Buhari’s first year: The good, the bad and the ugly

Buhari’s first year: The good, the bad and the ugly
May 27 13:02 2016

By Abdullahi M. Gulloma

The beginning

Flashback to this time last year. As May 29, 2015 inched closer, expectations and excitement struggled for supremacy in the air. Nigerians from all walks of life couldn’t wait for the long-anticipated moment to arrive. The moment when the then “clueless” Commander-in-Chief would step aside and the newly–elected “change” agent would mount the saddle. The moment when a sitting President who had been defeated in a keenly contested electoral process would be replaced by a marathon runner who had contested the prized post again and again for twelve odd years.

When at long last that momentous hour came, the entire world seemed to hold its breath as Nigerian’s brand new leader took his oath of office. Hope soared sky-ward when he memorably declared that he would be for all the citizenry but definitely not for a particular individual, group or interest. Nigerians were beside themselves with joy and pride. Here, at last, they enthused, is “our own” President, a veritable man of the people. However, one year down the line, the following sector-by-sector analysis tells the story of the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency:

Security ups, downs

Security stands out among the primary responsibilities of a government. This is essential because without security, a nation or state would be virtually non-existent, and by implication, a government would become a hollow ritual.  When, therefore, the then candidate Muhammadu Buhari assured that if elected his government would make security its topmost priority, the electorate couldn’t wait for the presidential poll to be held in order to cast their votes for him. In particular, Buhari promised to deal decisively with Boko Haram insurgents within a few months of mounting the saddle.

His political opponents had cast doubt on the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate’s ability to deliver on this score, given that the then reigning Goodluck Jonathan administration had done its best for many years to tame Boko Haram – all in vain. How then can anyone do the magic within a few months, they wondered aloud. Buhari’s supporters, however, pointed at his credential as a courageous and unbending military officer. If anyone can end the terrorists scourge, they contended, Buhari, was it.

Truly so! Right before our very eyes, Boko Haram has been decimated almost beyond recognition. Indeed, between May 29, 2015 when Buhari took over the reins of power and early this year, the terror gang had been smashed to the extent that the present administration could rightly proclaim that it had delivered on its promise to annihilate Boko Haram.

There are, however, a couple of other forward-steps that should have been taken between May 29 and now but are still begging to be taken. The pitiable plight of the Chibok girls who have been in captivity for over two years now, is a case in point. Candidate Buhari had assured during electioneering that his government wouldn’t hesitate for too long before rescuing the ill-fated girls from captivity. One year down the line, that pledge has remained honoured largely in the breach.

Just as Aso Rock is still at sea over the Chibok schoolgirls, not-so-encouraging response to the serious security challenge posed by marauding herdsmen, the Army/Shiites crises and the Nnamdi Kanu/Biafra brouhaha have been a source of concern to all sundry.

Add to the foregoing the ever-rising activities of kidnappers, armed robbers, hired Killers, etc. and it becomes crystal clear that security-wise, the government still has a long way to go. How it tackles this and other such challenges in the months ahead will say plenty about its level of competence or otherwise.

Power still epileptic

Of all the ingredients vital to a nation’s quest for scientific and technological advancement on the one hand and economic prosperity on the other, none is as critically indispensable as electricity. The reasons are too self-evident to recount here, but suffice to say that just as the heart is a person’s ‘engine,’ electricity is the wheel on which all other things rotate.

It is obviously in recognition of this salient act that the then opposition All Progressives Congress reserved a pride of place for electricity supply in its manifesto. In fact, with the exception of the war on terror, the anti-graft campaign and job creation, no other programme was as highly hyped in the APC manifesto as power supply.

Specifically, the then opposition party promised to revitalise electricity generation and distribution significantly within its first year of coming to power. It would then increase the tempo in subsequent years. This way, by the time it rounds off its first four-year term, the country’s abysmal power situation would have been consigned to the dustbin of history. Or so the citizens were assured.

How has the power sector fared in the past one year under President Muhamadu Buhari’s stewardship?  Answer: Not so well. And that’s putting it mildly.

Ironically, the first few months of this administration had witnessed an appreciable level of electricity supply. As if by magic, the nation’s power situation improved significantly barely a few weeks after the President took over the reins of power. For, perhaps, the first time in living memory, uninterrupted power supply became a reality in many communities – at least for a couple of days at a time. This uncommon feat was attributed to what was termed “the Buhari factor.” The President’s body language made it clear that he wouldn’t tolerate nonsense. Electricity workers acted accordingly by going the extra mile to ensure constant power supply.

That was then. As weeks turned into months, the usual so-called “Nigeria factor” crept in gradually. From constant power supply, the country relapsed once more to constant blackout so much so that barely a couple of weeks ago, the country earned the dubious distinction of having zero megawatt of electricity. In other words, from the lofty height of experiencing steady power supply this time past year, the country tumbled to the valley of not having even one megawatt of power!

During the campaign for the 2015 general elections, the then governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, famously declared that it would not take a serious government more than six months to fix the rot in the power sector. Fashola, it so happens, is the incumbent Minister of Power and the electricity situation in the country is getting worst by the day under his watchful eyes. Now, is it the minister or the government that is not serious?

Nothing demonstrates the fact that the present administration’s much hyped “change” is yet to reach the power sector than the inadequate supply of prepaid meters despite the fact that thousands of Nigerians have paid for them long ago. Estimate billings and outrageously high tariff reign supreme just as industrial crises bedevil the sector periodically. Not a few compatriots are aghast that a government that cannot fix this all important sector pretends to be “attracting” foreign investors.

From whatever angle one looks at it, it is evident that the power sector has not fared very well in the past one year – to put it mildly. The President has a lot of work in this sector. This is more so as poor electricity supply will inevitably lead to closure of industries which will in turn lead to job losses.

Corruption meets its match

True to the President’s campaign pledge, the hydra-headed monster called corruption is being tackled head-on with gusto. Ask those involved in the infamous ‘Dasukigate,’ for instance, and they would admit that a Daniel has come to judgment in form of a certain new Sherrif in town called Muhammadu Buhari. Suddenly, the anti-graft agencies that had been snoring prior to his emergence, woke up from slumber and started barking and biting with renewed vigour.

The war against corruption is one area where the present administration could rightly claim to have done fantastically well. Even the British Prime Minister, David Cameron would concede that under Buhari’s stewardship, Nigeria has pushed itself from the rank of “fantastically corrupt countries” to that of a nation determined to slay that monster without hesitation.

The President’s determination to recover the country’s looted funds and his efforts to rally the international community against looters of the common wealth, mark him out as a role model in this arena.

Economy on the rope

As if the single–minded war on graft was not enough, the new administration made a rather revolutionary move by implementing the Treasury Single account (TSA) policy, which makes it possible for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government to have all their monies in a single account. This is in stark contrast to the situation that had prevailed hitherto, whereby some MDAs operated over one hundred bank accounts.

To put the matter in a proper perspective, it is significant to note that whereas hitherto not even the Accountant General of the Federation or the Minister of Finance or the President himself for that matter, had an inkling of the amount of revenue in the government’s coffer, TSA enables the government to know the exact amount of money in its account at a given time, merely by pressing a button.

It is obvious that these are no mean feats. By making these and other such laudable efforts within the first couple of months of its tenure, the Buhari administration left no one in doubt that it truly meant business in terms of replacing the culture of impunity that had held sway for so long, with real change.

On the flip side, however, the picture isn’t very rosy. Ask the average Nigerian and he or she would narrate how their fortune has lurched from the manageable or bearable this time last year, to the harsh and unbearable within Buhari’s first year on the throne. Inflation – aptly marked by the high cost of living – has skyrocketed in the last one year.

The long-drawn budget impasse between the Presidency and the National Assembly (two arms of government controlled by the ruling All Progressives Congress) and the lack of any tangible economic blueprint or roadmap in the past one year, hardly inspire much confidence. Add to this the fact that no known economic team has been formed yet, and the reasons why the nation’s economic malaise has been worsening lately, become apparent.

On top of that, the debilitating exchange rate crises, fuel crises/shortage, slow pace of  diversification coupled with the global oil price meltdown, have all combined to make nonsense of the government’s effort to revive the economy. The President, in short, has his work cut out for him in this regard.

Rule of law

Many citizens couldn’t believe it when their leader famously declared recently with magisterial finality that he wouldn’t allow characters like erstwhile National Security Adviser ( NSA), retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki and the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu to be free when a court of law set them free. To the President’s critics, such a dictatorial mindset marks him out as anything but democrat.

In the same vein, the Department of State Services (DSS) under his watch hasn’t acquitted itself creditably well. A case in point was the recent commando-like invasion of the Ekiti State House of Assembly. The DSS also blundered spectacularly concerning the mass grave debacle in Imo State.

Education in limbo

When the list of Ministers was announced last year, the education portfolio attracted attention for the wrong reason: the guy who has the experience and expertise to be the main Minister, was appointed Minister for State. Conversely, the gentlemen whose training and experience recommend him for another portfolio was made Education Minister. Little wonder, this sector has more or less remained in limbo since then.

With the exception of the dust raised over the controversial sacking of some universities’ governing councils and vice chancellors, Adamu Adamu and Co. seem not to be in a hurry to revive the sector. In short, the education sector hasn’t been all that outstanding since May 2015.

Foreign/Diplomatic shuffles

This is another arena where the President has dazzled in the past one year. His diplomatic shuffles from the United States of America (USA) through United Kingdom to France and China have enhanced the country’s good image significantly so much so that from being a virtual pariah state in the comity of nations barely one year ago, Nigeria has regained its pride of place in the international arena. World leaders, business giants and multinational outfits alike now reckon with the country in many endeavours, thanks to the President’s  assured steps on the global stage.