How Much Time Does Buhari Need?

President Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent request for more time is arguable. Olaseni Durojaiye writes

President Muhammadu Buhari recently asked Nigerians to give him more time to fix the myriad problems confronting the nation. There is however a need to evaluate his management of the first four years in office. It is very necessary. Of particular interest to the nation’s electorate is how the economy has fared under him and how he has managed the nation’s security as well as his approach to the infamous anti-corruption fight.

The president’s request has expectedly pitted his supporters against his critics. The crux of the debate is predicated on how well the president has used his first term in office to the benefit of the generality of Nigerians.

His supporters argued that he has done pretty well in his first term, thus deserving a second term in office to complete some of the projects he has initiated and to also deepen some of the institutional framework he had set about putting in place.

Of course, his critics disagreed and want him out of office. Easily, they point at the unemployment level in the country, the state of the economy and the issue of security as some of the reasons that informed their conclusions.
Politics aside, the question being asked border on the use he had put the almost first four years of his administration. Many contended that not much, in practical terms could be said to have been achieved.

Nigerians are particularly querying the administration’s handling of the economy and are insisting to know how the three and a half years of the incumbent administration benefitted the ordinary citizens and this query gains weight on account of the huge unemployment in the land, the unprecedented poverty rate, coupled with the inflation rate as well as the issue of security.

No doubt, President Buhari’s request for more time will be evaluated on the basis of how he managed his first term in office and what he has been able to achieve in practical terms. While not wishing away his achievements so far in office, critics are interested in how the achievements have positively impacted Nigerians economically and socially, and in dwelling on these two major areas, where he is bound to receive criticisms are in the areas of economy and security.
Certainly, the economy is not in good shape. He admitted this much to governors during a meeting recently. On the one hand, his admission of the underperformance of the economy under his watch deserves commendation on account of being honest and sincere. However, those who want him out of office see the admission as a failure, nothing more. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) feels so too.

Beyond partisan politics, and the talk about enlightened self-interest, many Nigerians are miffed with the performance of the economy. The argument is that millions of Nigerians are really feeling the pangs of poverty as rarely experienced before now and they blame it on how he has managed his first term in office.

Many hold the view that he did not hit the ground running. This, they argued was evidenced in how long it took him to put together his cabinet. About seven months is considered too long a time to constitute a cabinet and they argued the situation did not portray him as one who is conscious of the need to judiciously manage time. Others insisted that it smacked of insensitivity to the huge burden of expectations that came with his electoral victory in 2015.

Another talking point that would shape his request for more time borders on the modus operandi of his anti-corruption fight. While many welcome the need to sanitise the system, they question the way he went about it and the priority he placed on fighting corruption at the detriment of the welfare of the populace.

This argument is plausible considering that the issue of corruption in the country – bad as it were – cannot be fought without the buy-in of other critical stakeholders in the polity, including the Judiciary and the Legislature as well as the populace given the behavioural change to fighting corruption.

Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Laure Beaufils explained this much in a recent exclusive interview with THISDAY. She contended that “… these things take a very long time. We are talking of behaviour change; changing the understanding of what is right, what’s wrong, social norms – there are a lot of structures in government business, which are hard to change. It will take time and I think one of the challenges is getting the political leadership to focus on this, continuing to build capacity of the key agencies and the judiciary to ensure that sanction regime is really put in place.”

Critics of the administration accused it of being after quick wins without ensuring that capacity is built among the anti-corruption agencies, which have been accused of not being independent of the Executive arm of the government. Besides, the government does not seem to seek the buy-in of the judiciary which is germane to ensuring that sanctions are enforced.

Security is the second basis on which Nigerians will grade the administration, specifically, internal security. While many will agree that the administration has significantly reined-in the insurgents, given that it has liberated several communities that were hitherto controlled by the group, same cannot be said of its performance in the area of internal security. The wanton killings by suspected herdsmen in the North east geo-political zone stood out like a sorwe thumb and the inability of the nation’s security apparatus to arrest the situation gives so much cause for concern.

Many of the government’s critics scored the administration very low in this area. Many observers were even more worried and concerned at the manner of grandstanding of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Rearers’ Association, the supposed umbrella body for herdsmen in the country, at the height of the crisis.
It was even worse that many of those killed were Christians, leading some ultra-critics of the government to attach religious colourations to the issue. Also worrisome was the alleged slow pace of response by the security force directed to arrest the situation particularly, in Benue State, a predominantly Christian-populated state.
There is no gainsaying the fact that many voters in the region will consider how President Buhari’s government has dealt with the situation in their decision to afford him more time as he requested or not.

Given the foregoing, many analysts view the president’s request as a choice for the Nigerian electorate to decide. Above that, many maintained that the president owes the nation and its people assurances of free, fair and credible elections, devoid of any form of interference before and during the next general election. This concern is not misplaced considering the ugly spectacle witnessed during the Ekiti and the Osun States governorship elections.
In fact, many believed that is the least he owes the nation and argued that it was the same guarantee that occasioned his ascension to power, noting that the incumbent president at the time, Goodluck Jonathan, conceded defeat and called President Buhari to congratulate him even before the results were publicly declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

It is against the background that many watchers of the nation’s politics concluded that the assurances are first required and if given, it is then left for the country’s electorate to either accede to President Buhari’s request for more time to fix the country – return it to the path of economic growth and sustainable development, and holistically address the insecurity challenges bedevilling the country.
Otherwise, they might turn down the request and ask him to go as they did with his immediate predecessor in office, ore when Buhari himself said four years was enough for any serious government to make meaningful impacts and change in the life of her people.