He is a Leadership and Governance Consultant. Ikechukwu who is director of Development Academy is an alumnus of the University of Lagos. He holds a Ph.D.
“Nchamelu boys” (the boys are in dire straits) was the exclamation of the Onitsha trader when he saw how his business had shrunk in the last one year. He is on the verge of exclaiming “Nchaemetopu boy” (the boys are finished), but his plight is not our concern here.
THE ONE-ITEM GOOD NEWS
One year of Muhammadu Buhari Presidency has seen a revitalized anti-corruption war. The signal is: do not think you can take what belongs to all of us and get away with it. The government deserves encouragement in this regard and needs to understand and rightly contextualize the concept and scope of corruption, for greater success. The real challenge is the socio-cultural context of the anti-corruption war, because the government is fighting corruption in a society where citizens are still making the very demands that push otherwise straightforward people in public office to reach beyond their means.
The chieftaincy titles are still going to `illustrious` sons and daughters with questionable and explosive wealth. Many leaders of religion are still rewarding people of controversial financial circumstances. Some otherwise sensible people are calling Buhari names for `delaying` their blessings in this regard. Friends and relatives of public office holders are still expectinglargesse that presupposes a society underpinned by corruption.So the Buhari Presidency should review the assumption that “once you fix the problem of corruption you have fixed the problem of Nigeria”. This assumption is incorrect, because the political economy of corruption is more complicated than the government knows or believes. The `human raw material` on behalf of who the government is fighting corruption is the syndicate that has been cleaning out billions of Naira (every month) from the national payroll for decades. They are not happy at the moment. They are also not giving up.
Beyond that, the perception that the anti-corruption crusade is one-sided should be taken seriously. This perception, if it is unreal, should be boldly addressed with details, to end the antics of mischief-makers. To say that the government is prosecuting only members of a particular political party is not the same thing as saying that the people being prosecuted are innocent. The failure, or inability, to make a case for the perceived tendencies in the anti-corruption war has already created a bogeyman in the mind of the public. It is particularly sad to see the wretched performance of the government information machinery in its one year in office. The Buhari government has enough trouble as it is, without going about looking for more.The suggestion here is that the anti-corruption effort should be seen to be more objective and guided by national interest.
The antics of some officers of some of the agencies who appear to be on the payroll of individuals striving for personal vendetta should end now. It is also time to review the relationship between the office of the Atttorney General of the Federal (AGF) and some agencies that are ostensibly prosecuting cases on its behalf. Situations where the custodian of delegated authority challenges the original custodian of the powers, as sometimes happens in open court or by some agencies refusing to obey explicit written directives of the AGF, is actually a form of institutional corruption.
Having said all that, and having given kudos to the Buhari regime for its bold confrontation with some aspects of socio-political corruption in Nigeria, let us now do an exegetical close-up on the crises facing the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the Buhari Presidency.It is on account of these crises that our good friend from Onitsha has been shouting: “Nchamelu boys” for some time now.
LEST WE FORGET
A broad assessment of President Buhari`s one year in office should keep five key issues in mind. The first is that the foundations for the national crises now confronting us under a perfectly baffling, and slightly disoriented, Buhari Presidency were laid many decades ago. It would seem that President Buhari has neither revised his original understanding of Nigeria`s problems and the solutions to those problems, nor updated his ideas about who, or what, is (are) responsible for the problems.
The second point is that the Jonathan Presidency was itself an offspring, victim and casualty of the challenges of decades of elite irresponsibility sustained by a political culture of distribution and consumption – with no thought about production, accountability and genuine national development. The seeming weaknesses of that era, including its nauseating deployment of neophites in strategic positions, as well as its near-inability to even know what it was doing at any particular time,only worsened an inherited political culture that represented anti-development in a 21st century world.
The third point is that there was no basis, given the facts which casual research could easily have unearthed, for the reckless optimism of the APC in the run up to the elections. Some people say it was all deliberate propaganda, but no! Ignorance and political immaturity were major contributory factors. It just did not make sense to hear them, particularly Lai Mohammed and the APC Presidential Candidate, speaking of Dollar/Naira parity, the instant annihilation of Boko Haram within minutes after an APC victory, reduction of the pump price of petrol by over 50%, a magical new trajectory in electricity supply and and much more. The signs of trouble were all there.
The fourth point is that there was a clear 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 APC. Unlike Buhari, they had little thought for Nigeria, the citizens and the prospect of a greater future for the fatherland. But everyone carried on as if there was, indeed, a group consensus on what to do after winning the elections. Yes, there were some ideas on paper about what the APC represented and what it would offer Nigerians, at least theoretically.
Finally, it is really troubling that anyone you speak to in the ruling party today tells you that they do not know “what the man is doing”. The complaint ranges from his inaccessibility and strange economic policies to his rather unsettling practice of often speaking in the first person in matters of policy and also of making what can be termed policy statements off the cuff and in foreign lands. What seems to have emerged this past year is the troubling reality of a lack of strategic capacity and the right policy choices to place the nation on the right trajectory and ameliorate some of the worst potential outcomes of what the Buhari Presidency inherited in addition to the current global economic downturn.
BEFORE THE CURRENT BEGINNING
The country was already in dire financial straits one year before Buhari became president. This fact, at first muted here and there, but later succinctly captured in several national economic performance indicators and the magisterial and informed interventions of ChukwumaSoludo, was finally tangentially hinted at by the PDP government. This secret admission was summarily confirmed when, just weeks before the lections, the then leadership of the Finance Ministry caused a crucial meeting to be held between its principal officers and the principal officers of the ruling party. The list of issues to be discussed at the meeting came down, at the end of the day, to one item: how to pay salaries after the elections. The PDP still expected to win the elections, so it was a simple `house keeping` matter; since it would not be nice to emerge from an election victory to declare bankruptcy.
However, the party lost the elections and the APC chieftains who knew about this meeting somehow managed to persuade themselves that not being part of the defeated party also abolished the glaring dangers the former ruling party was alarmed about. Thus the new ruling party walked into a collapsing building with good cheer, assuring Nigerians that their woes were over. But they soon realized that the verbal enunciation of CHANGE conferred no immunity in regard to economic matters.
Rather than sit down to set up a government and address matters of state, the party and its elected members became the Biblical Church of Antioch; wherein everyone had his own prophesies, had his own visions and preached his own truths and versions of the gospel. Nigerians watched in consternation at every new pronouncement of either the President Elect, the party Chairman, the party spokesperson or the Senators elected on the party platform. They contradicted, or contested with, one another or hedged on earlier campaign promises. The party machinery and the major stakeholders came across as confounded, unable to relate to or manage the president elected under their party umbrella and, to boot, as totally unprepared and unwilling to pay close attention to the dangers everywhere.
The new-emergent ruling party thus finally presented itself as having been ambushed by its own victory. For instance, itwas after a few more weeks of `opposition` speech-making that Lai Mohammedwas politely reminded that his party was now the government and should be working on a blueprint for a national Change Agenda, rather than grumbling about what was wrong with Nigeria. The new Presidency seemed, by its reflexes, to be affiliated to Bedlam!
Thus the expected take-off did not occur with the swearing in of the new president. There followed, instead, a scandalous and totally unnecessary interregnum that effectively deconstructed the wobbly foundations ofthe APC. The unresolved internal contradictions soon became manifest in a rogue Senate Presidency. The failure to appoint aides and ministers on time, amongother troubles, took away the government`s capacity to stem some of the expected negative economic fallouts of the situation it inherited. The international goodwill dwindled rapidly. The merciless laws of economics took the Naira and the economic Nigerians to the doldrums.
In sum, the nation now stands at a bus stop, with the citizens inside a bus without fuel. The driver measures hisprogress by the sound the engine makes when his foot presses down on the accelerator pedal and also by his out-of-the bus saunters, to tell people where he is going and how fast he believes driving in the right direction. Meanwhile,those looking at his `location`, relative to where he was before turning on the engine and pressing the pedal,can see that nothing has changed. Worse than the fact of standing still when you are inside a stationary bus is the possibility and danger of the bus moving backwards. Look at the value of the Naira and other economic indices and decide for yourself whether the bus our president is driving is moving forward of or backwards. The anticipated gains of the budget will go into addressing already incurred loses.As for the Onitsha trader the mantra is still: “Nchamelu boy!
Put simply, the economy is not working. It is also not about to start working with the passing of the budget. The replacement cost for a business that formally restocked withN150 thousand ($1000) is now N370 thousand. So the business must shrink by over 50%. Ditto for manufacturers whose imported inputs have gone up by a merciless 120%. Retrenchments are going on everywhere. Summary: the alleged gains of a national budget that was delayed by lack of executive capacity are already taken way.What we shall see is a redistribution of poverty. Details in the next bulletin of national disquiet! All our dear Onitsha trader could say in the face of all this is: “nchaemetopu boys” (the boys are finished)”.
The Buhari government has not done well in its first year in office in the areas of security, economic management and national cohesion.This is not just due to our national political history and what the government inherited. With one year gone informed circles believe that this government is not guided by contemporary economic and socio-political realities. It is not by Buhari alone that Nigeria will change, but he is a major factor today. He should brace up before “Nchaemetopu boys!