By Ben Agande, Abuja
When he was sworn-in as the president after his victory at the March 28 election, many Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief that the apparent slide the country had steadily witnessed, especially in the last few years, was at a point of being halted.
Expectedly, the gospel of change preached by the All Progressives Congress (APC), whose candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, had steadily built an image of an incorrigible leader in a country whose political leaders have been known for their opaqueness, was well received by the majority of the Nigerian people, to the point that some ardent supporters of the retired general, whose stint as a military head of state was remembered more for its no-nonsense stand on corruption and indiscipline, felt that he would wave the magic wand to correct the ills of several years of misrule.
So when the president was sworn in on May 29, many enthusiastic supporters expected that he would hit the ground running and put the country on a footing that would spell immediate Eldorado.
But three months into his administration, the assessment of his administration has been a mixture of cautious optimism from his supporters and, in some cases, loud disappointment. And the blame lies squarely on the shoulder of the president, who provided the arsenal with which his supporters and critics alike have held the mirror for his assessment.
For a man that came to power with the promise to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency within a short period of time, Buhari’s first assignment on assuming office, sent a positive message to Nigeria’s neighbours, who had borne the brunt of the sect attacks that it was no longer going to be business as usual. His diplomatic shuttle to Chad, Niger and later Cameroun gave a reassurance to these countries that there was indeed a paradigm shift in Nigeria’s handling of the Boko Haram insurgency.
And to translate his determination to concrete action, Buhari ordered a change in the security architecture of the country with the replacement of the service chiefs as well as the Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS). Not a few Nigerians believed that in order to achieve any meaningful result in the fight against insecurity in the country, there is need to inject of new ideas and templates into how the security services should operate. The drastic reduction in the wave of attacks by the Boko Haram insurgency as well as the reversal in the occupation of territories by the terrorist group is, to a large extent, linked to the new leadership of the armed forces. Though the terrorists have resorted to suicide bombings of soft targets in order to instil fear in the people, many observers believe that the change in tactics by the sect is as a result of the pressure on them in their traditional areas of comfort.
DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY
Even at the international level, Buhari’s presidency has brought about a renewed confidence of the international community in the ability of the Nigerian leader to do things differently.
Shortly after his inauguration, he attended a meeting of the Group of 7 (G7) industrialized countries held in Berlin, Germany and was equally the guest of the United States government in July. The enthusiastic reception accorded the president, by the G7 countries as well as the President of the United States of America, underscores the resurgence of Nigeria in the comity of nations. The seemingly inelastic promises by these countries to assist Nigeria, both in her war against terrorism as well as corruption, further accentuates the positive perception of the international community of the Nigerian new leadership.
Even though Buhari inherited the leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC ) from his predecessor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the renewed vigour of the agency in going after corrupt officials of government is seen as the direct consequence of the body language of the president, who has never hidden his abhorrence for corruption and corrupt officials. Same would be said to be responsible for the surge in the generation of power with the country witnessing an unprecedented level of power generation even though the government has not invested any new funds in the sector.
But the modest achievements made by the Buhari administration are however threatened by the perceived sluggishness in the pace of governance and insensitivity to other regions in the appointment of key officials to positions in government. More than three months in office, Buhari has been unable to appoint ministers to form his government. Instead, he has continued to rely on civil servants to run government. Some of the negative consequences of this approach is the lack of clear economic direction of the administration, which has negatively affected both fiscal and economic policies.
For a man, who, in his inaugural speech, promised that he belonged to everybody and nobody, his appointment of about 75 percent of key personnel from his northern region has generated resentment especially from the southern part of the country.
Similarly, beaming the torchlight of anti-corruption on some Jonathan’s officials from one section of the country has unwittingly created the impression that he was on a revenge mission and not necessarily transparently bringing all corrupt officials of the previous government to book.
Though 100 days is too short a time to objectively assess a government, the actions of Buhari in the last three months have elicited mixed feelings of expectations and frustrations. How he balances these expectations in the remaining part of his administration would play a major role on whether or not his government would be recorded on the credit or debit side of history.