By Ajayi Temitope
I participated actively in the electoral campaign that brought in the Buhari administration at the highest level. On the strength of the work I did with other volunteers at the Buhari Support Organisation, I was nominated into the APC Presidential Campaign Council’s Media & Publicity Directorate.
During the campaign and after election some of my colleagues and co-volunteers asked me about my expectations. I told all who cared to listen that I would not expect much in the first four years because it would be tough, but I prayed for the best. I knew Buhari and his team would only be able to clear the debris of the mess already created by Jonathan’s administration. I was clear that Buhari’s second coming will be to restart the country. Nigerians will not see the positive impact of the government until the 4th year I reckoned. I also admonished my colleagues to moderate their expectations in terms of what they hope to benefit as individuals and for the country because Nigeria won’t become Dubai, London and Paris in four years. And all the problems wont disappear just because Buhari has become the President. I learnt early in life to appreciate the circumstances around me. My upbringing also helped me to learn how to moderate my expectations from anyone. I have seen posts and comments of those who are apologetic and expressed regret for voting for Buhari. What were they expecting? That Buhari will turn stone to bread? Some said he has not fulfilled his campaign promises. Are campaign promises meant to be fulfilled in two years or in the life of an administration?
What did Buhari promise? And in two years has the administration really failed on them? The answer is no. The administration has done very well in fulfilling the campaign promises under the broad themes of the fight against corruption, economic diversification and security. The administration has relentlessly pursued the three broad thematic focus with missionary zeal. We had an administration that inherited a broken down country that was at the brink of collapse. Nigeria was buffeted by Boko Haram, kidnapping, militancy, armed robbery, criminal armed herdsmen and rustlers, industrial scale corruption and impunity never seen in history.
The economy despite five years unprecedented oil boom collapsed since late 2013 when previous administration had been borrowing from China to buy arms and other lenders to pay salaries. By 2014 states were already in trouble with months of unpaid salaries to workers. By May 29, 2015 when Buhari took over Nigeria was already on life support with 33 states owing between 12 and eight months workers’ salaries and pensions. The price of crude, the only major source of foreign exchange had plummeted to about $30 per barrel from the height of $120.
It was obvious Buhari was starting from below ground zero. What should have been done 30 years ago are the things the administration is still battling with. Getting Nigeria out of this morass wont be a picnic. It will be serious hard work. The administration that earned a record $440 billion oil revenue in five years and highest in Nigeria’s history didn’t improve infrastructure beyond tokenism, depleted foreign reserve, demolished Excess Crude Account, accumulated more foreign and local debts, owed contractors, left unpaid N600billion fuel subsidy bill, unpaid N60 billion fertilizer subsidy bill, unpaid salaries and pension arrears for workers and retirees.
Nigeria was down and out. A consumerist economy where anything and everything was imported with unsustainable import bills and demand of Forex will go down. It was an economy built on consumption and oil revenue. What has Buhari done? Buhari administration identified the implosion and civil unrest that will happen with distressed 33 states owing salaries. He approved bailout funds to the state to help them pay salaries and pension arrears. For two years, the states have been given special funds and Paris Club refund in excess of N2trillion. The administration paid N600 billion inherited fuel subsidy bill. Paid N60 billion inherited fertilizer subsidy bill. Paid inherited salaries and pension arrears of federal workers. Started paying contractors that have not been paid since 2013 on federal projects especially road construction across the country.
To diversify the economy away from crude oil, President Buhari insisted Nigeria must produce locally things we can produce easily and he anchored this on agriculture and solid minerals. The two sectors have consistently grown in contribution to GDP in the last two years according to NBS quarterly reports. Nigeria has cut import bill by more than 50 per cent on rice and ramping up production in wheat and other produce. The FG through CBN banned 41 items from accessing forex from official Windows. This was mercilessly criticized by the ‘experts’ but the Buhari administration is winning the argument today with increased local production and industrial capacity utilisation by factories/manufacturers sourcing raw materials locally. With the rice and wheat success in Kebbi and other states especially in the north, private capital is flowing into the processing sector of the agriculture value chain. Wacot just opened N10 billion Rice Mill, Dangote opened Tomatoe Paste Factory in Kano, Olam will commission N20 billion Livestock Feed and Chicken Hatchery Plant in Kaduna in September among other investors.
Buhari went to Morocco and signed a deal on Phosphate and Gas pipeline between Nigeria and the North African nation. The phosphate is a major component for fertilizer production. With the deal the FG working with the Sovereign Wealth Fund had reactivated 11 moribund fertilizer Blending Plants in Nigeria in the last one year that have created 50,000 jobs and producing 1.3metric tonnes of fertilizer. Today the N50 billion annual fertilizer subsidy is gone, while a bag of fertilizer sells for N5,500, which is 30 per cent cheaper than what it used to sell for, while the Federal Government no longer pays N6,000 subsidy per bag for farmers. Six more dead Fertilizer Blending Plants will come back to life before the end of the year and Nigeria will be in a position to start exporting fertilizer. Segun Adeniyi, Chairman Editorial Board of Thisday and a Buhari arch-critic couldn’t hide his praise in his recent Thisday Backpage column where he wrote that a revolution is happening in Nigeria’s agricultural sector under Buhari with millions of Nigerians now embracing farming and with increased local production of fertilizer from the 11 revamped blending plants.
On infrastructure, the government under Buhari is spending more money to revive abandoned projects – roads, power, rail, pipelines, housing etc. The Lagos-Ibadan rail project has started. The administration has negotiated foreign loan that will connect the entire country by rail network from Lagos to Calabar and Port Harcourt to Kano. The Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri standard Gauge rail line that had been abandoned since 1987 has been reactivated and Federal Government already set June 2018 as date when it will be commissioned.
Despite acute low revenue, the Buhari administration is saving more money into the ECA and boosting foreign reserve. The foreign reserve went up by over $500million by CBN records last week. To further stimulate the economy the administration recently approved N2 trillion bond to pay local contractors who have been owed by Federal Government for 10 years. A committee is working to verify all debts to contractors already.
The same government for the first time in our recent history is committed to improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria and national productivity with executive orders already yielding positive results with some MDAs such as Immigration, Customs, FRSC, FIRS, CAC, NPA etc. If previous administrations had done what Buhari administration is doing now our development trajectory as a country would have been far better than we currently have. The President is confronting corruption squarely. The administration is recovering billions of naira, hundreds of millions in dollars in cash and real estate never done before. He confronted corruption in the Armed Forces and touched serving and retired Generals. He confronted corruption in the judiciary and broke the unwritten code of judicial untouchables. It is only a Buhari without a moral and corruption baggage that could do these. I should think these are what those who genuinely campaigned and voted for Buhari asked for and wanted him to do. The local and global inventors’ confidence in the economy is at an all time high because of the global approval rating of the President and the fight against corruption. Market capitalisation at the Stock Exchange was at N13 trilion last week, breaking three years’ record. Nigeria just reclaimed the 3rd position as the destination for FDIs in Africa with $4.6 billion inflow in 2016 following Angola and Egypt after five years’ year on year decline from 2010-2015 under Jonathan administration. The government that had unprecedented oil revenue and a super Coordinating Minister of the Economy.
All these happening in two years under an administration that was challenged with low revenue, yet still investing in social intervention programmes- school feeding for primary school pupils which has taken off in 19 states, NPower which has employed over 200,000 jobless young people, who are now adding value to the communities where they work and to themselves. I recognize missed steps and areas where things should have been done better, especially proper coordination at governmental and inter-agencies levels.