By Abiola Gbemisola
Without doubt, President Muhamadu Buhari (PMB) ascended office as the President of Nigeria, the largest black nation in the world and the powerhouse of the African continent in one of the most intriguing elections in Africa. It was just about 2 million votes that separated and sealed the victory for the All Progressive Congress (APC) after 16 years of federal power control by the People Democratic Party (PDP) and a loss for the former incumbent President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ).
The victory for President Muhamadu Bahari was one predicated much more on the personality of Buhari as one of integrity, an ex-military general and non-penchant for corruption and it was based on this premises that supporters of the All Progressive Congress chanted “CHANGE”with brooms dangling in their hands as they trooped out in their numbers to sweep away the People’s Democratic Party and see that Muhamadu Buahri gets the mandate to lead Nigeria.
The All Progressive Congress which was formed as a coalition of three major parties in Nigeria, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigeria’s Peoples Party (ANPP) with a primary agenda to wrestle out power from the ruling People’s Democratic Party and effect progressive “changes” in Nigeria. The manifestoes of the APC was one of big and drastic dreams for Nigeria focused on strengthening the constitution, an effective and robust national security, promotion of social unity, a revamp of the agricultural sector, infrastructural and industrial revolution, restructuring of the oil and gas sector, reinvigoration of the educational and health sectors and a focus on women empowerment and elderly citizens.
In what was a defining moment for Nigeria, we witnessed a highly praised and smooth transfer of power, in events between March 28th when the elections were held and May 29th 2015. From the historic phone call from Goodluck Jonathan to Muhanmadu Buhari, to the “I Will Not Take It Joke” by Godswill Orubebe during results collation to the powerful inaugural speech of “I belong to everybody and belong to nobody” by President Buhari, it was a truly refreshing moment for many Nigerians especially in anticipation of manifestations of promised change.
Truly, Nigeria was, and potentially was, in a bad shape, manifested by high levels of pervasive corruption, depleting reserves in the face of falling oil prices, insecurity in the north east menaced by the Boko Haram insurgents, a poor reproductive base, a damaged international public image among a host of problems, Nigerians like the ‘Israelites’ in times of old believed that President Buhari was sure to get us out of ‘Egypt’ if not into the promised land. It is this believe that has come to be termed as “BUHARISM”.
Buharism,has popular Thisdaycolumnist and Editor-in-Chief,SegunAdeniyi, described as to mean “the generalbelieve that Buhari cannot fail”, is in other words, the ferventbelieve that Buhari has all the capacity, acumen, integrity and prowess to navigate Nigeria out of its circumstances. For most believers and followers of the “Buharism” school, the last 365 days has been a defining moment in its belief, activity and followership. In the true sense of it, there has been a decline in the belief, activitiesand followership of this school as manifested by shouts of “Sai Baba” at any opportunity by followers both at physical events and on social media. Evidently, the goodwill of President Buhari has dropped but it is definitely not at a low ebb.
The evidence of this decline is not farfetched. The past 365 days has witnessed a myriad of activities in context of social, political and economic activities that has had defining consequences on the economy. Focus will be emphasised on a few major ones based on yours trulys’ opinion.
The President Buhari administration has been hard on corruption from its inception. Several cases has been in the news majorly indicting several members of the previous administration from Dasuki’s $2billion arms scandal, to Alison-Madueke reported £13billion, to also include previous Minister of Works for State, Hassan Mohammed just to mention a few. The fight against corruption is undoubtedly the biggest win for the President Buahri’s administration but it is undermined by insinuations that the President Buahri is surrounded by corrupt ministers and members in the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The true results on this fight will be appreciated when Nigerians see alleged officers face jail time and recovery of looted funds from them.
ON SENATE LEADERSHIP
Early on in the administration, we can recollect the case of the tussle for the leadership of the Nigerian National Assemblies, with an open defiance by members of the party against the stated agenda of the All Progressive Congress (APC) desires for certain persons to fill up key positions in the upper and lower chambers of the national assembly. Alias, the party was demystified on the emergence of BukolaSaraki and YakubuDongora as senate president and speaker respectively. In all these tussle, President Buhari was reported to have been quiet and undisturbed as expected by core members of the All Progressive Congress (APC). As party leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and President, Buhari was expected to have a vested interest on who emerged as the creator of laws and legislations so as to foster the needed change that Nigeria so desired. This to a large extent created a stain on the ideology of his party in their quest for change. The senate President is however, currently before the Code of Conduct Tribunal over misstated asset declaration documents in 2003 and more recently, has had links to assets in the panama tax heaven. Calls for his resignation are currently on the rise.
The president Buhari administration witnessed one of the longest slags in the appointment of ministers to spearhead key ministries in Nigeria. It was not until September 2015, 4 months after inauguration that Nigerians had a clear idea of who were going to be ministers and it was not until November 2015, two months later that they got sworn in with their respective portfolios.The delay in the appointment of ministers has been reputed to have consequences on the delay in the preparation of the 2016 budget which just got signed in May 2016.
The Buhari ministers have been described as strong, competent and capable but not much can been said of their performance as they claim the 2015 budget was not theirs to work with despite the budget being signed in April 2015, a month before Buhari was sworn as president.
The President Buhari administration has been hard in its fight against the insurgents in the North East region of Nigeria called the Boko Haram. Before, Buhari’s ascension into presidency, it was widely rumoured to have links to the sect based largely on his Fulani roots and Islamic beliefs which were key similiarities with the sect. An assassination attempt on Muhamadu Buhari during build up to the elections made this lesser than a bogus attempt at associating Buhari with the sect.
The sect is responsible for a varied militancy activities in Nigeria including the Christmas Day simultaneous attacks in 2011, UN headquarters in Abuja, This Day Headquarters in Abuja and the popular kidnapping of the Chibok Girls by the sect in April 2014.
One of the core promises of President Buhari and the All Progressive Congress (APC) was to secure the release of these girls along with several other young children kidnapped by the sect. with renewed attacks by the Nigerian Army on the Boko Haram’s heaven in Sambisa forest, two of the missing 219 girls have been found through collaborative effort by the army and the civilian Joint Task Force (JTF).
However, the President Buhari’s administration has been challenge by the rise of disgruntled groups in the South East and South-South manifested in the IPOB and Niger Delta Avengers. The approach by the administration to these uprising has not been so diplomatic. The acclaimed leader of the IPOB, NnamdiKanu has been in the government custody despite a court order for him to get bail. The activities of the Niger Delta Avengers, who claim to have been neglected by the Buhari administration since the demise of their kinsmen and the abolishment of the amnesty program, has had telling consequences on Nigeria’s crude oil output which has since fallen by between 500,000 and800,000 bpd and oil companies shutting down operations in order to secure their staff.
The economic situation in Nigeria over the past one year is not a bright story to tell. The condition of a global fall in oil prices, has had consequences on the foreign exchange earnings of the country which has significantly undermined the fixed exchange rate policy of the government. A government policy to peg the exchange at certain levels is desirable but only if the currency can determine its value within a favourable range from the pegged rate and this was not the case for the Nigerian naira.
The pegged exchange rate policy which has had implications on availability of foreign exchange for the importation of raw materials that are used for production in various Nigerian industries that are largely dependent on foreign raw materials, also, it also caused irregularities in the downstream petroleum sector, where marketers where short of the same foreign exchange from the government to make imports of refined crude oil. Also, the unavailability of foreign exchange has had its toll on foreign investments. Foreign investors can’t get their money (revenues and profits) out of Nigeria and newer investors are also scared of investing in their money due to the unpredictability of the exchange rate as they has been speculation of a devaluation.
The interrelation of this problem with the foreign exchange, falling reserves and fall in global oil prices are just manifestation of the poor fiscal discipline of the past administration but also a sluggishness of the President Buhari’s administration in swiftly addressing the challenges. The Central Bank of Nigeria, shares in this blame, it allowed itself to be less autonomous by making its policies contractionary when significant boasts were needed.
If current index are anything to go by, with inflation rate hitting 13.7%, and additional 1.5 million Nigerians becoming unemployed in the 1st Quarter of 2016 with unemployment rate hitting 12.1% from 10.4% in Q4, 2015. The disparity between the official exchange rate and parallel market is very high but as we anticipate the official unveiling of new modalities by the Central Bank of Nigeria for a flexible exchange rates situation, speculators expect a fall but not too large.The total value of capital (Foreign Direct Investment)importedinto Nigeria in the first quarter of 2016 was $710.97 million, the lowest level since 2007 and representing a decline of 54.34% since the final quarter of 2015.
Clearly, a lot of things are not yet right with the President Buhari’s administration especially from the economic perspective. Not much has been said by the country’s finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, she is yet to demonstrate that she is capable of surging a way forward on pressing economic circumstances.
Assessment of the President Muhamadu Buhari cannot be restricted to the few areas highlighted. If effort will permit, much can be said in the areas of power generation, foreign trips and international diplomacy among others. One thing is however certain, the last 365 days has not met the expectation of the majority based on promises made during campaign process.
As we anticipate the May 29 Democracy Day speech by President MuhamaduBuahri, where he is expected to make bold the journey so far and declare a strong roadmap for Nigeria in coming periods.
Nigeria has to move forward!