Friday, May 27, 2016

Nigeria: A Year Of Unmet Expectations?

By Bolaji Tunji
In two days time, precisely May 29, the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration of President Mohammadu Buhari would be a year old in office. Being the tradition in this clime, it’s a time to take stock, to find out how the administration has fared in the last one year. Has the administration been able to meet the hopes and expectation of Nigerians who denied the Peoples Democratic Party that continued hold on power and placed their hopes on the APC and General Buhari.
*President Buhari 
That Nigerians had a lot riding on this administration was not in doubt and they had justifiable reason for that. APC had promised them what they felt they were not getting from the PDP government. A new life, a new Nigeria where fuel prices would be about N40 a litre. Where the mass of the unemployed and the aged would be paid a certain amount of money every month and  school children fed at least once a day. It was an administration that fed on the hope and the desire of the people with a promise to ensure that the hopes and aspirations were met. And the Buhari administration made history, unseating a sitting government. President Buhari’s victory at the polls marked him as a dogged, consistent fighter.
He had contested for the highest office in the land on three different occasions before victory eventually came. That in itself is historical. I can’t recall any serious Nigerian politician being that dogged. His tenacity endeared him to many Nigerians, his victory was thus assured especially when Nigerians had grown disenchanted with the PDP government . His victory also signaled the end of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) dominance of the political landscape. Recall that the party had boasted, in its heydays that it would rule Nigeria for 60 years. It could only rule for 16 years, losing to the progressive elements which in itself is equally historical.
Incumbents, with so much at stake, hardly lose election while the conservative elements have always aligned to hold the mantle of leadership of this country. It was under this epoch that President Buhari became the president, a feat that had proved impossible until a merger of his Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) with the Action Congress of Nigeria and a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) spearheaded by the Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha. The rest is history, as it is usually said.

It was on this euphoria of expectation that Nigerians welcomed the new government. The situation was further helped with what we have been told of the person of the president, a ramrod-straight military general. Straight in his dealings, without a shred of corruption in his vein. Some even said that the vote that brought APC to government was given to Buhari and not to the party per se. This was on account of the character of the presidential candidate.
Days after the government was sworn in, expectations were still high. The delay in appointing ministers, though caused a little hiccup was not enough to affect the affection for the new government. Nigerians even provided a ready excuse, that the president should be forgiven as he was only looking for people of integrity to assist in carrying out his plan to make the country better.
And things were working. Within the first 100 days, there was a significant improvement in electricity. I recall writing at the time and asking what suddenly changed considering the fact that the incoming government had not made any investment in the power sector. Ministries also pecked up. The nearly comatose Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seemingly found its feet and went after everything in its radar, a radar that was nearly going opaque due to inaction. It began targeting people believed to be members of the former administration. And we asked at the time, what changed? The answer we got was, the president’s body language, which gave indications that impunity had come to an end. It was a new era in the country, so we were led to belief.
It is now a year. Can we say things have been better done than President Buhari met it? Can we give the administration a pass mark for what it has done in the last one year? Is the president’s body language still having any effect today and in what way has this significantly improved the situation in Nigeria?
Personally, I would not say the administration has met the expectation yet. We have been told that the roads to meeting the expectations of Nigerians and dramatically improving the country would be thorny and full of strive. We are still at a cross road whether we should accept that or still see it as propaganda?
Do we continue to invest our hope in the administration or just accept that ‘The beautyful ones are not yet born’, to borrow from the title of the novel of that Ghanaian writer, Ayi Kwei Armah. What is the situation with electricity today? It has not improved in any way, rather, it has grown worse, the minister in charge, Raji Fashola who had given us confidence on his appointment that things would improve, has not met the expectation of Nigerians. What we daily get is the excuse that militants have disrupted gas pipeline which has affected power generation. Nigerians are not interested in such details, all they want is constant electricity, not rhetorics that most of the ministers are not in short supply of.
The administration took its popularity down a peg when it increased the pump price of fuel from N86.50 to N145. One then ask what happened to the rhetorics of the progressives in years past when they argued then that as an oil producing country, price of fuel in the country should not be too high. That we should enjoy the advantage of being an oil producing country. What about the different oppositions to fuel subsidy removal. I recall that in spite of that, the administration equally paid subsidy at some point. So what changed? What led to the flip-flop policy? Is it a pointer to what has been said about this administration that it does not have a clear cut economic  blueprint and is only swayed into decision by prevailing situation? Would that be the reason we looked towards China for economic salvation? What if China doesn’t work, where next would we be looking towards?
It is important for the administration to let us have a clear cut policy and economic direction. This would help. Nigerians would then know what to expect at any point in time.  There are still other areas of national life that has not been touched. Unemployment is still soaring, inflation seems to  have come to stay and in spite of the efforts of the Central Bank, it is still at the two digits level. Most importantly, there is poverty in the land. It is becoming more difficult for Nigerians to meet their needs. The President should empathize with the suffering Nigerians and come up with palliatives.
But I still have hope. My hope is rested on President Buhari. He is honest. He loves this country and he wants it better than it is. I don’t know about others…
*Tunji is a newspaper columnist

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