By Douglas Anele

The token gesture of reducing the number of ministries by the President notwithstanding, there is no evidence that the cost of governance has gone down significantly to the extent of impacting positively on the lives of average Nigerians. Information in the public domain about the billions of naira earmarked for the renovation of Aso Rock clinic, feeding in the Presidency, purchase of exotic BMW cars, and maintenance of aircrafts in the presidential fleet indicate that the despicable Animal Farm syndrome characteristic of political leadership in Nigeria is still with us despite the propaganda of change by the APC.

Consider also the huge amount of public funds spent thus far on foreign trips by President Buhari and in maintaining a bulimic and sybaritic National Assembly dominated by the APC. It is obvious that the kind of change Nigerians expected is quite different from the “change” APC leaders had in mind.

Several commentators have alleged that President Buhari travels frequently because he wants to enjoy fully the benefits of his office, which he did not do as military head of state. That may be true: yet we should not just accept or be satisfied with the dishonest and hackneyed explanation from sycophants that the travels are necessary for attracting foreign investments, as if the mere presence of the President in another country would convince investors there to put their resources in Nigeria irrespective of the situation in the latter. Instead, we should demand a detailed cost-benefit analysis of the travels and insist that President Buhari should remain here with us and move around to see firsthand the impact of his leadership on our people.

It is hypocritical for APC bigwigs to criticise the defunct PDP government for wasteful expenditure and still justify unnecessary travels by the President with the puerile excuse “of wooing foreign investors.” That said, it is interesting to note that President Buhari’s recent travel to London for treatment of a purported ear infection clearly contradicts his earlier stance on the vexed issue of going for medical care abroad by top government officials. Remember, in his campaign speeches, Buhari lamented the huge sums of money spent by previous administrations on medical tourism and pledged to discourage the practice through leadership by example and prompt upgrading of facilities in our public health institutions. But we know that it is much easier to preach patriotism and positive attitudinal change than to practice what one preaches.

Spokespersons of the President deliberately trivialise this issue, as if those criticising him for travelling overseas to treat his ear problem are unaware that Buhari, like everyone else, has health challenges occasionally. Of course, illness is an existential fact of our mortality which we cannot eradicate completely no matter how hard we try. The point is that Nigerians who believed and trusted President Buhari are disappointed that, having publicly condemned his predecessors for condoning the waste of scarce resources on medical treatment abroad, most times for ailments that can be treated locally, he still did the same thing at this time of deepening economic crisis. Some Nigerians are beginning to ask themselves whether they should continue to trust and believe in a President who does not always practice what he preaches.

Probably, it is on the pricing of petroleum products that APC leaders have manifested one of the highest levels of flip-flops and hypocrisy in modern Nigerian history. In January 2012 when former President Jonathan announced the removal of the controversial and contentious fuel subsidy, Buhari, Bola Tinubu, Fashola, Lai Mohammed, Profs. Yemi Osinbajo, Tam David-West, and Wole Soyinka among others excoriated him for daring to marshal economic arguments to support the new policy. Prof. Soyinka responded to the fuel subsidy removal in his trademark florid and grandiloquent language thus:  “That patient beast of burden called the Nigerian Citizen is overloaded: its knees are buckled; only its spirit refuses to be crushed. No wonder the gasp that emerges from its constricted throat is that cry of historic desperation. Enough is enough.”

However, Shehu Sani, an APC senator, in a rare moment of insight and honesty, remarked that “It amounts to capitulation and outright deception for those of us who led millions of people out in the street a few years ago against pump price increase and against subsidy removal to now give economic excuses to justify same. The moral flag we raised in the past is the scale of justice to measure the degree of our conscience in the present.” Certainly, the new price of petrol announced by the federal government has lead to big increases in the prices of everything, particularly food items, house rents, clothes, books, transport, and drugs. In this connection, President Buhari and leaders of his party have failed to make good their promise to bring down the price of petrol by blocking financial leakages in the oil and gas sector and enhancing efficiency at every level in the that sector. Ironically, “respected and eminent” Nigerians that criticised Jonathan for increasing the fuel price have suddenly become deaf and dumb after Buhari did exactly the same thing!

Although we have already acknowledged that it is unrealistic to expect the President to actualise his campaign promises in just one year mainly because most of them require consistent implementation of sound policies over time for meaningful results to start manifesting, it is clear that even in those areas where something tangible can be achieved within a year the new APC leadership has performed below expectation. Since the so-called body language of President Buhari fizzled out, electricity supply has dropped considerably, and Nigerians who shouted “Sai baba” during the electioneering campaigns are now saying “Shame baba.” Presently, it appears that the federal government does not have a bold and imaginative strategy to improve the educational and health sectors, just as it has no realistic blueprint to help Nigerians own affordable and decent houses. Overall, judged by the extent to which he actualised his campaign promises after one year in office, President Buhari deserves a D, which is a weak pass.

The second broad platform for assessing the President is to ascertain whether the wellbeing of the average Nigerian, the masses, has improved since May 29, 2015. And the best way to start is by asking the next person one meets, “Are you better off now than you were before Buhari became President? Even if one makes allowances for dwindling oil revenue caused by the global slump in oil prices and destabilising effects of renewed sabotage of oil installations in the Niger Delta by new militant groups, there is no doubt that things are getting worse in Nigeria today. Retardation in economic growth, steep fall in the value of the naira, inflation, deterioration in power supply, and the hike in fuel prices have exacerbated the already precarious existential condition of ordinary Nigerians. Many companies, including banks and insurance companies, are retrenching their staff in response to the current economic realities, thereby increasing the number of unemployed people nationwide. It is therefore not surprising that in the last one year, there has been an upsurge in violent crimes in cities and villages across the country, and the number of beggars has reached an alarming level.

Gradually, hope is being replaced by frustration, disillusionment and alienation because millions of Nigerians are now in what the English writer, E.M. Forster, called “the slough of despond.” Using myself as an example, I must state unequivocally that my economic situation presently is worse than it was before the present government assumed power, although I am still working as hard as I have been working all these years. Nowadays, I spend more money on basic items such as food, electricity, clothes, medicines, school fees, cooking gas, petrol etc., whereas my income has remained stagnant. I really have to be extra prudent to cope with the current situation. I am better off than millions of Nigerians; but I am afraid that if urgent steps are not taken by the federal government to ameliorate the current suffering, our situation would increasingly become more like what Thomas Hobbes, the British philosopher, described as the “state of nature” in which life was poor, solitary, nasty, brutish and short.

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