We Voted for Change: the Difference President Buhari Is Not Making (2), By Fred Adetiba
I know it is not easy to lead a country like Nigeria. However, we have examples of countries that were much worse and have much less resources that have come out of the doldrums. Governance is not rocket science. We voted President Buhari and Professor Osinbajo in for a radical departure from the past, as arrowheads of change. We are not seeing that radical departure. Nigeria as it is today is on the brink.
In the first part of this article, I presented a summary of my take on why the last administration lost the 2015 election. It was clear that they lost as a result of their abysmal performance. We looked at two fundamental problems with that administration, which this present one is also falling into. The unity of this country, even though it has been argued that it is negotiable, is very important in moving it forward. Just like the previous government, the current one of President Buhari is not doing any better. The second fundamental problem identified pertains to uninspiring leadership. Nigeria is still lacking a leader that would inspire commitment, loyalty and patriotism that is capable of fostering unity and development. We are continuing to look at the difference this administration is not making in comparison with the the previous Goodluck Jonathan administration.
Secessionist Agitations and Unrests
My expectation was that President Buhari would take the agitations and concerns of every part of the country seriously, particularly the complaints of those who did not vote for him. Just like former President Jonathan did, President Buhari has not made adequate efforts to reach out to the people of the South, particularly South-South and South-East, to empathise with them and show concern for their agitations and assure them of his administration’s commitment to addressing their issues, which to my mind actually affects every part of the country, and not just any specific section. To me, the entirety of the Nigerian masses are marginalised. Its not difficult to agree with me that the Northern part that can be said to have held on to power the most is somewhat the poorest in Nigeria. No region is particularly any better, save for our leaders across the regions who have used public office to amass wealth for themselves and their cronies. Why should reaching out to the people in the South-South and South-East be a difficult thing for the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? It was the vice president who made efforts to reach out to them when the president was away. This is certainly not the change we voted for.
The unrest that this administration moved in to address without delay was that of the Niger-Delta. After the government came in to power, as expected the Niger-Delta militants resumed their agitations. Their activities, including the blowing up of pipelines and kidnapping of oil workers started affecting oil production in the region, which had adverse effect on the nation’s revenue. This administration took necessary steps to address the problem. They did not let it linger because they knew too well that it could bring governance to a halt. One would have expected that the same efforts would be made to address similar issues, such as the Biafra agitation without letting it get out of hands. To worsen the situation, some Northern youth went ahead to issue a quite notice to our Igbo brothers to vacate the North. While I applauded the initial condemnation of the announcement by some of our Northern leaders like Governor El-rufai, I believe those who made the announcement deserved stronger sanctions. Today, as October 1 draws near, our Igbo compatriots in the North are agitated and afraid of the unknown. President Buhari’s approach to addressing these issues is rather not stern enough, particularly for someone who believes the unity of the country is not negotiable.
Under the last administration, the impression I got from the former president regarding the fight against insurgency in the North-East was more like, “Let them continue to kill one another”, while they continued to use the insurgency to syphon billions of Naira and as a political tool to discredit the then opposition. It became even rhetorical and boring listening to former President Jonathan’s responses after each attack because they were uninspiring and depressing. We now have a similar situation under this administration. Apart from the successes recorded by the military in the fight against Boko Haram, President Buhari’s response to agitations and unrests from different parts of the country has been less than impressive. The one I considered most disappointing was his attitude to the herdsmen and farmers’ crisis that claimed the lives of hundreds of Nigerians and displaced thousands in different parts of the country. There was no strong statement from the president condemning the attacks.
High Cost of Governance
In terms of reducing the cost of governance, this administration has not been that different from the last one. The last administration had more money to spend, and they did spend this and even helped themselves to quite a lot of the funds. Given the crash in the price of crude oil globally, which was partly responsible for the economic recession that has lasted for nearly 18 months and which we are barely just getting out of, one would have expected this administration to take drastic measures to reduce the cost of governance. While they tried to reduce the cost of travels, they retained jumbo salaries for themselves, the convoys for politicians and government officials are still as they were, the presidential fleet is still intact with about 10 assorted aircrafts, etc.
If President Buhari had wanted to show solidarity with the suffering masses who were and are still bearing the brunt of the country’s economic recession, he ought to have used some of the aircrafts in the presidential fleet to resuscitate our national carrier. Beyond showing solidarity with the masses, it would have been another source of revenue for the federal government, instead of being the source of waste that those aircrafts currently constitute. It was confirmed recently that the federal government had spent N5 billion in 15 months in the maintenance of the fleet. A national carrier would have also given us a sense of national pride in addition to the economic gains. In this administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) that was produced earlier this year, the government had stated that drastically cutting cost would be one of their top execution priorities. I wonder why that is presently not happening.
Now that they are not willing to drastically cut costs, President Buhari is borrowing heavily to fund government activities. Statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) a few days ago show that Nigeria’s foreign debt has increased by 40 percent under this administration, and presently stands at over $15 billion. That is increasing the debt burden of future generations, after clearing a hug chunk under former President Obasanjo. Are they even thinking about how much it would cost to service the debt? This is not acceptable and it is not the difference we expected from this administration.
Devolution of Power
Over the years, Nigeria has practiced a pseudo-federal system of government, which is partly responsible for our present state of under-development. This present administration had promised a restructuring during their campaign for office. This restructuring, which some of us understand as the devolution of power is to give more power to states to generate and control their resources, instead of always relying on federal allocations. Corruption thrives where you have too much resources and power concentrated in a single unit. Today, the agitation for restructuring and devolution of power has heightened, but there is no commitment on the part of this administration to do anything about it. Some top shots of this administration like former Governor Oshiomole now says that those who lost out of the last election are the ones asking for restructuring. This is sad, and not the change we voted for, and the difference we expect.
I know it is not easy to lead a country like Nigeria. However, we have examples of countries that were much worse and have much less resources that have come out of the doldrums. Governance is not rocket science. We voted President Buhari and Professor Osinbajo in for a radical departure from the past, as arrowheads of change. We are not seeing that radical departure. Nigeria as it is today is on the brink. While I commend them for their efforts in battling insurgency in the North-East, new threats are emerging from different parts of the country that require their strategic and immediate action. I believe more Nigerians now have an idea of the kind of country that we want, and come 2019 we will not fail to look elsewhere for the leader that can deliver.
Fred Adetiba, a HR Practitioner, Researcher and good governance advocate, is Head of HR/Administration/Finance at Premium Times. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org and @fredor4c on twitter.