JUDGE PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI’S PERFORMANCE BASED ON THE 2016 BUDGET
I join millions of Nigerians to congratulate President Mohammadu Buhari on the slow but steady advance he has continued to make in the administration of this country since his inauguration as president about 6 months ago. The inauguration of the Federal Executive Council a few days ago and the holding of its first “council meeting” indicated President Buhari’s change of gear to mechanically fast track the preparation of the vehicle to convey good governance to Nigerians. The inauguration of the “working team” of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government was the very first step President Buhari took to kick start his administration’s commencement of governance on the larger scale.
It is remarkable that though his coming this far, in some opinions, took too long a time, and led to the continued fear of risking the possibility of an economic melt down in the country, President Buhari arrived at this point with Nigeria save in his hands. This is when Nigerians will begin to justifiably judge the performance of the president. The joy of an arrival is subsumed in a traveller arriving safe and sound, hale and hearty. I have had the opportunities of travelling by air, sea, rail and road, and I know that unless it is a bicycle ride upon a deserted highway, the journey by rail provides the best mode of transportation for a “slow and steady” trip. The advantage this has over others means of transportation is that it provides the traveller the opportunities to capture every scene along the way, to embellish the beauty nature bears, to assess and understand people and their climes at every junction on the way; and to take notes to relive the experience for the sake of posterity. The last 6 months has unmasked the “Buhari economic philosophy”, even if it would look very elementary in some views, it would not be denied that many economic doom predictions of our intellectual class are still pending fulfilment.
Why President Buhari was slow
It is interesting to observe how President Buhari got to this point in his administration by a tortuous and painstaking bicycle ride that portrayed him as a “not so serious” leader. But he was not stupid, he knew exactly what he was doing. He confronted issues for which Nigerians have had to endure for like eternity, for me I looked forward to someone saving me the anger and frustrations the subsidy regime of President Jonathan brought me. Getting to this point in his 4 years administration, President Buhari could only be correctly likened to having had a 6 months bicycle ride upon the deserted highway of Nigeria’s public governance: the past 6 months has clearly shown how public governance was deserted. Travelling slowly and steadily allowed President Buhari to relish “the breath of fresh air” borne by the nouveau change of the ruling party, it allowed him enjoy serene travelling atmosphere with time enough to figure out shapes that formed in the clouds. Most important of all these was how he was spared the chances of making common but desperate mistakes of governance. President Buhari may have been noted by some sections of Nigerians as having done “nothing” in 6 months, but in as much as they are entitled to their say, President Buhari has made it clear that even ‘doing nothing” is doing something when the fate of a country as large as Nigeria is taken into consideration.
Travelling “slow and steady” is just the safest way to ensure safe arrival at a destination. President Mohammadu Buhari is a prudent man; a man who knows Nigeria and Nigerians like the back of his hand; a man who has the experience we can depend on at this very crucial time in our nationhood. The summary of his achievements in the last 6 months resides in his bringing everything in Nigeria under his control, and up till now every allegation levelled against his style of leadership has remained constantly in the realm of speculations. It has become clearer that the “economic fears” entertained by some intellectually driven opinions were really baseless. President Buhari’s inauguration of his cabinet at this time was the indication that he is satisfied with his house cleaning: the sweeping out of the 16 archival years of a once ruling party and as it stands, the APC government is ready to begin the work of public governance, we still have 42 of 48 months to go and the possibility of a second term mandate.
That the Nigerian economy was already comatose when President Buhari took over leadership is never in doubt. Taking over the leadership of an economy sustained on life supports is not an easy and pleasant task for any leader. Like it is with patients on life support, the fluctuating signals from the life indicators leave relatives in fatal suspense, breathtaking anxieties and hearts praying in earnest for the resuscitation and sustenance of the lives of their loved ones. It was not strange that global economic indicators were not favourably disposed to comfortably predict the well being of the Nigerian economy. Nigeria’s economic advance, at the commencement of the Buhari administration, was impeded by an impossible balance of trade, and the expenditure profile of the 2015 annual budget, which was halfway exhausted without commendable performance index to show for resources spent, especially during the period leading to the 2015 general elections. President Buhari had no other objective than to cleverly guide the 2015 annual budget to its close without encumbering it with his campaign promises because it will be impossible to achieve, even with a supplementary budget. The 2015 annual budget is a budget that has constantly run on income deficits and dwindling export indices. I see a president who wants to begin his service to Nigerians on a clean slate without budgetary deficits encumbering his “2016 Budget of Change”.
The lessons from military parades
In welcoming the members of the newly inaugurated Federal Executive Council on board this administration, Mr President is also hereby welcomed on his arrival from the “slow time” era of his administration to its “quick time”. In military terms the “quick time” indicates the second stage of a military parade. The two ingredients that make up the military career are warfares and parades. All military parades begin with “falling into columns” and “setting up of platoons”. As one who emerged from the military, President Buhari surely knows when to apply the order of military parades to democratic governance, and as far as he operates within the law, he is justified. A military parade begins with the command for troops to go in “slow and quick” times. The parade begins with the soldiers marching at “slow time”. At the end of the first marching circuit the parade commander orders for the parade to “change from slow time to quick time”. He afterwards instructs the parade “by the centre” for the “quick time” circuit to begin. The parade is usually concluded with the “review order” and closes with “the general salute”. This must have been the analogy that guided President Buhari’s initial start off.
Let work on 2016 annual budget begin
As he swore-in his ministers, President Buhari was heard ordering his presidential “parade” to “change from slow time into quick time”. All the men we saw been sworn in were at various times working with Mr President backstage. At this point in time, that they are now openly assigned, we can be rest assured that President Buhari’s administrative “parade” has moved from the “slow time” to the “quick time”. It is now that every performance of government can be appropriately judged against budgetary provisions. All President Buhari did in this last 6 months was to carefully guide the 2015 annual budget to a close.
The most critical and crucial assignment before the newly inaugurated cabinet is that of studying the performance of the 2015 annual budget in order to draw up urgent issues of importance to be brought over into the 2016 annual budget. President Buhari’s presidential campaign promises should be categorised into short term, medium term and long term needs. For example, the free meals for school children, the N5,000 monthly stipends for most vulnerable Nigerians and the creation of 25 million jobs, rather than paying N5,000 monthly stipend to unemployed Youths Corps members, should form the short term economic needs this administration must tackle in the 2016 annual budget. It is also in this light that the promise to equate the Dollar in exchange rate to the Naira should be classified as a long term economic need, though a downward graduation in this rate will be indicative of the progress in that direction: rationally, if Mr President achieves the Dollar to Naira exchange rate promise on the last day of his 4-year service to the nation, he would have fulfilled that promise fair and square. So when we choose to enumerate Mr President’s campaign promises, let us be fair to him, we must understand that it is not possible for him to get all his promises together all at once. So I see as most unfortunate the clamour by PDP Senators who called for the commencement of the payment of N5,000 to poor Nigerians in line with Mr President’s campaign promise. They were either ignorant or they were just ridiculous.
An advice for Governor-Ministers
A “common sense” suggestion for our newly appointed ministers who are former governors of their home States and who presently enjoy “State pension” remittances from their various States governments. As a matter of urgency and in line with the change mantra of this administration, they should publicly announce their resolves to stop further remittances of these “pensions” and benefits during the period of their engagement with this administration. It would be absurd for any minister to enjoy State remitted pension and also pocket the financial benefits attached to the office of a Minister. Doing this in the face of the kind of poverty and deprivations Nigerians are presently suffering will be heartless, pretentious and insensitive.
The class of colourless opinions
It is understandable how many Nigerians thought and believed that President Buhari should have “hit the ground running”, it is also not in doubt that this would have been the approach of many who hold this opinion if they were in President Buhari’s shoes. As much as there is nothing wrong with the choice of hitting the ground running, I do not also see anything wrong with a leader choosing to take all the time in the world to berth his sociopolitical and economic ideas safely. During the period I call “Buhari’s time of trials”, I observed 2 classes of very critical opinions on President Buhari’s attitude towards governance. Let us now analyse these opinions.
So far, I have not seen anything President Buhari has done to short change ordinary Nigerians, and this is what matters the most – that the hungry, though still hungry, are no longer alone in their hunger, that some of Nigeria’s oppressors are now joining the ranks of the oppressed to experience what they failed to spare others before now. The oppressed Nigerians are yet to find reprieve but it is comforting to know that this experience sweeps across board, indicating a certain change that should re-channel all wealth conduits of this country towards ordinary Nigerians. Whether it is appreciated or not, President Buhari has closed up the gaps, however minimally, between the privileged, the underprivileged and the less privileged classes in Nigeria. The rich in Nigeria now cries the loudest. Who says President Buhari has not made progress? Time alone will tell.
Nigerians are impatient people
A set of opinions constantly reflect what Olisa Metuh and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) represent – a colourless opposition. This set of Nigerians are those who have refused to forgive the President and his party, the APC for removing Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP from power (an over flogged issue that has refused to disappear). They just cannot see anything good in President Buhari and his administrative efforts so far. Early in the life of this administration, some Nigerians in this group suggested the resignation of the President: what cheap blackmail? What kind of a 12 million population tries to up turn the decision of 15 million? Nevertheless, they would “always have their say” as the minority and no one can take away that from them.
A second set of opinions revolve around people who were somehow initially neutral but objective in how they opine on President Buhari in the beginning. These have of late joined in swallowing the pills of impatience and beclouded reasoning. They have joined in back pedaling on the initial support they handed down the president. This set of people, though prayed for God to give Nigeria the best leader to lead us out our present socioeconomic pogrom, welcomed and warmly received the emergence of President Buhari gladly, and have helped in suggesting ways he should tackle governance. They felt disappointed along the way when it appeared clearly that president Buhari has a fixed focus, sighting things which only he sees.
This set of people comprising more of the intellectual class in Nigeria fret when economic statistics from international economic bodies suggest how our stock market is crashing, how our Naira is daily becoming worthless, how Nigeria could be delisted from global economic indications, and other issues churn out. You would hear them say “this Buhari sef; this man wan kill person?”. Global economic indicators have truly warned that Nigeria could regress in financial and economic terms but where this class of people easily fail is in understanding that as much as they are concerned for how Nigeria fairs in the international economic environment, Mr President, as the one who is saddled with leading this Nigeria state, is also very, if not more, concerned about Nigeria’s economic situation too.
President Buhari can be trusted
No one can relive for President Buhari the lessons of his three terms failed bids at the presidency. It is a political experience and mark no other politician in Nigeria has attained. It may be difficult to trust Nigerian leaders but the Muhammadu Buhari we know can be given a benefit of the doubt. It is a devious ambush to expect President Buhari to parch up his campaign promises and economic progress with the 2015 annual budget, nooo! It is wrong to place on another the burden we cannot personally carry. President Buhari is not an economic superman but he surely knows what to throw away and what to keep. Let us continue to pray for the success of our president.