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Buhari’s ‘most significant pillar of support’, two years after

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By Levinus Nwabughiogu

Inaugurated on May 29, 2015, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, penultimate Monday, clocked two years in office. How has it fared? This piece chronicles some of the cheers and jeers generated by the activities of the government in the period under review.

They came prepared. They were determined to shoot their way into “success” should there be some form of resistance. The time was ungodly and, to them, it was most appropriate for such a satanic mission. And so, one after another, they snuck into the environment under the cover the night, seized the building and got hold of the girls. One by one, they marched them away into an unknown destination and, before daybreak, they were all gone.

Then, with the speed of light, the news filtered into town and journeyed to Abuja, the nation’s seat of power, to alert the authorities. What happened? There was an infiltration of the highest order. The country had been raped and scores of girls stolen. Then  tears flowed freely amongst the handicapped and hapless parents. The government became greatly rattled and the security apparatus got jerked up into some speedy action. But then the girls were gone.

Security, most laudable

President Muhammadu Buhari

This was the pathetic story of the over 200 students of Government Secondary Schools, Chibok, Borno State who were abducted by Boko Haram in the apogee of sprawling insurgent attacks on April 14, 2014.

At first, the news was greeted with indifference. Of course, the abduction was literally unAfrican. Such stories sounded Afghanistan to Nigerians but that fateful day brought a force of reality, leaving Nigeria in a devastated state.

But then, the country smiled when the renewed anti-terrorrism efforts of the military and government offered some glimpses of hope that the girls would be rescued soon afterwards. Unfortunately, the expectations failed as days rolled into weeks and then months without the girls coming out of the Sambisa, the evil forest which was the den of the terrorists.

To the chagrin of many, the incident clocked one year. Yet, no sign of the girls.

Regrettably, Nigeria had, at the time, also lost some portions of its territory involving 14, local government areas in the North- East to the insurgents who reportedly hoisted their flags.

The situation remained so until May 29, 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office from former President Goodluck Jonathan in whose time the abduction took place.

Having campaigned vigorously on the tripod of restoring security to Nigeria, stamping out corruption and reviving the hitherto ailing economy, Buhari vowed to deal decisively with Boko Haram.

Indeed, Boko Haram caused “large fires” that for many months, the military battled with them without so much success. But the Buhari  administration remained resilient.

The resilience finally paid real off at the twilight of the first anniversary of the regime when one of the girls, Amina Ali, was rescued and brought back home. There were cheers.

Not too long afterwards, a batch of the girls, 21 of them, was released in October 2016. This was outside some other rescued people that were held hostage by the insurgents. Good news again.

Nigerians were later to be made happier when, in December 2016, the Army captured the dreaded Sambisa Forest.

Of course, the fall of the forest did not swiftly translate into the return of the remaining girls. And so, the agitation continued. It became unbearable when the government marked the third anniversary of the girls’ abduction in April this year.

Anyone who read the President message would not only appreciate the flow of emotions but also the commitment and firm promise to rescue the rest of the girls no matter the cost.

Like the return of the 21 girls, Buhari’s promise became fulfilled on May 6 when a second batch of the girls, 82  this time, was released. So far, over 100 of the girls have regained freedom.

At their reception at the official residence of Buhari  at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on May 7, the President  described the development as the second anniversary gift of his administration to Nigerians.

Now, imagine a Buhari  government celebrating its second anniversary in 2017 without one of the girls back home?

To this end, keen followers of the activities of the present government had not batted on  eyelid in speaking glowingly of the government for keeping to its promise.

Peace/new vision for Niger Delta

For sure, the North-East isn’t the only region where the Buhari administration has restored security. The government has also fostered unprecedented peace in the Niger Delta. Not a few Nigerians would remember that bombing of oil installations and other national assets was a daily occurrence in the recent past. Of course, this tremendously affected the economy as oil production drastically dropped. But with a peaceful initiative championed by the visits of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo early this year, calm has returned to the area. The visit also brought about some engagements for a new vision.

For instance, the New Vision has brought together a robust set of promises, solutions, targets and initiatives aimed at ensuring that the people of the Niger Delta benefit maximally from the region’s oil wealth and offered a detailed response to the 16-point Demand Agenda submitted to Buhari by the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) in November 2016. The results include: Approval of a 2017 commencement date for the stalled Nigerian Maritime University in Delta State; approval by Buhari for additional 35 billion naira for the 2016 budget of the Presidential Amnesty Programme; approval for the establishment of Modular Refineries across the nine states of the Niger Delta and resumption of construction work on abandoned projects across the Niger Delta, especially the all-important East-West Road.

Anti-Corruption War

Another area the government is getting commendation is on its anti-corruption fight. In fighting the menace of corruption in Nigeria, the government has had to touch even the sacred cows in the society. Prior to now, it sounded incredible that judges would be subjected to scrutiny. It is still unheard of that a government would suspend its own senior officials and subject them to probe. Only a Buhari government could do such in the best interest of the people.

Whistleblowing Policy

Coming on the heels of the anti-graft war is the Whistleblowing Policy introduced by the Federal Ministry of Finance. The policy  has, within its first two months of operation, yielded about $160m and N8 billion in recoveries of stolen  government funds.

The Economy

There is no doubt that Buhari’s government inherited a ruined economy coupled with dwindled oil prices. Some persons argued that the situation was what drove the country into economic recession. But as bad as the case has been, the administration has been  making efforts to catapult Nigeria out of recession. For instance, the recent launch of Economic Growth and Recovery Plan, EGRP, the efforts in rice production and other agro produce initiatives are helping to rebound the economy. Just recently, Acting President  Osinbajo signed three executive orders to ease the doing of doing business and hopes are now high that, before the year runs out, there would be good news.

Job Creation

The government of Buhari is said to have taken conscious efforts to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths. This readily brings to mind the Social Investment Programmes, SIPs, which parade the N-Power jobs for graduates, the School Feeding Programme and the Unconditional Cash Transfers for artisans, traders, amongst others.

Power Infrastructure

At the inception of the administration in May 2015, the average

generation of power was 3,324MW and it eventually increased to 4,357MW in August 2015 and rose to a peak generation of 5,077MW in February 2016 but presently the average generation is about 3000MW as a result of gas infrastructure vandalism and low level of water in the dams during the dry season which affects the output of the three main hydro

power stations.

But there are projects that will enable government achieve its Road Map to incremental power supply. The Zungeru 700MW Hydro Power plant recently reported 40 per cent job done. Also recently, the two Consortium of Chinese Companies viz: CNEEC and Sino Hydro Power performed the ceremony of River Closure for the construction of Turbines of the Zungeru Power Plant which is expected to be completed in the last quarter of 2019.

The knocks

Not a few people have expressed disappointment  in the style of governance by Buhari’s administration.

The delay in the appointment of Ministers, almost 7 months after the take-off of government, according to critics, was suicidal. Again, the President’s economic team is believed not to be headed by the right and experienced people who seem to have the solution to the economic crisis.

Also, critics believe the President is selective in the anti-corruption war, targeting only his political opponents but, to the ruling party, such believes are misplaced opinions which are also relative.

While this perception holdsway, many believe that the ill-health of the President who has had to travel to London at least four times since he assumed office in May, 2015 has also affected the level of governance as the president has not been able to fully discharge his duties as subsumed in the mantra of change with the needed gusto and appropriateness.

But this is one feeling the Presidency would not accept. To them, President Buhari has not failed Nigerians and a look at his campaign promises would indicate that he has achieved a lot in the last two years.

This was according to the President’s media team led by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina.

As part of the activities marking the second anniversary, Adesina while briefing State House correspondents on Tuesday, May 23 at the Presidential Villa, Abuja said that the government has made some remarkable imprints.

He said: “We have the achievement chronicled in the three key areas, this administration has three focal points,securing the country,fighting corruption and reviving the economy.

“So we have in the area of economy phasing out of subsidy regimes for petroleum products and fertilizers, you have the anchor borrowers programme in which the CBN is assisting farmers particularly to grow rice, we have the presidential fertiliser initiative, support for micro small and medium enterprises, the new development bank of Nigeria,ease of doing business reform successes and so many others.

“We have achievements in the area of infrastructure with details then alignment of monetary fiscal policies, a new social housing programme and I am sure you all reported it that N1.2trillion was released for capital expenditure in 2016 budget year. This is a record in this country, then we have the social investment programme in which all the four components have taken off.

“We have strategic engagement with OPEC and in the Niger Delta. We know that there is relative peace in the Niger Delta now compared to what we had in 2016 and then the new vision for that region of the country.

“There are beneficial government to government partnerships with China and Morocco. We have all the details. The national economic recovery and growth plan has also been launched. In the area of anti-corruption and transparency, we have the presidential initiative on continuous audit. We have budget reforms that have been put in place and then the TSA, this government met it but expanded it and you know strides that have been taken in the area of TSA.

“Development of BVN for payroll and social investment programmes, you know that through the use of BVN for payroll, over 20,000 ghost workers were weeded out of the civil service, there is replacement of old cashed based accounting system with an accrual based system.

“The country enlisted into the open government partnership and there is a national action plan of the OGP global summit in Paris,France in December 2016. We have asset recovery reforms of long standing petroleum sector cash call arrangements, we have the new whistle blowing policy and so many others”, Adesina said.

His colleague, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu added that Buhari would even win a second term based on his achievements.

“The ordinary Nigerian is the most significant pillar of support for this administration. President Buhari has paid his dues. If elections are held today, Buhari will win overwhelmingly. The masses are happy with him”, he said.

Bottom line

Two years into a mandate of four years is a time for reflections. It actually gives any government, especially a new one like the Buhari’s, a better opportunity to evaluate itself in terms of democratic deliveries . For a performing government, it is a time to discover and develop some new frontiers. But for a none or under-performing government, there is still an ample time to work for the people to earn their confidence. But whether the government is performing or not, one thing is sure: the people would evaluate and take their decision at the right time. In this case, 2019 is the ultimate decider.

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