IT will not be out of place to conclude that the change mantra of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has run its full course even though its offspring – the government of President Muhammadu Buhari – has hardly spent a year in office. President Buhari, within the intervening period, has proved to be a mere flash in the pan. He came with a lot of promise. His campaign was loaded with great expectations. But he has, within a short span, crashed from Olympian heights into an abysmal chasm.
Here is an example of what those who believed in Buhari thought he was capable of doing. Some two weeks after Buhari was elected president, a former minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof. Tam David-West, was quoted as saying: “I want to assure you that by the time he (Buhari) takes over, petrol will be dispensed at N40 per litre.” David-West, like others in his mould, had no good reason whatsoever to place Buhari in the sky. They were simply driven by illusive grandeur. Buhari is not a magician or a superhuman specie of mankind. But they thought he was. That was why they believed everything he said. That was why David-West had to regale us with his misplaced elation.
Soon enough, their captive devotion to Buhari began to get into the man’s head too. He began to think that he could decree his wishes and aspirations into action. It was a magical mentality, which leaves those who harbour it with the feeling that they can reinvent the wheel. Buhari actually thought so, and his indulgences during the campaigns betrayed that much. He gave David-West and others like him the cause to believe anything. It was so much so that a professor of David-West’s standing had to lose his sense of introspection. He lost all sense of critical inquiry and ratiocination. He became an unthinking prole on issues that had to do with Buhari. That was the extent to which the Buhari mystic destroyed reason and commonsense in many.
The man knew how much he has permeated the psyche of his cult followers. That was why he told Nigerians, many of whom were unduly excited about the prospect of a Buhari presidency, that he would crash the price of petrol to David-West’s N40 per litre mark. It was his idea that the professor was parroting. In the same vein, Buhari told Nigerians that he would make one Naira to exchange for one United States Dollar. Many a misguided Nigerian looked forward to this Eldorado. They swallowed the promise hook, line and sinker. It must never be doubted in so far as it came from the straight-talking Buhari. Buhari, a former military dictator, who bullied Nigerians to no end during his first coming was thought to possess a magic wand. That was why he enjoyed cult followership, especially among the untutored folks that are found in most parts of northern Nigeria. Buhari rode to power on the wings of this populism.
Then the day of his inauguration as president came. It provided Buhari the real opportunity to showcase himself. It was the day he rode the high horse. It was the day he reviewed the 16-year reign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), especially its tortuous battle with the electricity sector. He lampooned successive PDP administrations for their inability to deliver stable electricity to Nigerians. He said the electricity conundrum in Nigeria would be a thing of the past while he is in the saddle.
Less than one year into the expected paradise, here is the picture of things in Buhari’s Nigeria. It all started with his government’s inability to deal with the vagaries in the foreign exchange market. Suddenly, Buhari forgot that he had a magical formula, which would make the Naira to be at par with the Dollar. His voodoo had failed him. From N190 to a dollar, the Naira today exchanges for over N300 to a dollar. The fall in the price of crude in the international oil market has been blamed for this. But that is only escapist. Such excuses betray the lack of expertise on the part of those who have been charged with the nation’s economic management. When situations change, creative solutions have to be designed to deal with the new reality. But when you clasp your hands in desperation, as the Buhari government is doing, you give yourself away, as incompetent and unimaginative. Because the government has no answer to the free fall of the Naira, economic activities are collapsing. The country is faced with a liquidity crunch. Every sector of the economy is groaning. Today, Nigerians can hardly take care of their basic needs. There is hardship in the land.
As if the foreign exchange crisis is not enough, government compounded the energy situation in the land. Electricity tariff has increased by nearly 300 per cent. Yet, there is no energy to compensate for the runaway increase. Businesses are closing shop by the day because they cannot break even. The greater part of their revenue is spent on electricity. They are made to pay for darkness, and our government says it is the right thing to do. The people have been told to pay first and expect electricity later. They have since complied. Yet, there is no electricity to justify the huge sums they pay.
The mother of them all now appears to be the crisis in the petroleum sector. The man that promised the people that fuel would be dispensed at N40 per litre is now subjecting them to something unimaginable. Buhari’s N40 has snowballed to N145.
All of this point to one thing. Precepts, promises and mental flights are easy to come by. You can freely employ them during campaigns and public shows. But they do not, necessarily, translate into reality. Buhari promised Nigerians everything imaginable. But that was for the sake of it. The man knows that he does not have the knowledge or expertise that can help to domesticate his wild imagination. But he just threw down those promises because they suited the mood of the howlers of the period. Nigeria was then under the vicious grip of negativists, who demonised the government of the day for no just cause. The impression they sold to Nigerians was that there was an overriding need for a change of government. Everything about the government in power was made to look ugly. It was as if Nigeria would transform into a paradise of sorts if the Jonathan government was shown the way out.
For some reason, the then president gave up. The pressure on him was enormous. He saw himself as a good man, who should not preside over a fractious Nigeria. And so, he allowed the desperate howlers to have their way. But what do Nigerians have to show for it? Hardship unlimited. Teeth-gnashing. Weeping. Wailing. Regrets. And all.
The situation in Nigeria today approximates to that of selling a pig in a poke. The people have been led by the nose. That is the nature of the change that Nigerians got. Some have said that it serves the people right. That they are paying for their foolishness.