Now that President Buhari Will Run Again

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SATURDAY POLSCOPE 

By Eddy Odivwri; eddy.odivwri@thisdaylive.com   08053069356

Last Monday, just before he flew out to the United Kingdom, President Muhammadu Buhari confirmed what many of us had always known: that he will seek re-election in 2019.

Early in January this year, I had seen the new campaign office which had just been acquired and furnished somewhere in a highbrow area of Abuja. The signs that he will run have all been too loud not to be noticed. So, President Buhari will run again, despite the clamour in some quarters that he should not.

It is politics. And because it is politics, it is largely governed by choice, which in turn is fed by sentiments. What may appeal to Mr A will be repulsive to Mr B. So, while some are urging Buhari to respect his old age and go back to his cattle farm in Daura, others are threatening to take him to court should he dare contemplate not to seek re-election. That is the way it goes in partisan politics: one man’s meat is another man’s poison!

With the declaration, the campaign fire has been lit aglow. And while many will be stoking the fire of the re-election bid, some others will be striving to release all the water in Kainji dam to quench the fire. By next February 14, Nigerians would know which of the groups, whether those stoking the fire or those quenching the fire, did a greater job.

Understandably, many of those knocking the re-election bid like Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma have advanced reasons that can be classified into three: old age, poor performance and unstable health.

That is one side of the coin. The other side is that those who want Buhari to run again believe that he is a near messiah, and that his age has got nothing to do with his governance ability. In fact, they argue that, like wine, the older it gets, the better it is. As for health, they maintain that Buhari’s health has been stabilized and completely re-jigged. This is somewhat self-evident as Buhari has remained verily fit ever since he returned from his last medical trip.

That’s as much as the arguments and counter arguments go.

But when we come down to brass tacks, the issues that will define the campaigns and Buhari’s electability (not eligibility) are how much his goverment has impacted on Nigerians. It is remarkable that nobody has said Buhari has no constitutional right to seek re-election. So the constitutionality or otherwise of the argument is clearly out of it.

Many people believe, like I do, that second term, is or should be a reward for an accomplished first term. So the question is : has Buhari had an accomplished first term to be rewarded with a second term? While many will bellow a loud No!, others will say he’s tried while some others could even say he’s done marvelously well.

Many of those who are disappointed with Buhari’s performance are those who had had great expectation. They are those who were so buffed up with the Jonathan/PDP-led malfeasance in the country. They had become completely fed up with the ruinous rule of the country by the previous government as it was clear that the nation was practically grinding to a halt under the previous government. And so, many had expected that the coming of Buhari will indeed, not only arrest the rot, recover Nigeria and reinvent the nation, but also rekindle the hope of a greater nation in the mind of Nigerians. In a sense, Buhari was seen as the redeemer of the nation, one who will right the many wrongs of the past. One who will brood no evil or condone anything less than noble. That was why his supporters in the 2015 polls were rather enthusiastic and fanatical, pushing his candidacy with evangelical zealotry.

But the great expectations have remained rather elusive.

Here are some of the issues that will form the fulcrum of the impending debate.

Economy

Perhaps one area that the pepperish pinch of the Buhari administration hit everybody was in economy. The economy literally came down. With the introduction of the TSA policy, all the government money that used to ‘fly around’ were now warehoused in one vault. That restricted access to “free money” and it had telling effect on the operators of the economy.

Worse still, the Buhari administration came on stream at a time the global price of crude oil, Nigeria’s main stay, had collapsed. With a barrel of crude selling around $32 or even below, the Nigerian economy was bound to be in trouble. And trouble came not long after, when the economy slipped into recession. It only worsened the woes of Nigerians. Inflation was hitting roof top, jobs were being lost uncontrollably, almost 21 states were owing salaries of civil servants. Life just got nastier. But Buhari was not quite the cause. The foundation for this was merely inherited. The previous government had literally bled the nation to a fainting point. The foreign reserve was virtually empty. There was no saving anywhere. All the fallback positions have been cleared off for the 2015 elections. The recession that was to follow was practically inevitable. But since it happened under Buhari’s administration, he had to, understandably, harvest the blame.

Today however, the recession is over, though its flakes are still in the air, the foreign reserve is being stacked up again hitting $43.2 billion, last March. The inflation figures are coming down, and the economy is, so-to-say, recovering.

Noticeable efforts are being made on infrastructure revamp across the land. The rail system in the country has been significantly revived with even more to come in few months ahead. Electricity supply has improved, though yet there.

And with crude hitting all time high of $72 per barrel early this week, the hope of a reflated economy has been reinvigorated.

Security

This was one of the three cardinal promises that Buhari made in 2015. To rework the security architecture of the nation for greater effectiveness. This was against the backdrop of the Boko Haram insurgency which had ravaged the North east, climaxed by the abduction of the over 219 Chibok school girls.

Yes, the Buhari administration has really battled the Boko Haram terrorists, put them to rout, but it is not correct to declare that they have been defeated, technically or mechanically. The terrorists are yet raging, though in smaller scale, with suicide bombings here and there. In fact, there was yet another abduction of school girls, this time in Dapchi, Yobe State. Yes, all but one girl (Leah Sharibu) has been returned to their parents, many of the Chibok girls are still being held, exactly four full years after, although the Buhari administration had negotiated the release of two batches of the girls. But more than the menace of the Boko Haram terrorists is the scourge called Fulani herdsmen who have literally declared war on the rest of Nigerians. What with widespread attacks and killings across the land. The herdsmen have literally turned Nigeria into a wild killing field, spreading from Benue to Taraba, Nasarawa, Kogi, Plateau, Kaduna, Delta, Enugu, Ebonyi etc.

Yes, their menace predates Buhari’s administration, but they seem to have been lionized by the indifference of Buhari or so it seems. Until the nation was awash with loud condemnations, the presidency was rather negligent. Even as it had woken from that ignoble slumber, not much has been done to reassure Nigerians that the criminal elements among the herdsmen will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land. They still carry on, rightly or wrongly, with the Paulean confidence: if the president be for us, who can be against us?

And the tripod of the security affliction is in the rising spate of kidnapping. Kidnappers simply took over the landscape: in homes, on highways, in schools and offices, Nigerians were just being hurled into kidnappers’ den indiscriminately. The spate of this has however recently reduced.

Anti-Corruption

Again, this was one front Buhari promised to tackle. Perhaps this is one area he had done pretty well. So much has been recovered from the previous operators of the economy, being signposted now with the trending looters’ list. Many have likened the fight   against corruption to the eagle in the logo of the EFCC, which is fixatedly looking at only one side. They imply that the fight against corruption has been one-sided. That the corrupt people in Buhari’s party (APC) are spared the angst of the EFCC. But not many have denied that those arrested truly have corruption cases around them. Indeed, the mass of roguery that took place under the Jonathan administration is epic. The nation’s till was simply stolen blind. Many of the cases are still running in courts today.

Even the sacred hallows of the judiciary was not spared the rot. Judges were found to have perverted justice for a cost. Judges, who ordinarily should be “deputy Gods” became as filthy as market place criminals, with many amassing stupendous wealth that can never be explained in terms of their legitimate earnings. Corruption was just pervasive in a nauseating manner. Everybody, almost, had their hands in the cookies jar.

So when Buhari declared that if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us, he knew what he was saying. But many thought he will be surrounded by angels. No! there are vile criminal politicians around him too. Many of them are crooks, seeking for the auspicious time to pinch from the treasury. And that is why even among his closest persons, there have been stories and scandals of theft, embezzlement, bribery and all sorts of sharp practices. But beside the former SGF, Mr Babachir Lawal and a grain of others, not many of his compromised allies have been shown the inner colour of anti-corruption fight. That is why many still complain that the fight is selective.

This is one other area Nigerians do not seem to trust President Buhari. His appointments into top notch offices have been rather skewed in favour of his kinsmen. And this is disturbing. Those who know say he merely works on recommendation of his aides and allies without consciously seeking to balance the spread of his appointments. I do not readily have the statistics across board, but the fact that the entire security apparatchik of the country is dominated by people from just one section of the country (except the Chief of Naval Staff) bespeaks of the skew people complain about.

Agriculture

No doubt, under Buhari, the attic sector has grown significantly. The story about the collapse of rice factories in Thailand is eloquent testimony to the sharp drop in the importation of rice in Nigeria. The export of yam tubers to the UK et al, also confirms how better the agric sector had been.

In all therefore, these issues are going to form the basis for the assessment of the candidacy of the Buhari re-election bid. Whether or not, the Nigerian electorate can still trust Buhari to improve their lots and raise their HDI (human development index).

Incidentally, there are not many options on the table. The younger folks strutting on the fringe do not look like those whose oil can burn till midnight. The other older folks, sadly, come with loads of scandals and social distrust. But what is sure is that come February 2019, Nigerians will elect another leader. Who it will be, remains in the womb of time.

Shouldn’t Gov Okowa Hear This?

For some reasons, I have, for a long while now, refrained from commenting on the goings-on in the governance of my state, by Dr Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa.

But as my people would say, an elder cannot be at home and the goat will be left to deliver in tethers. I was recently in Delta State and had cause to visit the secondary school in my village: Emonu Comprehensive High School. Emonu-Orogun. It was in a complete desolate state. Every thing from classrooms to facilities to staffroom, etc., are as they ought not to be. The little bright things seen were provided by the community. How teaching and learning go on in such a place is a wonder.

Same week, I got a report on the famous Orogun Grammar School, my alma mater. That the great school has now been so degraded to the point of having just a dozen teachers in all, some of whom are even youth corpers. That the head teacher of English is indeed a youth corper who studied Management! Gosh, how are the Mighty fallen… the same college founded by late Chief Demas Akpore (M.A Classics)—in 1966—, former Deputy governor to (Prof Ambrose Ali in 1979)? Is that the same school that a corper is now the Head of Department of a subject area he should have no competence on? Where is Gov Okowa? What is the level of attention paid to education? How do we expect a better tomorrow if we do not invest in our youths through quality and guided education? In my village too, the community had hired some teachers whom they pay just so the children would not miss out completely. Where is government? Just where is government?

Under former Gov Emmanuel Uduaghan, there was conscious effort at hiring teachers into the schools, where are they and why has Okowa seemingly abandoned the schools to their fates, or trans-loaded the responsibility of running the schools to the communities? I am not sure this experience is peculiar to these two schools. I suspect it is prevalent. Where is the commissioner for education? What are the inspectors doing these ays? Surely, something can be done. the government should not cause Chief Akpore to turn in his grave. #save our schools!