BY CHIDI OBINECHE
TODAY marks the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s first year in office. The promise of change that hysterically swept him into power, and their reaffirmation, or breach in the saddle have surged under the squeezing lens of public scrutiny more than ever. The anxiety is not unexpected. There is an enduring clash between the protagonists and antagonists of the change mantra on the lot of the average citizen. The sinews of Buhari’s election campaign promises are juxtaposed within the critical prism of the Goodluck Jonathan era, while prevailing palate of socio –political conditions have been played up in the most extenuating circumstances. In the, foreground is a cathartical foreplay of John Milton’s 16th century epic poem, “paradise lost”, and “paradise regained”. So much are the controversies surrounding the expectations and perceptions that some leading critics of the administration have laid unsavoury accusations of insensitivity to the plight of the common man . Ekiti state governor, Ayo Fayose challenged Buhari to come clean on his promises or risk a shocking revolt by the long suffering masses. Fayose, who said the track record of the president so far is abysmally low, added that “the Federal Government is imposing more hardship on the people”.
Former Kano state governor Ibrahim Shekerau stoke more fire into it by describing the APC change agenda as “a scam”. Osun state governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola , however insists that “ we are in a new and special period”. Correspondingly, another stalwart of the party from Gayuk, Adamawa state, Mr Ayuba Bamaiyi, the Ajiyan lungunda says , “only change will revive the economy”. In a parallax review of the change promise, a public affairs commentator based in lagos, Mr Jim Lawson Moses expressed dismay that the president is still apportioning blames after nearly one year in office. He took an excursion to his May 29, 2015 inauguration in office, and lamented that “it is left for Nigerians to judge whether they are worse off today than before. As at May 29 last year, the Naira exchange was pegged at N195 per dollar. Today it is N385 to $1. This has taken a toll on the economy. And don’t forget that Buhari promised to make it N1 to $1, if elected into power”. The vortex of unexpected asphyxiation of the promise of change, a few weeks ago forced the National Chairman of opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Senator Ali- Modu Sherrif to advise the government to “ face governance and stop blaming PDP for everything after nearly one year in office”.
Expectations were heightened when the president drew applause with his inspirational canticles on the floor of the National Assembly late last year, during the presentation of the 2016 budget estimates. The belief was that the 3 –volume document would be spared the perennial repetitive streaks and heists. Instead, Nigerians were fed with the same old familiar menu of padding even on a more grandiose scale. In an era of change and economic recession, N3.6B was voted for the purchase of posh BMW cars for the office of the president. N387m was earmarked to renovate a guest house, and N47m to furnish it.N27m was put forward for computers, and N764m to provide recreational facilities. If Jonathan was dubbed reckless for cornering N944m for foreign and local junkets in 2015, Buhari upped the scale by voting N1.4B for his own travels. A scandalous N189m was slated for the purchase of tyres for vehicles in the presidential fleet. On some fussy sub- heads, N29B, about N5B more than what Jonathan spent on same in 2015 was what the nation got. There was N32b meant for wildlife conservation in the villa. Jonathan spent N24.6b in the preceding year on it. Other figures which are out rightly numbing included N86m to change cutleries; N12m for recreational materials, N30m for tool boxes, car jacks and diagnostic machines for Buhari’s bullet proof cars, N27m for C caution sign triangles, fire extinguishers and cables; N114m for upgrade of internet infrastructure; N100m for active devices for state House network; N35m for security appliances, licenses and computer anti- virus software, among other humongous figures. Expectedly, the nation rose in vile condemnation of what was perceived as a continuation of the wasteful allocations of the past 16 years. The icing on the cake came when the budget document got missing, remerged, and some ministers took turns to disown versions allegedly emanating from their ministries. So much for change.