Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Buhari: Phase Two

By Chuks Iloegbunam
Everyone must keep their eyes on the ball. Muham­madu Buhari has, with little drama, slipped into Phase Two of his presidency. Giv­en the texture of Phase One, this new phase could deliver somber­ness and dissemblance. For those who didn’t get it, or who pretend after the fact not to have gotten it, Buhari’s Phase One stressed one point: All that glitters is not gold. It wasn’t that people were una­ware of the possibility of stuff like clay, rubber and wood glinting on account of some polish. It was that the hoopla that attended the shimmer of the recycled “gem­stone” was unprecedented.
But, as Nigerians would say it, after the race, the calculation of the distance covered! There were scores of experts in calculus at the starting point. Strangely, what had been hyped as one joy­ous calculators’ adventure quick­ly came to grief, reason being that there was precious little to mark on the achievements’ mar­gin. Good promises, like candy bars, had of course, been made to be broken.

There had been (or hadn’t there been?) a number of warn­ing voices in those heady days of the change mantra’s eruption, Sputnik-like, raring to tear into and through outer space. One of such voices – that of Chuk­wuma Charles Soludo – wasn’t even oppositional to the touted humankind’s final hope. This was Professor Soludo a month to the presidential ballot: “The APC promises to create 20,000 jobs per state in the first year, totaling a mere 720,000 jobs. This sounds like a quota system and for a country where the new entrants into the labour market per an­num exceed two million. If it was intended as a joke, APC must please get serious…”

“Did I hear that APC prom­ises a welfare system that will pay between N5,000 and N10,000 per month to the poorest 25 million Nigerians? Just this programme alone will cost between N1.5 and N3 trillion per annum. Add to this the cost of free primary education plus free meal (to be funded by the federal budget or would it force non-APC state governments to implement the same?), plus some millions of public housing, etc. I have tried to cost some of the promises by both the APC and the PDP, given alternative scenarios for public finance and the numbers don’t add up. Nigerians would be glad to know how both parties would fund their programmes. Do they intend to accentuate the huge public debt, or raise taxes on the soon to-be-beleaguered private businesses, or massively devalue the naira to rake in bas­kets of naira from the dwindling oil revenue, or embark on huge fiscal retrenchment with the sack of labour and abandonment of projects…

“The presidential election will be won by either Buhari or Jona­than. For either, it is likely to be a pyrrhic victory. None of them will be able to deliver on the fan­tastic promises being made on the economy, and if oil prices re­main below $60, I see very diffi­cult months ahead, with possible heady collisions with labour, civil society, and indeed the citizenry.”

Well, the chickens since came home to roost. Nearly one year after assuming power, the APC is yet to create a single job, apart from the political appointments distributed to party stalwarts! Power supply across the coun­try has dipped to lowest point in recent memory. The media “war” against corruption is yet to produce its first convict. The party even denied its manifesto, including My Covenant With Nigeria, which Muhammadu Buhari had personally signed. All their fanciful promises disap­peared into thin air.

In the giddiness of APC’s abysmal failures, which were consistently and disingenu­ously blamed on ex-President Jonathan, something unexpect­ed happened. President Buhari found in his dictionary a hitherto nonexistent word: apology! This was the President at the recent National Executive Commit­tee (NEC) meeting of the APC: “We gave a blanket order which we had to rescind when we said all boards are suspended or dis­solved. We had to go back and lick our vomit in terms of univer­sity boards because we found out that according to their laws, they cannot choose Vice Chancellors unless the Boards sit down, in­terview prospective candidates who want to be VCs. So, there is nothing wrong in saying sorry and going back on your decision. So, we said sorry...”

Saying sorry may have to do with dismounting high horses. But, was the Justice Ministry on vacation when the President donned the dictator’s toga?

Buhari was even profounder in his Easter message: “Our un­fortunate notoriety in recent years as a country where the blood of men, women and chil­dren are wantonly and callously shed in frequent orgies of crimi­nal, political, ethnic and religious violence has become very embar­rassing and utterly unacceptable. My administration is determined to achieve greater peace and se­curity across our nation by end­ing the avoidable conflicts and crises that hinder our national progress. I ask for greater sup­port from all Nigerians in this regard. We must put a stop to po­litically motivated killings. Our communities must be made safe again for all inhabitants to live together in peace and harmony.”

The President’s apology and his condemnation of bloodletting could indicate a vista of national hope. But cracks mustn’t be pa­pered over. What does one make of a President who promised preferential governance based on presidential voting patterns now seeking “support from all Nigeri­ans”? Besides, is President Buhari not the Commander-in-Chief of the troops that have been mas­sacring peaceful and unarmed pro-Biafra agitators? Or, doesn’t that constitute wanton blood­letting? Is the mowing down of hundreds of Shia’s in Zaria not wanton bloodletting? It must be recognized that the route out of bloodletting is paved, not with heavy-handedness, but with jus­tice.

A different apprehension is that Buhari’s Phase Two appears, like Janus, to be two-faced. While the President sang sweet-sound­ing songs, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the man who covets the trophy of making Buhari Presi­dent, showed the other face of the APC, the fractious one. Tinubu’s visceral attack on Dr. Ibe Ka­chikwu, the NNPC boss, revealed the cantankerous underbelly of a party deep in the orgy of long knives, a proposition laden with conjectures. Even more disturb­ing is the exposure of the chasm between the perceptions of the leaders and the led. “The fuel shortage is severely biting for the average person,” declared Tinubu. “They are forced to re­main in lines for far too long, for too much time, to pay too much money for too little fuel.”

Well, Tinubu fired blanks. Acute fuel scarcity, a character­istic of the Buhari administra­tion, afflicts less and more than Tinubu’s “average person”. It is a pervasive scourge, the direct con­sequence of political myopia and systemic failure, which, except for the purposes of sorting vested interests, isn’t blameable on any one functionary. It gifts prophe­cy: If governance doesn’t become creative, if justice isn’t enthroned to equalize Nigerian citizenship, and if soldiers escalate partisan­ship where only rightful votes should count, any prayer for an end to sacrifices at Moloch’s Al­tar already went unanswered. In which regard pertinent lines from W. B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming” could command more appeal, portending impondera­bles for Buhari: Phase Three.

*Chuks Iloegbunam, an eminent essayist and author is a columnist with a national newspaper 

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