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President Buhari’s re-election war (3)

By Douglas Anele

Concerning education, Muhammadu Buhari pledged that if elected he would target up to 20% of the national budget for education whilst making substantial investments in training quality teachers at all levels of education; provide one meal with fruits a day for all pupils in primary and almajiri schools nationwide which would also boost local production of food items; establish at least 6 new universities of science and technology fully equipped with ICT equipment to attract and encourage small and medium scale ICT enterprises after the students might have graduated, and establish 6 centres of excellence to cater for the needs of special education.

President Buhari

Apart from promising to address the problems of health care comprehensively, Buhari stated that if he assumes office as President, medical tourism by government officials will not be tolerated. One of the key issues in our national life he emphasised repeatedly and which gave him an edge over his closest rival, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, was the issue of dealing with corruption. As a matter of fact, buoyed by his anti-corruption reputation, Buhari vowed to kill corruption because, in his own words, “If we do not kill corruption in Nigeria, corruption will kill us. So, the choice before us is to resolve to kill corruption and free our country from the firm grip of corrupt men and women.” He reiterated this point again indirectly during his inauguration speech when he claimed that “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody,” a statement enthusiastically interpreted by buharimaniacs to mean that he would treat all parts of Nigeria fairly without bias and fight corruption squarely irrespective of the ethnic group, religion, status and political affiliation of those involved. To give bite to his anti-corruption rhetoric, Buhari threatened to jail looters and recover the stolen funds and assets.

Although for analytic brevity we have omitted his promises in the areas of sports and creative arts or entertainment, from the foregoing it can be seen that Buhari presented a comprehensive cocktail of to-do-list which persuaded millions of Nigerians to vote for him in 2015. With a well-oiled propaganda machine and solid financial backing from governors of a few rich states in the south-west and south-south, APC’s slogan of “change” spread like wildfire across the country, especially in the north and Yorubaland. Eventually Buhari won, and was sworn in as President in May 29, 2015.

The first indication that the newly elected President may not fulfil his promise of “belonging to everybody and to nobody” was that the very first “kitchen cabinet” appointments he made were overwhelmingly dominated by northerners. When challenged about that, he claimed that he appointed those he knew, those he believed would make things “work normal.” It did not occur to him that he has reneged on his promise to belong to everybody and to nobody and that a clannish or nepotic President who knows and trusts only those from the same part of the country as himself is probably not qualified to lead a multiply plural geopolitical entity such as Nigeria at this point in time.

That aside, President Buhari spent six months to constitute his cabinet, a situation that slowed down the machinery of government unnecessarily and impacted negatively on the economy, given the extreme dynamism of the global economic processes nowadays. Now, could it be that Buhari was unprepared for the task ahead despite having contested for the same post on three consecutive occasions? Probably. But he and his sycophants insisted that the delay was because he really wanted to choose the very best to drive his agenda of change. When the cabinet was announced eventually, it turned out to be an anti-climax.

Many Nigerians were disappointed, and rightly so, for they noticed that instead of appointing tested technocrats and professionals to head ministries cognate to their track records, areas of academic qualifications and professional competence, President Buhari merely recycled some deadwood and rewarded his supporters, especially APC politicians that helped him win the election, and assigned several individuals to ministries that are not congruent with their areas of specialisation and professional experience. For example, Babatunde Fashola, Audu Ogbeh, Chris Nigige, Adebayo Shittu, and Rotimi Amaechi were given portfolios that do not match what they studied in the university and their professional competence. In my opinion, this is a strategic error by the President, which partly explains the inability of his government to live up to expectation.

Our analysis of the extent to which President Buhari has fulfilled his campaign promises or to-do-list can be usefully divided into four broad themes or categories, namely, the economy, security, anti-corruption and miscellaneous – the last consisting of other issues germane to establishing the conclusion that he does not deserve to be in Aso Rock beyond May 29, 2019. Let us begin our assessment with the economy: President Buhari’s scorecard here is not encouraging because virtually all the critical economic indicators or parameters point to the fact that the economy has deteriorated since June 1, 2015. Now, the country has just managed to wriggle out of economic recession this year, but the economic outlook remains somewhat gloomy in spite of recent increases in the price of crude oil. Never mind the spurious claims of sycophants suffering from Aso Rock syndrome, Buhari’s economic team is not as competent as the ones assembled by previous PDP administrations, although the latter also made some mistakes.

President Buhari has failed to equalise the naira and the dollar as he promised: indeed, the exchange rate has deteriorated from the official rate of N197 to a dollar in 2014 to N306 this year, not forgetting that sometime in 2015 the parallel market rate was N520 per dollar. The promise to set up a Regional Economic Development Agency (REDA) with a matching grant of N50 billion for each of the six geopolitical zones has not materialised; the same with the pledge to amend the Land Use Act to remove bottlenecks in land ownership and create a middle class owning four million new homes made possible through a single digit interest mortgage finance scheme. Concerning the social intervention programmes of the federal government which is under the office of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Dr. Dele Sobowale, a veteran economist and columnist has this to say: “In 2016, N500bn was budgeted for SIP but only about N110bn was released for a motley set of ill-conceived programmes and projects. In 2017, N500bn was again allocated in the FG budget for the same purpose.

Less than N100bn was released…No audited account has been submitted for two years by the Director General of SIP, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, wife of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria – who should be expected to know a thing or two about the rule of law…The SIP is host to probably the largest number of ghosts and parasites inhabiting the federal government establishment under Buhari. The ghosts include ghost schools, ghost school children being fed, ghost teachers employed and ghosts receiving N5000 per month from the FG.” Dr. Sobowole’s accusation of serious corruption in the SIP is corroborated by Mrs. Uwais who told a National Assembly committee probing the matter that it was difficult, if not impossible, to identify recipients of the monthly stipend of N5000. Senator Danjuma Goje, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, also claimed that he was unable to verify that a single person had received the money in his area.

Available information shows that the school feeding programme is being implemented in a shambolic manner which leaves the door wide open for siphoning public funds. According to Sobowale, food is served only in a few schools located mostly in the urban centres. There is hardly any evidence that it is getting to pupils in the rural areas who are usually the poorest and need good nutrition so badly. The promise to employ more teachers and boost agricultural production as part of the school feeding programme is now a faint echo in the minds of President Buhari and his cohorts.

Experts in economic management and public finance have repeatedly drawn attention to the radioactive effects of inconsistencies in the economic policies and strategy of this government, which makes it almost practically impossible for both Nigerian and foreign investors to plan. A good example is the tardiness in budget processing and implementation. The 2018 budget that was submitted to the National Assembly in November 2017 was signed into law on June 20, 2018. Anyway, it is well known that Nigerian governments move at snail’s pace in dealing with economic challenges that rear up from time to time; with the current administration the pace is even slower than that of the mollusc. President Buhari, probably because of his weak education, does not understand the complex dynamics of modern economic management, such that it takes time for him make up his mind on important economic issues that require prompt action. Sycophants in government claim that the President is deliberately slow so that he can make the best decisions; but well-informed Nigerians know the truth.

To be continued…

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