Fulfilling Campaign Promises: A Tale of Two Presidents

Fulfilling Campaign Promises: A Tale of Two Presidents

By Azuka Onwuka

Buhari and Trump
Buhari and Trump

The President of the United States of America, Mr Donald Trump, has been in the news since his inauguration on January 20. Everyday he takes an action in line with the campaign promises he made upon which the electorate voted him in. The most controversial action of his has been the executive order he signed on January 27 placing a temporary ban on citizens of seven countries from entering the US. The countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It has caused protests across the United States. But there are those who support it.

One side believes that he is going against the spirit of the United States, a country founded as a land of refuge for people fleeing persecution. The other side sees it as an internal affair by Americans to protect themselves against radical Islam, which has created insecurity and fear in many countries of the world.

However, the essence of this article is not to prove which side is right or wrong. It is simply to note that Americans voted for Trump based on certain promises he made, which included vetting the entry of citizens of countries considered as threats, creating a wall between the US and Mexico, protecting the US against trade disadvantage with other countries (especially China), projecting the US as a Christian state, etc. At the events marking his inauguration, Trump ensured that Christian prayers were said, leaving nobody in doubt that he wanted the religious status of the United States known.

According to the BBC, on Trump’s first day as a presidential candidate in June 2015, he made securing the border with Mexico a priority. He pledged repeatedly at rallies to “build the wall” along the southern border, saying it would be “big, beautiful, and powerful”.

Within days of becoming the President, Trump signed two executive orders designed to fulfil that campaign promise. The first executive order states that the US will create “a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier” on its southern border.

The second order states that the US will hire 10,000 more immigration officers, and revoke federal grant money from so-called “sanctuary cities” which refuse to deport undocumented immigrants.

Even though many have wondered how Trump will fund this wall, he has insisted that Mexico will pay for it. Mexico has insisted that it will not do that. The construction of the wall will cost billions of dollars, and the US Congress has to approve such an amount of money. Maybe Trump has a joker on how he will make Mexico fund the wall or he is just blowing hot hair. The years to come will show which is which. But what is clear is that Trump is not distancing himself from his campaign promises neither is he giving excuses or engaging in blame game on why he cannot fulfil his promises.

Compare that to the campaign promises of President Muhammadu Buhari and what he has done about them. The first item on the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress is the entrenchment of true federalism through restructuring of the nation. The APC refused to participate in the 2014 national conference organised by the former president of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, on the grounds that the conference was not sincere and democratic but programmed to achieve a predetermined objective. The APC promised that it would organise a national conference that would focus on issues like restructuring Nigeria, devolution of powers, fiscal federalism, state police, etc, so as to reduce internal conflicts and make the components parts of Nigeria more competitive, creative and productive. This made the APC look like a better alternative to the PDP.

Upon assuming office in May 2015, both the President and members of his party became silent on every issue concerning restructuring of the country. National conference or restructuring became no longer important. Anybody that raised it as an issue was vilified as a trouble maker, a hypocrite, an opportunist or one playing to the gallery.

During the campaigns in early 2015, the APC had billboards that asked if it was fair that one dollar was exchanging for N216, and promised that a vote for Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo would strengthen the naira. At different campaign grounds, Buhari even promised to make one dollar to exchange for one naira and stabilise crude oil price. Today, less than two years of the Buhari presidency, one dollar is exchanging for over N500.

Furthermore, Buhari promised that he would not have the Office of the he First Lady. He was commended for that and it earned him votes. Upon assumption of office, his wife, Mrs Aisha Buhari, created the Office of the Wife of the President, employed aides and released official photograph of the Wife of the President.

In addition, during the campaigns, Buhari condemned the over 10 aeroplanes in the presidential fleet and promised to dispose of them except one. This was not done upon assumption of office. After about 17 months of complaints from Nigerians, the Presidency ordered the sale of two planes in the presidential fleet in October 2016. That was too little.

Also the President condemned the removal of fuel subsidy by his predecessor, saying that as far as he was concerned, he did not know anything called fuel subsidy. One year into office, Buhari removed the fuel subsidy, thereby increasing the pump price of petrol per litre from N86.50 to N145. With the rise in the exchange rate of the dollar to the naira, that price may change soon or the government will be left with the option of bearing the burden of subsidising the petrol.

Furthermore, while campaigning to be president during the tenure of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Buhari condemned Obasanjo for his frequent foreign trips. He also criticised Obasanjo’s high-handedness and non-transparent elections and consequently staged a street protest in Abuja with Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Alhaji Balarabe Musa and others to register his displeasure with Obasanjo’s undemocratic practices. Upon assuming office, Buhari embarked upon frequent foreign trips. Even when Nigerians complained, he simply ignored them and continued with his trips abroad. In addition, under Buhari civilians like the Shiites and members of the Indigenous People of Biafra who staged protests on the streets or organised prayers in a school for the release of their leader or held a rally to celebrate the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States were shot at and killed by security agents on several occasions.

Also the President promised to fight corruption without fear or favour. But repeatedly when the President’s associates are accused of corrupt practices, the President either keeps silent or exonerates them. Last week, Senator Shehu Sani, summarised Buhari’s double standards on corruption thus: “When it comes to fighting corruption in the National Assembly and the Judiciary and in the larger Nigerian sectors, the President uses insecticide, but when it comes to fighting corruption within the Presidency, they use deodorants.”

There are also promises made by the President to live a simple life with no flamboyance and waste. However, the amounts of money he has budgeted for feeding, buying of cooking utensils, funding the presidential clinic, renovation of the presidential house etc, especially at a time of recession, have painted a different picture about the President.

Some say that politicians say what they don’t mean. That is an insult to politicians. Voters choose one politician over another because of campaign promises and personality. It is disingenuous to get the votes of the electorate based on specific promises but turn one’s back on those promises once elected. A politician of integrity must be seen making genuine efforts to fulfil his or her campaign promises. It is better to try but fail than deny or abandon one’s campaign promises.

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