By Muyiwa Adetiba
Our President has now officially declared his intention to run for a second term. I don’t think it was a decision that took anybody by surprise except perhaps those who tried to hold a politician to his elusive words, or those who deluded themselves in wishing for the Mandela option. Mandela is, well, Mandela; a unique human being in many ways.
I can’t think of any other leader whether black or white, in Africa or Europe who will not eagerly take up their constitutional right to run for a second term. If anything, many will stay in power for as long as they can.
The recent examples of Putin of Russia and Xi of China are more of the norm than the exception in terms of human desire. As far as I know, Muhammadu Buhari does not have Mandela in any of his declared names and nothing in his recent words, actions and body language indicated he was going to give up his rights.
The most prominent among those ‘advising’ him not to run for a second term are ex-Presidents Obasanjo and Babangida. They were, ironically, the country’s two longest serving presidents. Both stayed in power for as long as they could. Both almost divided the country before they were forced out. Both ‘deliberately’ handed over to incompetent successors.
Both had the opportunities to right the wrongs in the country and did not. Both could have set worthy examples in leadership and governance. They did not. Like Buhari, both had their achievements and failures. Neither stayed on because the people wanted it or because their lofty achievements recommended it. So their advice to Buhari smacks of hypocrisy. A case of: ‘Do as I say and not as I have done.’
Many countries in their wisdom make an allowance for two terms because it is not easy to make meaningful changes or to complete comprehensive reforms in a four- year term, a fact attested to by ex-President Jonathan himself. However, in case the incumbent’s reforms are hurting, or the country is stagnating or even retrogressing, power is given to the people through the ballot box to ease an under-performing leader out.
So, it is for Buhari to exercise his right by expressing his intention. It is for the people to endorse that intention. In deciding to endorse or reject his intention, people are going to examine his campaign promises and how many of them he fulfilled. They are going to look at the state of the nation before and during his current term. They are going to look at conflicts that came up and how he addressed them.
And because human beings are inherently selfish, they are going to look at how they fared individually before and during his administration. It always boils down to the economics of the pocket. Of self. Make no mistake, there is a bit of the stomach infrastructure in everyone.
A few enlightened voters will look beyond stomach infrastructure into the future and the direction it is taking and compare it with the direction they want it to take. Finally, people are going to look at other contestants; their antecedents, their strengths, weaknesses and abilities including the people they surround themselves with.
All of these will determine whether the devil they know is better than the angel promising them a bed of roses.
Now that the President’s wish for a second term is official, it is time for different score cards to come out, unfortunately depending largely on political and ethnic leanings. My own score card doesn’t rate his administration too high.
But I don’t subscribe to those who claim it achieved nothing. That’s too sweeping. Or that his government is the worst we have ever had. Only those who were not around during the famous June 12 and its aftermath would dare say that. That inglorious era belonged to Abacha and Babangida’s governments. Jonathan’s government is also an example of how not to run a government. It lacked discipline—financial, political and religious. Having said that, we voted Buhari to correct the short comings of Jonathan. We’ve got to look at how much he succeeded in that respect.
It was said that four women were the powers behind the throne in Jonathan’s government. Three of them have been indicted of corruption. Buhari replaced them with nephews and cousins.
Time will tell how much havoc his own ‘cabal’ wrecked. Meanwhile, the Presidency and the Legislature are still as bloated as they were under Jonathan with recurrent expenditures accounting for about 70% of our budget.
The Civil Service is still lazy and inefficient. The parastatals are still drain pipes. Appointments are not on merit. In other words, very few structural changes have been made to address the rot in the system. And for all its noise, few have been made to address the root cause of corruption.
Now to the campaign promises. Buhari promised to secure the nation. His administration inherited Boko Haram, the excesses of which it curtailed. The excesses of divisive Biafra were also curtailed—some would say with a sledge hammer. It however nurtured the Fulani Herdsmen into a more brutal and murderous gang of terrorists. Many would say the Herdsmen have defiled curtailment because they have been handled with kid gloves.
Buhari promised to frontally attack corruption wherever it is found. It is a joke that it is only found in PDP and Jonathan’s government. The system that breeds corruption is still being aerated rather than asphyxiated. He promised to move the nation away from oil. One of the first things he did was to direct NNPC to prospect for oil in the chad basin.
To his credit however, after a wobbly start, we now have a stable currency and inflation is on a downward path. The foreign reserve has also doubled despite earning less from oil—an indication of a greater fiscal discipline. We now import less and grow more. The electricity problem is also being seriously addressed. All told, Buhari has not done worse than his predecessors—we probably expected too much from the old man.
My candid opinion though, is that his age and health limitations will make the rigours of running a complex country like Nigeria increasing more taxing for him. But my greater worry is his mental limitation. As Clinton once said of Bush Snr, ‘it is not just his age that bothers me.
It is the age of his ideas.’ (We saw a bit of an antiquated and rigid stance in Buhari’s initial reluctance to devalue the Naira thereby plunging the currency into a free fall.) Buhari’s solutions to Nigeria’s problem are dated and tainted by age-old prejudices. It is time to move the nation from analogue to digital. And to fresher ideas.