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Evaluating President Buhari’s one year in office

In the lead up to the March 28, 2015 presidential election, President Muhammadu Buhari made some campaign promises on certain issues such as security, corruption and economy, among others.

One year after, observers, while assessing Buhari’s achievements, note that he has performed creditably.

Analysts insist that in spite the falling oil price in the international and its attendant effect on the nation’s economy, the Buhari-led Federal Government is prudently wading through the storm.

They say the menace of Boko Haram insurgency, which has significantly hampered nation-building efforts, has been appreciably contained; while the residents of the north-eastern parts of the country – the main theatre of the insurgency — are now having some respite.

More so, the analysts argue that pervasive corruption, which has hitherto bedevilled the country, is being tackled headlong, even as Nigeria’s external image in terms of anti-corruption crusade has improved considerably.

In his inaugural speech, the president acknowledged that the challenges facing the country were quite enormous and voiced his determination to tackle them.

“At home, we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns.

“We are going to tackle them head-on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism; we can fix our problems,’’ he then said.

In his Democracy Day speech on May 29, Buhari maintained that he had launched the most ambitious social protection programme in Nigeria’s history.

He said that the programme aimed at kick-starting the process of lifting many citizens from poverty, while simultaneously creating opportunities for people to fend for themselves.

“In this regard, N500 billion has been appropriated in the 2016 budget for social intervention programmes in five key areas.

“We are committed to providing job creation opportunities for 500,000 teachers and 100,000 artisans across the nation.

“Besides, 5.5 million children are to be provided with nutritious meals through our school feeding programme so as to improve learning outcomes, as well as enrolment and completion rates.

“The conditional cash transfer scheme will provide financial support for up to one million vulnerable beneficiaries and complement the enterprise programme – which will target up to one million market women; 460,000 artisans and 200,000 agricultural workers nationwide.

“Through the education grant scheme, we will encourage students studying sciences, technology, engineering and maths, and lay a foundation for human capital development for the next generation.

“I would like to pay a special tribute to our gallant men and women of the armed forces who are in harm’s way so that the rest of us can live and go about our business in safety.

“Their work is almost done. The nation owes them a debt of gratitude.’’

Buhari said that in spite of the economic problems brought about by falling oil prices, the on-going economic reforms of his administration would save the nation N23 billion annually.

He said that the recent increase in the pump price of petrol was to save the economy from total collapse, while eliminating the massive corruption induced by the fuel subsidy regime.

Nevertheless, perceptive stakeholders agree with the government, saying that it has made significant progress, particularly in efforts to stamp out corruption and address security challenges.

Mr Michael Onwe, a public affairs analyst, said that in efforts to appraise the Buhari-administration, one should be mindful of some of the conditions in place prior to its inauguration.

“Here was a nation that was on the precipice of total collapse with regard to security and economy, while the motivation of the citizens was at the lowest ebb.

“I want to recall Buhari’s statement that `if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us’, that is one aspect; and if we look at what he has done so far in the fight against corruption, we have every cause to praise him.

“Today, close to 35 top officials of the previous administration are standing trial on corruption charges in various courts.

“Several hundreds of them have returned the money they stole secretly,’’ he said.

Beyond that, Onwe said that Buhari had done well in efforts to tackle the security challenges facing Nigeria, having assumed power at a point when the Boko Haram threat had reached an alarming proportion in several parts of the country, including Abuja.

He recalled that the UN Office, the Police Headquarters as well as some spots in Kuje and Nyanya neighbourhoods of Abuja were on different occasions attacked by Boko Haram insurgents.

Onwe stressed that such attacks indicated the fact that the country was glaringly insecure and going through some harrowing times.

“However, when Buhari came into power, he moved the tactical command of the military to the theatre of war and Boko Haram is fast becoming history.

“All the same, the country’s economy is one aspect that is somewhat debatable but I can say we are making some progress.

“Nobody would have known what would have happened to this country if Buhari had not come to power; Nigeria was already in a state of insolvency,’’ he said.

In his comments, the Speaker of House of Representatives, Alhaji Yakubu Dogara, said that the 2015 general elections, which ushered in the opposition party and Buhari to power, demonstrated that Nigeria’s democracy had come of age.

He said that in the face of serious economic challenges induced by dwindling oil revenues and mismanagement of our resources, Nigerians should remain hopeful and trust the ability of the Buhari-administration to confront these problems and provide lasting solutions.

“Indeed, we should patiently await the results of the current policies and actions of government, which we believe will soon begin to yield positive results,’’ he said.

On his part, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, said that it would be rather premature to assess the Buhari-administration which just marked its first anniversary.

He said that since the framers of the country’s constitution gave a president a four-year term, their assumption was that it would take that long for the citizens to assess whatever their leader had achieved.

“You can access someone now and within the space of two years that assessment could change; so, I think we need to be patient; we should respect the four years which the constitution has given to the government before attempting to assess it,’’ he said.

Gbajabiamila, nonetheless, scored the Buhari-administration high over the 2016 budget which, he said, encapsulated a good economic policy that would facilitate the government’s economic diversification efforts.

“But if we must assess, I will say that given what this government found on ground and given the prevailing economic situation in all oil-producing countries in the world; I think this government has done a remarkable job.

“What this government has done in trying people for corruption is unprecedented in Nigeria and for me, therein lies the change,’’ he added.

Sharing similar sentiments, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed said that the current economic challenges facing the country were not enough excuse for any failure in efforts to fulfil electoral promises.

He stressed that Buhari-administration had made giant strides in the three key areas of its campaign promises.

Mohammed said that the administration had succeeded in clipping the wings of Boko Haram, adding that the insurgents no longer had the capacity to carry out the kind of spectacular attacks for which they became infamous.

On the fight against corruption, the minister said that the Buhari-administration had demonstrated enough political will to stamp out corruption in the country.

“It was corruption that prolonged the war against Boko Haram and dispatched many soldiers and civilians to their early graves.

“Today, the issue of corruption has become topical in the national discourse and corrupt persons are no longer able to flaunt their ill-gotten wealth with impunity, as they used to do.

“This is because the government has succeeded in sensitising Nigerians to the cost of corruption to their lives,’’ he said.

On the economy, Mohammed said that the government was aware of the current economic challenges facing Nigeria and had decided to see opportunities rather than difficulties in its efforts to diversify the hitherto mono-product economy of the country.

He said that as part of efforts to boost the economy, the Buhari-administration had plugged all financial loopholes through its introduction of Treasury Single Account (TSA), into which trillions of naira had so far accrued.

All in all, concerned citizens believe that in spite of the prevailing economic situation, the Buhari-administration means well for the country and will go all-out to deliver all its campaign promises in a pragmatic way.

By Chijioke Okoronkwo and Ikenna Uwadileke, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)


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