President Muhammadu Buhari began the last year of his four-year presidency on May 29 last week. It may be his last year as president, or it may not, if he succeeds in winning a second term as president, as he desires. But, he must handle this last year of his current term as if it is the very last he will spend in Aso Rock Villa. By this, I mean he must work as if he will never have an opportunity to serve the country again. He must serve with a sharp eye on history, thinking every day about the legacies that he would leave behind him. He must put his ministers and other appointees on their toes so that they can make last ditch attempts to consolidate their efforts and conclude their legacy projects before their terms end.
This, obviously, is not the time for this government to begin any gargantuan projects that would be left uncompleted. The country has enough abandoned projects running into trillions of naira scattered all over the states. The focus should be on completing and delivering them before May 29, 2019. The advice on not beginning big new projects is, however, not to say that Buhari would not be re-elected for another four-year term next year, but it is basic wisdom for those holding temporary offices to work as if there would be no further opportunity to serve the people tomorrow, and live prudently as if they are already out of service, so that they do not become entangled by the enjoyment of the freebies of their offices to seek to perpetuate themselves in power.
The president, in his Democracy Day/third year anniversary speech, enumerated the achievements of his government. These have been widely pooh-poohed by his adversaries, especially the “Jonathanians”, but lauded by the “Buharideens”. Somewhere in between, however, is the simple truth that there is still a lot more that Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) need to do to bring the dividends of democracy closer to the people.
While the government appears to have streamlined government finances through the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and other initiatives to stem the bleeding of the public treasury, it is clear that a lot still has to be done to directly bring the gains of these initiatives home to the people. It is not enough to have the Foreign Reserve going up, only to be squandered by another profligate regime that might succeed this one, while the people are crying for jobs, food and other basic necessities of life, so that they can be alive to witness and enjoy the benefits of the improving management of public finances.
While it is important to keep the anti-corruption war on course, the unending wrangling with the government’s perceived political enemies must be handled in a way that does not portray the government as being on a witch-hunt, or unfocused on the problems confronting the country. The anti-graft campaign must be handled with all decorum, especially where highly placed political office holders are concerned. For instance, all the drama and dragging of Senator Dino Melaye was uncalled for. The latest one involving Senate President Bukola Saraki and the armed robbers in the Offa incident should be handled professionally and with all sense of decency. The government must be careful not to leave a legacy of brigandage, in which thugs march unto the National Assembly to snatch the mace, and legislators, especially, not only conduct themselves like thugs, but are also so treated by the authorities.
Beyond the political shenangians, what are the legacy developments that the people want from this Buhari administration? Let’s begin with the Second Niger Bridge. As a journalist, I know that this is one project that has been promised, discussed, planned, approved, contracted out etc. for over ten years now. It has been a signature promise of virtually every aspiring President in the last ten years, yet the construction of the bridge is not about to become reality. There is hardly any indication that it would be delivered before May 29 next year.
I was on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway last week and it is disturbing that several years and schemes after government promised that it would be a ten-lane and 8-lane expressway with bus stops, medical facilities, overhead bridges, police posts, restaurants etc, the road is largely still in its primitive state, especially towards the Ibadan half. Worse still, cattle rearers and their cows have made some points on the expressway an eyesore. The failure to deliver this road as promised will be a major minus for the Buhari regime.
Not much has happened on the education front and health workers are persistently on industrial action, with the people bearing the brunt. The teaching hospitals also need to be better funded and managed. A situation where patients need to be sent out to do tests in private laboratories should not be.
Electricity is another matter. It is one area that should not have room for a debate on whether it has improved or not, because if it has, everybody will know it. The number of highest megawatts ever generated in the country that was generated on any given date in December 2017, does not matter. The bottom line is: Are we getting sufficient electricity to power our homes and industries? We are certainly not. So, all efforts should be concentrated on visibly improving power supply.
This government has embarked on a number of initiatives for job creation. But, nothing really radical has been done to create mass employment. The sight of so many vast and fertile acres of land and so many unemployed citizens languishing and looking for jobs is an incongruity that this government and future ones should correct. I believe that massive industrialisation is the way out of the nation’s employment crisis. Until we get our industries back to work and take a direct responsibility for our youths, we may never achieve the stable and prosperous country that we desire.
It is part of the failure to take a direct responsibility for the wellbeing of our youths that is fueling terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping and other problems that have turned security in the country into a nightmare. The government must make a last ditch effort to check the Boko Haram insurgency and bring the new herdsmen threat under check, if we want to continue saying that we have a country. Let Buhari consolidate his government’s efforts on the Boko Haram and herdsmen terrorism and put the problems behind the country.
Going forward, and as the 2019 presidential election approaches, the government should not unduly concentrate on politicking to the detriment of the work for which it was elected. The government was elected to work for four years and it must be seen to do so.
The next nine or so months before the 2019 presidential poll are very critical for the Muhammadu Buhari government. They are make-or-break months that will determine the people’s assessment of the Buhari phenomenon in Nigerian politics. Whether the President will come out of them a hero who can be re-elected for office or a villain who will be derided for hoodwinking Nigerians with a fake “change” campaign will be determined in these months. I wish the President well and hope he gives a good account of himself on these issues.