In 2013, former opposition leader and now Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago since 2015, Keith Rowley, said: “Any time a government resorts to blaming the opposition for its failure to deliver on their mandate and their responsibilities to the people, it is a clear sign that they have accepted that they have outlived their usefulness.” The statement could very well be referring to the situation in Nigeria, since the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the presidential election in 2015. It would appear that, right from the time the election result was announced, President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC leadership set out a working manual that instructs them to attribute every failure on their part to the immediate past government led by Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP, you must remember, was in power for 16 years during which the party dug its own grave waiting for someone or a political party to shove it into that grave. Among the factors that contributed to the demise of the PDP were widespread corruption, disrespect for the rule of law, contempt for judgements made by high courts, a rapacious appetite, over-confidence, doing special favours for friends of the party, and lack of care for the basic needs of ordinary citizens. In the end, the PDP superintended its own downfall. The PDP, unfortunately, is now in a state of disarray.
It is against this background that the APC emerged as the beautiful bride sought after by many voters. The overriding public sentiment prior to the 2015 election was that any party but the PDP would win people’s votes. Without hesitation and without caution, a large majority of the population plunged into the APC and handed over their destiny to an untested political party. This is the same party that embraced some corrupt former members of the PDP.
For the past two years, the APC government has perfected the art of using every press conference and every public forum to blame the previous government led by Jonathan. The country is experiencing economic problems because Jonathan’s administration failed to plan for the future. The exchange rate of the naira has been wobbling because of the poor financial policies of the previous government. The quality of teaching and research in universities has collapsed because the previous government had no higher education policy. Infrastructure is dilapidated because the previous government did not provide sufficient funds in the budget to take care of roads, water and health care. Unemployment has worsened because Jonathan’s government did not care about the welfare of youths. Agriculture, the manufacturing sector, small-scale businesses and housing were suffering because of negligence by the previous government. The power sector is what it is because of Jonathan’s government.
Former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole in particular mounted sustained attacks on former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s economic policies. Using uncomplimentary, colourful, and sometimes spiteful language, Oshiomhole alleged that Okonjo-Iweala was single-handedly responsible for destroying Nigeria’s economy. Oshiomhole’s allegations were part of the orchestral performance by the APC that attributed the failure of the current federal government to the incompetence of Jonathan’s government. It was all part of the continuing effort of the Buhari government to demonise the Jonathan administration. The allegations fitted nicely into the pictures in the heads of APC supporters.
Buhari’s government has ready-made answers for just about every question you ask in regard to its inability to achieve good results after more than two years in office. Yes, the PDP mishandled and wrecked the economy during the period the party was in office for 16 years but must Buhari and his ministers dwell on that for too long? Civil society is sick and tired of listening to the government’s jarring excuse for inability to perform. Buhari has been in office for more than two years and all we hear are hisses, whingeing and grumbling about how Jonathan’s government effectively disrupted Buhari’s grand plans to transform Nigeria into an El Dorado.
The other day, Buhari said he would take Nigeria to a higher level. Many people laughed in derision, wondering whether the statement should be taken as a joke or a genuine plan for the future. If the President could not show evidence of concrete achievements in two years, any talk about the government’s future plans must seem a bit overstated.
Buhari was elected on the platform of his campaign catchphrase that portrayed him as a long-sought-after saviour and miracle worker. Unfortunately, the nation has had to wait for too long and yet the promised change has not arrived and the saviour has not delivered. We must be naïve. It has taken us two solid years to realise that political parties and their leaders in Nigeria do not perform miracles. Amid ringing promises of change and national transformation, many citizens are biting the dust today in grinding poverty. Life is difficult for many people. Worst still, the solution does not appear to be anywhere on the horizon. Surely, the current harsh economic environment was not envisaged when people cast their votes for the APC in 2015.
We are halfway through the tenure of the current government. Perhaps it is time we reminded the President how the nation showered him with unprecedented goodwill before, during and after the election. The national support Buhari received was based on what he symbolised two years ago, namely a good and accountable leader, an effective economic manager, an anti-corruption crusader and an even-handed leader who would treat all citizens equally. All these enviable qualities have fizzled out within just two years. What happened? An entire nation could not have been deceived. Buhari needs to be reminded that he must improve the lives of citizens economically, educationally and by providing employment opportunities. During the inauguration of his government in 2015, Buhari said solemnly: “We shall correct that which does not work and improve that which does. We shall not stop, stand or idle.”
Sadly, the government has not managed national resources effectively and efficiently. And the same applies to its approach to corruption. The so-called campaign against corruption, much like the PDP’s anti-corruption crusade, has not yielded significant results other than frequent public naming of people the government has not been able to prosecute successfully. Buhari and his ministers must demonstrate they have the capacity, the determination, and the passion to take on national and international challenges, as well as the skills to manage national resources and to govern the country.
The President has an obligation to provide for the welfare, wellbeing, security and safety of citizens. So, Buhari must wake up to his responsibilities. No excuses would do. No amount of finger pointing at the PDP government led by Jonathan would serve as sufficient defence for undistinguished performance.