Buhari doesn’t have the capacity to fix Nigeria

Buhari doesn’t have the capacity to fix Nigeria

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“The last 20 months have not witnessed any significant changes in the national economy. Contrary to expectations, we have so far been subjected to a steady deterioration in the general standard of living; and intolerable suffering by ordinary Nigerians have risen higher, scarcity of commodities has increased…. Unemployment has stretched to critical dimensions.”

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The above quote was an excerpt from the inaugural broadcast as military president of then Major General Ibrahim Babangida, justifying the August 27, 1985 coup that ousted his then friend and comrade-in-arms, Major General Muhammadu Buhari. Over the years, Buhari had disputed the real reason for his overthrow, attributing it to his investigation and indictment of some top military officers involved in import licence fraud. Whoever was the purveyor of truth between Buhari and Babangida is not the subject of this article. For the purpose of this piece, what is important was Babangida’s analysis of the person of Buhari, and the administration he ran for 20 months. I will lift some excerpts from Babangida’s scorecard of Buhari’s first coming some 32 years ago and place these within the context of today’s realities, starting from the opening quote above.

By a stroke of interesting coincidence, it’s been 20 months since Buhari was sworn in as president, after leading a coalition of opposition politicians in the All Progressives Congress (APC) to defeat the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan. At the inception of the Buhari administration, expectations were indeed really high just as there were celebrations when Buhari sacked the Shehu Shagari administration on December 31, 1983. Twenty months on, however, have there been any significant changes in the national economy? Of course, but for the worse! The unemployment situation is more than critical; companies that have not closed down are finding it difficult to pay salaries, as most states and local governments. The deterioration in the standard of living of the people is horrendous – inflation is close to 20%, power outages have never been this intolerable, workers have difficulty paying their house rents, millions are living in hunger and deprivation. With the unendurable exchange rate regime, it would be little surprise if Nigerians were soon forced to deal with scarcity of commodities, or queue for essential ones, as happened during Buhari’s first coming in 1984.

“Regrettably, it turned out that Major General Muhammadu Buhari was too rigid and uncompromising in his attitudes to issues of national significance. Efforts to make him understand that a diverse polity like Nigeria required recognition and appreciation of differences in both cultural and individual perceptions only served to aggravate these attitudes.”

The observance of due process, in bringing those allegedly corrupt politicians to justice, has more often than not been in the breach. The government has for instance ignored repeated court orders to release, on bail, former NSA Sambo Dasuki. Shiite leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaki has been detained for months despite a high court order for his release. Some PDP politicians released on bail were rearrested and slammed with some other charges. Yet there have been no attempts to investigate corruption allegations against politicians in the ruling APC. And SGF Babachir Lawal, indicted by the Senate for fraudulent contract awards, was dismissively cleared of any wrongdoing. The administration’s blind pursuit of justice, no vengeance, its uneven-handedness, its cavalier disregard for judicial process, and its manifest persecution of political opponents have deepened, rather than heal, the bitterness in the polity; widened, rather than mend, the nation’s fault lines.

“The Nigerian public has been made to believe that the slow pace of action of the federal government … was due to the enormity of the problems left by the last civilian administration. Although it is true a lot of problems were left behind by the last civilian government, the real reason, however, for the very slow pace of action was due to the lack of unanimity of purpose among (members of) the ruling body; subsequently the business of governance has gradually been subjected to ill-motivated power play considerations.”

The above excerpt was not from Babangida’s inaugural broadcast but from the coup speech of then Major General Joshua Dogonyaro, announcing the termination of the Buhari military regime on August 27, 1985. As in his first coming in 1984, Buhari today has been slow, very slow, in decision-making and implementation. On inauguration May 29, 2015 it took more than six months for the president to constitute his cabinet.

Almost two years on, envoys have not been deployed to represent the country abroad, and critical government agencies have no boards. Whenever the administration was accused of being unduly slow, Buhari was wont to put the blame on his immediate predecessor. Indeed for more than one year, Buhari’s singsong was either that the Jonathan administration, or 16 years of PDP, destroyed Nigeria. Like a broken record, Buhari and his aides repeatedly bandied Jonathan, or the PDP, as an excuse for the administration’s slow inaction or policy failure, even when around the president were erstwhile strongmen of that party. It was of course obvious that there was “the lack of unanimity of purpose” in the ruling party and that “ill-motivated power play considerations” impacted negatively on the business of governance.

Remember the politics surrounding the election of the National Assembly principal officers and how the presidency and APC became upset with the emergence of Bukola Saraki as Senate president and Yakubu Dogara as House speaker. Remember how Saraki’s arraignment for false declaration of assets at the Code of Conduct Tribunal was believed to be the fallout of his election as senate president in spite of the party’s support for another candidate. Remember how senators made an unseemly spectacle of themselves by following Saraki to the courtroom and abandoning their parliamentary duties in the process.

Remember the different political underhand tactics to minimize the reach and influence of APC leader Bola Tinubu and cut him down to size. There were at different times “ill-motivated power play considerations” involving presidency officials and party executives against the senate leadership, presidency officials and party executives against Tinubu, the senate leadership against Tinubu, some governors and ministers against Tinubu, and some ministers against some other ministers.

“… the initial objectives and programmes of action, which were meant to have been implemented since the ascension to power of the Buhari administration, have been betrayed and discarded.” Continue Reading

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