ON SUNDAY, President Muhammadu Buhari will be one year in office. It will be 365 days of government of change, an era where the “Daniel” was supposed to have come to judgment. We remember the beginning, that Saturday, May 29, 2015, when President Buhari took the oath of office and oath of allegiance in Abuja. He had made a public declaration: “I belong to everybody and belong to nobody.”
Looking back at the last 365 days, the question is: How has the President Buhari government fared? Has the government lived up to expectation in the period under review? Has the short-term objectives been realised?
I have heard people say that one year is too short a time to assess a government, which has four years mandate. I do not think so. Assessment should be periodical and continuous. It is the basis for measuring performance, to know if someone, organisation or government is on the right track or meeting the objectives. It is an exercise in progressivism. Whether it’s weekly, monthly, quarterly, half yearly or yearly, it is okay. Therefore, it is not out of place to put the President Buhari government on the scale, to measure its performance so far, in one year.
Judging President Buhari, therefore, on the goals he set for himself and government, I would say that Nigerians have seen determination in the fight against Boko Haram. Granted that insurgents were not routed a few months after President Buhari assumed office, but there is clear indication that the military has fought hard to reduce the audacity of Boko Haram in Borno, in particular, and the North East, in general. The momentum, which started after the postponement of last year’s general elections from February to April, to ensure that a high level of security is achieved, for the electorate in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states to exercise their franchise, has been maintained. Boko Haram has been at the receiving end, losing the territories it hitherto held. And the government said the group had been technically defeated and decimated. Despite the fact that abducted Chibok schoolgirls have not been rescued or the fact that suicide bombers still kill people in mass inside the city, we believe and give kudos to government.
No doubt, the war against corruption, which the Buhari government promised to wage head-on, is on. We now know how people collected money for some assignments and did nothing. We have heard how money taken out for procurement of arms was used for other things. It is cheering that people linked to this malfeasance are being identified and questioned. We hope that investigation would be thorough and that the judiciary would do due diligence to the cases. We hope that the media would not be made to take the place of courts. It’s kudos again to government, even though Nigerians expect a holistic exercise, where also members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will be investigated.
On other fronts, there is despondency. Many Nigerians, who expected much from the government, feel disappointed that things are getting worse and their burden increasing. The price of petrol has been increased from N86.50 to N145 per litre. Nigerians are paying more for electricity when they do not even have light. And there is talk about the increase of Value Added Tax (VAT) to 10 per cent. The Nigerian economy is in bad shape, with inflation rising to an all time high. The economy is on the verge of recession, as the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has revealed. These are the tragedies of the last one year.
In the midst of all these, we hear that ‘economic diplomacy,’ which appears to be the pivot of the government’s economic policy, is the vehicle to put Nigeria back on tract. Therefore, President Buhari has embarked on foreign trips as often as he could. In one year, he has undertaken about 26 foreign trips. I must say that nothing is wrong with economic diplomacy. However, I wonder if the Federal Government has ever asked itself this pertinent question: What will make a foreign investor bring his money to Nigeria at this time? At present, electricity is in a mess, with supply dropping to as low as 1, 400 mega watts last week. Security is still a challenge in the country, with militants causing trouble in Niger Delta, kidnappers on the prowl and herdsmen wreaking havoc in communities. These are challenges the government must fix to succeed in attracting the desired foreign investment. It is not the number of foreign trips a president embarks on that would bring investors or reflate the economy. It’s the ability to take care of the “enablers,” if I may borrow this word from Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano. The “enablers” are electricity, infrastructure, security and sound policy.
It is worrisome that in the last one year, we have seen confusion in government. We have seen too many people in government talking. President Buhari does talk. Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, talks more. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo talks always. Ministers are also talking. And we do not see much synergy in what they say. In fact, we have had an instance where the head of Customs said he was not under the Finance Minister, but answerable only to the president. We also had a case where the CBN, in an effort to preserve foreign reserve, refused to give those importing rice forex, but the Customs came out to declare that rice should be brought into the country, even through the borders, as the policy was depriving it of revenue. Indeed, we have a government with too many strong men.
The last one year does not engender much hope. And when a government keeps telling the people, “Nigeria is broke”, “Nigerians are corrupt”, “prepare for hard times,” the morale of the people could only fall. Nigerians need government to give them hope through what is done and said. If things are not working, the processes and tools should be looked into. The government may have to look at the cabinet once again, especially as it concerns the economic team. The merger of three important ministries of power, works and housing, for instance, should be looked at again. This is so because what to do in the power sector is enormous. The task in the works sector is equally big. They are tasks, which should be given all the attention, without distraction. When these two ministries are merged and another ministry added and given to one man, it is certainly overkill.
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.