We open with one of Aesop’s many insightful fables which epigrammatically depicts our collective dilemma. A cowherd who was pasturing a herd of cattle lost a calf. He looked everywhere for it in the vicinity but could not find it. So, he made a vow to Zeus that if he ever managed to discover the thief, he would sacrifice a kid to the god in appreciation. Shortly after making the vow, he went into a wood where he saw a lion devouring the lost calf. Terror-stricken, he raised his hands to the sky, crying out:
“Oh great Lord Zeus, a short time ago I made a vow to sacrifice a kid to you if I found the thief. But now I will sacrifice a bull if only I can escape from the thief’s claws!”
This fable is applicable to those who are in difficulty and desire to find a remedy. But once they have found it seek to avoid or evade their commitments. The dilemma of Nigeria resides mainly in the frittering or squandering of opportunities and in the concrete metaphor of the nightmarish state of the nation in spite of every advantage to the contrary. By 2014, a leader in the mould of a messiah was desired. The people’s pre-occupation with the ideal role responsibility of government required a change of baton. There was also the issue of the imperative to bring to book all those who contributed to the economic, financial and moral adversity of the country. This background is the picture of the atmosphere, the political environment as well as the general mood of the nation just before the 2015 presidential poll. There was ample evidence of a national consensus for change. Buhari was deemed the most suitable game changer. He won almost effortlessly. He found the lost calf but in the jaws of a devourer.
Two years are long enough for an assessment of the success or otherwise of the priority programme of the Buhari government which included or is captured in absolute objectives as the requirement:
. To revamp the economy and give it a sense of direction;
. to bring to book all corrupt officials and their collaborators;
. to bring discipline and order into the society and
. to improve the quality of life of all Nigerians.
These objectives are laudable as they seek to restore public confidence in government, achieve social equilibrium and end economic misery. The parameters of our inquiry or examination will be as entirely defined by the government’s own targets or objectives and not as prescribed by any extraneous or arcane concepts or formulation.
The social welfare programme execution of the administration is a study in the application of mere token twitches to serious social problems where only generous deployment would do. The advertised payment of N5,000 to the poor of the poor, the envisaged reduction of unemployment through the N-power job scheme, etc. do not add up in the light of a pervasive social and economic inequality regime. Rising or biting inflation exemplified in the astronomical rise in prices of essential goods and services bespeaks the misery and suffering in the land as basic foodstuffs like garri, rice and beans have gone beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. Government seems to be totally unable to arrest the situation or to offer palliatives.
On the economy, there is a yawning gap between what the administration promised and the objective reality of a prostrate socio-economic panoply. A mono-cultural economy almost entirely dependent on crude oil sale receipts has, expectedly, fallen into the vagaries of a bumpy international trade trajectory. A sharp drop in the price of oil in the world market has thrown national projection or permutations out of gear. The underbelly of the voodoo style management of the economy has become exposed for all to see and the requirement of truly scientific even though painful, approaches to economic issues has become imperative. But an air of incompetence still envelopes the atmosphere even as the nation awaits, with baited breath, the ultimate results of the fangled Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (EGRP).
A major yardstick for measuring the effectiveness of this government is its ability or otherwise to turn the tide of the nation’s poor or epileptic electric power generation and supply jinx. Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola set the standard of measure when as governor of Lagos State, he was quoted as saying that any government that could not fix the power palaver in six months was unserious and must not be allowed to continue in office any day longer than its inability. In appointing him as minister, President Muhammadu Buhari may have thought of him as a superman. Two years into his appointment, Fashola has shown himself to be less of a superman. The abysmal failure of the power sector which he superintends is writ large.
For a party that rode on the crest of a promise to restructure the country if elected into office, it is disdainful of the electorate for its government to treat popular plaintive pleas for the political restructuring of Nigeria with insensitivity. The main cause of today’s respective agitations or restiveness all over the country can be located in the unfair official abandonment of the ethos, values or practice of true federalism including its concomitant fiscal independence for the country’s constituent units. The reluctance of the Buhari administration to have a look at the report of the 2014 National Conference with a view to establishing the machinery for the adoption of some of its salient provisions is troubling. A true and sustained federal structure is as desirable as it is imperative.
Heart-warming reports regarding the success of the Nigerian armed forces over the Boko Haram scourge, in stamping out insurgency from the North-East and, in particular, in the release from captivity of about 160 Chibok girls are overshadowed by horrendous incidents of the mindless attacks and brutality of rampaging Fulani herdsmen in many communities, of abductions, kidnappings, killings, assassinations, etc. all over the country. There is a general sense of insecurity and fear calling to question the ability of the government to protect the citizenry or to fulfil one of the cardinal reasons why individuals surrender to the general or public weal.
On human rights observance or enforcement, the government has scored low as it has smugly disobeyed court orders in relation to certain alleged offenders. Court after court have pronounced on the illegality of the continued incarceration or detention of Col. Sambo Dasuki, erstwhile National Security Adviser and of the leader of a sectarian Islamic group, Sheikh El Zakky-zakky.
Even certain notable functionaries of the government have expressed their embarrassment regarding the attitude of the government to court orders.
A moral dilemma has slowed down or put in check the anti-corruption war of the government soon after it took off. The query of an un-even handedness in the treatment of alleged corruption cases even though ignored by the government, seems difficult to dispose of. A pattern of discriminatory action is so vivid as to cast a pall over the genuine or sincere intentions of the government. The style and posture of the Buhari government regarding its anti-corruption war are ominously co-terminous with a similar policy position at his first coming when preferential treatment was accorded certain anointed suspects. In an interview with the editors of the defunct National Concord newspapers on the 12th of February, 1984, Buhari said of President Shehu Shagari, “…materially, up till now, I haven’t seen anything against the former president,” adding self-indulgently, “…you cannot say the same thing of the former vice president.” Buhari explained the military junta’s reluctance to put Shagari on trial as he had “not been found” to be involved in any specific corrupt practice. On Ekwueme, Buhari intoned that the former vice president was “consistently involved in contract deals on Abuja, on petroleum and certain sectors of the economy.” The self-same scenario of invidious justification is playing out in the present war against corruption. Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, has been extra-judicially acquitted regarding the petition against him concerning alleged purchase or ownership of choice properties in the U.A.E. His petitioners had reasoned that his just earnings as an officer of the Nigerian Army could not possibly justify his possession or ownership of the properties in question. But the administration has unfairly given him a clean bill of health regarding the serious allegations.
The appointment into important offices of state by President Buhari of cronies, of persons suspected to be related to him by blood, and only of persons who share his political and religious creed rather than on proven merit or hands-on experience has conduced to observable inconsistencies in policy initiation, enunciation or implementation and of generally poor or incompetent performance of roles by the officials. Most of the ministers are not in tune with the basic purpose or direction of a government that ought to be in a dreadful hurry regarding deliverables and starry-eyed campaign promises. Two years on, many of them are unable to find their niche. Governance has thereby dawdled along like the famed Lagos-Idogo train instead of “hit(ting) the ground running” as was promised in the full glare of electioneering.
All told, much posturing or grandstanding about change has been more visible than actual achievement. The passion of protesters or of politicians may be sufficient to bring about “Change!” but the latter will not succeed or endure without a long, costly, laborious and difficult process of institution building. The Buhari administration has barely performed to the people’s expectation. Much yet need to be done to restore the confidence of the populace in the man they had hoped was the game changer. His unfortunate ill-health has further dimmed the opportunity of a quick turn-around or of a round-about turn from a desultory, bumbling or fumbling administration.
Rotimi-John, a lawyer and public affairs commentator, wrote from Abuja.
Writeup first appeared on The Guardian