Wednesday, 29 May 2019 13:39

[Opinion]: As Buhari’s second tenure kicks off - Timawus Mathias

President Muhammadu Buhari Today, President Muhammadu Buhari mounts the rostrum at Eagle Square Abuja, to be sworn in for a second tenure as the leader of the nation Nigeria.

This is in keeping with the letter of the constitution which appropriates two terms of four years each for an elected President.

It does not seem long ago to the day when I wrote the following at the start of this Presidency in 2015: “President Buhari surely faces a daunting task – Nigeria has never been this bad.

Yet expectations have never been as high as they are today, of a leadership, accredited with great promise of change, and empathy. Is there a magic wand? To me, the magic wand to address Nigeria’s myriad of challenges lies in character, which Buhari is blessed with.

This character must address specific institutions from the onset, failing which it will not be possible to rewind up our loose spiral.” So relevant is this again to this day. 

I ventured four years ago, to opine that “President Buhari must take off with a slim and highly disciplined executive, of technocrat politicians.

The cabinet must be slim, and predicated on strategic competence and capacity, while at the same time taking care of the sentiment of ethno-religious and regional representation.” Were my expectations met? Was my counsel given so freely then, heeded? After a long spell of ill health, it took President Muhammadu Buhari six months to appoint a cabinet.

My expressed hope that Buhari heeded advice on the need for his appointments to speak the change he promised in his campaign, which part determined his mass support, fell flat. It was most disappointing to see some recycled and overused personalities.

Besides even at that, the better part of the takeoff of the administration saw President Buhari touring the globe, ostensibly to secure collaboration of the global community towards facing the daunting challenges faced. It was a lot of motion without movement. 

The general shortcoming of President Buhari has been his inability to carry the people along, leaning more on his personal integrity which earned him tremendous mass appeal – the masses being his base.

His appointments did not satisfy those masses and the political class and for most states, crisis was precipitated with his appointed ministers keeping aloof of their constituencies. For a multi ethnic and secular country, this served to disconnect the regime from the people and although there was a loud outcry, the President gave deaf ear and retained by most accounts, a lacklustre cabinet for the full four years.

Were progress made on all sectors, every shortcoming would have been overlooked. Looking at sectoral development from several aspects hardly paints a complimentary picture of the tenure.

The fight against corruption was considered a mockery partly because the National Assembly and the Judiciary frustrated every legal step the President could have taken to prosecute the war. The justice system has ensured that only the poor go to jail.

The elite could take justice through a labyrinthine route such that for years, cases simply linger. Buhari’s burden here is that he was unable to overcome this obstacle and remained hands and tongue-tied.

The corruption has not ebbed in occurrence given reports filtering from the financial and oil sector of the economy, and even as President appended his signature to the 2019 Appropriation Act, there was believed to be embedded in it a burgeoning petroleum subsidy regime which he has held as suspicious, but has carried it forward.

It is difficult to score President Buhari on national security. Boko Haram remains a thorn in the flesh carrying out embarrassing ambushes on troops and inflicting noticeable casualty.

The insurgents may have been chased out of Maiduguri the State capital, but security in much of Borno remains precarious and unpredictable. Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Benue States are relatively volatile, added to Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States. Kidnapping of commuters is now nationwide.

It does not seem clear that we have got the narrative of insecurity correct enough to proffer a workable solution. Things are getting worse, with armed herders rampaging in the South West and all of this making you to conclude easily that the Buhari regime is on the back foot and achieving little success.

Will President Buhari retain the security team already criticised severally for not only being a bad mix in terms of the National Quota but questionable in competence as well? It would be a surprise if he does but how much choice does he have? In 2015 when President Buhari took the reins of power, the economy was in a tail spin.

Every ill was attributed to the mismanagement of President Goodluck Jonathan and the blame is still being heaped on the PDP rule of 16 years.

But what do the indicators viewed dispassionately say? Experts report that the economy recorded a first quarter growth of only 1.9%, dropping one point lower than 2.0% that was recorded in the first quarter of 2018. Given that our population is growing between 2.5% and 3.0% each year, it indicates that Nigerians have been getting poorer through the Buhari regime.

It feels so in pockets. Power sector reforms have not improved supply of usable electricity, with the manufacturing sector bearing the brunt growing by a reported mere 8% and factories shutting down. Agriculture looks rosy with the return to local production of rice, but the Bank of Agriculture will not publish its rate of returns, reported to be terribly dismal.

Insecurity and farmer herder conflict have combined to thwart all government effort at revamping the sector. President Muhammadu Buhari cannot afford to repeat this dismal performance in the next four years.

The country is shaking dangerously from insecurity. The drivers are not ethnicity and religion, but poverty, ignorance and conflict on land and water resources. We pray he is bold and quick, as we owe our full cooperation and support.

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