Why the Buhari Administration Has Lost Steam, By Justine John Dyikuk
…there is an apparent disconnect between the executive and the masses in terms of policy formulation and execution. Otherwise, how would one explain the public outburst over policies like Rural Grazing Area (RUGA), hate speech bill, CAMA bill, waters resources bill and the like? While the National Assembly appears complicit in all these, anti-masses policies are holding sway.
The whirlwind of change that blew across the length and breadth of Nigeria and ushered in a federal government that came on the high horse of integrity to unseat the erstwhile ‘largest’ political party in Africa, which had ruled for sixteen years prior, is gradually fading. If any prophet had told Nigerians that our own Abraham Lincoln at the time and his prospective squad would lose steam, that “seer” would have become public enemy number one. This was because of the protracted Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, bribery and corruption, plus the more serious challenge of impunity, which gave birth to the triple evils of godfatherism, the imposition of candidates and political rascality that characterised both governance and politics in Nigeria.
Determined to break with the past and build a better future, the populace became head over heels in love with General Muhammadu Buhari; but like football pundits who often tease each other when an opposing team loses, “Nigerians, how market?” To my mind, while social critics and political commentators may have legion of reasons why the Nigerian project is not working, there are basically six reasons why we are either back to 2015, where the chauffeur took us from or even worse off.
First, like a lover who has been hurt and molested in previous relationships, Nigerians took to hero worship of the president who promised an eldorado nation, free from bribery and corruption, insecurity and economy malaise, with special panaceas such as youth empowerment and reduction of the price of petroleum products. Like the Biblical Moses, the president stood tall in the eyes of the oppressed “Israelites.” He spoke tough as the expected Messiah who would redeem the nation and restore its battered image by making her a destination country in the comity of nations. The question is, has this hero worship paid off?
Second, in what appeared as a long walk to freedom, the enthusiastic masses trekked long distances to celebrate a hero whose administration was supposed to hit the ground running but were shocked by the delay in choosing ministers and passing annual national budgets. Critics have blamed these delays on indecisiveness and the lack of thorough preparedness by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to clinch power at the centre. That was not all, like poachers who have killed a game, arriving at a fair sharing formulae subsequently became an uphill task. As such, the government began to lose steam.
Third, the Buhari administration failed to take lessons from former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (August 16, 1951 – May 5, 2010) of blessed memory who broke with the winner-takes-all mentality to form a government of national unity. Although fate did not allow him to deliver on this promise, posterity would be kind to him. Instead, upon winning the polls, the current government was bedeviled by partisan politics with its doppelganger evil of cronyism. By rewarding the gladiators on its side and showing the exit door to losers, not minding the best among them, the government of the day has scored F9 in forming a government of national unity.
Fourth, there is no doubting the fact that the APC massively deployed the social media as a campaign tool. With technical support of experts from the United States of America and a factory of youths who were willing tools in the hands of anyone who promised a better future, the plan worked. However, one would have expected the party to draw the line between electioneering campaigns and governance; but no! In trying to be politically correct, the government in power combines propaganda and vendetta as principles of state policy. Will a sincere media poll on the performance of this government or not be the same today as when it came into power in 2015?
Fifth, while great nations of the world borrow or buy ideas, Nigeria is busy borrowing from China under the cover of executing capital projects. Perhaps our leaders have not realised that the U.S., U.K., China, Israel et al are jostling for the heart of Africa. By the time we are unable to meet the conditions of these debts, they would seize our national assets. Many African countries are already paying the price. “As of 2020, the countries in Africa with the largest Chinese debt are Angola ($25 billion), Ethiopia ($13.5 billion), Zambia ($7.4 billion), the Republic of Congo ($7.3 billion), and Sudan ($6.4 billion). In total the Chinese have loaned US$143 billion to African governments and state owned enterprises between 2000 and 2017.” A report published by the Debt Management Office (DMO) further indicated that: “As at March 31, 2020, the Total Borrowing by Nigeria from China was USD3. 121 billion (₦1,126.68 billion at USD/₦361). This amount represents only 3.94 per cent of Nigeria’s Total Public Debt of USD79.” Despite public outcry by spirited Nigerians, acolytes of those in power are content with heavy borrowing, as that might be the only way some crumbs would fall off the Master’s table to their delight.
Sixth, there is an apparent disconnect between the executive and the masses in terms of policy formulation and execution. Otherwise, how would one explain the public outburst over policies like Rural Grazing Area (RUGA), hate speech bill, CAMA bill, waters resources bill and the like? While the National Assembly appears complicit in all these, anti-masses policies are holding sway. Sadly, most helpless country men and women have resigned their fate to either karma or the God of 2023. Even if the average Nigerian cannot do anything, at least he or she now knows that hero worship, delay in policy formulation and execution, inability to form a government of national unity, propaganda and vendetta, massive borrowing and anti-people policies are mortal sins of this administration which require confession, absolution and penance. The question is, do those in power care?
Justine John Dyikuk is a Lecturer in Mass Communication, University of Jos, editor of Caritas newspaper and Convener of the Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.