By Femi Aribisala
DURING the presidential election campaign, General Buhari observed in his “Manifesto and Vision for Nigeria” that: “The general trust level of politics, politicians and political leaders is at an all-time low. One may ask why? And we can as well understand why after years of broken promises.”
But now that the election is over, Vanguard reports that, in a confession to APC governors: “President-elect, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), has said that he is currently at a loss on how best to tell Nigerians that his promise of turning the economy around quickly upon assumption of office on May 29 may not be feasible after all.”
In effect, our president-elect himself provides the latest edition of the broken promises he derides in his manifesto. Many of those promises were made in complete disregard of the parlous state of the Nigerian economy given dwindling oil prices.
During the election, Buhari promised that under his administration, the Nigerian economy would achieve GDP growth-rate of 10-12% annually. He would create a Social Welfare Program providing 5,000 naira monthly for the 25 million poorest Nigerians; provide allowances for unemployed Youth Corps graduates for twelve months; provide one meal a day for all primary school pupils; and create one million jobs for Igbo youths by revamping the huge coal deposits in Enugu State.
He would also bolster the Nigerian middle-class by an additional 4 million new home-owners benefiting from a national mortgage of single-digit interest-rates; generate, transmit and distribute electricity on a 24/7 basis; and build 5,000 km of super-highway and up to 6,800 km of modern railway all by 2019, among other absolutely wonderful things
But when APC governors went crying to him that their treasuries are empty, in spite of the fact that they either emptied them themselves, or are in no position to determine their status because they are yet to take over the reins of office; Buhari pleaded for understanding. He said: “The expectation is too high and I have started nervously to explain to people that Rome was not built in a day. For this to be corrected, please, give the incoming government a chance.”
However, the expectation is high because Buhari and the APC built them up during the campaign. They should blame themselves if they are now victims of their own deceitful success. PDP Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh observed that: “The APC has successfully used propaganda and lies to get to power. Now, let us see how they will use the same strategies to sustain it.”
Apparently, many of Buhari’s promises during the election were never intended for fulfillment. Many of them were made for the singular purpose of winning the election. Having won the election, Buhari clearly has no more use for them. Therefore, he has been busy discarding them one-by-one. Recently, he advised Nigerians on a TV Continental interview that, unlike the Quran and the Bible, the APC position during the election is now subject to change.
At the APC South-East rally at Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri, Buhari declared that he would make the naira equal to the dollar if voted into office. He continued: “It is sad that the value of the naira has dropped to more than 230 to one dollar. This does not speak well for the nation’s economy.” But now that he is president-elect, Buhari no longer talks about naira-dollar parity. All he does is complain about the devaluation of the naira.
When a Channels TV presenter asked him during the election campaign how he would manage the economy in the face of dwindling oil prices, he replied that he would first stabilise the oil market. But instead of telling us how he proposes to do this miracle now that he is president-elect, all Buhari does is complain to the newly-elected legislators of the Senate and House of Representatives that the decline in Nigeria’s revenues due to falling oil prices poses great danger to his development agenda.
Buhari even promised during the campaign to kill corruption in Nigeria. He said: “If we don’t kill corruption in Nigeria, corruption will kill us. So, the choice before us is to resolve to kill corruption and free our country from the firm grip of corrupt men and women.”
However, Buhari is no longer talking about killing corruption. All we are getting from him is that he and his ministers will declare their assets, and corrupt officials will be prosecuted. Surely Buhari knows that in no country in the world has corruption ever been killed; least of all in Nigeria. When he said he would kill corruption, he was merely using hyperbole to pull the wool over the eyes of Nigerians. But now the time for hyperbole is over.
However, Bola Tinubu does not seem to have received the memo to that effect from APC HQ. Speaking after the election at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho, Tinubu declared that the APC would eradicate poverty in Nigeria. He said: “A progressive government must turn its face from the austerity policies of the outgoing administration that tried to manage poverty, but not end it. Such policies serve only to deepen and prolong the hardship of the average person.”
APC eradication of poverty is yet another pie-in-the-sky. There is no template from any APC-controlled state in this regard. On the contrary, virtually all of them are in arrears with workers’ salaries for several months. Even Jesus the Messiah admits that poverty cannot be eliminated in this world. He says categorically: “You will always have poor people with you.” (Matthew 26:11).
Read Buhari’s lips
At a Town-Hall meeting in Abuja in March 2015 during the presidential campaign, Buhari made a solemn promise to bring back home the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls. He said: “I will give all it takes to ensure that our girls kidnapped from Chibok are rescued and reintegrated with their families.”
However, with the election over, Buhari is now the paragon of caution and “double-speak.” In a speech made during the one-year anniversary of the Chibok kidnapping, Buhari said: “We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them.”
What are we to make of this volte-face from our president-elect who nevertheless fashions himself as a man of integrity?
In an interview with Christiane Amanpour on CNN during the campaign, Buhari boasted that he would defeat Boko Haram within two months if elected. Hear him: “We know how they started and where they are now and we will rapidly give attention to security in the country. And I believe we will effectively deal with them in two months when we get into office.”““
But now that he has been elected, Buhari categorically denies ever making such a promise. He now says in an interview with journalists: “I think I am too experienced in internal security to give two months deadline on Boko Haram. I don’t think I would have made that statement. I didn’t.”
However, the record of his interview with Christiane Amanpour speaks for itself. It shows our president-elect can be economical with the truth.
In order not to scare off dodgy members of his party with his anti-corruption rhetoric, Buhari promised to let corrupt sleeping dogs lie if elected. In his Manifesto, he says: “I, Muhammadu Buhari, have resolved that the task ahead of me is that of securing our nation and prospering our people, not looking backward to the failed policies and promises of the past.”
At the North-West APC rally in Kaduna, Buhari declared: “Whoever that is indicted of corruption between 1999 to the time of swearing-in, would be pardoned. I am going to draw a line, anybody who involved himself in corruption after I assume office, will face the music.” This means as long as you steal money between 1999 and 2015, you have nothing to fear under a Buhari presidency.
But now that he has been elected, Buhari is singing a different tune. He now says he will revisit the issue of the allegedly missing $20 billion from NNPC accounts. At a meeting with APC stakeholders from Adamawa, Buhari insisted that: “This issue is not over yet. Once we assume office, we will order a fresh probe into the matter. We will not allow people to steal money meant for Nigerians to buy shares and stash away in foreign lands.”
This shows our president-elect is not a man who believes in keeping his word. He says whatever is expedient for him to say at any given moment. With so many failed promises, even before the inauguration of his government, it is clear that Buhari is in for a very short honeymoon. Nigerians are not likely to accept having excuses for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Buhari asked for the vote and got the vote. But now that the election has been won, it is excuses galore! However, Nigerians voted for change: they did not vote for excuses. When you go to a restaurant, you don’t go there to listen to excuses. You go there to eat food. It is really not the business of the clientele to know the difficulties encountered in cooking it. Buhari asked repeatedly to be president, making all sorts of promises. Now he is president-elect, we need no excuses from him.
If everything is so bleak and bad, why did he ask for the job? Why did he make all those highfalutin promises to a gullible electorate? What Fela said about Buhari’s first-coming is equally applicable to his second-coming. He said: “The people wey no sabi dey jubilate, the people wey sabi dey shake their head.”
Buhari discouraged Nigerians from being patient with Goodluck Jonathan. It is unrealistic for him to now expect Nigerians to be patient for him. What he promised during the election was magic. What he needs to provide now is that magic. We want to see the magic and we want to see it now. This demand is necessary in order to ensure that Nigerians will not fall for this same trick any time soon in the future. We must hold Buhari and the APC accountable for every single one of the empty promises they made during the election campaign.