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Editorial: Nigeria, fasten your seat belt

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President Buhari
President Buhari

The victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the Saturday, February 23 , presidential election, has finally rested the anxiety of Nigerians as to the identity of the next president.

Of concern is what will be the direction of the country,and under whose presidency? What of the economy, education, health and the complex, often delicate ethnic relations among other concerns?
Now that the incumbent Buhari has won the polls, there is a need for the country together with its people to fasten the tenuous seat belt for a roller coaster journey not into the unknown, but the clearly defined pathways, contours and cataracts the president had marked out in his first term in office, even when what the Nigerians expected was a macadamised super highway of prosperity  ,and not  some dark contours that lead to poverty and poor relations among ethnic nationalities of the project Nigeria.
When President Buhari came to power in 2015 amidst unprecedented public acclaim and goodwill, it was bedrocked on popular perception widely shared among Nigerians irrespective of tribe, tongue and religion, that he would make a difference, and reengineer the polity towards the path of sanity.
It was said that his 20- month dictatorship in the middle ,80s was a benevolent one with zero tolerance for corruption and indiscipline in public and private life. This, was further given impetus by his spartan lifestyle and near ascetic posturing.
The Jonathan years had been widely condemned as a failure -though by hindsight, there may be some debate on the validity of this view- this view, nevertheless, helped the election of the incumbent.
Upon his ascension to power, President Buhari wasted no time in giving the core direction of his administration, which many commentators agreed was without pretence. He embarked upon revision of the core values of pan Nigerianism by subtle, even if not overt northernisation of the security architecture of the country in an unprecedented manner.  When his appointments were put  under hammer for being pro- a section of the country, he, in a  moment of Freudian slip    said he could only appoint people he knew and trusted into high offices. This undiplomatic remark foreshadowed much of his later responses to questions by concerned Nigerians about nepotism and clannishness in his government.
For this newspaper, the administration has been remarkable for the wrong reasons- overt outsourcing of governance and strategic decisions to a faceless, informal group of powerful advisers ,which the media and political communication chose to call the Cabal.
The administration’s response to and mollycoddling of the Fulani herdsmen/ farmers conflicts in the Middle Belts have not portrayed the administration in good light. The impunity of the herdsmen and government’s changing narratives on the phenomenon among others have given well meaning Nigerians cause to query the president’s nationalistic posturing and integrity.
These three years,  there has been too much shedding of innocent blood, insecurity and widening of the tenuous ethnic tensions , and ,in truth, the administration has had Nigerians more divided than before along tribe, tongue and religion.
The utterances of the key administration officials in time of tensions have always not helped matter. The impression that the administration came to power to favour a section of the country alone has been given fillip by the way President Buhari handled appointments. Whenever a Southern official was removed, the administration would bring in  Northerner, the example is legion- NIA, DSS, Finance ministry , and the list goes on and on.
Our fear is about the economy. There is no public face to the battle to reposition the economy, and going forward there is nothing to show that this administration in its second term will do things differently. It has no robust engagement with corporate Nigeria, and its poverty fighting schemes, such as Trader moni are like scratching the surface of a deep- seated problem. There is no long term attempt to revive the economy, the monomania in government’s narrative is fighting corruption.
The impression is that corruption is the only problem facing the country.
As it stands, the narrative of the administration on fighting corruption is no longer as white as snow, for there are administration’s officials that were accused of corruption in the past ,but which the government were quick to give a clean bill of health ,even when investigation had not started. Examples abound- the former Inspector General of police accused by Senator Misau, the 25 billion NNPC scandal , the Osborne money, the former SGF and the case of secret reinstatement of fugitive Maina into public service among others.
It would be safe ,as many commentators have said, that  the administration’s fight against graft is selective.
Many top government officials, including former governors who were in opposition PDP but who later defected to the ruling APC have had their ” corruption sins forgiven “- Kalu, Silva, Akpabio and many others.
Under this administration, the market economy has suffered, as the overall social and political philosophy of the Buhari administration tends to favour bloated government, prebendalism and cronyism. Poverty has reached the record all- time high, according to the World Poverty Clock, about 91 million Nigerians live below one dollar a day, and since the administration is not enamoured of engaging corporate Nigeria, and with no visible economic programs that are not surface scratching, the figure may reach 120 in Buhari second term. Nigerians have to tighten their seat belts.
Our health system is malfunctioning, and hospitals are mere consulting clinics, with no visible health insurance scheme, most Nigerians have had to consult traditional medicine.
Our worry is that the administration is still living in denial, as President Buhari keeps saying he has delivered in his key campaign promises, even when evidence does not support his claims.
We find difficult to grapple the idea of an administration feeling alienated from a large section of the country. Buhari hardly travels out of Abuja ,even after his victory in 2015, he had not visited so many parts of the country, until the issue of campaign for a second term came up.
Once a leader is elected into exalted office of  president , must drop all his provincialism, prejudice , primordial sentiment and becomes father of the nation. On this score, President Buhari has not done well.
If he must make impact with an eye on history , and the verdict of posterity on his administration, there is a need to be a paradigm shift in his style, his politics and views. He must as a matter of urgency engage more with people outside his comfort zones, he must assemble an economic team  of people who understand the economy. And in making political and other appointments, he must not lose sight of federal character and fairness, he must strive to be driven by national ethos and not some primordial sentiments.
He must tackle institutional weaknesses, strengthen them as a bulwark against corruption. For posterity, he must be seen to have genuinely encourage independence of the judiciary and legislature, and should face a holistic reform of health and education sectors in order to make them more efficient.