A Very Challenging Moment…

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One year of president muhammadu buhari

by members of thisday editorial board
olusegun adeniyi chidi amuta femi falana okey ikechukwu peter ishaka sonnie ekwowusi Tony Uranta Alex Otti bisi ogunbadejo bolaji adebiyi

In the ‘Special Issues 2005’ on Leadership by NEWSWEEK magazine, Moses Naim, former Venezuelan Minister of Industry and Trade, contributed a piece on the management of oil wealth by his OPEC-member country which vividly captures the reality of the Nigerian condition and may help to explain the state of affairs in our country today. According to Naim, in countries without well developed democratic institutions, and an easily manipulated public sector, oil becomes more of a curse than a blessing: “It breeds corruption, inequality, jobless growth and power struggles that naturally concentrate on the control of the main, and often the only significant, national industry. Oil also gives the government enormous power and autonomy as it provides it with revenues that do not depend on taxing the voters.

They, in turn, are severed from their elected officials who easily become unresponsive and unaccountable thanks to the capacity to allocate immense financial resources at their disposal.” It is exactly one year ago today that President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office and within that period, the landscape has changed very dramatically. Yet if there is any single reason that accounts for that, it is the crash in the price of oil. Having promised the Nigerians so much, the president is now saddled with the burden of expectations at a time of lean resources. But notwithstanding the challenges of the moment, nobody can write off any administration after just one year in office.

President Buhari came to office on three planks: The first is to fight corruption. Even his most implacable foes will agree he is doing just that. Then, he also promised to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency. He has not only reinvigorated the war against Boko Haram, his efforts in that direction have also helped to dispel two theories that some Nigerian politicians have for years held onto. One, it has put a lie to the theory that the insurgency is an invention of Northern elite to make the country ungovernable for former President Goodluck Jonathan because he is a Christian and Southerner. Two, the insurgents have also made nonsense of another theory that once a northern Muslim, especially Buhari, was enthroned president of Nigeria, the violence would abate.

The third plank of President Buhari’s electioneering promise has to do with the economy. That is precisely where the problem lies today. That is also the focus of most of the interventions in this special edition by members of THISDAY editorial board.
Although this is a continuation of a tradition that we started on 1st October 2011, many of the members with whom we embarked on that intellectual journey have since moved on. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is now the Governor of Kaduna State; Mallam Abba Kyari is currently the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari; Mrs. Maryam Uwais is also the Presidential Adviser for Social Protection Plan while Mr. Waziri Adio was appointed about three months ago as the Executive Secretary for the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

Mr. Paul Nwachukwu left the board early to serve as a special adviser at the federal ministry of finance, Alhaji Bashir Ibrahim Yusuf also left at some point to chair the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM). Mrs. Uju Aisha Hassan-Baba first returned to the Nigeria Legal Aid Council as Director General before she was appointed the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), an office she also left recently. On her part, Mrs Eugenia Abu has been saddled with higher responsibilities at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) as the Director of Programmes.

These are respected patriots that cannot be easily replaced but to engender greater diversity of views, we will soon be bringing new people on board to further enrich our discussions. Notwithstanding, we believe it is important to interrogate the last one year in the life of our nation by placing the current administration before a mirror. The image, as to be expected, is not a particularly pleasant one but it is nonetheless necessary at a time like this so that course corrections can be made by a government that still has three years to deliver on its promises.

In the opening shot, Dr Chidi Amuta argues that given the way things are in Nigeria today, if President Buhari were to drive through the same campaign venues and city streets where excited crowds reached out to touch his magic garment in expectation of a better life a year ago, chances are that the hecklers may now outnumber the praise singers.
On his part, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, is of the opinion that under the current dispensation, there seems to be recourse to arbitrary use of power by certain institutions of state. He also argues that aside disobedience of court orders, the government has engaged in the illegal detention of citizens without trial.

Dr Okey Ikechukwu makes a strong argument about the ideological disconnect between the Buhari persona and the motley crowd of itinerant, aggrieved and generally desperate politicians of no particular ideological persuasion who grouped, or regrouped, under the the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

In looking at the misery index, Mr. Peter Ishaka, x-rays the growing disappointment by many Nigerians about certain poverty indicators and the fact that their lives may not be getting better despite all the electioneering promises of last year. President Buhari, according to Mr Sonnie Ekwowusi, conveys the impression both in his speech and action that he is doing the Nigerian people a favour by being their leader.

Given his rich banking experience, Dr Alex Otti MFR, believes the time is ripe for the government to start the process of deregulating the foreign exchange market because as things stand, “we may get to a point where we will not have any more dollars to sell at a subsidized rate. What do we do if we get there?” he asked. Mr Tony Uranta highlights some of the issues of the last one year which include the killing in Zaria of more than 300 Nigerians in controversial circumstance; the incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen as well as what he considers policy flip-flops and the 2016 Budget abracadabra.

In his inimitable style, Mr Bisi Ogunbadejo portraits with is cartoon what most politicians do, especially in a season like this. To Bolaji Adebiyi, one year into the Buhari administration, Nigerians are still waiting to see the Change they voted for. This reporter would rather look beyond Abuja to see whether there are states where change is already making meaning with Kaduna providing a good example.

While it is difficult to write the story of an administration on the basis of just one year in office, it is our hope that by next year, the Buhari administration would have stabilized and taken measures to reposition the economy for peace and prosperity while consolidating on its achievements in tackling security and fighting corruption.

Olusegun Adeniyi
Chairman, Editorial Board