Buhari’s Electoral Promises in Reverse Mode

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The brazen denial of its key electoral promises is the beginning of a credibility crisis for the government of the day, writes Shola Oyeyipo

Ahead of the 2015 presidential election, President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), made series of promises to the Nigerian people. And because of the huge goodwill he enjoyed amongst the people, hope was high that there would be spontaneous fulfillment of those promises by the Buhari/Osinbanjo-led government. This, naturally, made the most formidable and only opposition to former President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
Like any other contender for public office, the Buhari movement promised to create an enabling environment for all stakeholders within the Nigerian structure and system. It also vowed to protect the environment from any form of pollution as a way to restore the nation’s ecosystems as well as invest in natural disaster solutions. The Buhari government and APC leaders vowed to work to address Nigeria’s environmental challenges.
The APC also noted that the country’s politics required fundamental reforms and improvement in governance, more transparency and accountability. President Buhari promised to publicly declare his assets if elected.
The party assured the people it would urgently secure the territorial integrity of the nation. It said it would never leave the defence of the nation in the hands of hunters, children, and civilian JTF. The parties assured Nigerians that it would stamp out the dreaded Boko Haram in the Northeast within a timeframe and address all forms of insecurity in other parts of Nigeria. The party, however, went ahead with an ambiguous promise to end insurgency with 100 days in office, which by all calculations, was a tall dream.
In the areas of jobs creation and the economy, the APC did not mince words on its view that Nigeria’s economic mainstay, the oil sector, has not really galvanised growth and therefore has not created enough jobs. So, Buhari pledged to strengthen country’s economy by reforming the oil sector.
Buhari also promised to focus on building a solid foundation for the education, healthcare, youth, sports, and culture sectors and to also look for practical, valuable opportunities that would empower and enhance the women for gender balancing. The APC presidential candidate also said he would ensure that the naira was equal to the dollar in value, if elected as a president.
It is indeed a long list of promises, some of which were said campaigns purposes but the fact is that with the level of disenchantment about the past government, not a few Nigerians took those promises hook and sinker. And to analysts, the APC success at the presidential poll has a direct correlation with the promises they made.
For instance, the APC promised to create a social welfare scheme that would provide 25million poorest and most vulnerable citizens with at least N5, 000 per month. This was expected to cough $7.575b out of the treasury annually. There is also the promise to provide free meal for each child per day at N200 per meal, which was estimated to cost Nigeria N14.4b.
The APC promised creation of 3 million jobs per annum and vowed to employ 500,000 teachers as well as eradicate the ‘state of origin’ concept and replace it with ‘state of residence’ as a way to enhance national unity.
 
The Unfulfilled Promises
Not only was Boko Haram not defeated within 100 days because fighting insurgency is not tantamount to conventional warfare, even till now, though the sect has been significantly decimated, government is still battling to trump the outlawed terror group.
Many are also looking up to the government to fulfill its promises to engage 500, 000 teachers, achieve the Naira equalisation, a perfect oil sector reform, provision of free meal for each child per day, the creation of 3 million jobs per annum that has not been fulfilled in the first 365 days and several other promises that sold the APC to the Nigerian electorate, one particular reversal of promise that did not go down well with Nigerians was the stoppage of the N5,000 to 25m vulnerable Nigerians.
It was shocking to many when President Buhari in faraway Doha, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, dropped a bombshell that one of his major campaign promises was no longer practicable – the promise to pay unemployed youths N5, 000 monthly stipends. It was jettisoned or so it seemed.
According to President Buhari, the N5,000 stipend was a campaign promise of his party and one of the cardinal points of his party’s manifesto but he had not personally campaigned about it and it was not going to be a priority of his administration in view of other more significant and important challenges.
His position attracted condemnations from the new and influential media because many Nigerian youths elected President Buhari based on the promise and the trust they had in him and had expected the change mantra to become reality as soon as he came on the saddle.
 
Why Some Promises are Not Feasible
During the elections, the challenges facing Nigeria were common knowledge and as such, the promises of key presidential candidates were also similar. Like President Buhari, Jonathan, also promised to stop insurgency, eradicate corruption and give jobs to the youth. But then, it was obvious that some promises by the APC were only achievable in the dreams.
It is the basis why some commentators hold the views that the party and the president brazenly denied a document they used in campaigning and wining votes soon after the election. That they were not actually committed to fulfill the promises they made during campaigns
Going with facts and figures, some of the promises President Buhari made were made when oil sold at below $50 and even as at then, workers in about 20 states could not receive their salaries, and the country’s treasury was bleeding red ink. At such point, any addition to government’s recurrent expenditure would be suicidal.
Going by UNICEF records, children less than 15 years account for about 45 per cent of the Nigerian growing population, which translates that about 72m children are in primary schools and providing free meal for each child per day at N200 per meal will cost Nigeria N14.4b. If this figure is imbedded into the national budget, Nigeria would spend N4.32t just to feed the children.
In the area of job creation, the ruling APC has not been specific about how the promised 3 million jobs are to be created because already, most ministries and agencies have more than required staff, whereas the budget are limited. In fact, back then when the APC was reeling out its promises, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo warned them then that the resources available would not be able to take care of the many promises.
In soludo’s intervention before the election, titled ‘Buhari vs Jonathan: Beyond the Election’, the Economics Professor said, “Even with all the loopholes and waste closed, with increased efficiency per dollar spent, there is still a binding budget constraint. To deliver an efficient national transport infrastructure alone will still cost tens of billions of dollars per annum even by corruption-free, cost-effective means.
“Did I hear that APC promised a welfare system that would pay between N5,000 and N10,000 per month to the poorest 25 million Nigerians? Just this programme alone will cost between N1.5 and N3 trillion per annum.
“Add to this the cost of free primary education plus free meal (to be funded by the federal budget or would it force non-APC state governments to implement the same?), plus some millions of public housing, etc. I have tried to cost some of the promises by both the APC and the PDP, given alternative scenarios for public finance and the numbers don’t add up. Nigerians would be glad to know how both parties would fund their programmes.
“Do they intend to accentuate the huge public debt, or raise taxes on the soon to-be-beleaguered private businesses, or massively devalue the naira to rake in baskets of naira from the dwindling oil revenue, or embark on huge fiscal retrenchment with the sack of labour and abandonment of projects, and which areas of waste do they intend to close and how much do they estimate to rake in from them, etc?”
 
Observations
The truth is that the situation in the country as at 2015 is not similar to what Buhari had in 1983. This is democracy and not military rule where some decisions can be taken by fiat. Worst still, more than before, the fault lines in the country are more conspicuous. 
In one of his back page columns in THISDAY Newspapers, the publisher, Ovation Magazine and former presidential aspirant, Mr. Dele Momodu wrote: “Truth is there are already some loud whispers in many quarters that lofty expectations are turning to a mirage and that things are already falling apart. Every explanation that it is too early to expect miracles is hardly treated with belief.
“Maybe the president could have requested his ruling APC party to take the bullet for him by getting the party chairman, Chief John Oyegun, to talk to the nation about the need to revise the manifesto that was sold to the electorate with so much glee. There is nothing wrong if fresh realities have necessitated a change of plans. There is usually a world of difference between the idealism of opposition and the reality of being on the hot seat. It is one of the reasons I don’t envy the president on this present job.
“Mr. President and his party would have to sit down urgently to reappraise things and come out with a tidier and clearer agenda containing the realistic plan for Nigeria and Nigerians in this dispensation… It would be disastrous if by May 29, 2016, we still cannot have a glimpse of where the government is headed or heading. The staccato, stop-start fashion by which things are being currently handled must yield way to a smoother policy manifestation and implementation. There are many things that need to be worked on speedily.”
According to him, “The economy is on a freefall, the sort we’ve not encountered before. My humble suggestion is that the president should assemble a crack economic team immediately. There are at this moment only a few sincere economists about and we should tap into these people but not make the mistake of putting them on the same platform with the evildoers lest we become unable to separate the wheat from the chaff.”
Few days to the first year anniversary of the Buhari presidency, former president, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), addressed a press conference, where he stated that with the no-clear economic policy of the present government, Nigeria is no more in recession but in depression.
Though government commended President Buhari’s effort at curtailing corruption and degrading the strength of Boko Haram terrorists to carry out attacks on the people, he scored the president below average because his government seems not to have clear-cut solutions to the present hardship in the country.
“We are no more in recession; we are now in depression because five consecutive quarterly growths which Q1 2016 shows a negative balance is a depression. Technically speaking, you calculate growth rate by GDP over population, goods and service produced over population. Do you know the current growth rate for the Q1? According to the National Bureau of Statistics, is 0.34. The last growth rate was 2, so we lost 2.
“Therefore, we are now at the depression stage. Also, if you look at all the critical indexes, you will find out that things are really bad, foreign direct investment is zero, stock market is down, petroleum prices are up, in fact no good news.”
Though he acknowledged that Nigeria was on the fringe of chaos and disorder before 2015 elections, coupled with massive insecurity, weak political structure empty treasury and corruption, but after 365 days, he queried how the president has handled these issues?
 Agbakoba implored President Buhari to look back in history and borrow a leaf from President Roosevelt of the United States, whom he said ably dealt with the shock of the great depression that ravaged the country in the 1930s.
 “In appraising the one year of President Buhari government, we must also acknowledge the crises of the old order. So all I am saying is the crises of the old order and the hope of change, and now what has happened? The crises of the old order meant that things were very difficult; there was high rate of corruption, insecurity occasioned by Boko Haram among others, so how has President Buhari handled all these?
“In the beginning, I was cautiously positive, but now, I am cautiously negative. I am waiting to see what will happen, but in fairness to Buhari, he has been challenged by the envisaged crises of governance that he found. These crises meant that he was bogged down. Also, more credit should go to him in respect of the anti-corruption war but the anti-graft programme is rigmarole, and like I said, if you keep looking in the rear mirror, you don’t move.
“We know that many people have stolen money, but what we want to see is an aggressive action plan. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other law enforcement agencies clearly don’t have the resources, capacity and skill, so the resources we could have gathered (at least 3 to 4 trillion naira from the anti-graft war) are not coming in.
 “We hear a lot about corruption, although quite agreed that there have been strong action from the government in respect to corruption, insecurity has had flip flops – Fulani herdsmen, kidnappings, Niger Delta militancy, and the suppressed Boko Haram. So, with all these and we need a new anti-corruption apparatus that can deliver results but let’s also agree that something has happened in the anti-graft war.”
On way forward, he said: “We need to rebalance the federation. We need to include all Nigerians. So, I think that the president appraisal in handling political stability in the country has been rather weak. Going forward, he needs to address how to make Nigeria a place, where everybody participates.”
Agbakoba’s position is similar to the position of former vice presidential running mate to President Buhari during the 2011 presidential election and founder, Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare that Nigeria is faced with a fundament problem of bad structuring that he said is affecting the quest for national growth.
The renowned preacher, while addressing the topic: ‘The Case of New Nigeria’  at a public policy forum held at the Bankers’ House, Victoria Island, Lagos,  said the fundamental error in the country is with the national configuration and the constitution, which he said are defective.
According to him, “Embarking on policy initiatives without the needed foundational structural changes is not sufficient in delivering the promise of a new Nigeria since it never worked even when the economic climate was favourable.
“The framework of state; it is an error in value configuration, the end product of which has been structural deformation, institutional degradation, constitutional aberrations and governmental incapacitation. For Nigeria to overcome her limitations, her nationhood must be reconfigured and the framework of state restructured,” he said.
The man of God also reiterated that ‎the 1999 Constitution is fraught with a number of inconsistencies. For instance, he said: “Whereas federalism is implied no fewer than 790 times in the letters of the Constitution, it is a unitary Constitution in essence.
He therefore urged that the report of the 2014 National Conference with its Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration should provide a ready-made operational springboard for this team.
 
 
 
 
For Nigerians, It’s Regrets and Disappointment
Segun James, who spoke to Nigerians of different classes and stature on President Muhammadu Buhari’s one year in office, presents a verdict of regrets and forlorn hopes
The proverbial one year in office has always provided the opportunity to assess the performance of any government or individual in a position of authority in the country. After the one year mark, the people usually make up their minds if the government or the political office holder will be a success or failure.
That is the reason each president of the country uses the one year period to give his state of the nation address, where he accounts for his stewardship on his first year in office and the hopes for the future. It is usually a time for the president to plead for understanding as he struggles to move the nation forward. But for many state governors, it is always party time. It is the time to make elaborate publicity, showcasing the many projects they have executed within their one year in office.
Some of the governors are so desperate to showcase their achievements that they take pictures of vehicles bought for government official use as achievement. The story was told of a governor of Imo State, who allegedly considered as one of his achievements, the opening of a Mr. Bigg’s Fast Food restaurant in the state. 
But since the coming of President Buhari, the economy of the nation has nosedived. Crude oil sales which has been the mainstay of the nation’s economy had gone down, coupled with the activities of Boko Haram terrorists in the northeast and now, the rising spate of militancy in the Niger Delta, which has wreaked havoc on the nation’s dwindling and precarious economic and political situation. 
These are certainly not the best time for the country, worse of all, for President Buhari. Opinion checks among a cross-section of Nigerians shows that opinions are divided on the president’s performance and his politics.
According to Alhaji Tafal Tajudeen Falowo, a businessman from Ila in Oyo State, the most remarkable change that the government has achieved is the reduction in the activities of Boko Haram terrorist in the country. He gave the President and the federal government a negative rating in the area of the management of the economy.
But for Samson Adeleke from Ekosin in Odotin LGA in Osun State, there have been some noticeable changes in the political sphere. He said the last one year has made Nigerians more appreciative of the government and what it does. He also scored the government a negative in the area of economy management.
The management of the economy was also the area that is particularly very worrisome to Mr. John Okafor, a trader who cried that the economy has collapsed under Buhari.
“Food is expensive and almost beyond the reach of the common man now. Our children are no longer going to school. Is that what we voted for? Buhari should find solution. That’s all we demand,” he cried.
For Alhaja Abeni Adedeji, who lives in Lambe in Ifo LGA of Ogun State and a trader in the local Jalasco market, “everything is hard, things are no longer easy. What we expect from the President is not what we are getting. We know the President is godly, so he should do something now as we the people are already getting desperate.”
Mr. Chido Obi, a business man who sells motor spare parts in Ladipo market in Lagos admits that the economic downturn is not peculiar to Nigeria even though, according to him, the situation in the country is worse than other countries he has visited recently.
“We who travel know that this problem is the world over, but it is worse off here in Nigeria. If you visit Kenya, Ghana, Cameroon and even China, where I came from recently, the cry is the same. The economic downturn is biting hard. The number of Nigerians buying goods from China has reduced and the volume has trickled down to the lowest level. In fact, they are crying more than us.”  
Mrs. Dora Oshevire from Warri opines that “we are yet to see and feel what the President is doing. We don’t care if he inherited a bad economy or not, what we want is for him to manage what he has inherited properly. And that is what he is not doing.”
Mr. Mark Tari Ombe in Yenagoa also shared this opinion. He said “What we are experiencing under Buhari is a phenomenon whereby things are so hard, yet nobody is complaining. Look at the strike issue, Nigerians simply ignored the NLC. With situation like these, the government will simply be doing what it likes without regards to the feelings of the people.”
But Mr. Niyi Awolalu, an engineer with one of the power holding companies in Lagos while agreeing with the way the President has been handling issues since he came to power, however warned that greatest problem of the President is “time management.”
He opines that the president seems to have forgotten that he has only four years to do all he has to do. According to him, the issue of time management was what bogged down the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s government as it could not achieve all it set out to do within the time he was constitutionally allowed.
“Buhari is repeating the same mistakes that he made the last time. Why should it take six months to appoint ministers? Look at the budget, he and the National Assembly kept on tossing it between themselves even as the nation suffers, yet time is going. One year is gone out of four years. So what time is remaining for him to do other things?” He queried.
Awolalu, however, gives the President kudos in terms of security management. “We believe that he has tried. He has been able to bring the Boko Haram menace to a manageable level. But as for what is happening in the Niger Delta, he should first of all extend a hand of negotiation to the boys in Delta.”
Mrs. Augusta Segun-James urged the President to buckle up and do something on the economy or the spontaneous reaction of the people would not be easy to manage when their goodwill to government expires.
She stressed that corruption and catching thieves is not all that the government was elected to do, saying the economic situation in the country is making people to be very desperate and may lead more people into armed robbery and other social vices.
She, therefore, urged the president to listen to the cry of the people and find solution to the problem of the economy as soon as possible.