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After 2 years, is Buhari’s cup half-full or half-empty?

Two years, when you’re in the opposition and, therefore, out of government, looks like such a long time. But as soon as you take charge of the reins of power, time seems to run so fast. And in the blink of an eye, before you say ‘5,000 megawatts’, it’s already 24 months.

Now, looking at a clip of an old newspaper headline (which has been trending in the social media for some days now) attributed to the highly respected, Prince Tony Momoh, a known Buharist and APC chieftain, wherein he said they should be stoned if the Buhari government failed to deliver in two years, I wonder if more than a few Nigerians would not be tempted to pick up stones.

But before we cast the first stone, however, we might need to take a more dispassionate look at President Muhammadu Buhari’s mid-term report card. Of course, we would have to begin by discounting the fact that the president has had serious health challenges for the much of these past two years. Add that to the undeniable fact of his lopsided appointments, discount it from the in-your-face impunity of the emergent cabal, and place everything against the backdrop of the fact that many of the states are still surviving today because of the magnanimity of PMB’s several bailouts to the governors.

What you get is a riotous canvass that, at first instance, looks like uncoordinated splash of colours and form. But as you look closely, with your inner eye, a masterful work of art begins to crystallise. It’s a masterpiece, after all, even if it’s abstract art.

It would need some explaining, by the artist, for the non-initiate to comprehend.

Unfortunately, in this case, the artist seems to be too impatient to explain. He seems to think that every sensible person should understand the work. Unfortunately, he ends up insulting the prospective art collector, who ends up walking away without patronising the artist. What the artist has achieved, at best, was blinking in the dark. If Buhari is the artist, then we Nigerians must be the unimpressed prospect, who just walked away.

That is why, after two years on the saddle, the PMB administration still evokes the imagery of the proverbial glass of water: Is it half-full or half-empty? While wailers like me would not think twice before we chorus ‘half-empty’, the hailers would insist it’s half-full.

But then, it would still be unfair to say the PMB government has not fared well.

Of course, the positives may not reflect yet in our respective soup pots, but there are very clear signs of better tomorrow. We may, therefore, not need to stone them at least, not yet.

In the run-up to the last presidential election, I always insisted that Buhari had no clearly spelt out programme. Everything seemed to revolve around three issues: Security, corruption and economy. Today, two years after, much as we are still nowhere near where we ought to be, one can broadly say that appreciable progress has been recorded on all three fronts. But then these efforts have thrown up more challenges, especially as it relates to the modus operandi of the regime.

But then, let’s not forget: We’re only halfway into the four-year mandate.

Of course, I’m one of those who feel that the antigraft war is politicised and I’m yet to be convinced otherwise.

My grouse is that officials of the government would look one in the face and swear that political opponents are not being targeted. Tell that to the birds! In fact, I feel they’re taking me for a fool. It’s insulting one’s intelligence.

The war is one-sided. But that does not mean one would want them to stop. Far from it! My position has always been: Let the APC people, who are in power today, catch all the PDP thieves of yesterday. Even if it takes them the next 12 or 20 years to do so, some day, we would also get tired of APC and vote them out. Then, the new party in power (maybe a rebounding PDP) would then go after the APC thieves of today who are currently protected by their political correctness.

So, why I think PMB’s cup is actually half-empty? I’ll start with what many of us seem to have taken for granted: For those of us in the major cities, when was the last time you experienced fuel scarcity?

I bet, you can’t remember! Don’t say it is because Buhari hiked pump price of petroleum products. There was a time in this country when we were ready to pay N200 per litre of petrol, only if it would be available.

And by the way, when was the last time our refineries refined anything before now?

I’m not one of those who blame Goodluck Jonathan for not saving for the rainy day in our years of surplus, because I know that many of those who frustrated the former president’s effort at saving are now calling the shots in this PMB government. The same goes for removal of subsidy, as all those who betrayed Jonathan over the subsidy issue (and secretly bankrolled the Occupy Lagos demonstrations) have today turned full circle to support Buhari’s removal of the same fuel subsidy.

However, that Buhari, even at this time of low oil prices, has grown our foreign reserves by as much as $7 billion since October 2016 is deserving of commendation. The same goes for the balance in our Sovereign Wealth Fund, which had remained at the initial $1 billion with which the fund was opened in 2012. Between 2016 and 2017, that fund has already seen an inflow of $500 million. Meanwhile, the Excess Crude Account, which the states and the Federal Government hitherto shared like prodigals, has also witnessed an inflow of $87 million in 2017.

Despite the pressure brought on Jonathan by the state governors, PMB has proven that all that was needed to call the governors’ bluff and do the right thing was political will. If Jonathan had that will, we’d have ended up with a healthier bank balance today.

But the PMB achievement that seems to resonate the most with me is not even the near-defeat, and degrading, of Boko Haram (or the commendable release of 106 Chibok girls). This is because I sometimes wonder if we did not merely sack the insurgents from the North East only to disperse them to other parts of the country in the guise of the now ubiquitous Fulani herdsmen.

I am particularly impressed with the vibes coming from the agriculture sector, especially as it affects rice production. Anchored on the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, PMB has seen Nigeria’s rice imports fall from 580,000 metric tones in 2015 to just 58,000 metric tones 2016.

Yes, the price of the bag of rice may have gone up, but I see this as prelude to its coming down, as soon as the local production of the grain comes into full blossom.

Of course, the silent revolution in agriculture goes hand in hand with the fertilizer initiative, the national soil mapping and the support for micro, small and medium enterprises.

For once in the life of our governments, we now know that it is possible to convert illegal refineries in the Niger Delta to modular refineries, instead of unleashing soldiers and military taskforce to burn down everything and further pollute the environment

For me, much of what Buhari has done in the last two years is clearing the Augean stable and laying the foundation – the super structure that will support the structures that are sure to come with the coming years. From the ease of doing business, the alignment of monetary, fiscal and trade policies, strategic engagement with OPEC and the Niger Delta, National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, TSA, Budget reforms, Open Government Partnership, whistle-blowing policy and all are all softwares that would support the hardware that is expected to unfurl in the coming years. But whether that is enough to win him re-election if the FG were to call election today, is left to conjecture.

What appears to be missing for now is the administration’s criminal neglect of the South East, a situation that only serves to further fuel the fire of agitation for Biafra. But the story of the Biafran struggle is story for another day. But let’s make no mistake about it; Biafra is a struggle that can no longer be wished away.

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