By Obo Effanga
One year after the unprecedented election which saw Nigerians replace one president and government with another, many citizens are asking
several questions like “Where is the change”, “What really changed” and “Where is the magic wand”, among others. It is increasingly looking as if the immediate expected ends of the change of government are far from reality. The indices, especially on the economic front, paint not only a sad picture, but a frightening one at that. As the ship of state keeps drifting in the stormy seas, it seems many more believers in President Muhammadu Buhari’s capability to deliver on his responsibilities are having a rethink.
The country has witnessed one of its worst energy crises of all times, particularly under a democracy. Getting petrol, and that at regulated price, has suddenly become like hitting gold and must come with much celebration. Power supply is simply epileptic at best, across the nation. We are in a conundrum because we cannot buy petrol for our vehicles and we cannot get it either to power our power generators as alternative to the failure of public power supply. And all these, happening at a time the weather is terribly hot, means that many citizens have been groaning and cursing.
It was in the middle of the above situation that the University of Lagos was shut down indefinitely, last week, following students’ protest about the poor welfare conditions in their school, occasioned
by the same energy crisis. And if the government is oblivious to the complaints of the students in Lagos, on Saturday, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo heard the message directly from citizens when he visited Kano. News report says he was welcomed with chants of “We are suffering, no fuel, no power, no money,” by hundreds of Kano residents. The chant reminds one of the “Hope ‘93” presidential campaign messages of Moshood Abiola that started with the line, “I tire for this country, na so so wahala”.
The question remains, what is the way out and is the government up to the task of changing things around? We all know that the rot we find ourselves did not start within the last 11 months or so that the Buhari administration has been in government. So, the government need not remind us all the time about the history of our problems unless it tells us how it wants to get us out of the mess. Nigerians didn’t vote the government in to keep reminding them of the rot that made them vote out the previous government. They voted in Buhari and his All Progressives Congress as an alternative to Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party with the belief that they had something better to offer.
Yes, we know the rot was so deep that 11 months could not wipe out.
But while the road to recovery may be long the government would do well by having a clear roadmap for the recovery and it must share such intent with citizens. What has so far characterised the government’s roadmap is at best befuddling to many of us the citizens. It is not precise; it is not well communicated to us or even discussed to get our inputs. That is why it seems we are just drifting. We are thus left with second-guessing what we think the president and the government plan to do. Suddenly we are made to read and believe in “body language”.
Added to the above are the numerous policy summersaults and reversals as well as policy statements that take like forever to be implemented.
These include the confusion surrounding the policy on the operation of domiciliary bank accounts or transaction in foreign currencies which took a while to be understood, assuming everyone now understands it.
It was equally bedevilled by pendulum-swinging in the policy and implementation. The same could be said about the operation of the petroleum industry. Are we importing petroleum products or not? Are we subsidising the imports or not? Are we owing importers or not?
Talking about the delays in implementation of plans, nothing encapsulates this more than the president’s promise to set up a committee for the rehabilitation of the north east following the
debilitating effects of the insurgencies there. The pledge was made at the end of 2015 wherein we were told the committee would be chaired by Theophilus Danjuma with Aliko Dangote as one of the members. Four months later, the rest of the committee members have not been named or the committee inaugurated, unless those were done surreptitiously.
What exactly is the problem with translating plans to reality in this government? Which aide has the duty for following up on presidential pronouncements to ensure they are carried through?
It is clear that there is a huge gap in translating dreams to reality under the Buhari administration. Sometimes even dreaming the dreams can be a huge task. Pray, why did it take the suggestion of Wole
Soyinka for the government to think of holding a retreat to strategise an economic recovery plan? One would have thought that a party that had coveted the presidential seat over the years should in fact have a shadow economic policy and team all the while. Apparently there wasn’t any such and if there is, not everyone in government knows about it and the roadmap for the implementation of such policy. And the government’s media team certainly are in the dark about it too.
The government is clearly too slow in taking decisions, even on strategic issues, just as it sometimes takes decisions that do not seem well thought through, thus calling for review or apologies soon
afterwards. That is what happened when the government recently sacked the governing councils of universities without due legal process, only to apologise later, even as it refused to reverse the decision. And while it was quick to sack the governing councils and boards of agencies, the government has not reconstituted most of them. Perhaps that would be asking for too much, for a government that took six months to constitute a federal executive council.
And while we are still on the issue of appointments, I am still worried that it is nearly a year since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had a fully-constituted commission. While the Constitution and the enabling Act of INEC provide for a chairperson and 12 other commissioners, INEC today has a chairperson and six commissioners. Yet it is expected to carry out all the functions, duties and responsibilities expected of all the 13 officers. Not only is the national body of INEC not fully and properly constituted, the state resident electoral commissioners have also not been appointed. Is it that Nigeria is so bereft of quality persons who could be appointed to INEC? From experience, the three years is already too short a time for the electoral commission to deliver on credible elections because while we wait, the politicians and political parties are already strategizing on how best to manipulate the next election.
The result of all the above is that the government which arrived on the basis of goodwill from the citizens is fast losing a lot of the goodwill. And that is very dangerous for a new government that came to replace one that had been in power for all of 16 years. It is enough to make some citizens lose interest completely in governance, if the two of its major political parties cannot be trusted to salvage the country.
Perhaps the president would have had more time to concentrate on some of these nitty gritty if he stayed at home more. But no, our president is also the ‘gallivanter-in-chief’ of the country that many cannot immediately remember who the foreign affairs minister is. And this also raises concerns as to which of his lieutenants the president has much confidence in to allow to take a lead on some of the issues on his behalf. Who constitutes the government’s core economic team and who calls the shots? The picture one gets is that the president’s core team, if any, is so limited. The president would do more to expand his core team and be open to views from those who do not necessarily think the way he does. There may be many more ways of achieving a goal than one. The government needs to open up a bit more.
One of such areas is the economy and that is central to every citizen.
Unfortunately, the economy has been contracting for the past few months. Our economy need not thrive on the basis of corruption and free flow of stolen wealth. But those who engage in legitimate livelihood should not be suffering along or more than those whose criminality brought us to the present pass.