Like many politicians of his time in the United States who kissed babies during their political campaigns to court favour with voters, the reform Mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945, Fiorello La Guardia, once carried a baby in his arms to feign affection for the people. But much more later, Guardia, ostensibly in a moment of critical introspection, came to terms with one of the grim realities of democracy. “The first task of a statesman”, he stated, “is to break campaign promises and disappoint supporters”.
Juxtaposing the All Progressives Congress’s (APC) litany of promises in the wake of its assumption of leadership with the rather unsatisfactory score card of President Muhammadu Buhari, not a few would dismiss the fact that our dear president properly fits into Guardia’s impression of a statesman.
Buhari, in sooth, is a statesman, having played and still playing critical roles in the nation’s political metamorphosis. It is probably as a measure of this meritorious service to his fatherland that he decided to join politics and lead the nation once again.
Given his much- orchestrated puritanic antecedent, newspaper headlines read Sai Buhari (Buhari is the man) to herald his election on the crest wave of unprecedented public optimism in the world’s most populous black nation.
After four shots, he had finally hit the target by defeating an incumbent president, a first in Nigeria, to wide spread jubilations across the nation. Even the talakawas (poor folks) rejoiced the most: One man walked from Lagos to Abuja, another from Yola to Abuja in celebration.
He promised change. Countrymen and women took his word for it, based on his antecedents. Having won the 2015 election on the platform of the APC, Buhari was expected to hit the ground running by speedily addressing himself to identifying and tackling the key problems of the nation, assessing their magnitudes and analysing them with a clear-minded, clear-headed objectivity without continually blaming the past leadership.
Three years of an administration in an unbroken 19-year democratic journey of a fledgling democracy as Nigeria’s are sufficient enough for a regime to prove to its beleaguered citizenry whether it will compound their misery or ameliorate their anguish, given their ravaged national psyche.
Thus, as the Buhari administration reels out what it considers as its achievements so far today, Nigerians would literally put the president in the dock over his his soporifically boring leadership.
The reason is not farfetched. Whenever a nation is obliged to securitise its leadership, as Nigerians seem condemned to do in the past three years, it is symptomatic of something fundamentally troubling and inexplicably flawed with the prevailing conditions of that nation and indeed, its leadership.
Elected on the platform of change three years ago today, Buhari had given a roadmap of his governance as being an all-inclusive one that would target Nigeria’s development collectively.
Said Buhari: “Today marks a triumph for Nigerians and an occasion to celebrate her freedom and cherish her democracy. Nigerians have shown their commitment to democracy and are determined to entrench its culture. Our journey has not been easy but thanks to the determination of our people and strong support from friends abroad, we have today a truly democratically elected government in place”.
He had also said in the inaugural speech: “Having just a few moments ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as president to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.
“A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office, I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue”.
The Buhari’s administration had anchored its deliveries on the fight against corruption, security and economy. However, not a few believe that his administration has failed woefully in addressing those areas of concern.
To many, he has not even kept his words as president to all Nigerians in all facets of governance. Nepotism, sectionalism, tribalism, religious bigotry, witch-hunting, clannishness, ineptitude, ignorance, distraction, confusion, aloofness, poverty of ideas and any imaginable vice, many insist, have eroded his brand and whatever was remaining of his integrity.
A part from Second Republic House of Representatives member, Dr Junaid Muhammed, who has repeatedly accused Buhari of nepotism and crass ineptitude in several newspaper interviews, there is hardly any tribe or ethnic nationality in Nigeria that has spared harsh words for him and the APC on the way and manner they have run the affairs of state.
Leader of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Shettina Yerima, had in an interview in 2016 said he was not surprised about Buhari’s popularity decline because he assumed office without a programme.
To worsen matters, Yerima added, he took six months to appoint minister, 90 percent of whom are part of the country’s corrupt past.
For this, he said, “If anybody is telling us about change again, we must interrogate what kind of change he is bringing. Is it the change from poverty to abject poverty, darkness to total darkness”.
Indeed, Buhari appears to have set himself up for failure from the outset by fencing up his presidency with relations, acolytes and appointees mostly from his native North-West. And without regard for Nigeria’s ethnic and sectarian diversity, he has ensured that only Northerners fill-up positions in the top hierarchy of the nation’s security agencies as well as vacancies in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Of some top 20 security positions, at least 17 are held by Northerners, making many to say that Buhari is the most clannish leader in Nigeria’s history.
On the economy, there is hardly anything to cheer about as promised. Buhari, speaking on improving the economy through the provision of power had said: “No single cause can be identified to explain Nigeria’s poor economic performance over the years than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million generates only 4,000mw, and distributes even less. Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution and close to $20 billion expended since 1999 have only brought darkness, frustration, misery, resignation among Nigerians. We will not allow this to go on. Careful studies are underway during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and the most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians.
“Unemployment, notably youth unemployment features strongly in our party’s manifesto. We intend to attack the problems frontally through revival of agriculture, solid minerals mining as well as credits to small and medium size businesses to kick-start these enterprises. We shall quickly examine the best way to revive major industries and accelerate the revival and development of our railways, roads and general infrastructure”.
But only few months into Buhari’s tenure, the presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in the 2015 election, Martins Onovo, recalling APC’s promise of three million jobs in its first year of governance said: “Item one in their manifesto. Three million jobs a year! Now, look at it, we have lost almost three million jobs in the first eight months”.
Corroborating Onovo, an Owerri-based publisher had said: “The economy has continued diminishing in worrisome ways, leading to very deep decline in commerce and industry. Unemployment rate has worsened with multinational corporations joining local industries to lay off workers”.
According to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), 272 firms, 50 of them manufacturers, closed down between 2015 and August 2016 due to adverse operational conditions and incoherent economic policy of the present government.
As it is, Buhari’s administration job creation policy has been a monumental failure. In fact, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put the combined youth unemployment- the jobless and underemployed – at 52.65 per cent in the third quarter of 2017. Added to this is inflation which the NBS says hit 15.37 percent in December 2017. Though, analysts insist the figure is higher.
Despite assembling a cabinet team of technocrats perceived by many as a motley crowd of square pegs in round holes, Buhari’s government lacks sound economic expertise to open up the economy for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and job creation. Already, his failure to unbundle the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and liberalise the environment for FDI and private sector – driven growth has taken its toll on rail, steel and oil and gas downstream assets which ought to have been privatised for optimal performance. Instead, public debt, according to data released from the Debt Management Office (DMO) rose by N7.1 trillion in his first two years in office. And the debt is still rising as government resorts to borrowing for infrastructure funding and recurrent expenditure.
Even at that, the Buhari administration is yet to have any signature initiative. The Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme, the anti-corruption agencies and the Treasury Signle Accounts (TSA) where it is claiming some successes are all inherited.
Yet its anti-graft war which it vowed to seriously prosecute leaves much to be desired. This is, moreso, observers say, as the anti-graft war is being skewed against some persons believed to be chieftains of the PDP. Even the recently published names of corrupt persons have been criticized by members of Buhari’s government on the ground that names of some APC members ought to be on the list.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof Itse Sagay had expressed dissatisfaction with the coutroversial list released by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Said Sagay is an interview: “What was particularly shocking to many Nigerians was that the list didn’t include names of former members of PDP who are now in the ruling APC and who times past were also accused of looting public fund. Why were these people’s names omitted?
Security is yet another area that the Buhari-led APC government has failed to acquit itself creditably. The government, on inauguration, had vowed to end the Boko Haram insurgency and rescue the Chibok Girls. But three years after, the story is different from what the president said. Areas that never experienced insecurity before the present administration are now suffering daily killings.
Apart from the Boko Haram insurgency, the Fulani-herdsmen terrorism has exposed Buhari’s glaring leadership deficit. This is even as the international community and organisations like the Amnesty International, have berated APC over human rights violations.
Other promises made by the APC and Buharis government about poverty alleviation, education, social welfare, health, etc are yet to be fulfilled three years after.
Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari’s, lamenting the state of healthcare system in Nigeria last year said: “I would like to be realistic to say a few words concerning health in Nigeria and health delivery system in Nigeria. It is very very poor, sorry to say that”.
“If somebody like Mr President can spend several months outside Nigeria she continued, then you wonder what will happen to a common man on the street of Nigeria”.
Only recently, the Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Bill Gates, said the country would have done better with strong investments in health and education.
“Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal rate in the world ahead of only Sieria Leone, Central African Republic and Chad. One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished.
“In upper middle income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle-income countries, it’s 68; in low-income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still, just 53 years”, Gates said.
Another challenge that the APC-led Federal Government has been battling with is that of strengthening democracy and the rule of law. The Executive, legislature and judiciary are pitched against each other in what is clearly a departure from what APC had promised.
In a recent petition to the United Nations (UN) and the International Criminal Court (ICC), the PDP accused Buhari of hate speech, dictatorship, executive high-handedness, trumped-up charges against the opposition, persecution of political opponents, flagrant disobedience to court orders, brazen harassment, arrests, molestations, illegal detention and extra-judicial execution of innocent Nigerians.
From all indications, Buhari has stretched the patience of Nigerians, most of whom are now saying Babu Buhari (no to Buhari), reversing the phrase Sai Buhari (Buhari is the man).
Many people say Buhari cannot be trusted for demonstrating lack of commitment to all the policies his government enunciated for the nation. Statesmen like Olusegun Obasanjo, Theophilus Danjuma, Tanko Yakassai and many others who initially supported him have all turned their backs against him.
And rather than being sober for its inability to initiate and execute a visible landmark project, the APC-led Federal Government has been blaming the Goodluck Jonathan administration for virtually every problem it could not fix in the past three years.
This is probably why he has been receiving more knocks than praises for his second term bid.
Given the Buhari-led APC jaded homilies, empty promises, false claims and denials, can the party make it in 2019? Though Mohammed hints that the party is “banking on vote buying”, it remains to be seen how the electorate would allow itself to be hoodwinked once again.