Democracy in Nigeria is 80 percent politics and 20 percent governance. With us you would almost think that democracy is just about power and positions and not making the positive impact in the lives of the people. Less than halfway into the life of a sitting government campaigns for the next elections are on. Posters are already printed and in circulation. Groups for the incumbent office holders are paying solidarity visits and those against, declaring allegiance to the opponent and plotting to take over. A governor who is yet to completely discharge his mandate is looking to become president. It’s politics and politics all the way. Then the usually trending issue in the public space is corruption in public offices and not life changing projects and programmes. If the news isn’t about top government officials accused of corrupt practices, it would be infighting among administration officials. All regions of the country are crying marginalisation: The president’s kinsmen are aggrieved that he has allegedly done nothing for his area since he got into power. Niger Delta militants are threatening to return to the trenches. The South-easterners also feel sidelined in key appointments and projects. Government recently released a list of its appointees to debunk the allegation of lopsidedness, then the new criticism is that the list revealed that the North clinched all the sensitive and important positions. Politics is played in such manner that when an incumbent government informs the citizens about what it has done for their benefit, not a few shut their ears. The incumbent Buhari government has not got tired of giving the impression that the last administration was just about corruption and that Goodluck Jonathan spent six years in Aso Rock just eating, wining and sleeping. Now the same scenario is playing out with Buhari administration. The impression is that the government has done nothing tangible. Even when President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2018 budget estimates to the National Assembly last Tuesday, highlighting his achievements, the message was almost lost. Nigerians have become despondent.
I noted some worthy things in the president’s speech that people hardly talk about. The administration was said to have invested over N1.2 trillion in capital projects. The president described that as the highest ever investment in history of the country and a show of commitment to laying foundation for future growth and development. How many Nigerians know or are talking about the trillion-naira projects? How much effort and how often has the government itself made to publicize those projects?
The president also revealed that his administration had invested additional $500 million into the Sovereign Wealth Fund despite the drop in oil prices. The Fund was established in 2011 with $1 billion, but nothing was added after in all the years that oil prices soared to as much as $120 per barrel.
Also significant is the information that our external reserves are on the rise again, having increased to $34 billion as at October 2017.
It is evident from the president’s speech that the development of railways is a major focus of his administration. He spoke about taking the Abuja metro rail project, which began in 2007 and was only at 50 percent completion after eight years, to 98 percent completion within 18 months of the Buhari administration.
He also spoke about the revival of the abandoned Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri railway line, which was started 17 years ago, and would be ready by September next year. He mentioned the Lagos-Ibadan standard guage rail line to connect Apapa to Tin Can Island Ports to ease export and import. That too will be completed in December 2018.
President Buhari mentioned road projects being reconstructed or rehabilitated across the country and the improvement in electricity generation.
While the government is struggling to make an impact in the face of inadequate funds, the citizens are only concerned about what it has failed to do and the perceived misdemeanors of the president’s men and most especially the ‘cabal’. Well, it’s up to the government to change the negative public perception and narratives.