On January 22, 2016, I tweeted a joke which went viral. I had said that at meetings of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, would address members and say ‘turn to your neighbour and say, neighbour have you blamed Jonathan today’! Yes, it was a joke, but like most good jokes, it had and still has a basis in reality! President Muhammadu Buhari and his ministers appear ill prepared for office and the evidence of this is their inability to take responsibility for the situation of things in Nigeria.
Was it not John Burroughs who said: “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” Those words should be embossed on a plaque and placed in a very prominent location at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa. Seeing this admonition weekly may help members of the FEC take responsibility and stop acting the victim. For example, Nigerians were shocked when the Minister of Information, Mohammed, said in December 2015 that the Jonathan administration, which had left office six months ago, was responsible for the biting fuel scarcity the nation was and is still grappling with.
That statement by Mohammed is a classic case of psychological projection (a psychological disorder characterised by a patient defending himself against his own unpleasant realities by denying the existence of the reality while at the same time blaming another for it). And it gets worse. It is bad enough that this administration refuses to take responsibility for its own failures, it also wants to take credit for the success of others.
In a treatise bordering on megalomania, the publicity and communications team of President Buhari’s office claimed the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) as the major achievement of the first 365 days of the Buhari administration. But for a government that prides itself on anti-corruption, that statement, fraudulent as it is, is dishonest and ‘fantastically corrupt’!
First of all, the TSA was not an idea of the Buhari administration and secondly the present government did not initiate its implementation. The TSA was conceived by the Goodluck Jonathan administration and there was to be a staggered implementation because from an expert point of view, it was thought that if all federal government funds were suddenly pulled out of the commercial banking sector in one fell swoop, the shock on that sector would be so immense that it would trigger job losses and perhaps bank failures. It was thought that a gradual implementation would allow banks recover such that the baby would not be thrown out with the bath water.
Enter the Buhari administration which, in a hurry to claim credit, did not tread with caution, but in one fell swoop forcefully withdrew all federal government funds with the threat of sanctions to non-compliant banks. Rather than claim this as an achievement, this administration should chalk this one up as a big failure because in their rush to implement something that should have been gradual they have unleashed an unintended consequence on the banking sector such that Nigerian banks over the last year have shed something like 50,000 jobs. As a matter of fact, the pro-Buhari Leadership Newspaper had as a major headline on September 12, 2015, ‘Banks Begin Massive Sack Over Treasury Single Account’!
Yet, even as the reality of their rushed action stares them in the face, a presidential spokesman has the nerve to accuse former President Jonathan of lacking the will to implement the TSA! And the excuses continue! In order to explain away its lacklustre performance, various ministers and mouthpieces of the current administration have been touring media houses blaming the precarious state of the economy on the refusal of the Jonathan administration to save for the rainy day when crude oil prices were high. In fact, President Buhari himself said “In the First Republic, more enduring infrastructure was built with meagre resources. But in the past 16 years, we made a lot of money without planning for the rainy day.”
But even as this administration is set on revising history, it should not be forgotten so soon that the Jonathan administration met about $6.5 billion in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) and increased it to almost $9 billion by 2012. However, the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), using their influence at the House of Representatives, had gotten that August body to declare the ECA illegal in 2012.
So excruciating was the pressure from the NGF and most notably from the then Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, for the Jonathan administration to end the ECA and the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) and instead share the funds in those accounts amongst the three tiers of government that they approached the Supreme Court to challenge the legality of the ECA and Jonathan’s decision to transfer $1 billion from that account to the SWF. Working in tandem with Amaechi and his supporters in the NGF, the then minority All Progressives Congress (APC) members of the House of Representatives approached a Federal High Court on the 7th of February, 2014, for a perpetual injunction restraining the Jonathan administration from operating the ECA and to pay all the proceeds of that account into the Federation Account for sharing amongst the three tiers of government.
So it is quite clear that President Buhari made the accusation on April 4th, 2016 without cross checking the facts or consulting history. If the president is not happy that more funds were not saved in the ECA, he should call a FEC meeting and ask members to get up and point accusing fingers at his ministers of transport and power, works and housing. In the last 365 days, the most consistent thing that has emanated from the FEC is blame, excuses, finger pointing and a refusal to accept responsibility. As at the last count, the president and his ministers have excused their inability to stem the economic tide, fully defeat Boko Haram, provide jobs for Nigerians, maintain the availability of petrol, fix roads and improve power on the previous administration.
The funniest thing is that just as the media team of the Buhari-led presidency was reeling out its achievement in office on its first anniversary, two state governors were also doing the same thing. The shocking thing however is that if you get the list of achievements released by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, and compare them with what has been released by the presidency, the shocking verdict is that in terms of tangible achievements, like roads built and houses constructed and public infrastructure, both of these states have individually outperformed the federal government!
Do not take my word for it. Google their released anniversary documents and compare and contrast them by yourself. Ignore such silly and intangible achievements included in the presidential list like ‘motivated the military’ and ‘no more road blocks and curfews’ (believe me, the president’s team listed these as his achievements!) and focus on tangibles like roads constructed or hospitals built etc and it becomes clear to even the most brainwashed Buhari supporter that both Lagos and Rivers individually beat the federal government hands down.
Both Wike and Ambode took over from predecessors that did not really support them and who left huge debts and a high monthly wage bill, yet despite these seeming obstacles, both of them have proven the adage true that you will either find a way or you will find an excuse. And for those who are saying that it is not realistic to expect a new government to achieve much, let me remind them that in his first year in office, former President Jonathan did not deliver excuses or blames.
In fact in his first year, former President Jonathan revived the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and for the first time in decades, the Lagos to Kano rail services commenced in 2012 at a cost of N1,500. He also built nine new universities including the only federal university in Katsina State where President Buhari hails from. Inflation reduced from 10.2 per cent to 9.4 per cent in his first year and remained at single digit throughout his tenure. Average Life Expectancy increased from 47 years to 52 years (according to the UN). In the same period, he also launched the NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X satellites to expand Internet bandwidth and provide early warning to prevent natural disasters as well as established the Automotive Development Fund amongst others.
Many Nigerians must be wondering that if the Jonathan administration was as bad as the Buhari government says it is, then how come he had to leave office before they started experiencing double digit inflation, negative economic growth rate and ‘budget padding’?
In conclusion, the word ‘execute’ means to carry out or put into effect something. When you have a body of men and women who are not carrying out anything, it is hard to see how you can honestly call them a FEC. What are they executing? Put it this way, are you an executive if all you do is execute excuses?
• Omokri, a former social media aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, is the founder of the Mind of Christ Christian Centre in California