Buhari, Please, Focus on the Present and Our Future



By yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521

With the way our dear President Muhammadu Buhari has been going about his mandate, it is becoming clear that he is unaware that he would be judged on what he is able to do for traumatised Nigerians and not what his predecessor was unable to do for our citizens. Rather than strategising on how he would succeed, our president spends quality time telling us about the failings of the Jonathan administration. Buhari has spent the last 17 months of his administration focusing on the past at the expense of the present and the future. Our president has been spending quality time, resources and energy chasing the past and chastising his predecessor, instead of settling down to work. Rather than holding meetings with groups like the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, the National Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Nigeria Medical Association, Nigeria Union of Teachers and academic staff of tertiary institutions on how to increase production, create jobs, salvage our tattered schools and hospitals, Buhari spends precious time with Ibrahim Magu of the EFCC and Lawan Daura of the DSS. Clearly, he wants a pound of flesh from those that pummeled him over 30 years ago. The result of this revenge mission is the massive hunger, unemployment, poverty, disease and sliding economy ravaging the nation.

Instead of heart-warming stories about what the administration is doing to impact on our scruffy hospitals, roads and public schools (that is if they are doing anything),we are daily regaled with stories of arrests of looters and recoveries; stories of retrievals not having any impact on the lives of the distressed people.
The truth that must be told is that the Buhari administration has failed to focus on the challenges of the present day Nigeria, particularly the economy. This administration has failed to focus on how to revive our comatose economy. The economy is sliding, our Naira is gasping for breath, there is massive unemployment and industries are shutting down, yet, the focus is on vengeance and propaganda. If we get the economy right, virtually every other thing will fall in line. The implications of not focusing on the genuine challenges of this nation are all over the place.
Because this administration is not getting its priority right, our external reserves is at an 11-year low of $24.21billion. This is according to the latest data from the Central Bank of Nigeria released this week. This development means a limited amount of USD will be available at the official interbank spot market, fuelling concerns about another round of depreciation of the Naira. The reserves have been tumbling. Specifically, it fell from $25.8bn on August 16 to $24.8bn on September 16.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics are also pitiable. According to latest figures, Nigeria’s second quarter 2016 GDP declined by -2.06 per cent. Annual inflation rose to 17.9 per cent in September from 17.6 per cent in August, and food inflation rose to 16.6 per cent in September from 16.4 in August this year. The total number of Nigerians who became unemployed within the first and second quarter of 2016 was 2.6 million. About 1.46 million Nigerians became unemployed in the third quarter of 2015, while another 518,102 became unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2015. This brings the total of freshly-unemployed persons in the economy to a record high of 4,580,602 under the Buhari administration. The NBS said further that the country’s unemployment rate grew from 12.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 to a record high of 13.3 per cent in the second. Again, Nigeria managed to raise only 55 per cent of its six-month revenue target in the first six months of 2016.
Today, I want our dear president to reflect on the remarks of award- winning Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, contained in an article she wrote for the New York Times. She said: “Buhari’s outdated economic ideology and the seemingly selective corruption war had led to a declining hope in his government. He had, in many situations, appeared disengaged. His tone and demeanour are reminiscent of 1984 when he was a military head of state. Nigeria’s economy is unwholesomely dependent on oil, and while the plunge in prices was bound to be catastrophic, Mr. Buhari’s actions made it even more so.
 “The president seems comfortable with conditions that make an economy uncomfortable — uncertainty and disillusion. There is an ad hoc air to the government that does not inspire that vital ingredient for a stable economy – confidence. There is, at all levels of government, a relentless blaming of previous administrations and a refusal to acknowledge mistakes. And there are eerie signs of the past’s repeating itself.

“Nigerians who expected a fair and sweeping clean-up of corruption have been disappointed. Arrests have tended to be selective, targeting mostly those opposed to Mr. Buhari’s government. The anti-corruption agencies are perceived not only as partisan but as brazenly flouting the rule of law. There are no easy answers to Nigeria’s malaise, but the government’s intervention could be more salutary — by prioritising infrastructure, creating a business-friendly environment and communicating to a populace mired in disappointment.”
No doubt, Buhari has opened too many battle-fronts in just under 17 months, while the economy suffers. This has created so much tension in the country. He has to close many of them to enable him focus on how to revive this recessed economy.

A Word for Mahmoud Isa Dutse
For those who don’t know him, Mahmoud Isa Dutse is the current Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance. He was appointed on November 10, 2015. Dutse is on the recently constituted board of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation. He represents the Ministry of Finance. Three weeks ago, he was at the Senate for screening as a board member of the Niger Delta Development Commission. He got the nod of the senators. When the Board of the Central Bank of Nigeria is constituted, Dutse will, statutorily, take a seat at the board. With the way Dutse is going, he looks determined to take up all the board seats reserved for the Ministry of Finance. My dear Dutse should consider nominating some directors in the ministry for some of these board appointments. This has happened in the past. In some cases, the laws setting up these government agencies allow a representative of the finance ministry on the Board; not necessarily the Permanent Secretary.
How does Dutse hope to contribute effectively, sitting on many boards of departments and agencies? What about copping with his key responsibilities as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance? Again, age seems not to be on the side of Dutse. His CV on my table shows that he was born over 60 years ago – August 1, 1956. What is he still doing in the service? Well, this is an issue for another day. I am still doing some checks to know if retirement age for this category of civil servants had been amended. For now, Dutse should consider slowing down a bit and allow some of his directors to benefit from board appointments.

Amosun’s Crackdown on Ogun Workers
In Ogun State, it seems it is now an offence for civil servants to protest against oppression and unfair labour practices by the Ibikunle Amosun administration. This was confirmed on Thursday when the workers who came out to protest against the non-remittance of their cooperative deductions were thoroughly pummeled. These deductions have not been remitted in the last 12 months. Pension deductions have also not been remitted in the last five years. Thugs, suspected to be loyal to Governor Amosun, inflicted pain on some of the workers and their union leaders. Labour leaders and union members who gathered at the secretariat of the state’s Nigeria Labour Congress office in Abeokuta were attacked by the thugs. Some were also attacked at Laderin Estate, Kuto Roundabout and Oke Ilewo. Comrade Benco and Comrade Olayemi were thoroughly battered. Ogun State NLC Chairman, Akeem Ambali, affirmed that the thugs were Amosun’s loyalists. Pictures of the injured workers narrating their experience on television on Thursday evening left me dejected. The NLC at the national level has to move in swiftly to tackle Amosun who has reneged on many agreements reached with the oppressed workers. The workers are still on an indefinite strike over the issues raised.

Katsina State Police Commissioner Must Enforce Our Laws
I hope we are all still following the story of little Habiba Isiyaku (Now 15 years old) who was allegedly abducted about two months ago in Warkaza, Kudun Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State and married out by the Emir of Katsina,  Alhaji AbdulMumin Kabiru Usman. The latest news is that the Commissioner of Police, Katsina State Command, Usman Abdullahi on Monday directed little Habiba, who was also allegedly converted to Islam, to return to her parents’ house. He maintained that at her age, she was too young to take any decision on marriage and religion.
Abdullahi left me disheartened with this strange directive. The fact that Habiba is a minor is not in dispute, and, according to the Commissioner of police, “too young to take a decision on marriage and change of religion.” So, why is Abdullahi not moving to rescue her? The abode of her abductors is an open secret. I am also shocked that over two months after the unlawful act, the Katsina Police Commissioner is still unaware of the marriage between little Habiba and her abductor, Jamilu Lawal. Honestly, Abdullahi’s directive is preposterous. This CP does not deserve his uniform. Instead of enforcing the law, he has been playing politics. I urge the Katsina State CP to swiftly make amends by leading a team to rescue little Habiba. We need to remind him that he is a law enforcement agent. We also need to remind Abdullahi that Section 21 of the Child’s Rights Act, stipulates that no person shall remove or take a child out of the custody or protection of his father or mother or guardian against the will of the father, mother or guardian. The Act also prohibits marriage to a minor “and any marriage so contracted is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.”
According to Habiba’s father, Tanko Isiyaku, his little daughter was abducted on August 16, 2016 by a staff of the palace of the Emir of Katsina called Jamilu Lawal. Yakubu Bawa, an Abuja-based lawyer has been fighting to rescue little Habiba. We must all join in this war against abduction.

Boko Haram Attacks in Ghashghar, Goptari
Our gallant soldiers need to tighten security in Mobbar, Abadam and Chibok local government areas of Borno State. The two deadly attacks carried out by Boko Haram in these areas this week were disheartening. In Ghashghar town (Mobbar LG), an unspecified number of Nigerian soldiers were killed when the terrorists stormed a joint position of the armies of Nigeria and Niger Republic. The Army has confirmed the attack and also admitted that 83 soldiers were missing. A community leader in the Ghashghar confirmed the attack, saying that the soldiers were taken by surprise when the terrorists launched an attack with heavy guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Reports that these bastards stole six military vehicles and weapons in the Ghashghar attack are also disquieting. The Ghashghar attack highlights the threat the group still poses in the region. Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai has to do something very fast about the low morale of our soldiers. There are allegations that soldiers are being cheated by their commanders who fail to pay their allowances in full, particularly feeding allowances.

Again, on Tuesday, Boko Haram invaded Goptari Village, 10 kilometres from Chibok and set it on fire after looting food supplies and livestock. The attack in Goptari came two days after a raid on Kallali Village (also near Chibok) where the terrorists looted and burnt homes. All these attacks underscore the continued threat of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Clearly, the military is still battling for control despite making gains against the terrorists. This is a fact we must face, if we want to end this war. This administration must work more on a political solution to this crisis. The recent release of 21 Chibok girls was a result of political maneuvering and not military effort. May Allah continue to protect our gallant soldiers.