On assumption of office as President on May 29, 2015, Muhammadu Buhari had three cardinal focuses as far as his government was concerned: to curb insecurity, improve the economy, and fight corruption to a standstill.
Buhari’s emergence as Head of State and Commander of the Armed Forces of the country was thus viewed as a referendum of sort on the blight of institutionalised corruption, and the state of the country’s security.
In simpler terms, going by the highly proclaimed integrity of the President, many Nigerians were optimistic that he would stem the tide of unemployment, effectively deal with corruption, and crush Boko Haram and the like, to make Nigeria one of the safest place in the world.
With thirty-one days to the expiration of his first four years term in office, and commencement of another four year term, opinions are highly divergent in the extent to which the President, and the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), have fared in these key areas.
Although politicians expectedly support the stand of their party, even in sometimes ridiculously questionable circumstances, last Monday’s declaration by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, that the government has a clean bill of health in all three spheres of focus, with particular emphasis on the fight against corruption, has brought the government’s performance in the period under review to more scrutiny.
The Minister, who spoke in a live TVC News Programme, stated that it will be unfair for Nigerians to measure the government’s achievements in the fight against corruption by the number of convictions it has secured.
According to him, the government has succeeded in laying enduring foundation for the fight against corruption through sustainable policies including institution of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), which ensures that all government money is paid into one account, and the Whistle Blower Policy.
“For us, success of the fight against corruption is the fact that we have driven corruption under the table and made it unattractive as it was before. Those who are corrupt are doing so with the fear of the law. It will progressively become more and more difficult in Nigeria for corruption to be attractive,” he said.
Analysts are of the belief that as much as the APC could be given some credit in its fight against corruption, the manner in which the fight is carried out has exposed all efforts put in it to question as to its real intention.
One of the earliest criticisms came in October 2015; just months after the government came into power. In a report by Sahara Reporters titled “Heavy Knocks for Buhari’s Anti-Corruption”, the Executive Chairman of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Debo Adeniran, claimed that he had severally petitioned the President and the anti-graft agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ‘(EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission(ICPC) over corruption and misappropriation of fund against Babatunde Fashola, a former Governor of Lagos State and the incumbent Minister for Power, Works and Housing in the Cabinet of President Buhari.
He also stated that several allegations of corruption and misappropriation of fund were slammed on Kayode Fayemi, the former Governor of Ekiti State; Kemi Adeosun, the estranged Minister of Finance, who was given the leeway out of retiring honourably after being found to be involved in National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) certificate forgery; and Rotimi Amaechi, a former Governor of Rivers State and current Minister of Transport.
Expressing concern over why these people were not invited by the anti-graft agencies for questioning, Adeniran said, “We are dissatisfied with the way the anti-corruption war is being fought and we are afraid that we may not achieve anything better than what we had before Buhari assumed office.
Mudiaga Affe summarised this in the Punch of April 22, 2019 when he said: “While the fight against corruption may have made some level of progress, the ruling party might have got itself involved in the whole twist by allegedly shielding some of its members fingered as suspects by the anti-graft agencies and welcomed other suspects to its fold”.
The government’s scorecard in security is also not encouraging. Stopping Boko Haram in three months, which was the promise of the Buhari-led government when it campaigned ahead of the 2015 election, has turned out to be a bed of explanations for failures, promises and assurances to do better, and more failures and promises.
The poor security situation cuts across the country: kidnappings, robberies, and killings associated to rituals are all on the high in all parts of the country. Rather than tackle the spate of insecurity in the land, like every other sensitive issue, it is politicised.
As the Nigerian government continues to search for a lasting solution to the Boko Haram insurgency, and other related security issues in the country, perhaps it is time to take the warning of retired Brigadier General Saleh Bala serious.
Bala once warned that playing politics with the Boko Haram insurgency would create a festering wound that could consume all facets of Nigeria’s resources.
“This is what is happening now. I strongly believe that we should have a national counter-insurgency strategy hinged on economic development, and the military strategy can pick up from there”’, he said.
Buhari and the APC did not fare any better in revamping the economy in their first tenure. An expert, and Chair of the Economics Department, Allegheny Collage, Professor Stephen Onyeiwu described Buhari’s economic scorecard thus:
“When he came to power in 2015, Buhari promised to tackle three interrelated problems: corruption, insecurity and the economy. Of the three, Nigerians regarded economic problems as paramount. But the administration appears to have focused on corruption and security issues and paid less attention to the economy.
“For example, Buhari failed to prevent an impending recession that followed the collapse of oil prices in 2015. This was because he didn’t prioritize the economy and took too long to articulate an economic transformation strategy.
“Another example of lack of focus on the economy was his meeting with US President Donald Trump in April 2018. Buhari asked for fighter jets, not economic support.
“Critics also point to the fact that Buhari ceded the management of the economy to his Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. Though a brilliant lawyer, Osinbajo had no background or experience in economics. To make matters worse, Osinbajo surrounded himself with incompetent and inexperienced advisers.
“Buhari claimed he was unable to jump-start the economy because of falling oil prices and dwindling government revenue. Before he came to power the oil price was as high as $108 per barrel. It plummeted precipitously to $63 the month he was sworn in as president. The oil price continued to slide during the early stages of his administration, reaching an all-time low of $35 per barrel in February 2016.
“The collapse affected Buhari’s ability to put together a coherent budget. For instance, his 2016 budget had a deficit of over 2.2 trillion Naira. His attempt to borrow $30 billion to finance the deficit was vehemently opposed by the country’s lawmakers. Nor was public opinion favourable about an external loan. This forced the administration to pare down the number of projects it intended to undertake.
“Because of the administration’s inability to implement an expansionary fiscal policy, the economy has been grappling with anaemic growth since Buhari’s election. The country went into recession in 2016 followed by a rebound to about 2% in 2018. But the IMF projects that growth will remain weak at an annual average of about 1.9% from 2019 to 2023”.
What this means to the common man in the simplest of terms is that he found it more difficult to take care of his survival needs in the last four years than it had ever been in Nigeria.
But, like Professor Oyeiwu said, there is still room for improvement, if the “Next Level”” will address key economic issues. These, according to Oyeiwu, would require the President to evolve what he called a massive economic stimulus programme.
“If he can summon the energy, Buhari should significantly increase spending in sectors, projects and programmes that boost the economy generate employment and promote inclusive growth. He should prioritise infrastructure, labour-intensive manufacturing such as textiles and footwear, agro-processing, youth entrepreneurship projects, health and education.
“Nigeria has a very large stock of human and natural resources that are not being used optimally. Meanwhile, there is a huge infrastructural deficit. These range from dilapidated roads, epileptic electricity supply, acute water shortages, crumbling public buildings, grossly underfunded public tertiary institutions and so on. The gap can be closed through public works projects executed with direct labour”, Oyeiwu concluded.
Ex-APC National Chairman Tasks Party On Responsive Leadership
Chief John Odigie-oyegun, former National Chairman, All Progressives Congress APC), has charged the party’s leaders to be more progressive and responsive to the people.
He said this at the public presentation of a book”APC’S Litmus Test, Nigerian Democracy and Politics of Change”, written by Dr Salihu Lukman, Director-General, Progressives Congress Forum (PGF) in Abuja, yesterday.
“We are in charge today, a progressive government, a progressive regime, and I think it is proper that we show to the nation that when the people want some degree of change, “we should be responsive to it, we should address it, compromises have to be made, there’s no question about that,” Odigie-Oyegun said.
He added that the APC document on true federalism was still being worked upon before its release.
Odigie-Oyegun said the ideas of people from different parts of the country would be different up to the extent that they would want to go with the proposals in the document.
He said it was however, necessary, vital and mandatory in the interest of the survival of the country that issues regarding federalism were addressed.
“We cannot continue to allow the subject to become something that threatens our nation at any turn.
“So, the earlier we address it, the earlier we show that as a party we are responsive to the feelings of the people, the desires of the people and the wants of the people.
“It becomes easier then, to diffuse the kind of stresses that the nation is passing through today,”Odigie-Oyegun said.
He added that for those at the formation of the APC, the uniqueness of its Constitution and its manifesto promised change was meant by all members with their hearts and beings.
He said unfortunately, the forces of economics had made things not quite the way it was planned.
The APC former national chairman said there was need for the party members to do everything possible to keep it not just alive but very virile.
He added that in spite of general belief, the APC was one party that had put together things that meant hope for the country.
He said the fact that things were bad and people were angry and hungry was not questionable, saying that these were worldwide phenomenon.
Odigie-Oyegun decried the current security challenge in the country.
“It is my hope that we will begin to get control of the security of this nation,” he said.
PDP Rep Harps On Justice, Dialogue To Secure Nigeria
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), House of Representatives member has enjoined Nigerian leaders to tow the path of justice, equity, dialogue, and rule of law in the country.
Rep. Toby Okechukwu, the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, said this in a statement issued on Saturday in Abuja to commemorate the Democracy Day
He added that such path would help to arrest worsening insecurity and arrest separatist agitations across the country.
Okechukwu said that opportunities still abound in preserving the nation’s democracy and reconstruct the union to a more workable piece.
He said that June 12 was designated Democracy Day in honour of a symbol of the nation’s democratic struggles, the late Chief MKO Abiola.
He added that Abiola was unjustly denied the opportunity to exercise an overwhelmingly popular mandate handed him by the Nigerian people on June 12 1993, but only to be celebrated at death.
“The greatest debt the governments and leaders of Nigeria owe every part of this country and every Nigerian is a sense of justice and equity according to the letters and spirit of our constitution.
“The golden rule of justice is to do unto others as you would have them to unto you,” he said.
He called on the Federal Government to take conscious steps to do things that would promote national unity and earn it loyalty.
He also called on leaders to be proactive in creating a clement environment for peace to reign to arrest the present security challenges in the country.
Okechukwu commended the leaders of the South East and the Federal Government for the June 11, dialogue in Enugu to deescalate tension in the region.
He stated that it was a right step that should be sustained and replicated nationwide, while wishing Nigerians a happy Democracy Day.
Democracy Day: PDP Lawmakers Wants Observance Of Rule Of Law
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives has called for strict observance of the rule of law to improve democratic practice in the country.
The caucus made the call in a statement by its Leader, Rep. Kingsley Chinda (PDP-Rivers) last Saturday in Abuja.
Chinda called for an environment that would guarantee freedom of speech and standard operations for the fourth estate of the realm.
The lawmaker stressed the need to place greater value on Nigerian lives and for decisive and pragmatic steps to end the avoidable deaths in the country.
He called on the government to restrain the Police and other security agencies from further unleashing violence on unarmed youths and other peaceful protesters.
“They choose to go out and exercise their rights in commemoration of Democracy Day.
“June 12 is a symbol of democratic freedom and supremacy of the people’s power and should be respected by ensuring that all the tenets of democracy are adhered to in all ramifications.
“June 12 is not only about introspection, it is about renewing the commitments of all to the growth of democracy in our dear county.
“It is about ensuring that our country is never again enveloped by darkness, hemmed to the abyss by the sinister forces that threaten our collective rights and freedoms,” he said.
Chinda urged all Nigerians to hold on to democratic principles in spite of the challenges facing the country saying that “good will triumph over evil.”
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