What really do Nigerians make of President Mohammadu Buhari’s or for that matter, any politician’s promises? Stretch this further and you would come to the question whether politicians whom we vote into offices are actually ever evaluated on how much they kept their election campaign promises.
Hey, before we proceed any further, we have to remind ourselves of one brash Mayor of a city in the United States of America in the 1980s, who earned a mention and photograph in TIME magazine for keeping a campaign promise. He has boasted that he would finish an aquarium in a given time. A wag asked him what would happen if he failed to keep his promise; he rifled back: “I will jump into the aquarium myself and swim there” if it was not completed and commissioned on a given date.
The date arrived and the aquarium was not completed. The Mayor invited the media, pumped water into the aquarium and swam away to the delight of his city dwellers. Now, back to Buhari: who really is to blame? Do we blame a politician who in 2015 promised us heaven, but couldn’t even give us the Earth, no matter how blighted and scorched? I know some will say he gave us hell (especially if they lived in a Benue town sacked and torched by suspected cattle herders, or if they lived in a Zamfara village being incessantly pillaged by cattle rustlers. I know there will be some persons out there who will mock me for pointing out the dust in some other persons’ eyes, while ignoring the log in mine— after all, the king of my town was kidnapped and killed under Buhari’s watch by suspected herdsmen— who, three years down the line, have yet to be punished.
Yet, the question could be seriously asked if the real problem rests with the politicians who make promises, but fail to keep them, or the citizenry who re-elect them despite their failed promises? This question remains pertinent not just because of Buhari, who won a re-election even though he hardly kept any of the promises he made while campaigning to be elected into office for his first term, but the same was the case with former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was re-elected in 2003 despite a disastrous first outing.
And despite a flawed election which many believe was rigged to favour Obasanjo, Obasanjo not only remained cocky all through his second term, he even attempted a rancorous third term tenure elongation scheme (he has stridently denied any involvement in it). All through that accursed attempt to alter the constitution to allow Obasanjo another presidential bid, Obasanjo’s supporters kept insulting Nigeria with their mantra that no Nigerian would be able to step into Obasanjo’s shoes.
Just like Obasanjo, the man of the moment has also refused to learn how to be humble. No, my intension here is not to excoriate both men, but to ask the question: did Obasanjo and Buhari deserve to have been re-elected? In May 2004, I wrote a seven-day series of articles which ended on the last Sunday of that month, in which I showed that Obasanjo not only failed but had failed woefully. I simply did what other journalists who were busy hailing Obasanjo as God’s gift to Nigeria, that Obasanjo had failed to meet the plans spelt out for him in the Presidential Policy Advisory Committee. In fact the head of that PPAC, Lt. Gen. T. Y Danjuma, told journalists in May 2003 that “we failed; we failed to grow the economy, we failed to grow jobs.”
So, why was Obasanjo re-elected? You could ask the same question about Buhari and be one hundred per cent right.I say this because if you checked Buhari’s promises against his records, you would marvel why Nigerians re-elected a politician who made great promises in 2015, and failed to keep them.
For instance, Buhari said in 2015: “If you nominate me in December,2014 and elect me in February 2015, my administration will:
1.Initiate action to amend the Nigerian Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties, and responsibilities to states in order to entrench true Federalism and the Federal spirit;
- Strengthen INEC to reduce, if possible, eliminate electoral malpractices in Nigerian’s political life;
Attract the best and brightest of our sons and daughters into our politics and public service by aggressive recruitment of private sector people, academics, and professionals within Nigeria and in the Diaspora through internships, fellowships, executive appointments, and special nomination to contest elective offices;
- Prevent the abuse and misuse of Executive, Legislative and Public offices, through greater accountability, transparency, strict, and implementable anti-corruption laws, through strengthening and sanitising the EFCC and ICPC as independent entities; Security and Conflict Resolution On National Security and Defence: I will urgently secure the territorial integrity of the nation. I will never leave the defence of the nation in the hands of Hunters, Children, and Civilian JTF through the following:
- 1. Urgently address capacity building mechanisms of law enforcement agents in terms of quantity and quality as this is critical in safeguarding the sanctity of lives and property; 2. Establish a well-trained, adequately equipped and goals-driven Serious Crime Squad to combat insurgencies, kidnapping, armed robbery, ethno-religious and communal clashes, nationwide;
- 3. Consult and amend the Constitution to enable States and Local Governments to create city, Local government and State Policing systems, base on the resources available at each levels, to address the peculiar needs of each community. I will therefore work with the National Assembly to set and revised, when needed, boundaries of operations, for Federal,State, and Local government policing units, through new Criminal Justice legislation to replace the Criminal Code, the Penal Code and the Police Act. 4.
On Conflict Resolution, National Unity, And Social Harmony: I will; 1.Establish a Conflict Resolution Commission to help prevent, mitigate, and resolve civil conflicts within the polity;
2. Bring permanent peace and solution to the insurgency issues in the North-East; the Niger Delta; and other conflict prone states and areas such as Plateau, Benue, Bauchi, Borno, Abia, Taraba, Yobe, and Kaduna in order to engender national unity and social harmony;
3. Initiate policies to ensure that Nigerians are free to live and work in any part of the country by removing state of origin, tribe, ethnic and religious affiliations from documentation requirements in our identification of citizens and replace these with State of Residence and fashion out the appropriate minimal qualification for obtaining such a state of residency, nation-wide.”
He even vowed: “I, Muhammadu Buhari, believe that our politics is broken. Our nation urgently needs fundamental political reform and improvement in governance more transparency and accountable. Amend the Constitution to remove immunity from prosecution for elected officers in criminal cases;
6. Restructure governance for a leaner, more efficient, and adequately compensated public service sector,while promoting effective participation of the private sector for more robust job creation programmes to employ the teaming youth; Buhari
7.Require full disclosure in media outlets, of all government contracts over N100m prior to award and during implementation at regular intervals;
8.Reform and strengthen the justice system for efficient administration and dispensation of justice with the creation of special courts for accelerated hearing of corruption, drug trafficking, terrorism and similar cases of national importance;
9. Fully enforce the Freedom of Information Act l so that government held data sets can be requested and used by the public and then such data sets be publish on regular basis;
10. Amend the Constitution to require Local governments to publish their meeting minutes, service performance data, and items of spending over N10M.
Yes, I did not make this up; but all the promises above were contained in Buhari’s manifesto.