The Real Price of ‘Changing the Change’ (II)

The Real Price of ‘Changing the Change’ (II)

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By GARBA SHEHU

On Tuesday, May 29, 2018, the Buhari/Osinbajo-led government will clock three years in office. With elections less than a year ahead, this period of people-oriented governance has been a great success. The administration has fared very well in various policy fronts. There is a long list of achievements to flaunt.

The popular support for the administration, especially among the poor and disadvantaged is still holding up and is unlikely to significantly wane. In fact trends from our internal polling suggest that this should hold up, or even grow all the way to 2019, the reason being that the ordinary citizens concede it to the president that he is trying to do his best for the country. His concerns for the poor citizens and the nation are among his greatest assets. This is why he has led the country through difficult changes, such as the increase in the pump price of fuel and the landmark steps to stabilize the Naira, at grave risk to political capital, but measures that had become necessary for the benefit of the nation.

The distinguishing characteristic of the administration is its habit of not being bombastic. Look at the simple programme drawn up to celebrate the third anniversary: prayers in mosques on Friday and churches on Sunday; Democracy Day Lecture by Professor Attahiru Jega, erstwhile chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC ,in the morning of Monday, 28th, and a banquet in the evening on Tuesday 29th, at which event the country is also expected to say farewell to the Super Eagles of Nigeria, one of the teams representing Africa in the 2018 World Cup tournament in Russia.

The most telling event of the day is expected to be the broadcast on radio and TV by the President at 7:00 in the morning.

To mark the occasion, some ministers and senior officials of government are expected to be on radio and TV for much of the day, parading what has been achieved by the government in the three years. While the claims will be verifiable, the opposition is expected to continue their political jibes much of it unfortunately, promoting hate and intolerance that does not fit with the traditions of modern democracy.

When they ran the government at the centre, the opposition PDP showed aptitude in only one thing: the toppling of elected state governments using the police and secret service under their control. A five-man legislature met at 6:00 am and “impeached” Governor Dariye in Plateau; 18 members out of 32 removed Governor Ladoja of Oyo from office; in Anambra, APGA’s Governor Obi was equally impeached at 5:00 a.m. by members who did not meet the two-thirds required by the constitution.

His offence was that he refused to inflate the state’s budget. The lawmakers had reportedly met with representatives of the President in Asaba , Delta State and then accompanied to Awka by heavy security provided by the police Mobile Unit. The PDP President at that time had reportedly told Obi to forget re-election in 2007 if he did not join the PDP because he (the President) would not support a non-PDP member.

In Ekiti, Governor Fayose in his first term faced allegations of financial corruption and murder. Following the failure to heed the instruction of the presidency to impeach only Fayose and spare the deputy, Madam Olujimi, now a senator, the PDP President declared that there was a breakdown of law and order in the state and declared a state of emergency. He appointed Brig-Gen. Adetunji Olurin (rtd) as the sole administrator of the state on October 19, 2006. In an earlier incident in Anambra, it took an insider collaboration to thwart the unseating of Governor Ngige by a powerful thug sponsored by the PDP administration. The parliament at the centre seized the law-making powers of the Rivers State House of Assembly as a way to save Governor Rotimi Amaechi, the then chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum from impeachment by the PDP presidency. Thank God for Buhari, none of these absurdities has happened under his watch but the PDP is indicating their boredom with his meticulous observance of the constitution by calling for a return to the old order.

If not for “dry eyes,” as said in our common parlance, what is it that would push this party to write a letter to the United Nations, laying false claims to constitutionality and alleging that democracy is presently under threat?

But then, we all understand that by its tone, this is an angry opposition unhappy about the loss of privileges they desperately want to hang on to, privileges now abolished by the prudent, austere Buhari Administration. The former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, shocked the world by the revelation in her new book, titled, Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines, that they paid N17 billion bribe to the National Assembly to get them pass the 2015 budget.

President Buhari’s first budget in 2016 was the first year of passing the budget without the bribery of legislators. He came to power to clean up the mess and has so far managed a cleaner government than all of the past administrations.

As we said in the first part of this article, the beneficiaries of the old order have since been complaining that they are being starved. Four more years of Buhari?

If by chance or accident you have a USD 16 billion question hanging on your neck, money large enough to construct the Lagos-Port Harcourt standard gauge railway and the massive Mambila power plant put together without borrowing a kobo, then you see a capacity in the change administration to end the shenanigans and get to the root of what happened with the money in that exercise, what do you do? Most people will say start running, scream it: that this change we voted for has gone too far. Foxy generals don’t wait to be caught.

It is the same thing with the narrative of suffering and hunger in the land, the blame which is unfairly being heaped on this administration. Understood in its proper meaning, it is just a way of saying that the country’s ghastly and complicated corruption industry, which provides inestimable amounts of disposable incomes to public servants and elected officials is being shut down. What government has done in the trade and investment sector, and in other processes of government are illustrative of this. Government has been streamlining systems as a result of which there is transparency and fewer rules. That’s what the ease of doing business is all about, measures that have brought a lot of international compliment to Nigeria and for which there is a Presidential Enabling Business Council. As a result of this work Nigeria moved 24 places on the World Bank ease of doing business rankings, and earned a place on the list of 10 most improved economies in 2017. A prospective investor unjustly denied visa to visit Nigeria by a consular officer in a Nigerian mission can today hop into a plane and obtain his/her visa on arrival. New businesses which took years upon years to register now have a maximum of a 48-hour waiting period to be certified.

“Change the Change” cries will continue to ring from elected officials and the beneficiaries of the old order who enjoy grinding the ordinary citizens into the dust and denying them access to the basics of government. These are the real losers who are rooting for the reversal of the change.

The Buhari Administration has since 2017 issued five Executive Orders, all of them to enhance the ease of doing business, increase local content and forcing businesses to use trained Nigerians in place of foreign labour and skills. Tell me, will all those who procure and sell expatriate quotas; the ones who bring in substandard furniture and electrical goods; fake drugs and the others engaged in the dumping of goods that threaten local agriculture and industry, not be happy to change the change?

These Executive Orders are already having a positive impact on Nigeria’s business and manufacturing sectors. The “bad” thing about them however is that they have dealt a devastating blow to officialdom, not just one having to do with petty bribes but scams to the tune of billions of Naira that highlight a political-industry nexus which, if not checked, would continue to hold down the economy in an underdeveloped state.

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