By Levinus Nwabughiogu
As the man in the saddle, Muhammadu Buhari is not the kind of president Nigerians have been familiar with in the last 16 years. Not known for frivolities and quite aware of the enormity of the task of fixing Nigeria, his body language does not suggest rolling out the drums in celebration of his one in office today.
The much that is being expected is a national broadcast which comes up today barring last-minute change of mind. Recall that the president had, while making his remarks at the signing of the 2016 budget into law on May 6, 2016, stated that he would address Nigerians on May 29, 2016. It may not also turn out to be your usual kind of national address. Buhari, known for his candour and bluntness, may make a statement today. Already, he had said he would unveil the names of those who have looted the national treasury on this occasion.
May 29 is historic in Nigeria. For democracy sake, the day has occupied a place in the history of Nigeria. It was the date civil rule returned to Nigeria. Buhari was also sworn in as president on that date and so, it is celebration time for as it is now one full year since he assumed office.
One year in any political office is crucial. It is significant. It is such a period elected leaders usually swing into action to work. The products of their action are usually physical infrastructures such as roads which compel them to roll out drums to commemorate the day apart from just giving recognition to the day. And Buhari’s predecessors observed that culture of showcasing and basking in the euphoria of their achievements within one year in office.
But neither the President nor his political party is celebrating. At least, not officially. His critics even say he doesn’t have to celebrate as there is nothing to show for it. They would rather admit that the times are hard for Nigerians under the administration. They would cite the towering unemployment level, the skyrocketed prices of commodities including rice and tomatoes as evidence. Buhari’s critics would refer to the hike in electricity tariff, the all-time fuel price increment, the unprecedented foreign exchange rates and, indeed, the general hardship in the land as justification for their criticisms.
While the hardship rages, some people on other side of the divide are quick to attribute the hard times to the international oil prices that dipped, clearly exonerating the president from blame.
The critics would also catalogue the number of foreign trips the president had made since assumption of office and end with the submission that they have not yielded positive result.
Buhari’s strides of change
For the staunch supporter of the regime, Buhari has done exceedingly well in the following five key areas: National security, corruption, economy, governance, national image.
The President ran his political campaigns on the restoration of national security. At the time he took over power, Boko Haram, the deadly terrorist cell that had killed thousands of Nigerians and destroyed inestimable valuables, was occupying 14 local government areas in the North-East.
Today, the 14 local government areas have not only been reclaimed by the military, there is also free movement in the areas. Perhaps, one piece of cheery news that excited the government was the rescue of one of the 219 Chibok schools girls, Amina Ali, abducted by Boko Haram two years ago.
Assuming that the Augean stable had been cleaned and the war ends now, posterity would still know that Buhari was here.The fight against corruption defines Buhari’s administration. And he is taking it a notch higher. The APC government has given the anti-corruption agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, and the judiciary, the liberty to fully launch offensives against corruption and its agents. This has seen high profile cases with suspects such as a former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, a former Chief of the Air Staff, Alex Badeh, with the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, the PDP, amongst others connected with the $2.1 arms deal. Similarly, no one would ever believe that a Nigerian court would be trying a sitting Senate President who is a chieftain of the ruling party.
Economy and governance
The 2016 budget has provided a road map and appropriate monetary templates for the economy under Buhari. As the economy is down, efforts are being made to diversify it by investing hugely in agriculture. Other policies undertaken by the government include the reintroduction of the Treasury Single Account, TSA, where all public funds are channelled into one bank account, the introduction of Bank Verification Number, BVN, to detect ghost workers amongst others. There is also the introduction of social welfare packages to help low income earners.The government is working on the Infrastructural Development and Transportation where over $6 billion worth of investments which were the fallouts of the president’s recent state visit to China would be realized. Education sector, sport, environment are also getting attention. Recall the presidential order to start the implementation of UNEP report would clean up oil spill in Ogoniland in Rivers State.
This is one area Buhari has got a passmark by his assessors. Many saw Nigeria as a pariah state before now. But the president, upon his assumption of office, undertook some foreign trips within and outside Africa to re-establish Nigeria’s position in the global arena and solicit support for Nigeria and Africa. The visits saw him go to France, South Africa, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Germany where he attended the G7 summit. Also, in realization of the need to secure Nigeria and, indeed, the West African sub region where Boko Haram had been carrying out attacks, Buhari embarked on diplomatic trips to Niger, Chad, Cameroun and Benin Republic. In an interview on the various presidential trips, the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu, said a lot of bilateral agreements which would see to the repatriation of the stolen funds had been signed.