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Saturday, 5 September 2015

One hundred days ago


         

When President Muhammadu Buhari, after his swearing-in, on May 29, allowed himself up to September to name his ministerial cabinet, he couldn’t have reckoned that the seeming adequate time would pass so swiftly to open him to very critical scrutiny by both supporters and political opponents on how far he had gone in meeting their expectations. Supporters, in opting for Buhari in the presidential elections, believed he would provide a fresh political/administrative atmosphere, in contrast to the record of the previous 16 years while critics contemptuously dismissed all such optimism. To worsen matters for Buhari, the public expectations/pessimism (of supporters and critics respectively) within the conventional first 100 days (ending tomorrow), coincided with the September undertaking within which to name his ministers, Unless those ministers have been named by now, Buhari has up till the last day of the month to keep his undertaking, as he did not specify a particular date. But such an excuse or even undue delay henceforth, will subject the Buhari administration to further ridicule, both in Nigeria and abroad. Meanwhile, pro and anti-Buhari groups are, as expected, engaged in polemical fisticuffs on his performance so far
Either way, the better objective verdict must be related to what President Buhari inherited and promised the nation as a newly elected head of government on May 29, 2015. 1. Widespread goodwill at home and abroad. 2.Perception of Nigerians and the entire international community that the scale of corruption in Nigeria is one of the highest in the world. 3. A feeling of omnibus marginalisation of northerners and indifference by south westerners even if such existed. The only point of note was the opportunistic exploitation of that dissatisfaction by discredited and politically irrelevant elements parading as representatives of Yoruba under the banner of a remnant Afenifere. 4. Free looting of national treasury by financial criminals purportedly claiming subsidy for fuel not supplied at all in many cases. 5. A rampaging Boko Haram insurgency, which forced the closure of Maiduguri International Airport for over a year. 6.Virtual collapse of nationwide power supply throughout the previous five years. 7. A poorly equipped Nigerian army facing and deserting a better-equipped insurgents. 8. Unpaid arrears of monthly salaries of federal and state civil servants. 9. Promise of battling corruption among public office holders and civil servants. 10. Routing of the Boko Haram assault on the nation. 11. National debt of trillions of naira owed to contractors.
Largely, international goodwill brought President Buhari to office last May and it is to his credit that he still retains that distinction for Nigeria. Substantially, the country is no longer viewed by foreign governments and businessmen as swimming in corruption. That is a feat attained within three months. Rather than a professional gimmick of foreign public relations consultants, that image change for Nigeria is due to Buhari’s firm leadership in containing the vermins in the public and private sectors as well as their foreign collaborators. Even on the highly debated issue of human rights, given his military background, Muhammadu Buhari is emerging unduly liberal. A good example was his weak submission that he would abide by any leadership(s) produced by the national leadership. Confronted with fallout of his liberal disposition, the same Buhari had to tactfully clip the wings of his National Assembly dissidents, who, after tasting the first blood, became insatiable. The prospects at that stage were that the National Assembly APC rebels, would eventually commence ruling the man at Aso Rock.
Rather sadly, President Buhari’s almost unlimited goodwill on the local scene, which followed him to office three months ago, has diminished. It should be a matter for concern that a man like former Kaduna State Governor Balarabe Musa now reminds us that we have a President of Nigeria who must ensure he does not deteriorate to president of northern Nigeria. There is an irony in this development. The controversy should not be sourced to only the appointments made, as the timing and manner. For example, for all the criticisms made, it is remarkable that, traditional critics have not described the appointees by President Buhari as “mediocrities.” The only reason for that is the sound education background of these fellows.
Mr. Babachir Lawal, the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation is a law post-graduate of Oxbridge (Oxford/Cambridge) as well as Warwick Universities. Such distinctions do not come better even though the easiest counter-submission is that any other part of the country (specifically South) could also produce men of distinction. Still, the criticism should be at a different aspect of the appointments. What was so important or more compelling for these latest appointments than the release of the list of the ministerial nominees? What is holding up ordinary release of list of ministers? If such a list had been simultaneously released with the recent appointment of virtually personal staff of President Buhari, there, definitely, would not have been any uproar or such might make much impact since ministers, statutorily, must comprise appointees from all parts of the country.
What is more, whenever the list of ministers is released for screening by National Assembly, the time may be only for the members to proceed on sallah holidays. For at least a fortnight if not longer? That will stretch to October before the commencement of the screening proper. To last how long? Conservatively, we may run into the first six months of the administration with another possible six months for the new ministers to effectively grasp their new job. In that situation, the longest serving minister may be for barely three years. If President Buhari strictly adheres to the public impression that he would serve for only one term, it must still be his interest that his party (would) win the 2019 race. Unfortunately, the anti-PDP coalition, which won APC the presidency only six months, no longer exists. South South and south East are now reflecting that, perhaps, they were correct in their voting preferences at the last presidential elections. After the elections, widespread reports indicated that South East thereby lost the Senate presidency. Hence the general speculation that South East would be compensated with the post of Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Nothing was done to dispel that speculation, only to be shattered all round,
On its part, South West is back to its old survival tactics of “siddon look” to nurse its wound. However, must South East, South South and South West (entire South) not retire into sober reflection on their political pattern of self-destruction? Each of the three was, along with the three northern zones, in contention for the post recently filled. But the three states, which lost were victims of regicide. In Rivers State, ex-Governor Rotimi Amaechi was subjected to judicial probe of his tenure by his political enemy, Nyesom Wike. In Lagos, new helmsman, Akinwunmi Ambode, for yet-to-be-stated reasons, intermittently released costs of some projects while his predecessor, Babatunde Fasola, was in office. In Imo, the battle for the South East zonal leadership of APC was the deciding factor. Hence, whatever the feelings of the people, Governor Rochas Okorocha openly supported President Buhari on the new appointments.
Still on the credit side, theft of public fund through legalised fraud called fuel subsidy has been substantially reduced. Indeed, there is no more display of loose money. Federal and state civil servants now collect monthly salaries as and when due after collecting their accumulated arrears hitherto owed them. The magic was sequel to instant and firm streamlining of financial regulation, affirming only a single Federation Account for any revenue accruable to Federal Government. Not left out are unpaid poor Nigerian soldiers at the war front, who have had that situation reversed. The army is now well equipped and has contained the Boko Haram insurgents. Maiduguri International Airport, forced to be closed almost two years ago by the superior firepower of Boko Haram, has been re-opened.
Most significantly, within the last 100 days, President Buhari gave order to the entire armed forces leadership to rout out the Boko Haram within a stipulated time of three months. The import of that directive was recently affirmed by one service chief, who said: “It is an order from the Commander-in-Chief and we must carry it out.” Days or at most weeks more for Boko Haram?

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