During his last visit to Imo State, President Muhammadu Buhari openly beat his chest and boasted about his achievements. His only worry was that those he employed to trumpet those achievements have refused to do so.
Though his comment was a direct indictment of his trumpeters, he also put himself on record as the only employer who would gladly retain and continuously pay unproductive employees. I guess he overlooked them because he saw October 1 coming. So, last Saturday, the President mounted the podium to list his achievements.
He did exactly what in local folklore is said to be what the lizard did. It was said that the lizard fell from the top of an Iroko, looked around and found that there was no one to praise it. It nodded its head and said, ‘If no one praises me, I’ll praise myself.
In reviewing Buhari’s 2022 Independence Day speech, more like his valedictory, I was tempted to go back to his first Independence Day speech as President in 2015. He opened his 2015 speech by saying, “Fifty-five years ago, we liberated ourselves from the shackles of colonialism and began our long march to nationhood and to greatness”, adding “we are not there yet because the one important commodity we have been unable to exploit to the fullest is the unity of purpose. This would have enabled us to achieve not only more orderly political evolution and integration but also continuity and economic progress.”
One had expected the President to use the opportunity of his last Independence Day speech as President to look back at how he has, in the past seven years plus, been able to advance “unity of purpose” and the efforts he made to “exploit it to the fullest” in order to achieve a “more orderly political evolution and integration.”
He failed to make such a review. I guess that taking such a tour would have brought back to the President how destructive of national unity some of his policies were. It is true that the President had focused more on infrastructure development, building railways and roads, but his impact on securing the lives that would make these infrastructures meaningful has been negative. For instance, as he addressed the nation, the Kaduna-Abuja train service was off track, much the same way the Itakpe-Warri service is, because of insecurity. It is also true that his administration is on course to open the Second Niger Bridge for public use. But, again, people have to be able to drive, from every part of Nigeria to Asaba/Onitsha to use the bridge.
In his 2015 Independence Day speech, the President reminded Nigerians that “every new government inherits problems.”
And, he said “but what Nigerians want are solutions, quick solutions, not a recitation of problems inherited.”
However, he spent the better part of his time in office making excuses for the failure of badly-thought policies. For instance, if he wasn’t blaming the low price of oil in the international market, he was blaming the “16 years of PDP.” Many believed that those excuses were quick fixes for policy failures and a lack of capacity to think outside the box in finding solutions to critical national issues, especially in areas where quality human resources were critical to driving solutions.
Also in 2015, President Buhari beat his chest to the fact that five months into office “improvement in the power situation is moderately encouraging.” He claimed credit for such “improvement.” However, he has been unable to explain to Nigerians why the national power grid collapsed more than 80 times between 2016 and 2022. This may not mean anything to many people but when put against lost man hours and the cost of diesel and petrol consumption for power generating sets, one sees a different picture of the reality of the failure to advance workable solutions to Nigeria’s energy crisis under the life of the administration. Besides, the Mambila Power project, which the government commenced with fanfare in 2017 with a seven-year completion template, is now being given 2030 as a more realistic delivery date.
In his 2015 speech, Buhari also said: “…Our refineries, which can be serviced and brought back into partial production, would be enabled to resume operations so that the whole sordid business of exporting crude and importing finished products in dubious transactions could be stopped. In addition to NNPC, I have ordered a complete audit of our other revenue-generating agencies, mainly CBN, FIRS, Customs, NCC, for better service delivery to the nation.” As it is, Nigeria recorded its worst petrol scarcity crisis under Buhari’s watch, while NNPC became more opaque in its operations, with zero remittances to the Federation Account in more than seven months.
Also, Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Alli, said that the N6trn paid as subsidy claims by the government was fraudulent. Alli said in September that the 98 million litres of PMS daily consumption rate being brandished could not be substantiated scientifically, adding that over 38 million litres of PMS released daily in excess of actual consumption into the Nigerian market finds its way out of the country.
Besides, no public comment has been made, since 2015, about the audit of CBN, FIRS, Customs and NCC as “ordered” by the President. The President also did not mention the audit in his 2022 speech. That order probably flew with the wind. Despite these, President Buhari gives himself the thumbs-up. He says he has created a “better Nigeria.” According to him, “I saw an opportunity to create a better Nigeria, which we have done with the support of Nigerians.” In the “better Nigeria” that he created, healthcare is better procured overseas; education is best delivered offshore. Foreign loans are easy to access for sharing in the guise of social investment. In that better Nigeria, poverty is a constant while inflation is daily ostracizing families from a life where wages don’t ever go up. In the “better Nigeria,” life is cheap and human blood is spilled much easier than houseflies are killed. Yes, it is a “better Nigeria” where corruption is a public service culture with beneficiaries of nepotism ‘administering’ the nation with impunity.
Yes, President Buhari has delivered a better Nigeria and achieved so much that the presidential candidate of his party, the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and his campaign spokespersons are making strenuous efforts to distance themselves from these achievements and focusing their campaign on what the candidate did while he was governor over Lagos State between 1999 and 2003. Buhari, indeed, has delivered a “better Nigeria” where “Nigerians are hungry” as publicly admitted on television by his minister and spokesman of his party’s presidential campaign council, Festus Keyamo, during an interview.