It’s a no-brainer – this government of Muhammadu Buhari is evidently inane and without focus. Davidson Iriekpen writes
With the benefit of hindsight, it could actually amount to flawed argument that the seemingly overwhelming problems of the Muhammadu Buhari government are ensconced or derived from her ‘excessive promises’ during the 2015 electioneering as some are beginning to propound in subtle defence of the government.
But in actual fact, despite the conscious attempt to change the slant of the narrative, the problems are today beyond the ability of the government because the promises, in spite of their number and weight, were rooted in falsehood and sheer propaganda. They might have been ideal; they were however far from the reality.
Although, for the record, Buhari was said to have sued for caution at some points during the campaigns, perhaps, realising his limitations too, which unfortunately, he would never own up to, however in truth, the All Progressives Congress (APC) bit more than it could chew in relation to capacity and it is fast burning out its goodwill.
Stories about how Buhari had kept an Igbo driver and cook for many years; how his ‘unknown’ first daughter was married to an Igbo man; how he became a ‘democratic born again’ by merely cladding him in different attires to create an impression that he identified with Nigeria’s diversity in culture and religion were all façade – conceived to sway Nigerians and they got away with it. But like a house built on a sandy ground, it is beginning to collapse and lo, helplessly too.
Pause for a moment and ponder this: can anyone say in truth and honestly too, that the Buhari they have seen preside over the country in the last over a year can give his daughter out in marriage to an Igbo man – of all tribes? Except such a daughter is a deviant and one he would have long disowned, there is no way that would happen in his life time.
Taking it further, driver and cook are two of the most important domestic staff in the life of anyone. Again, does Buhari look like one who would concede his kitchen and wheels to a Yoruba man let alone someone of the Igbo extraction? The lies were too good to be true and yet, Nigerians were not critical enough to discern just because they wanted Jonathan to go. They were too steeped in the hate politics that dotted the era in question and the propaganda thrived, monumentally.
The very first outing that gave Buhari away as one likely to fail at a time Nigeria was desperately in need of a patriotic leader was in the United States, during an interaction with foreign journalists in the course of which he propounded the 95 and the 5 per cent development theories. The president had been asked how he would address the Niger Delta agitation in collective interest. But in answering, he dismissed it, saying their demands would be addressed commensurate to their contribution to his victory.
It was the manifestation of a spirit against healthy competition. Not everyone would toe his path, expectedly. The essence of a competition is to provide options and choices. Those who went with Jonathan did and rightly so as they preferred, while those who opted for the now failing change also did as their rights to do so and granted by the constitution. Unfortunately, the president took offence in their rights to choice.
Thus, because some people did not vote for him, the supposed leader of a country with complex ethnic tendencies said whatever would accrue to them in terms of delivery of promises would be measured in accordance to the number of votes they churned out.
What a primitive and crass thinking! No such a mindset would yield forth good products because the thinking itself is defectiveab initio. Even in America, immediately after the elections, they cease to be red and blue states as may have been defined in the electioneering period and the president immediately rallies everyone for the task ahead. That is the beauty of the American democracy. But here, Buhari differed and was thought to have got away with it. It does not seem so anymore.
Otherwise, how do you define a Nigerian president, whose immediate staff and security attaché are either members of his family or people from the part of the country that he also comes from? A president whose beliefs in the federal character is almost nil; a man who would rather the whole of Nigeria is populated by his own kith and kin. In truth, what sort of progress or development can such a disposition give rise to?
Away from that, in what name would anyone call the nearly six precious months wasted in the name of shopping for an ideal team, only to end up with the faces that had been with him all along. How does he justify the time wasted without anything to show for it? Could he not have hit the ground running by picking these same guys immediately he assumed office? Instead, he relished in some sycophantic body language that soon vanished with his now fading mystique. As everyone can see, he is struggling to catch up with the time that was needlessly wasted and entire country is suffering for his indiscretion.
As if that wasn’t enough, he has since picked needless and avoidable fight with the legislature as if he could run the government successfully without them. He neither listens to them nor confers with them as expected in matters of collective interest. He discountenances party politics and has killed, with his actions, the idea of caucuses through which party politics thrives. His ‘Know It All’ demeanor has remained same and the change his party professed might have been a fraud after all.
Wait a minute, who prides in his first budget ever that was enmeshed in needless fiasco? But that was one of the faltering starts of this government. First, the budget was reportedly missing and next, a duplicate popped up in circulation from nowhere and then, the padding tales followed, first from the executive before the legislature too caught the bug. That was no less a function of poor leadership as offered by Buhari. He would not even credit his own ministers but conceded too much to the civil servants as the actualisers of good governance.
It is important, at this juncture, for Nigerians to know that whatever becomes of this government – good or bad – cannot be calibrated under collective responsibility because Buhari clearly runs a one-man-show. His brothers in the legislature or those in the judiciary cannot not be made to share in his failure, and if he waltzes through to success, let him alone share the glory, after all, that is what he has always wanted even though capacity is not anywhere located in his credentials.
Today, those who knew his limitations but had drafted him into the race because of his ability to win the election on account of the then prevailing calculus, thinking they would be in a position to advise as well as help drive the ship of state, have been either pushed back or relegated to the side as mere spectators because of his style, which does not encourage brain storming or thorough consultation. He is soon going to be a victim of power in cabaltocracy. The path is being prepared already – government within government.
Even more pathetic is the fear that he would tag them corrupt or misread their intention as a ploy to steal, thus completely stifling everyone from helping out and today, the entire country is in trouble following this ‘black market mandate’ that was sold on the strength of unrealistic change from an otherwise disoriented old order.
Last weekend, the president sort of demonstrated that he indeed had no clue on the economic challenges facing the country, when he charged his cabinet ministers to think out of the box on how to pull the economy out of recession. His intention was less than genuine.
At a retreat with the ministers at the presidential villa, Abuja, the president appealed to team to design how best to implement his administration’s plans to rid the country of its dependence on oil, diversify the economy and bring the country out of recession.
Buhari told the minister to explore more coordinated approach to the formulation and implementation of the policies of government. He told them that there had been a mismatch between government’s planned targets and the budgetary outcomes at the national and sectoral levels in the past years, suggesting that this might have occurred because the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) had not been working together and building consensus around common national objectives.
“Indeed, the challenges we face in the current recession require ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking to deploy strategies that involve engaging meaningfully with the private sector, to raise the level of private sector investment in the economy as a whole,” the president said on Thursday at the opening of a ministerial retreat tagged: “Building Inter-ministerial Synergy for Effective Planning and Budgeting in Nigeria.”
With the increasing economic hardship and poverty, insecurity and incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen in the country, the Buhari administration in the last one year has come under severe attacks from Nigerians. The attacks became worse when notable public figures joined the fray, asking him to buckle up and deliver on the change he promised the electorate during his electioneering last year.
Initially, Nigerians gave him a period of grace for him to settle down in office. But with the hardship biting harder, after six months, they exhausted their patience with attacks coming from every angle possible.
In the forefront of criticism are the some opposition governors, clerics, including Archbishop emeritus of the Lagos Catholic Dioceses, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okojie,; Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammedu Sanusi II; former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Charles Soludo; President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Archbishop of Sokoto Dioceses, Hassan Kukah.
They all called for more rigorous thinking on the economic policies and asked him to seek help from experts and private sector players to show him the way out of the woods. Others not left out of the attacks on the president and his All Progressives Congress (APC), are experts in various fields and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which at every opportunity would ask the president to resign. They claim that under the PDP government, things were not as bad as they are now.
This is why, for many observers, while the decision by the president to hold the retreat was commendable and showed that he was sensitive to the criticism daily hurled at him; it also showed that he’s been clueless on how to solve the problems. It equally showed that all along, the president did not have a clear agenda for the country other than the ambition to acquire power.
After many years out of power and with his lamentations during the electioneering, many had thought that Buhari would transform the country overnight. Beyond corruption, they wonder the things he noticed were not right with the country that needed to be fixed all through the three occasions he had attempted the presidency before getting it the fourth time.
On the day of his inauguration on May 29, 1999, then President Olusegun Obasanjo had lamented how he bequeathed a large fleet of aircraft and ships for the Nigeria Airways and Nigerian National Shipping Line respectively as military Head of State in 1979 and met nothing when he came back as civilian president in 1999.
He expressed the same disappointment on the deplorable state of roads and other infrastructure. With the lamentations, many Nigerians had thought Obasanjo would correct all the wrongs and perhaps make the country gain all that it lost in the 20 years. They were however shocked when after eight years in power, he left the country worse than he met it.
With the present state of things, a cross-section of Nigerians feels the same way towards Buhari. They wonder why he is unable to fix the country after observing the ills it was going through on the sideline for 30 years. They also wonder what his motivation was for seeking power if not to correct the ills and put the country back on the path of growth.
Perhaps, the only effort the president has made is to seek emergency powers which the National Assembly has turned down for fear of misusing it.
“They don’t have any idea. What Buhari has done with the retreat has clearly shown that he is clueless on how to fix the economy. He was just looking for power to pay some people back. Nothing more! He was not thinking of how to fix the country. I can tell you that he was looking for an opportunity to deal with those who overthrew his government and kept him in house arrest 30 years ago. The only scapegoat now is the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki he met in government, and he is really dealing with him now.
“If the likes of Col. Abubakar Umar (rtd), Col. Abdulmuminu Aminu (rtd), former Senate President, David Mark – all referred to ‘Babangida’s boys’ who allegedly aided former military president, Ibrahim Babangida in the coup that led to the overthrow of his government in 1985 were still in government when he came back, he would have given them the same treatment as Dasuki.
“The man just wanted power to deal with people – nothing more. Even from his appointments, you can tell that he was not seeking power to better Nigeria. Otherwise, tell me what Dasuki did that others didn’t do? Were monies not given to him to run his campaigns? Are the people in jail or detention? Has he even allowed their probe? I’m taking about people who shut down their states and gave him money to fund his campaigns, asked public affairs analyst, Peter Onaja.
While the attacks on Buhari is understandable as the leader on whose table the buck stops, many observers believe that his ministers have also not shown that they have anything to offer other than showing off. For people who had at one point or the other held positions such as governors, ministers, lawmakers, among others, they had thought that they would make a difference.
“In the states where some of the ministers were governor, what legacy did they leave? Nothing! A lot of them left huge debt, unpaid salaries, deplorable infrastructure and massive looting. Tell me, which governor left behind any sustainable thing that can make his state prosperous? You think people who for eight years got free money from Abuja and did not invest it for the future of the state will turn around the country? It is a lie,” Onaja said.
It is against the backdrop that many people are asking the president to re-jig his cabinet and bring in experts, who can help him revive the economy.
For instance, penultimate week, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Ekiti State advised the president to take critical actions that would make his change agenda have positive impacts on the lives of Nigerians. One of such steps, it said, is to make meaningful changes to his economic team, so that his much touted change mantra won’t end like a mere slogan without productive effects on the lives of the citizenry.
Chairman of the congress, Ade Adesanmi, said what Buhari promised Nigerians before the March 28, 2015 presidential poll was life full of abundance and not the hardship presently being witnessed by the populace.
“President Buhari campaigned in all the 36 states of the federation and what he promised us was life full of peace and abundance. However, the president has been able to give us peace by way of tackling Boko Haram insurgents while he has also taken decisive actions against militancy in the Niger Delta, but the issue of the receding economy as shown in the skyrocketing prices of goods and services and callous losses of jobs by Nigerians are worrisome.
“President Buhari did not promise that a bag of rice, which was sold for N9,000 will be sold for N40,000; he didn’t promise that a bag of cement which was sold for N1,500 will be sold for N2,500 within one year that he assumed office; he didn’t promise that a litre of petrol which cost N87 will be jacked up to N145, among other food items whose prices have jumped up in four folds. The APC-led federal government must look beyond its party to solving our economic problems. We suggest that President Buhari must re-jig his economic team. He must make changes before things get out of hands.”
On its part, the opposition PDP has urged Buhari to quit office as a solution because nobody can give what he/she does not have. It called on the president to return the country to how he met it in 2015 in order to allow a more experienced team to take over governance. It particularly described the statement by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun that, “recession is a word” as smacking of ignorance, lack of patriotism.
It further said such pronouncement by Adeosun is in-line with President Buhari’s comment that his ministers are noise makers. The party, through its National Publicity Secretary, Dayo Adeyeye, said the crass ineptitude and lukewarm-attitude of the APC-led government is no longer tolerable.
“The crass ineptitude and lukewarm-attitude of this APC government is no longer tolerable, and therefore, we are calling on President Buhari and his team to return Nigeria to its state of booming economy before they assumed office in May, 2015, and then quit immediately to allow other capable leaders recover our ailing economy.
“For instance, recall that about three airlines, local and international like some banks, have suspended operations and sent their staff on indefinite leave due to poor state of the economy. Nigerians are aware that the PDP government invested heavily in most of our airports in the country that resulted in obvious ‘facelift’ and improved operations through remodelling, construction of new airports, refurbishing and equipping of the local and international airports to meet best practices in the aviation industry.
“But the APC administration has frittered away all the good policies and programmes, which the PDP put in place, thereby crumbling the aviation sector of the country among other catastrophes it has caused. What Nigerians want from this administration are results. Simple! And not resorting to throwing tantrums on the PDP at every given opportunity.
“Our call for the President to return the country to how he met it in 2015 is justified on the following grounds: a bag of rice was N7,000 and now is above N20,000; a mudu of beans was N150 and now is N500; $1 was trading for N197 but now over N400; a liter of fuel was N87 but now N145; cost of transportation and other services have skyrocketed. Given our observation since the inception of this government, they have nothing to offer and as such, quitting will be a solution because nobody can give what he/she does not have. APC has failed.”
The PDP therefore called on Nigerians to recall President Buhari’s purported ‘body language’ at the beginning of his administration and re-iterated that governance is a serious business and not about someone’s body language’ and de-marketing strategies of the president while ‘globetrotting’.
“When this government came to power in May 2015, riding on the achievements of previous PDP administration, President Buhari’s handlers and his party, the APC claimed it was his ‘body language’ that brought some positive changes the country was witnessing at that time. So, we want to know: what are the results of the so-called ‘body language’?” Adeyeye queried.
Not surprisingly, everything about the ‘Buhari brand’ is wrong and suspect because it is largely shrouded in secrecy and some sort of official conspiracy. He barely could raise N21million naira for his presidential nomination form, yet declared N30 million as his account balance. How he was able to pay back (if he did) the N21 million he later claimed to have raised through a benevolent banker friend has been kept under wrap.
At least, if the Nigerian people knew he borrowed the money preparatory to the election, now that he is president, they have an official right to know how it was paid back since it was most likely through tax payers’ money.
His asset declaration debate has been nothing short of a huge let down. For a pious Umaru Yar’Adua, who would not even play holier than thou, his asset declaration was his biggest personal example in leadership. But Buhari who came on the strength of incorruptible persona is struggling with his. No concrete details about his assets have been published except for the usual generalisation that is often embraced by every Dick and Harry.
He has since assuming office hunted down his opposition on the grounds of corruption with particular interest in how monies were routed through the security architecture. Yet, here is a Buhari, who cannot account for how his own election was funded. Nearly everyday throughout the electioneering period, he flew chattered private jets (a lifestyle he could not access for 12years) as if he was riding on cows and did not ask questions about how monies were raised.
He slept in some of the best hotels across the country and abroad and yet did not give out money to prosecute any of the logistics-compelling needs of his campaign. What therefore is exemplary or extraordinary about him except for the propaganda that strewn his campaigns?
Whenever there is a whiff of information on members of the opposition over corruption allegations, his “goons” immediately would swoop on such persons and create some media blitz to show that the fight against graft is working. But when there are petitions against some of his men, government generally looks away and sometimes, shamelessly comes out with a position, clearing such individuals in an obvious case of corruption. Who excels in the fight against corruption with such double standards?
For a matter as simple as going into your safe where documents are kept and flash your school leaving certificate, Nigeria’s almighty president had to hire the services of 23 lawyers, majority of them Senior Advocate of Nigeria to make his case. Isn’t it clear something is not adding up about the certificate scandal? What is the connection between presenting your certificate and hiring lawyers to defend you and say, ‘yes he had it but later lost it’?
The Buhari brand is certainly a defective one. The president has been least honest and sincere about so many things to be seen in a different light. It is unfortunate his party got away with the lies and cosmeticized image of their candidate during the campaigns. His leadership style has been everything but impressive. He is second time a huge letdown. His failure as a military leader may be condonable, certainly not his deliberate failings as an elected president. He remains the same and always will – unrepentantly sectional and pretentiously fanatical.
Taken together, the president’s clueless demeanor is irremediably legendary – the quintessential Buhari. He arrogates too much to himself when in actual facts, he is some distance away from the intellectual requite for the job he has sought to have for many years. All he wanted was just power and not that he had the ideas on how to turn the tide around. For 12 years that he had chased this dream of his, not a document that highlights his plans and how to go about them. The over-sentimental Nigerian voters bought into this anti-intellectualism campaign and the result is the deserving clueless leadership that Buhari is arrogantly providing.
Let the president blame no one anymore for his failings because every government comes with its assets and liabilities. As bad as the Goodluck Jonathan government may have been painted to be, the Buhari government is today still cruising to favour before the people on the backdrop of some of the projects it left behind. Not one new project has been started by this administration except completing what the ‘clueless Jonathan’ left behind. From the Treasury Single Account to roads, railways, power and more – these are projects started and almost completed by Jonathan and yet, he lampoons him everyday as if he had something better to offer.
No government is elected to manage a bad economy, the late Margret Thatcher once said, otherwise, the person there before could have been asked to continue since what he was probably doing was to manage the bad economy. But the one main responsibility of every new government is to improve the economy and the system in general. But, the question is: what has Buhari done in less than two years of assuming office? Answer: he has further plunged the country into the abyss and yet, his ‘hailing hailers’ are still bidding for more time. Perhaps, in his other life!