It has been a frustrating, anger-filled period in Nigeria. Across the land, tensions flare, the people’s patience is growing thin. It’s as if the country has lost its soul, and the leadership its direction. Perhaps never before has the line between speculation and reality become thinner than now. It’s not for nothing. When things go wrong about how a country is governed , it’s not unusual for the opposition party to accuse the ruling party of dragging the country to the gate of hell, of behaving like an overfed father who cannot take care of its frail, disillusioned children.
That’s exactly the sort of ‘bomb’ the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) threw at President Muhammadu Buhari last week after the meeting of its National Working Committee(NWC), the decision-making organ of the party. The party had alleged that “Nigeria is collapsing” under the leadership of President Buhari. It cited the escalating insecurity across the country, rising political uncertainties, biting economic hardship and prevailing tensions in the land, to prove its allegation.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP claimed that Nigeria, once a prosperity hub and a reference point for democracy, personal freedom and good governance, now has all the signs of a ‘failed state’. The party blamed it all on the inability of President Buhari to guarantee security of lives and property of the citizens as provided in the Constitution. Besides, the main opposition party said, because of the prevailing situation in the country, Nigerians are compelled to take their destinies in their own hands, and lamented that the Buhari presidency has held “Nigerians hostage” due to what it called “Executive high-handedness”.
Expectedly, the presidency responded forcefully to the PDP attack. A statement by presidential aide Garba Shehu, said President Buhari “remains Nigeria’s best hope for economic development”. Although he acknowledged that economic activities slowed down during the election cycle, the statement claimed that the nation’s economy grew by 2.35 percent in the Q2’2015, 3.96 percent in Q1’2015, compared to 5.94 percent in the Q4’2014. He also stated that a lot of business activities are going on in the country now.
This is not the first time we are being entertained by this sort of blame game between the PDP and the ruling APC. Whether Nigeria is collapsing under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari is a matter of individual interpretation. But the undeniable fact is that Nigeria and Nigerians are worse off under the present administration of APC. The questions are: Are you better off with Buhari’s 51 months in office? Has this government’s record of performance within these four years plus shown steady progress upward prosperity, peace and public trust? Is the record the presidency is bragging about, is such that any administration that has the mandate of the people should be proud to run on and believe that the people will support?
My view of this government is well known. It helps no one, indeed, Nigeria is worse for it, when government repeatedly lives in denial, when it believes its own spin that all is well. That’s hypocrisy par excellence. It’s this same false sense of over-confidence that almost made Olusegun Obasanjo to run aground in the twilight of his presidency. Recall when Chief Tony Anenih(“Mr. Fix it”), stunned Nigerians with his claim that Obasanjo was Nigeria’s political “messiah”. Now, we being told that “Buhari is Nigeria’s best hope for economic development”.
This is the sort of delusion that almost destroyed PDP prior to the 2015 election. The same virus is creeping into the APC. The main of APC is that, the party and its leadership, have discovered that it’s perhaps easier to win elections than to govern the country. In four years, the ruling party has suddenly found itself caught be reality and democracy, between calamity and Change. Success has a pattern. It is aanchored on taking the people along. To a large extent, the current discontent in the country is the result of APC not managing the goodwill that brought it to power four years ago. For the President, it’s not unkind to say that he has not responded as he should, to the challenges of the time and the yearnings that brought him to office.
The President should not allow Nigeria collapse under his watch. But, every passing day, our country is approaching that tipping point. The fault lines that divide us are widening every day. Yet, aides are telling him that he’s the ‘best’. The truth is that in four years, our economy has grown progressively worse than he met it. Figures from Nigerian Stock Exchange(NSE) show that about 40 percent of portfolio investors have exited the country. Unemployment is 21 million, national debt stands at N24trn, economy has not surpassed 2.2 percent annual growth, contrary to presidency claims. And, experts say we need an average of 6 percent growth to make any meaningful and sustainable growth.
These dire circumstances are worsening by the day, pushing the country rapidly into anarchy. Presidents are advised not to push their citizens too far, because they are like “dangerous animals”. When you push the people too far, they may balk and turn the pressure on you. A good sense of timing is crucial for any President to succeed in his policies. This is where Buhari needs tutorials on how to govern, because, while his appointees and cronies may succeed by his own approval and other sleight of hand, a President succeeds or fails as a result of his own decisions or inactions. In other words, a President is not judged like other men, even though he’s human.
My considered view is that President Buhari is yet to master knowledge about how government and governance work in a democracy. I say this with profound respect, because, the art of government and governing are two different things, even though some people use the terms interchangeably. They are not the same. To say this is not to suggest, as several critics have said, that Buhari is ill-suited to be President. Rather, he needs to project himself and, indeed, present himself as a consensual leader and consummate administrator who could create expectations and fulfilled them, or at least, be seen to meet many of them. It’s this inadequacy that some of his aides are exploiting to their advantage, and to the detriment of the President and the people who have given him their mandate to serve them . In all, the President should understand the anger and bitterness in the land as a task of leadership more difficult than any he had ever faced before. It’s tempting, but wrong, to suggest it’s simply a task beyond his ability. He needs to look into his soul, away from his forest of advisers and come to the inevitable conclusion that Nigeria is bigger than him, and responsibility is laid upon him to keep Nigeria as one nation, irrespective of our political affiliations.