“WHAT are the results of almost ten months of Muhammadu Buhari as President of Nigeria”, an angry motorist who had been at a filling station for several hours yelled yesterday. He was joined by many others who bemoaned the deplorable supply of electricity across the country. It was complaints galore at Forte oil filling station in FESTAC Town, Lagos over the weekend, and I guess the same is happening across the country.
I know the President’s men will, as always, put forward an impressive argument that ten months, or even four years are not enough to fix the problems the Buhari Presidency inherited. We have also seen defensive answers such as: “Buhari has restored trust of the international community in Nigeria. This administration has been open. It has been candid. It has been forthright. President Buhari has talked straight to the Nigerian people. He is fighting corruption like no previous administration has done. We think he deserves (your) support.”
That may be true. But you can hear millions of Nigerians yell in indignation, “Mr. President, you have not met our expectation. Let’s get one thing straight: There’s no doubt that the All Progressives Congress (APC) led administration inherited enormous challenges. But that is why Nigerians elected Buhari in the first place, to solve problems. They deserve to ask questions and get answers when things are not going right, or don’t they?
The truth is that a widening divide has begun to emerge across the country, North to South, East to West. Majority of these people voted for Buhari in March 2015 Presidential election. And they voted for him based on trust, trust anchored on the ‘change’ he promised. Now, they are getting frustrated. They feel disillusioned. A climate of disappointment and fear, not seen in many years is ominous. This much is in evidence in the country right now. The electricity crisis and acute fuel scarcity which are grinding the nation to a halt, are just the warning signs that things are heading in the wrong direction, and something urgent needs to be done to halt the drift.
This is the kind of deep-seated frustration and mistrust that this government must swiftly respond to. Time is gradually running out. Patience is growing thin. I wish the President could embark on a ‘listening’ tour of some states, with a serial notebook in hand and find out the things that put the people on edge. He will be surprised what he will see. He might be astonished to be asked: “Mr. President, what has happened to the transformative change that you promised during the campaign. “Change”, we must not forget, was APC and Buhari’s go-to word. They used it to rally voters on their side, to mock (President) Goodluck Jonathan as “clueless”.
Now, almost ten months on, it appears the Buhari administration either does not have the nous and the vision to bring about the desired change it promised. That, it seems to me, has become the Big difference between running an inspiring campaign and actually governing. This is because, what will a country be in the absence of a clear-cut economic plan? No economy can find its bearing without stable power supply. No investor, local and foreign can put his money in a country where power supply has virtually collapsed and fuel scarcity has become a daily painful experience.
Nigerians are truly getting tired of Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed’s apologia. Few days ago, his defence of the deplorable power supply and fuel scarcity, was feeble pedestrain and unacceptable. According to him, a combination of different incidents, including gas shortage, vandalism, sabotage, protests by power and petroleum workers, were responsible for the crashing power supply, and by extension, the fuel scarcity, that has subjected Nigerians to untold hardship. This is simply hardball politics that doesn’t solve the problems at hand.
If President Buhari APC administration fails to fix the problems Nigerians face and deliver the ‘change’ he promised, he and his party stand to pay the price. But we all will share in the blame. Reason: the problem is that majority of Nigerians who voted for APC mistakenly think that once we get behind a progressive candidate for President, that will solve most, if not all our problems, especially coming against the backdrop of sixteen years of PDP political dominance that produced little of democratic dividends except a surfeit of treasury looting.
I share in the painful macro picture of Nigeria that was recently painted by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun that the “absurdity of our underperformance is only surpassed by our ability to accurately quantify our losses and missed opportunities”.
She observed that “even the most basic systems and controls over the management of our resources are in dire need of strengthening, and while we are regaled with and shocked by details of amounts stolen, diverted or wasted, we must face the cold reality that such acts are facilitated by weaknesses in our systems”. Buhari is expected to address these problems identified by the Finance Minister, but he needs the cooperation of all. On this score, we may give the President a pass mark
On the scale, the President may still appeal to many despite his lackluster performance so far. But Nigerians are yet to see what drives him beyond the dug-in war against corruption. Many people believe that beyond the fight against corruption, other things can wait. But we must hold him responsible for the poor state of the economy and other promises he made during the campaign. These include unemployment and insecurity, among other things. This is so because in leadership, words matter greatly. But it carries great risk. When a leader speaks, he should speak with care and indeed, in careful measure.
Altogether, President Buhari needs reminding that he will be judged by how he is able to turn things around for the good of the citizens. Playing the blame game as some of his aides and ministers have been doing, will not quicken the quest for good governance. While his efforts to tackle corruption is recognized and commendable, focus should also be on critical areas such as the economy that is now in dire straits. Nigerians will continue to tie him to these problems until they begin to see visible change, tangible results that will impact lives positively.
Nobody is saying that the President has the magic-wand to make Nigeria great overnight. When he hears Nigerians complain, they are simply reminding him that Presidents are not judged as other men. To borrow the words of Donald Reagan, (President Ronald Reagan’s ex-chief of staff), a President “is present as a matter of luck and courtesy rather than by any rights”. That’s why an elected president must make things happen or prevent certain things from happening.
Nigeria will remain on the knife’s edge if Buhari presidency fails to fix the problems facing the country. These challenges will test his ability to govern Nigeria. Even though these problems are not the private battle of the President, he should see them as a self-conscious effort that he must win. Nigerians demand performance, not promises, specifics, not buck-passing. President Buhari needs reminding that an opportunity to exercise far-reaching influence on the future life of the nation was given to him on May 29, 2015. He should therefore think of his place in history.