By Cosmas Omegoh
On Sunday, May 29, President Muhammadu Buhari would be marking his first year in office. On March 28, last year, he swept to a historic victory at the presidential election, defeating former President Goodluck Jonathan. In the history of elections in the country, it had never happened: That an incumbent was defeated at the polls. It was such a victory many adjudged well deserved. Two months later, on May 29, 2015, President Buhari, amid pomp and ceremony, was sworn in as Nigeria’s President.
Nigerians and indeed, the whole world watched with gladness and great expectations as General Buhari was sworn in at a ceremony that saw his conversion as a democrat go full cycle. Then moments later, he handed Nigerians his inaugural message of hope and belief in the country, belief in his person and belief in his government.
His party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a prelude to his inauguration, on May 24, 2015, told Nigerians in a statement that outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan was “handing over a nation in deep crisis. There was no electricity, no fuel, workers are on strike, billions are owed to state and federal workers, $60 billion are owed in national debt and the economy is virtually grounded.”
But when President Buhari spoke on his inauguration date, he rekindled in many, fresh hope and raised expectations. He lifted the drowning spirits of those who felt that the country, more than ever before, needed immense revival.
“At home, we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on.
“No single cause can be identified to explain Nigerian’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.”
During the swearing in ceremony of his serving ministers, he reiterated among others things that: “Overall, our economy is poised for sustained job creation, poverty reduction and inclusive growth. Regardless of the present challenges we are confronting, I believe all Nigerians will keep hope alive and sustain their optimism about the future of our economic well being.”
Now, as he prepares to mark his first year in office, as a civilian president, a cross section of Nigerians have been speaking on how they have fared so far.
“This administration has so far done exceeding well,” Prof. Ishaq Akintola, Director, Muslim Right Concern began. “His major area of focus is the fight against corruption. President Buhari has tackled corruption headlong.
“For example, the ministers are no longer permitted to fly first class. They now fly economy class like every other Nigerian. Government officials no longer go abroad for medical treatment. These are bold steps towards reducing corruption in this country. And the fight is total. You can see that officials who were hitherto sacred cows are now being held accountable for their previous deeds and misdeeds. The EFCC we used to know is no longer a toothless bulldog.
“When you tackle corruption, people don’t steal. It is corruption that makes people hungry. It is corruption that makes people homeless; it is corruption that makes people jobless; it is corruption that creates bad roads, makes our hospitals empty and mere consulting clinics.
“Now, look at some of the roads we have across the country, work on most of them was long abandoned. In most of our hospitals, one can’t get drugs. Some of our children can’t go to school.
“Welfare is not what people felt in their pockets. What we are talking about here is realistic change. That is the change we are talking about which is what this government has been fighting to bring.”
Prof Akintola admitted that there was pain in the land, but insisted that the perceived pains were caused by past leaders.
“I appreciate that that there is pain in the land at the moment. This is what we have to endure for things to get better. Things cannot change overnight. Whatever pain were are going through at the moment was caused by our past leaders, our leaders of yesteryears. When you look around, you will see that there are well over seven million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North East region. Boko Haram has killed over 10,000 people. Dasuki and the rest allegedly made all that possible when they reportedly shared money meant for arms purchase.
“Now, don’t let us take our eyes away from the fact that when there is no corruption, there is welfare. Pain will go away and joy will follow as long as the leaders are transparent. We will be there”
Prof Akintola wanted President Buhari to go back to the basics by henceforth focusing on rebuilding infrastructure, creating jobs and stimulating growth. He believed that in no time, the pain of today would fizzle out, making way for prosperity tomorrow.
But Umadi Hassan, 35, a commercial motorcyclist who hails from Gworza, Borno State, was emphatic that one year of President Buhari had been strewed with pain and suffering. The man, who spoke in Hausa, said he was angry with his present circumstances.
“I arrived Lagos from Gworza one year ago fleeing from Boko Haram. Since then, I have been living a life of pain and anguish. I have no job and no means of livelihood. So, I resorted to riding okada.
“Part of my pains at the moment is that my wife and children are still at Gworza. I have little idea of what is happening to them. President Buhari promised that once he was elected, he would flush out the Boko Haram militants. But that has not happened; the militants are still marauding all over the place. I can’t even go back home because of the carnage that we hear that is still taking place there. Because of insecurity, our people can’t farm. So those who are managing to hang on to life there are suffering untold hardship. They have no money; they have no food. They don’t have drinking water either.
“As for me, the only joy I have at the moment is that I escaped the fury of the militants. But the fact remains that I’m suffering so greatly. See for instance, the fuel we were buying for N86 before now, it has officially been increased to N145 per litre. Before they finally arrived at this, you imagine the pain we went through, queuing to buy fuel. Sometimes for days, we had no fuel at all to work with. Yet we had to eat. At some point I concluded that what we were getting now was not the change we all voted for.”
So what does Hassan want from President Buhari at the moment? “Let him reduce this fuel pump price. It is killing our business. If you ask me, he has switched off the light on all of us.
“Let him conclude this war against Boko Haram. We all want to go back home to rebuild our lives. We want to see our families again.”
Similarly, Mumuda Adamu, also a commercial motorcycle rider, said joy had taken flight in President Buhari’s one year in office. He was unhappy with everything around him and he made no pretence about it.
“I’m in pain at the moment,” he said in Hausa. “I have no joy. President Buhari promised that once he stepped into office, we would enjoy, that he was going to repair things that were previously damaged. But we have not seen anything yet. It is all talk and no impact.
“You need to visit states like Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano and Jigawa to see what the people are passing through. A paint of garri which we used to buy for N200 is now being sold for N700. Now what about the price of fuel? Of course you are aware that it has gone up to N145 a litre.
“Does he need to be told that the poor are suffering the more? Now leave electricity out of it because we don’t need it. We need money. He needs to be told that right now, we don’t have money in our pockets. We have to eat first to be alive to see whatever he has to do. Just the other day, one of us died here in Lagos because we had no money to take him to the hospital. How long will we continue like this?”
Adamu told the reporter that asking how he felt about President Buhari’s one year in office made him very sad. “Now look all around you, and tell me what you see – no roads, no electricity, no good water to drink and you can’t bank on the security around you.
“Now see the so called fight against Boko Haram militants. I believe it is all talk. Every now and then you hear that the insurgents have struck here and there. And you ask what is the progress being made? Now look at what happened in Zaria recently where people were slaughtered in their hundreds and houses burnt. Look at the way they dealt with the Islamic cleric El Zazzakky. Will anyone say they are happy with that?
“The situation becomes more worrisome when people do not have common food to eat. Look at the bag of maize we were buying for N2,500 some months ago, it has now gone up astronomically high, selling for N9,800. Now tell me how many people can afford that?” he fumed.
Zubairu Lawal, also a commercial motorcycle rider, echoed what his colleagues said. “There is no joy at the moment,” the okada rider told the reporter in Hausa. “We were promised change, but frankly we have not seen anything. Everybody wants to be happy, but for us that is not the case now.
“Buhari promised that once he mounted the seat of power, he would alleviate the suffering of the masses. But all that seems to have become a mirage. Nothing seems to be working and now hunger is taking the better of us. He promised to give us money to alleviate our suffering but we are yet to see anything. Can someone please tell him that we are suffering?”
Tar Uko, aka Mambisa, a multi-talented entertainer also spoke about President Buhari’s scorecard. To him, one year in office was not long enough to judge a leader, insisting that Buhari had been busy cleaning the mess left behind by past administrations.
“It is unfair to access a government by a mere one year in office. It is superficial; it is a political myth; it is unnecessary. You judge a government by its party programme and how it is being implemented.
“Buhari has been trying to sort out the issue of corruption which is a potential drawback to any government. It is a gargantuan challenge that can pull down any government. For now, what he has to deal with is the cesspool of corruption which we have.
“Besides, it needs to be said that the budget has just been released; it is about to fly. And so it becomes difficult to judge the president until he begins to implement his budget. That is the same way you can’t judge if a flight is successful or not until it lands.
“And so, what Buhari is doing at the moment, to my mind, is trying to stabilise the country to function. He is fighting Boko Haram; he is fighting the MASSOB in the East; he is fighting the militants in the Niger Delta; all these are signs of a sinking state, which he has to stop.”
On the other hand, a legal practitioner, Mr. Pat Anyadubalu, said it might appear unfair that the administration had not been able to pay the N5,000 it promised the unemployed even when it didn’t have a database of those who were unemployed. The lawyer said for now, government was laying the necessary parameters for governance on the ground, assuring that the benefits would soon begin to manifest.
But he is unhappy that the present administration has not risen to stop the menace of Fulani herdsmen who are roaming widely with lethal weapons. “They seem to be enjoying above-the-law status; government need to stop them summarily for it to be taken seriously,” he stated.