather it was very free. The many buses, tricylces and even Okadas that usually cockroach the road, as well as the many pand-dalla  currency black marketeers  were no where to be found. It looked like a typical street in Europe. It was blissful driving through the community.

My take-away from the razz mattaz is that our streets, yes, our communities can be as clean and orderly, only if government is determined to keep them so. Yes, we can!  It is because the capacity to sustain this standard seems missing, that the residents of the community are asking: when will Buhari come again? But need we host the president to have a decent community?

Canticles…

Was Okonjo-Iweala Fantastically Negligent?

Did you hear that under her watch some N30tn got missing?

Who are you talking about?

Who else would have been the custodian of that humungous amount? I

I am referring to the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

 Oh, is it that allegation from Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP) and former CBN governor, Charles Soludo? Look, all those are mere jabs from political frontiers. You don’t have to pay much attention to them.

No, no, no. SERAP is not a political entity. Soludo is not a typical politician whose mouth runs like a broken tap. The former CBN governor is a hard core professional; one who knows his onions through and through. And I dare say that when he speaks, there is substance in his comments.

 What kind of substance are you talking about? How can someone say N30 tn was missing? Really? N30tn! Where? How? Do you know what N30tn is? And the nation’s economy didn’t collapse immediately? How many years’ fiscal budget will amount to N30tn? Was government not paying workers’ salaries? Was government not carrying out any project? Can’t you see the frivolousness of the alarm? I suspect that SERAP must have been briefed by the Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole who does not like that Okonjo-Iweala at all.

You miss the point. This has nothing to do with Oshiomhole. Everybody has been concerned that Okonjo-Iweala presided over this degree of roguery that went on under the Jonathan administration, yet she maintained a curious quiet and silence. Worse still, she kept deceiving us with some phantom statistics like Chief Tony Ani, a former Finance minister under late Gen Sani  Abacha. You know all those statistics that are ever at variance with the market reality. Look, the question is being asked and loudly so, that where was Okonjo-Iweala when Diezani cornered all that she is being accused of stealing? Where was Okonjo-Iweala when Dasuki became the nation’s unauthorized ATM centre? Where was Okonjo-Iweala when our collective commonwealth was being frittered away with reckless abandon by those in government? Imagine all the revelations that are daily coming out about how they robbed the till blind.  What kind of books was she keeping, for Christ’s sake?

Was she an accomplice or was she just being fantastically negligent?

Look, you must understand that the buck did not stop at her table. She had a boss—the president. And don’t forget that on the Dasukigate issue, she had cautioned against the diversion of the recovered loots when she gave some three conditions before she authorized the release of the fund. She had taken steps to…

(cuts in) What stupid step did she take? What silly conditions did she give? Was she not thinking that Jonathan will yet win, and all those seismic rot will be covered up with some complex Bretton Woods explanation? How could a Minister of Finance worth her salt and office allow that degree of pillaging to take place unchecked and yet retain her credentials of being a World Bank czar? Why did she not raise the alarm if her advice were not being taken by her boss? Why did she not resign? Rather, she played the good girl all along, acquiescing and compromising high ethical financial standards and procedures and you stand here to mouth not being the boss. It’s all Bunkum with a capital ‘B’.

Get it right. Okonjo-Iweala, is a globally respected financial wizard (or witch). She attained her global status out of sheer merit and proven capacity. She is not part of this crass assemblage of local lords who are just envious of her meteoric rise in her career. She kept her side of the bargain diligently. Don’t forget that her boss was a politician. And as for the Petroleum ministry, look, the Jonathan government was deep. She cannot say everything there was on the pages of Newspapers. That ministry ran almost like an independent entity. The then minister, Diezani Allison Madueke, had a special understanding and connection with then President Jonathan. Their operations will be a story for another day. So don’t blame Okonjo-Iweala for the sins of others. Are you surprised that thus far, in all the sleaze being unearthed everyday, no body has accused Okonjo-Iweala of stealing a penny or over enriching herself with any amount? Does that not establish her phenomenal integrity to you?

Look, I am not persuaded by this her unauthorized CV you are reeling out. The facts on the ground shows that under her watch, the nation’s finances were grossly mismanaged, stolen, misapplied and in fact circumscribed. Is she not ashamed and embarrassed that the government in which she served as Finance minister is engrossed in reeky scandal of unprecedented  financial malfeasance?   I don’t care if she was the former owner of World Bank. And for Christ’s sake she took the outlandish title of being the Coordinating minister of the Economy. What was she coordinating if Diezani Allison Madueke ran the Petroleum ministry like a private fiefdom? And to know that that ministry was supposed to be the live-wire of the economy? Truth is that if she failed to coordinate the petroleum ministry and the resources thereof, then she had coordinated nothing!

 I can assure you that given the peculiar political mileu in which Okonjo-Iweala served, she did her best to salvage the Nigerian economy. Yes, a few things were not in place. The global economic dynamics were turbulent and this affected many nations, not Nigeria alone. She tried to arrest and stymied an economic meltdown. She must be commended for keeping the nation afloat all through. It was like economic magic. The uninitiated may not understand this. But trust me, she was a hands-on financial guru. The structures of government were perpetually under pressure to succumb. You know how our politicians can be troublesome. But the former Finance minister managed to steer the nation’s economy from shipwreck.

You are raking up excuses for the fantastic failure to rein-in the bad guys, the same bad guys who have held us down from developing, from growing, from enjoying the benefit of our resources. She presented and projected Nigeria in mere straw-strength props. Everything was arrangee. There was no substance to the image she presented. And that is why the nation came crashing shortly after she and her philistinic crew left. Are we not all witnesses of that failure today?

That is your opinion. I am confident that posterity will give her a better verdict.