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Buhari, beyond the first year

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THIS  week makes it a year since the Mohammadu Buhari administration was inaugurated. It would seem an appropriate time to assess the performance of the administration.

But supporters of the Goodluck Jonathan administration have long before now given their verdict on the Buhari government. They had written off the government even before it was inaugurated.

They had long pointed out just what non-performer the administration would turn out to be compared to that of their man, President Jonathan. For this category of Nigerians, therefore, there is nothing the Buhari administration could do that would meet their expectation of a credible and performing government.

They sit back, it seems, only to highlight what the administration doesn’t get right. Every misstep of the administration is negatively amplified and cited as proof of their self-fulfilling prayer that the administration is destined to fail.

President Muhammadu Buhari exchanges greeting with Hon Kingsley Sunday Ebenyi and other national assembly members after the presidential dinner at the Presidential Villa. PHOTO; SUNDAY AGHAEZE/STATE HOUSE. MAY 31 2016
President Muhammadu Buhari exchanges greeting with Hon Kingsley Sunday Ebenyi and other national assembly members after the presidential dinner at the Presidential Villa. 

For Nigerians in this group Buhari ought to have ‘hit the ground running’, immediately after he took the oath of office. After all, they argue, he had several weeks after he was declared winner of the 2015 presidential poll to map out his plans before inauguration. But Buhari didn’t move at the expected pace. He wouldn’t even name his cabinet for another six months or thereabout after his assumption of office.

Yes, Buhari could have been much faster; he could have been more clear-eyed than he has. Which is not the same thing as saying that his administration should therefore be written off completely. He could have been more purposeful. But that we were coming in from the cold of an ineffectual administration that had six full years within which to turn the story of this country around for better but failed to do so; that the country had been run down a dead-end by officials whose retirement home ought to be one of the numerous prisons scattered across the country due to the level of corruption they helped emplaced- that this all happened ought to have counted for something in assessing the new administration. We should have been critical of the slow pace of affairs, but not as unsympathetically as the Jonathan apologists would rather have it.

For them, the Buhari administration is Nigeria’s worst nightmare come true. Such critics have never wasted their time pretending that they expected anything good to come out of this government. Thus when, like it happened a few months ago, the relatively stable supply of power that ushered Buhari into office began to waver, they were quick to ask if Buhari’s famed body language was no longer working.  They offered apparently informed explanation as to why electricity was stable during the period it did. The explanation they failed to offer was why power remained throughout the period of Buhari’s inauguration to the beginning of this year. Such long spell of stable power supply was not recorded during the Jonathan years.

Of course, nobody could honestly expect a leader to rule by body language. A clear sense of purpose and vision of where the country is being led ought to be articulated beyond the rhetoric of the campaign months. The Buhari administration is yet to rise to the requirement of this very demand.

There is however no doubt that a definite sense of order, far from the pervasive corruption that was hitherto in place, entered governance after Buhari assumed leadership of this country. It was different from anything that the previous administration had inspired.

This could only be explained in terms of the entry of a new leader that was generally perceived as incorruptible. This was the context in which people spoke of Buhari’s body language. Many Nigerians in public office, it appeared, were alerted to the notion of a new order of how things should go. It was easily noticed in the power sector where power supply dramatically improved as opposed to the time when Nigerians had been condemned virtually to living without electricity.

Somewhere along the line (perhaps because the administration failed to build on the momentum that ushered it into office), the Buhari administration simply went to sleep, leaving room for the corrupt elements in the previous administration and the wider population to go back to their mischievous ways. It is this set of people, some of whom must have infiltrated this government going by what Nigerians saw with the manner they all but jinxed the 2016 appropriation bill- this corrupt elements were allowed room to operate and they have since been fighting to roll back the potential gains of what so far could well pass as the major achievement of this administration- the anti-corruption fight.

If not for anything else this administration has succeeded in showing how Nigeria came to the very brink of destruction following the free-for-all corruption that went on under the Jonathan administration. Given the revelations that have so far come out of this fight, one is left to wonder where Nigeria would be by now had that government continued in office. The administration was a disaster in the manner it condoned corruption. The practical effect of its failure in this regard is best explained in the way extremist forces like Boko-Haram were poised to overrun the country even while the military hierarchy in collusion with civilian members of the administration continued with their mindless plunder of the defense budget in particular and the national treasury as a whole.

The office of Sambo Dasuki, the National Security Adviser, as was that of the Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Madueke, became conduits for massive looting of the national treasury. That more discoveries of looted funds are being made by the week tells one that the Buhari government just cannot stop the fight now or succumb to the blackmail that its corruption fight is selective.

For as long as those being prosecuted are proven to have stolen money from Nigeria or have been beneficiaries of unearned wealth, they should be made to account for their misdeed. One would only urge that this fight need not preoccupy the president or other officials of this government in their individual capacity. The anti-corruption fight need not become an excuse for non-performance.

To this end, the government should strengthen and support relevant government agencies saddled with the tasks of investigation like the EFCC, ICPC and the police among others, while maintaining diligent oversight role over their activities.

That way the government can in its second year take on the more important task of fulfilling its electoral promises to Nigerians while simultaneously executing its fight against corruption. It must not be seen as using the fight against corruption as a cover for incompetence. Infrastructural development, increased food production and ensuring security of life and property, improved employment, to say nothing of power supply, are among the key areas in which immediate action is needed.


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