After more than seven years of bumpiness, the countdown has begun for the Muhammadu Buhari administration. The government has commenced its final descent into historical abyss. The story of the eight years of nightmare has been one of exasperation. It has been anything but salutary. A journey that began on a note of excitement was to soon afterwards snowball into eeriness. It is a journey in which high hopes suffered a free fall, and disappointment wore the toga of omnipresence. The people have had to moan and groan. They have had to wish for a quick end to the long night of drudgery. By the time the government finally hands over the baton, it will sadly be remembered as the government that piloted the country into an unsafe harbour.
As Nigerians expect the final descent of the behemoth, they have every reason to conclude, without fear of contradiction, that the administration has already wound up. It has taken its place in history, for good or for bad. For that reason, the government is no longer interested in what anybody is thinking or feeling. It has become completely indifferent to public opinion.
Were it not that the government must continue to spend money until its last day in office, the President would not have bothered about presenting the 2023 Appropriation Bill. But he has a statutory responsibility to do this so that the wheels of his administration will continue to roll. Beyond that, the government has gone on terminal leave. It does not care a hoot anymore about what happens or does not happen.
The earliest sign of the Buhari government’s premature retirement manifested through the eight month-old strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Never in the history of Nigeria has a government been so indifferent to a national emergency. In a normal setting, it would be scandalous and embarrassing for a government to keep its public universities shut for this long. A government that recognizes the people as the reason for its existence cannot contemplate such a scenario. But here, we have an administration that does not feel any qualms about the long closure of its universities. It is not interested in what its citizens feel about the embarrassing situation. The government has become oblivious of their concerns and worries. Regrettably, Nigerians, a people that have no sense of rage or outrage, have reconciled themselves to the death of the university system. What is supposed to be a national emergency is being approached or treated as a normal occurrence.
If government was subtle in its systematic stagnation of the university system, it has, henceforth, decided to be brazen in its dealings with the people. This much was manifested last week when it announced that the completion of the Second Niger Bridge has been shifted to the first quarter of 2024. All along, the completion date of the bridge was fixed for October, 2022. The acting federal controller of works in Anambra State who made the disclosure on behalf of the government gave no reason for the shift in the completion date. He merely rambled freely about the work that has been done and what is yet to be done on the bridge project. The cavalier manner in which government dropped the information says a lot about its current disposition. The government does not think that it owes anybody any explanation. It also does not bother about whatever misgivings that anybody may entertain on any matter.
Let us recall that the Second Niger Bridge was begun as a flagship project of the Buhari administration in 2018. Before then, the Goodluck Jonathan administration had carried out some preliminary work on the project. But its plan for the bridge remained at its rudimentary stages because the Jonathan presidency ended earlier than it imagined. Since the Buhari administration ventured into the ambitious project, Minister of Works Babatunde Raji Fashola, under whose portfolio the project falls, has never stopped giving us periodic updates about the bridge. But the most remarkable of his briefings was his oft-repeated avowal that the project would be completed and opened for use in October 2022. He also said the same thing of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. These two projects, among a few others, were considered dear to Fashola. Those of us who have something to do with these two projects took more than a passing interest in the minister’s promise. October, the much awaited month for the delivery of the bridge project is here. What we get was not the bridge whose delivery we had hoped would change the economic landscape of its host communities but hope differed. The Lagos-Ibadan expressway, certainly, will be delivered according to schedule since no contrary information was released about it by the Ministry of Works.
Regardless of government’s dismissive posturing on this matter, we cannot but worry about what could have been the reason for the shift in the completion date of the bridge. We should have been told. But nobody bothered to explain, for obvious reasons. The government we are dealing with has proceeded on terminal leave. It has, therefore, decided to pass the buck to a new administration. It no longer matters to the Buhari administration whatever anybody may say about its failure to deliver on the project that it made a singsong of its delivery.
But then, what I find curious, if not mischievous, is government’s imposition of a new completion date on an incoming administration. Why dictate a timeline for an administration that has not yet been born? A government that abandoned a project midstream has no moral justification to dictate to another government what to do with the project.
Another discernible attribute of the Buhari government’s countdown is the booby trap it is laying for its successor. Just the other day, the President, while presenting the 2023 appropriation bill, announced that the oil subsidy regime would end in May 2023. In other words, the practice will end with his administration. We all know that, for years, Buhari could not bring about an end to the oil subsidy regime in spite of all the thievery associated with it. Since the government did not have the will to deal with the monster, it should have left the matter at that. Instead of doing that, it is telling an incoming administration what to do about the situation. By so doing, the government of the day is trying to set standards for the administration that will succeed it. Why make rules that you could not live up to for another entity? That is not only mischievous, it is hypocritical.
Is the outgoing administration working towards deepening our woes? Nigeria rejects this death sentence.