By ABBA MAHMOOD —
This Monday marked the second anniversary of the Buhari-Osinbajo administration. It is a good time to take stock of the achievements and failures of the regime so far, proffer solutions and give pieces of advice.
President Buhari has always had the bad luck of coming to power when there are enormous challenges. When he took over as military head of state in 1984, the economy was almost comatose; many states could not even pay their workers’ salaries. In 2015 it was almost the same, as Nigeria’s economy was comatose consequent upon the world-record kleptocracy of the Jonathan administration.
The first major achievement of this administration is in the area of security. Boko Haram has been substantially contained such that none of their leaders or spokespersons is issuing any statements anymore. From Abuja to Kaduna there were 21 checkpoints causing untold hardship to travellers. Now all these have been removed except where the original security checkpoints for safety of the highways are retained. Over 100 of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls have been released to the government and are getting reunited with their parents. This is a great achievement for which we will never forget this government. Militancy in the Niger Delta has also substantially been curtailed.
The fight against corruption is also steadily going on. Some past untouchables are being brought to book. The ICPC, the DSS, the Police and especially the EFCC are all involved in this onerous task. There are a lot of recoveries of looted assets from past officials but there are still no convictions of especially VILs (very important looters). So far, only the Office of the NSA was investigated. The Central Bank which helped in dispensing all these outrageous sums has been shielded from probe. The all-important petroleum sector where ridiculous theft took place in the last regime is yet to be investigated let alone prosecuted.
As a result of this, most major looters are still having their loot with them intact. They have the money to change the narrative and even fight the government. Their friends are still entrenched in the system, as very few agencies have new heads appointed by this government. They have allies in the National Assembly who have become the unofficial opposition to the fight against corruption since corrupt elements are in charge there, especially in the Senate. The economy will continue to be comatose as long as this government allows these elements to be in charge of sensitive and critical institutions that continue to sabotage the efforts of the government.
This government wasted precious time before making key appointments. And when the appointments came out, square pegs were put in round holes in most cases. Until drastic changes are made especially in key presidential aides and then the cabinet, no progress can be made. Despite serving in a most national institution, the military, Buhari has also not succeeded in establishing a national platform in his key appointments as they are clearly lopsided. Thus, a combination of incompetent and parochial appointees is succeeding in reducing Buhari to a leader with a national mandate but no national base. This is most unfortunate.
Two years into this administration, Buhari does not have a principal secretary, has not appointed a presidential adviser on political matters, and has no chief economic adviser. Power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few Buhari loyalists in the Villa, revolving around an incompetent chief of staff, and, as it is turning out, a corrupt and now suspended secretary to the government. The only fortune of this country is that Buhari has a very good vice president. Osinbajo has turned out to be a decent fellow who is very loyal to Buhari and absolutely committed to Nigeria. That is the saving grace.
The people are tired of waiting for the change they were promised. They are anxious to see positive change in their lives. They are praying in mosques and churches all over the country so that anyone who is the cause of their misery is removed by God, the only and ultimate Power they have against their oppressors. They had to stop killing themselves since the Islamic, Christian and African teachings that say “love your neighbour” do not say white or black neighbour; Christian, Muslim or animist neighbour; Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba or Tiv neighbour. They just say “neighbour” — whoever he or she is. So they have reserved their energy to pray for God’s intervention against their oppressors.
The founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, Shehu Usman DanFodio, wrote in his book Bayan Wujub Al-Hijra thus: “O leader, you have kept yourself secluded from your subjects, by means of chamberlains and doors and you have set up high mountains before them while God’s door is open to petitioners; there is neither chamberlain nor door-keeper there. A kingdom can endure with unbelief but it cannot endure with injustice.”
In the same book, Shehu DanFodio wrote: “One of the swiftest ways of destroying a state is to give preference to one particular tribe over another, or to show favour to one group of people rather than another, and draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those who should be drawn near… It has been said that the crown of a leader is his integrity; his stronghold is his impartiality; and his wealth is (the welfare of) his people”. This is a piece of advice to leaders over two centuries ago by our great ancestor; it is as relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago.
As Mallam Mahmud Jega wrote recently, “President Buhari’s character strengths have had a profound impact on the national scene. He has also revealed several political weaknesses. His biggest success was in the fight against insurgency. Buhari turned out to be the natural answer to Boko Haram. Unlike Jonathan, who saw the insurgency as political machination against his regime, Buhari was clear-eyed about the insurgency’s real nature. Boko Haram had once embarrassed Buhari by naming him among the team that it said should negotiate with the federal government on its behalf. He quickly disowned the poisonous appointment, saying he would not negotiate for Boko Haram because he did not know its leaders or what they stood for. Perhaps as a result, Boko Haram bombed his motorcade in 2013.”
Due to his incorruptibility, Buhari is still having a solid base with ordinary Nigerians. We pray for his speedy recovery.
History is on the side of the oppressed.