Twelve months ago, those in the corridors of power and in government told the world that it was too early to judge or assess the President Muhammadu Buhari government. According to them, judging or assessing a government elected for a four-year tenure, just one year in office, was unfair, since much more could happen in the remaining lifespan of the government. They did say that although the government was grappling with the rot inherited, which, according to them, was enormous, much was being done to make Nigeria better.
Now 12 months thereafter, which is actually the mid-term of the President Buhari government, nobody would say that it is out of place to assess the government on what it has done or failed to do. Assessment is continuous, as I said last year. It is always important to look at the present, while waiting for the future, making an update when the time comes, based on fresh or new developments. In any case, it is because of the need for assessment that governments, across the world, take the first 100 days in office seriously. I dare say that they do this because they know that one step is the beginning of a thousand miles. And as the Igbo say: Anya ka eji ama oka characha (it is by looking at the corn plant that one would know the corn fruit that is ripe).
Yes, by May 29, the Buhari government would be two years in office. The question, therefore, is: In the last two years, how has the current government fared? How have the actions and inactions of those in government and the government itself impacted on Nigerians? Has the vision of the government been realised? Have the expectations of Nigerians been met?
For me, the position of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, one of those who worked for President Buhari to become president, says it all. In his famous letter to President Buhari, El-Rufai had summarised the frustration and disappointment of Nigeria, with a simple verdict that the government had not done well. He had said: “In very blunt terms, Mr. President, our APC administration has not only failed to manage expectations of a populace that expected overnight ‘change’ but has failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance outside of our successes in fighting BH (Boko Haram) insurgency and corruption. Overall, the feeling even among our supporters today is that the APC government is not doing well.”
The fearless Kaduna State governor talked about the state of the economy, infrastructure, transportation and many others and concluded by saying: “However, we cannot, after more than a year in office continue to rely only on this ‘blame them’ explanation. We were elected precisely because Nigerians knew that the previous administration was mismanaging resources and engaged in unprecedented waste and corruption. We must, therefore, identify the roots of our enduring economic under-performance as a nation, and present a medium-term national plan and strategy to turn things around.”
Of course, El-Rufai was right. He spoke the minds of many Nigerians. He did hit the nail on the head. He told the powers-that-be the truth. And that is it. Despite the fact that the Kaduna State governor is one of those who persuaded Buhari to run for presidency and, therefore, shares in the blame, one cannot but agree with him. The state of despondency in the country summarises the feeling of Nigerians, who, in the last two years, have experienced very tough times. Today, the cost of living has gone above the roof. The standard of living has nose-dived to an all time low, as people, barely trying to survive, cannot even afford the staple food that was common and taken for granted in the past.
To be sure, apart from the sustained fight against Boko Haram and the boom in agriculture, there is nothing much to cheer about the Buhari government. We are told that Boko Haram has been decimated. We have been told that never would terrorists occupy any part of Nigerian territory. We believe. We have also seen and acknowledged the return of more than 100 kidnapped girls. We have seen the revolution in agriculture, which has ensured massive production of rice, despite the fact that the price is still high. This is where the good story ends.
No doubt, some people would say that the war against corruption is being waged very well. Really? I do not see the success. Apart from the media hype the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has built around the whole thing, what is there to cheer? I have not forgotten that people are being arrested and charged to court. I have not forgotten that the cases are being tried. I am not blind to the claim by EFCC that money is being discovered and recovered from places. However, there are many controversies around the whole corruption war. Most Nigerians are not convinced that the whole exercise is not selective in nature. Many are wondering why members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are not facing the music over corruption.
Besides, money is being discovered, but nobody tells Nigerians who owns it. Millions were discovered at the Kaduna Airport. Till date, Nigerians have not been told who owns the money? Millions were discovered in shops in Lagos. Nigerians are still waiting to hear who owns them. Cases are charged to court and because of lack of due diligence and untidy investigation, they are being dismissed and thrown out in court. These are not any plus for the fight against corruption. They are failures. And they will continue until those who are saddled with this responsibility make it holistic, non-political and stop playing to the gallery because they want to be seen to be working.
Last year, in my article about the Buhari government’s one year in office, I did say: “All hope may not be lost. The next 12 months are critical for the President Buhari government. It is a period for it to redeem itself and restore the confidence Nigerians had soon after the presidential election. If the government does not get it right at mid-term, it is certainly finished.” In two years, the government is yet to redeem itself. The majority of Nigerians are disappointed. They remember the skewed appointments into government positions that favour a section of the country. They see the obvious marginalisation of the South East. They have seen that the crisis in the power/energy sector is getting worse, as nothing has been added to the infrastructure therein. They see arrogance of those in government and those who think they own Nigeria. They see the incapacity of a president, who is battling with his health. They see the hijack of political power by a tiny clique riding roughshod on Nigerians and doing what they please.
It is not that these malfeasances were not seen before now. Some of us shouted about them before now. Yes, people talked about the president’s health during electioneering. People talked about the composition of the cabinet when the ministers were announced. People talked about a cabal in government, who is running affairs, in a government that has a “strong man” as president. Nobody believed it then. Now the reality is dawning on us. However, instead of those who made this disappointment happen to apologise to Nigerians, they are still arrogantly carrying on, as if nothing is amiss. It is this same attitude that is being displayed by those who are saying that should there be anything that makes President Buhari not to continue in office, the part of the country he comes from “must” have another two terms in office. These people say this, undermine the system and nobody is asking them questions.
I am persuaded that Nigerians have seen all there is about the Buhari government. A government that has not made tremendous impact in the lives of the majority, in two years, will not engender much confidence in the people, for the remaining two years, bearing in mind that after the third year, which is 365 days away, the politics of reelection and succession starts. My prayer is that President Buhari should be strong enough to complete his term of office by 2019. It is obvious that anything that would cause a change in the presidency before 2019 will not augur well for the country. God should help Nigeria to sustain the status quo at the centre till 2019, so that this evil wind will blow past and Nigerians will, in 2019, decide which god to worship: Whether it is the Almighty God or Baal?
Nigerians have tasted the Obasanjo/Yar’Adua/Jonathan/PDP government. They have experienced the Buhari/APC government. They can make a choice. As my people say, when a woman marries two husbands, one after each other, she will know the one that is better..