PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari was sworn into office exactly one year ago amidst great excitement and hopes for a better future for the country. The outpouring of optimism that greeted his inauguration was appropriate on two grounds. First, after months of anxiety and fears that the 2015 presidential election would degenerate into a civil war, Nigerians were relieved and happy about the most peaceful change of government in the nation’s history. The outcome of the poll was made even more remarkable by the unprecedented concession of defeat by the then president, Goodluck Jonathan. The joy of having a new president who courageously campaigned to rid the country of its many problems was irresistible. Even Nigerians who did not vote for Buhari were willing to take a chance on him.
Thus, the president and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), rode into office with so much goodwill. Abroad, his election was a cause célèbre, as his image as “Mr. Integrity” won over many world leaders, including US leaders, who had before then kept Nigerian leaders at arms-length.
President Buhari has now exhausted 25 per cent of his four-year term, and quite naturally, the initial excitement over his emergence has died down. The euphoria that greeted his election has been moderated by realism, and Nigerians are, one year after, assessing his first year in office.
We think the President has demonstrated strong political will to confront corruption. On this, he seems to have all well meaning Nigerians solidly behind him. He has projected integrity in the most unmistakable manner by publicly declaring his assets, as did Vice-President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. His body language seems to have emboldened the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to ramp up its arraignment of suspects and the drive to recover stolen wealth. However, not one of the many arraignments has led to a complete trial and conviction.
The failure to get a conviction of any of the persons arraigned for corruption is raising questions about the president’s anti-corruption campaign. We hope he will announce today the monies and other property so far recovered from those arrested for corruption, as he earlier promised. Nigerians also expect all other government officials to follow the president’s lead on the anti-corruption war by declaring their assets and showing public enthusiasm for his war against corruption.
Our view is that for the “war” against corruption to be effective, it must reach a critical mass of the people. We expect the entire government machinery, including the members of the National Assembly, to back this war and demonstrate the prudence that is widely associated with the president.
On the management of the nation’s foreign affairs, we commend Buhari for his positive projection of Nigeria in the world. We applaud his energy and fortitude in this area. Nigerians owe him a debt of gratitude for working hard to maintain the vital alliances forged by his predecessor to enlist the help of foreign friends in the fight against terrorism; to source for development aid and investment, and to campaign for the repatriation of Nigeria’s looted wealth.
On the Boko Haram challenge, President Buhari has kept pressure on the terrorists. There is an ongoing military onslaught on Sambisa Forest, which is said to be the terrorists’ last refuge. It is expected that the sustenance of these attacks will eventually kick the terrorists out of the forest and bring Boko Haram to its knees. But, only one of the over 200 abducted Chibok schoolgirls has been rescued. He should, therefore, not relent in his efforts to rescue and reunite the remaining ones with their families.
President Buhari came into office at a very difficult time in Nigerian history. He tends to emerge on the national scene at lean times when a strong leader with utmost courage and unassailable integrity is needed to put things right in the country. We, therefore, commend his implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), which has successfully consolidated all financial inflows from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government into a single account in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He has also recently taken the bull by the horns and ended the controversial fuel subsidy regime, under which a huge chunk of our national revenue was paid to oil marketers, ostensibly to bridge the gap between the landing cost of petrol and the price at which it is sold at the petrol stations.
Optimism is, however, waning on some fronts. The question on the lips of many Nigerians today is whether they are better off now than they were before Buhari came into office on May 29 last year. Many indices of well-being in the country have gone south. A measure of disillusionment seems to have set in, especially on account of rising inflation, spiraling unemployment, worsening electricity supply and the unfavorable exchange rate of the naira to the dollar, which now stands at about N350. Worse still, the economy has technically drifted into a recession, largely owing to the tardiness in the constitution of the cabinet, the long delay in getting the 2016 budget approved and the failure of the government’s economic policies to stem the drift.
The security of life and property under this regime is not much better than we had it before May 29 last year. Terrorists are still contending with the government in the Sambisa forests. They are still unleashing attacks on soft targets in the north-east of the country, while Fulani herdsmen are killing people in farming communities in different parts of the country. The president’s deafening silence on the barbaric massacre of hundreds of Shi’ites by the Nigerian Army makes him appear complicit in this atrocity.
President Buhari has three long years to arrest the evaporating enthusiasm of Nigerians for his administration. He should quickly diversify the economy and bring the promises embedded in the 2016 budget into reality.
The president should work harder on the power sector. The collapse of the power network has become a regular scandal, and generation has fallen from about 5000 megawatts at a point to under 3000 megawatts today. Inflation is at an all time high at 13.7 per cent, the price of a litre of petrol rose from N86.50 to N145 on account of the deregulation of the oil sector. Nigerians are paying more for poorer electricity supply.
For a country without any serious mass transit system, Nigerian roads are so ill maintained and most of our express roads are no more motorable. The supply of petrol is erratic and the price, uncertain. These inadequacies create a vicious circle of discontentment.
The president’s performance is clearly mixed. He has shown potentials for greatness but he must know that a Nigerian president wears many hats. He has the “responsibility to protect” all Nigerians and to ensure that none is mistreated or killed anywhere in the world, especially in Nigeria where he is the commander-in-chief. The government needs fine-tuning and rejuvenation. Buhari must hasten the execution of capital projects to push the economy back into positive territory. He should revamp the educational and health sectors, and give the economy a clear direction.
With one year already gone from his four-year mandate, we urge the president to rejig his machinery of state and do all that is required to fulfill his election promises. Nigerians rely on him to birth a new country with the positive change that he promised during his campaigns for office and his inauguration.
We congratulate him on his one year in office and wish him all the best in his efforts to build a country that we can all be proud of.