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The challenge of change

By Onochie Anibeze, Saturday Editor

On Tuesday, May 29, President Mohammadu Buhari would have spent three years in office.

Given the challenges that swayed Nigerians against President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election, can any patriotic Nigerian, without sentiments, say that Buhari has done so well to deserve another term and not face the same music that sent his predecessor packing?

Speaking truth to power, one can argue, is not a common virtue in Nigeria. Only a few do that. And that’s largely why even those in power rarely know when the cup is full. They hardly feel the agitation, the frustration, the anger, hunger and bitterness in the citizenry. They appear detached from the masses. Why would they not when those around them succeed in convincing them that the voices of dissent are only those of the opposition?

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari

They sing to them all the time. And their song rhymes success into their psyche, and the wailing of the people is misconstrued as the ranting of the opposition. This has been the story of Nigeria.

What did they tell President Buhari that convinced him to seek re-election?

I come from a sports background, and I see life from that prism. In track races, some have a blistering start but lose steam towards the end and are overtaken. Some take the lead midway and finish well. Some start poorly but explode towards the end and win. Some are consistent in pace. They may not win but do not fail. They just hang in. But they have the potential to spring surprises the day you ignore them. The surprise element is what makes sports thick. Can this fly in today’s Nigeria? In football, a player not performing well is usually changed.

In the estimation of many Nigerians, President Jonathan was not doing well and was changed. But we have seen in some cases where a substitute is also changed for even performing worse than the person he substituted. A player or a team may not do well in the first half but may pick up in the second half. Could this be the analogy the Buhari campaigners are pushing especially with their defence of some poor showing being linked or blamed on past administrations?

Truly, the Buhari administration came at the time oil prices crashed and Nigeria, being an oil-dependent economy, was hit badly. The situation was compounded by the oil pipeline vandals whose destructive activities reduced crude oil sales. But aside these circumstances there were also seeming self-inflicted injuries like the ban on deposit of foreign currencies in the banks. This contributed to making the naira the pity that it is today. Experts harped daily on the seeming poor management of the economy, pleading with Buhari to engage experts and constitute a strong economic team. The President ignored them all. Economic recession hit us, and although figures say we are out of it, the hurting has not abated.

Unemployment, inflation, poverty are still taking their toll. In the figures released by National Bureau of Statistics on Monday, agriculture recorded the lowest growth in three years. And given the prime position of agriculture in the administration’s economic diversification policy, this doesn’t make a good commentary for Nigeria. The reason for this should not be far-fetched. The killings resulting from herdsmen attacks have forced farmers out of their farms. What an irony for a country spoiling to turn agriculture around.

The seeming success in checking the forays of Boko Haram appears to be lost in the menace of the herdsmen. The killings will make security a major issue in the coming elections. The tremendous goodwill the government enjoyed at inception has waned tremendously too.

The wailing of the people has soared and the hisses louder. But those in Buhari camp are reminding us that this is just the first half. They appear to be reminding us that during the Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games,  the Nigerian soccer team came from behind to win most of their matches. And they were a great spectacle in their march to the gold medal podium. Can this analogy hold? One can argue that in Atlanta the Nigerian team had a quality bench. And that was the game changer. Can one say that of the Buhari administration?

When the President Jonathan administration was waltzing a macabre dance, the opposition appeared effective in their organisation and media campaigns. Can one say that of the opposition now? Where is even the opposition?

From the context of what we have seen so far, would one be wrong to say that the likes of Tanko Yakassai, Junaid Mohammed and President Olusegun Obasanjo have constituted a stronger opposition than the main opposition party? The activities of these men and some others appear to resonate in space as the main opposition to the ruling party. In the absence of a strong, united coalition in the name of opposition would anyone be surprised if President Buhari coasted to a resounding victory after the elections? And even if a strong opposition emerges later, the 2019 elections will be a tug of war. Yes, the stakes are high and the review of Buhari’s three years in office will command the theme of the discourse as Nigerians mark Democracy Day on Tuesday.

Have Nigerians enjoyed the dividends of democracy under the Buhari administration in the past three years? Will Buhari be changed at halftime? Has he done fairly enough to deserve a second-half outing?

Our reviews will run from today to Tuesday, May 29 and after. They come under the theme THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE. The reviews will address so many issues facing Nigeria and how the Buhari administration has fared. But the decision whether to change Buhari at halftime or give him another chance in the second half will be determined by Nigerians next year. Time will tell.

Today, we begin with our columnist, Dr. Ugoji Egbujo whose analysis is simply profound and captures many aspects of the Buhari administration and the feelings of people. One time chairman of OMPADEC, Chief AK Horsfall and Capt. Aliyu ‘Blade’ Umar, a security expert begin our focus on security. Their remarks will make your day. Tomorrow will be special. And so will be Monday and Tuesday, the Democracy Day. Stay with us for the BEST reviews of President Buhari’s three years in office.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.