Buhari: Three Years Not Enough But….

Buhari: Three Years Not Enough But….

By Azuka Onwuka

Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s President

With three years gone and election date drawing near, some people are creating excuses for President Muhammadu Buhari. One such excuse is that three years is a short period for a president to be tested. The argument is that since the Peoples Democratic Party was in office in for 16 years, it is unfair to judge the ruling All Progressives Congress and Buhari after only three years in office. That may sound true on the surface, but when interrogated, it shows that time is not the main challenge faced by Buhari.

Three years is indeed not enough to make Nigeria’s economy the best in Africa or the world. By the best here, one does not mean the largest, even though size is important. One is referring to an economy with the least number of poor people. For an economy to lead other economies in that regard, time is needed. It is like expecting a tree planted today to start bearing fruit in a matter of weeks. But the question is: Has Buhari improved upon the economy he met in 2015 or has he worsened it? The next question is: Is Buhari setting the foundation for an economy that will be a pride to Nigerians in the years ahead? According to the World Poverty Clock, Nigeria now has the highest number of poor people in the world with 87 million people in extreme poverty. The report added that six Nigerians go into poverty every minute. In 2016 the National Bureau of Statistics disclosed that 112 million Nigerians lived below the poverty line. These are all scary figures.

Three years is indeed not enough to wipe out Boko Haram. One of the most difficult challenges a country can face is religious or political insurgency. An ideology for which the proponents are determined to give their lives is very difficult to defeat. In spite of the military might of the United Kingdom, the Irish Republic Army made life uncomfortable for the country from 1969 to 1997. When Buhari was promising to destroy the Boko Haram swiftly if elected, I was laughing. The only thing a leader should promise realistically is ensuring that Boko Haram does not occupy an inch of Nigeria’s territory. But nobody should boast of wiping the group out or stopping them from embarking on suicide attacks and occasional invasion of communities.

Also three years is indeed too short to provide 24 hours of electricity or revamp the health care or the schools and universities as well as roads and other infrastructure. The rot in Nigeria’s infrastructure occurred over several decades. What is possible is to steer Nigeria from the wrong path into the right path. Beyond the usual repair of certain infrastructure that every administration does, there is no concrete sign that Buhari has moved Nigeria from the wrong path.

However, even though most Nigerians – both those who voted for Buhari and those who did not – did not expect him to perform miracles within his first term of four years, they expected some basic things to change. They knew that there were issues that do not require a long gestation period.

For example, three years is a long time to show the nation that you belong to all Nigerians instead of your ethnic group and religion by ensuring that all parts of the nation are treated fairly on all fronts. When Buhari said at his inauguration in 2015 that he belonged to nobody but belonged to everybody, even his worst critics were happy about that statement, because they knew that tribalism, cronyism and religious cleavages had done much in dividing Nigeria and pulling the nation back.

However, even before the ovation over those words had died down, Buhari had started showing that he did not belong to everybody through his words, actions and attitudes to national issues. His appointments and projects have consistently been heavily skewed towards his part of the country, creating a record of the first Nigerian head of state that made his kinsmen in charge of 90 percent of the country’s security. Interestingly, the more people complain, the more he carries on unperturbed. If a president does as he pleases in his first term when he needs people’s votes to be re-elected, how will he behave if re-elected and needs nobody’s votes anymore?

Three years is long enough for a leader to show firmness and lack of bias in the fight against corruption. Buhari’s strongest attribute before his election was his portrayal as a man of integrity who would not spare anybody accused of corruption. But Buhari has closed his eyes to accusations of corruption against his associates, leading to the famous saying of Senator Shehu Sani, one of Buhari’s keenest supporters, that Buhari uses deodorant on allegations of corruption against his aides and close associates but uses insecticide on other people. For example, a month after the minister of finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, was accused of forgery, the President has taken no action about it. The fight against corruption has lost steam because people easily see any arrest as victimisation of opponents.

Also three years is long enough to ensure that the murderous herdsmen no longer kill people in their homes, by providing land and aerial security to those constantly attacked, rather than looking away or telling the victims to go home and learn to tolerate their neighbours. Buhari’s attitude towards the constant killings perpetrated by herdsmen is the biggest minus against his presidency. It is believed that his lukewarm attitude stems from the fact that he and the perpetrators of these killings are both Fulani. It is surprising that the same President who swooped on Niger Delta militants, Shiites, and the Indigenous People of Biafra, has continued to look indecisive over the herdsmen’s killings.

Three years is enough for a president to prove that he has respect for the rule of law and the orders of the law courts, including the Supreme Court. Buhari became the president through the instrumentality of the law, and he was sworn in with the Nigerian Constitution, which he swore to defend. On many occasions he has breached that same Constitution, thereby showing a bad example to the masses that one can choose what law to obey or disobey. That promotes indiscipline.

Three years is long enough for a president to show that he is prepared for governance by promptly attending to memos and issues on his table. It took Buhari six months to appoint his ministers and two years to reconstitute the boards he disbanded, thereby stalling work on many agencies.

Three years is enough time to show Nigerians how to put the country first.  It was not nothing that the saying “Examples are better than precepts” was coined. A president who speaks and acts patriotically would get his people’s support easily. A president who runs to London regularly for medical treatment and holiday cannot make his people believe in investing at home or buying made-in-Nigeria goods. A president who does not grant interviews to local media houses but does so to foreign ones does not show that he rates his country first. A president who makes negative comments about his compatriots when he is abroad will not inspire his people. A president who (with his family) maintains the opulence of his office, which he criticised while seeking votes, will not convince his people to make sacrifices.

Therefore, there are many feats that a president can easily achieve within three years and with little or no funds. Such feats act as a springboard for the attainment of the other feats that take time to materialise. They help a president to win the trust and support of his people. The people can then wait and hope that their leader has their best interest and that of the nation at heart. Buhari has not done well on these seemingly simple issues.

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