By Chinedu Nwaneri
As Nigerians continue to speculate on the perceived re-election bid of President Muhammadu Buhari, it is worthy of note that, while he is being endorsed by groups and individuals, including South East APC leaders, he is yet to publicly declare his interest in that general election slated for February 2019.
Acting on the speculation that the president would run in that election, many Nigerians find it incredulous and criticise the 32-month performance of his All Progressives Congress-led administration. They rate this performance as being way below par and the president, himself, medically unfit for the job.
Much as the president and his party have not been forthcoming, their actions, inactions and body language have been significant. Only last week, a campaign material for the president’s 2019 re-election was unveiled in Abuja by communications minister, Barr. Abdulraheem Adebayo Shittu. That this happened right inside the hallowed chambers of the seat of government, and at a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, makes the gesture out as more than an act of Freudian slip.
It would be recalled that Buhari himself, in 2011, literally passed a vote of no-confidence in his own ability as overseer of the affairs of Nigeria. According to indelible public records, he vowed that he would serve just one term, if elected, on the ground of his age.
This was at the heat of the 2011 presidential campaign where candidate Buhari said that “I’ll do only one term if elected because, at the end of that term, I should be 73 years. I am not getting any younger”.
That 2011 presidential election came and was won by People’s Democratic Party’s Goodluck Jonathan. Jonathan served the 2011/2015 tenure after which, if Buhari had won and going by that his 2011 historic avowal, he (Buhari) would have been too old for the job. But no!
The concourse of Boko Haram insurgency, general insecurity, intra-party squabbling and the debilitating economic effect, on the populace, of rampant corruption among political office holders prior to the 2015 election posed a major challenge to Jonathan. Pained Nigerians yearned “earnestly yearned” for a change of the situation. This proved opportune for candidate Buhari as he latched onto that situation, elevating it to a campaign mantra, encompassed into all manner of promise. Change soon became a popular jingle among the high, the low, the lettered and unlettered.
Buhari’s military background and first ‘missionary journey’ into national prominence came in handy, raising the hope of Nigerians that solutions would be better assured from him, especially in the areas of insecurity and check on freewheeling corruption.
Buhari made not less than 81 promises in the course of that 2015 campaign, as if to assure the voting public of the feasibility of their hope. A few of them are hereunder.
In the area of politics, Buhari had promised to institute transparency and accountability, publishing government contracts in the media as a mark of openness. He promised the amendment of the constitution with a view to removing the immunity clause for elected officials in criminal cases and devolving of powers from the centre so that true federalism can evolve. The promised amendments were also to see cities, local governments and states take charge of their own policing in addressing their peculiar needs, within their resources and, then, a reformation of the judiciary.
In the economic sphere, the naira was to be at par with the American dollar and four million new home owners were to emerge within the first four years of his administration. All-year-round small, medium and commercial farming and revival of agricultural research institutes topped the agricultural ‘revolution’ Buhari envisaged for the country.
The ban of medical tourism by politicians, generation of 20,000 MW of electric power before 2019 and the reduction of the pump price of petrol from N87.50 to N65 clearly stood out from the catalogue of promises which had the establishment of six universities of science and technology with satellite campuses, 12-month, post-NYSC allowance for unemployed graduates and the replacement of “state of origin” syndrome with “state of residence”.
With the euphoria of these and many other promises, Buhari unseated Jonathan to become the first Nigerian to beat a sitting president in an election.
When he was eventually sworn-in on May 29, 2015, expectations were high as most Nigerians expected his government to match those campaign promises with action and make all their problems disappear.
Three years down the road, Nigerians are yet to see the tangible fulfillment of these wonderful promises that offered them such high hopes in 2015, even as some of these promises were deemed incredibly ‘ridiculous’.
Unfortunately, we have had a government which would rather proffer stubborn rationalisations for all manner of failure in the face of genuine criticism. Not only that, the Buhari government has, very often, shifted the blame to virtually all predecessor regimes this country has ever had, an observation aptly made by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in a letter he wrote to the president last week from his Ogun state, South Western Nigeria abode. Obasanjo, Buhari’s fellow (and only other) pre and post-democratic setting head of state in Nigeria, had opined that the president “should forget contesting for presidency in 2019, on ground of underwhelming performance” and that “President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse. He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup …” My emphasis would be on the phrase “… refurbish physically and recoup…”
A legal practitioner and political analyst, Fred Nzeakor, while reacting to Obasanjo’s statement in a television programme, opined that President Buhari had surrounded himself with sycophants, who do not have love for the country and, instead of telling him the true position of his administration, give him the false impression that he is a messiah.
He acknowledged that, even as Obasanjo is being accused, in some quarters, of not doing much during his own eight-year tenure, the content of his letter reflects the true position of things currently in Nigeria.
Nzeakor’s submission was not totally different from that of the former co-convener, Northern Elder’s Forum, Paul Unongo, who advised the president’s friends to be bold enough to tell him the truth when they have the opportunity to speak to him.
Unongo, who was minister of mine and steel in the Second Republic, explained that, by virtue of his position in Nigerian politics, he had had the opportunity of interacting with both Obasanjo and Buhari. He described Obasanjo as truthful in his fight for whatever he believes would be to the best interest of Nigerians and warned Nigerians not to react to the former president’s statement emotionally. He said, “even though people say Obasanjo is playing politics, it is good politics”.
As expected, the presidency replied to Obasanjo’s statement, in what was described by the former senior special adviser to former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe, as “watery”.
The minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, who listed the Buhari government achievements, had begun his effete and tepid response by saying that “Obasanjo is too busy to keep track of the achievements of the APC-led administration”, a statement that raised questions as to whether Nigerians were also too busy to notice that major promises in which they saw hope in 2015 had become mere delusion.
An ordinary Nigerian is not bothered about how the promises would be fulfilled; he simply believes in the government that promised to do it. He is not too busy to notice that the price of fuel had doubled, and that N1 has gone farther away, in value, from $1 than it was in 2015.
Within the first two years of Buhari, Nigerians were subjected to global ridicule when he [president] who promised to improve healthcare facilities to world standard and ban medical tourism for all government officials, personally engaged in a series of medical tourism abroad, mostly London.
Nigerians also notice that Youth Corps members have lost hope on the fulfillment of Buhari’s promise on the 12-month allowance to the discharged but unemployed, while they engage in the skills and entrepreneurial development programme.
Who says Nigerians did not notice that their country recorded quadruple negative GDP Growth in 2016, even according to data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the first year-round negative growth since 1987.
Even the easiest promise of the administration which was that it would eradicate the “state of origin” and replace it with “state of residence” to ensure Nigerians are Nigerians first, before anything else, unfortunately, seems to have turned another difficult task.
Nigerians believed in the administration that promised the generation, transmission and distribution of, at least, 20,000 MW of electricity within four years with a promise of increasing same to 50,000 MW with a view to achieving 24/7 uninterrupted power supply within 10 years. Unfortunately, inadequate power supply remains a major challenge bedeviling the growth and development of the country.
It would have been all over the media if the present administration succeeded in fulfilling its promise of establishing at least six new universities of science and technology with satellite campuses in various states. Sadly, this promise also remains unfulfilled.
Although, Boko Haram insurgency had been tackled to a reasonable extent, this was many months after the 100 days that Nigerians were made to believe the insurgents would have been defeated. However, many Nigerians still live in fear as these insurgents appear to have transmuted into “Fulani herdsmen”, going by the gruesomeness of the latter’s blood-thirsty activities all over the country. They, the herdsmen, have invaded communities and massacred innocent citizens in different parts of the country, particularly including Benue and Enugu states. The most recent Benue massacre was too gruesome not to be noticed by virtually every Nigerian, no matter how busy.
Thanks to Obasanjo’s letter, the presidency has become more vocal with fresh promises to tackle Fulani herdsmen/farmer clashes; even as Nigerians were promised a new lease of life a short while from now.
Obasanjo’s call was simple, “Buhari should forget contesting for presidency in 2019, on ground of underwhelming performance”. He submitted that “Nigeria deserves and urgently needs better than what they (APC) have given or what we know they are capable of giving. To ask them to give more will be unrealistic and will only sentence Nigeria to a prison term of four years, if not destroy it beyond the possibility of an early recovery and substantial growth.
“President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse. He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup and after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the sidelines for the good of the country”.
He also canvassed for the creation of a Coalition for Nigeria (CN) Movement which will consist of people who are concerned, willing and ready for positive and drastic change, progress and involvement “that will give hope and future to all our youth and dignity and full participation to all our women.”
The IPOB has expressed that Obasanjo’s admonition is a devastating blow on purported Igbo leaders in the South East; leaders who recently endorsed Buhari for a second term. It described such leaders as undignified individuals.
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In their statement made available by the IPOB’s media and publicity secretary, Emma Powerful, IPOB said that Obasanjo’s letter was carefully timed to deliver a devastating blow to the “scavenging class of political prostitutes in Igbo land” that shamelessly went to hawk their wares in Abuja few days ago.
The group expressed displeasure that, at a time of national crisis and mass misery, when people are losing their lives across the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria, “hungry and insatiable APC men visited Aso Rock to endorse Buhari for 2019 under the banner of Igbo leaders”. It added that such an act has brought shame and dishonour to Igbo land.
The statement went on: “What Obasanjo said is the clearest endorsement of our philosophy that the only way to rein in a dictatorship is by confronting it head-on with the truth. So, those men should all cover their faces in shame.”
IPOB stated that “Obasanjo’s statement is a slap on the faces of criminals parading themselves as Igbo leaders.”
It commended Professor Ben Nwabueze and Chief Mbazuluike Amaechi for always speaking in the direction Obasanjo recently did, describing them as real Igbo leaders that the world should look up to.
It adds,: “It is crystal clear from analysis of Obasanjo’s statement that the new coalition he is calling for is something similar to what IPOB is doing, but on a broader all-encompassing scale that will include all ethnicities in Nigeria rather than one restricted to Biafra alone”.
It is obvious that there is a clear distinction in the many voices from the South East, which could be categorised as the leaders and the masses.
The leaders, made an endorsement on behalf of the masses, without making any effort to feel the pulse of the masses, share their pains and views and put their interest first.
If Nigeria, and especially the South East region, must make progress, politicians must be willing to put aside their selfish interests and project the mind of the poor masses who, practically, are the specimens used to test the performance of any government.
Given that democracy is government by the people, the masses should decide what happens, as they are directly affected by any decisions taken, especially when it is on the negative side.
Nigerians must also learn to let history and records of political statements determine the choices they make, especially during elections. This is because, if this were the case, Buhari, as far back as 2011, voted himself out for any election beyond 2015 and would, by 2019, have had the opportunity to serve the one term he asked for.
Political campaign promises should also be taken seriously and used as a yardstick for measuring the integrity, capability and overall performance of any politician and the government he or she leads, bearing in mind that a nation must get it right politically if it must get it right economically.
Like Obasanjo said, “Let nobody deceive us, the economy feeds on politics and because our politics is depressing, our economy is even more depressing today”.
READ ALSO : 2019 Presidential race: Obasanjo attacks Buhari