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Eye on power: Waiting for the President (Column)

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President Muhammadu Buhari

By UCHE CHRIS

I do not know how they do it but obviously it must be very challenging supporting President Buhari and the APC government. How they manage to do it is unfathomable, but one thing is certain: defending them would be at the discount of truth and good conscience because the government is consistently inconsistent and it is hard taking it by its word – it neither does what it says nor say what it does. It promises big things and fails at very basic and small things.

For instance, during the campaign and after the elections, we were told and assured to expect new things and changes in the way the government runs; in short that things will improve. In fact some of the spokespersons hyperbolically enthused that we should expect shockers and surprises. Well, the government has already failed the first routine test of this – the Democracy Day speech and setting up a cabinet.

We had an inauguration without a speech, which was deferred to Democracy Day and when it came was disappointing. The question is; why the wait and suspense. If such pedestrian, disappointing and lackluster speech on Democracy Day is part of the promised surprise and shockers then we are in for real shocker. Having begun with disappointment, I doubt the trend will change. Still waiting for the cabinet three months after the elections and a month from inauguration is disappointing in itself but the greater disappointment will be the announcement. Not much can change in this government.

Since our election in March, Senegal, South Africa and India have had their elections; all now have functional governments having announced their government just a day afterward. For us the waiting and suspense is part of governance. Things must be done ‘properly’ like appointing only trusted friends and relations to avoid ‘corrupt and incompetent’ people access to government. What a joke we have become in the world?

The London Economist magazine recently left no one in doubt what the world thinks of Nigeria and her leadership – unfulfilled potential and another missed opportunity. The presidency and party may deride and denounce the magazine for all they care, but that does not change anything, especially how the world sees Nigeria. The world listens to the Economist and other international agencies such as Moody, Fitch etc because they know they are objective, independent and neutral regardless of the position of government. That is the main reason we are still waiting for the much needed foreign investors; they listen to the Economist.

So those expecting a change and different ways of doing things should begin to explain to us why it is taking the president over three months to appoint a cabinet which is a basic step in governance. The first time it took him six months and his publicists blamed the departing PDP government for failing to properly hand over to the new administration. Well, the government is handing over to itself and the story has not changed.

If you ask me, I don’t believe this government is capable of new, great and ambitious things that can shock anybody; like they say, a leopard does not change its spots. President Buhari is not likely to change anything by design; yes, some things may change but by default rather than intent. This government has already played its hands; it is not likely to depart from it. A dried fish does not bend; it only breaks. Any such supposed shocker coming from this government will be against the expectations of the people; we are expecting what they cannot deliver.

President Buhari and his government are not driven by big ideas and altruism to give the people what they desire. The president is talking about what can be done in 10 years time while the routine and basic things of today like fixing roads, power, security etc are beyond him. Who tells him that given the present circumstance of the country, there will still be Nigeria in 10 years or that he will even be there then? We are as divided as ever and no divided house, kingdom or country can stand. Virtually everybody in the world recognizes this fact except the president and his ethnic group.

Come to think of it: what possibly can the president and this government do to surprise or shock Nigerians? A few tokenist appointments to appease some frayed ethnic nerves? a policy shift that can alter the direction of the administration and structure of Nigeria? Perish the thought! It will not happen; not in this government. It has gone too far to turn back or reverse itself. Truth is that this government is too prejudicial about the vision and its manifest messianic destiny to be transcendental enough to change its perception and orientation.

The Democracy Day speech reflects everything about this government – illusion and contradiction. Insecurity, corruption and economy were its election mandate: they are all worse today than four years ago; yet the government believes it has fulfilled his promises and surpassed every government before it. But Nigerians and the rest of the world know otherwise that the government is taking the country backward in most indices of development and the control of the three arms of government will not likely change that prospect.

It is sheer propaganda, and even deceit, to aspire to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. It is good to dream and aspire; to have grand vision of how to change and improve society. But dreams must be practicable, realistic and realizable enough to capture the imaginations and realities of the average person. I wonder how many Nigerians identify and agree with the president’s dream. Most people are simply indifferent because there is no credibility behind it as a result of incongruities between the dream and the president’s world view and persona.

But generally, can it be done? The immediate response is that everything is possible in life; however in our circumstance, it is impracticable and unattainable. First, no society has achieved that in history. In the past 200 years, the least period to achieve such dramatic development revolution is about 25 years by Asian Tigers and lately China, according to Lee Kwam Yew in his book, From the Third world to First.

China did it by growing at over 10 percent during the period. Nigeria’s average growth rate in four years is three percent and it is projected to maintain this growth rate till 2021. In the past four years average budget allocation to the three ministries which power is just one is N400 billion or less than the required investment need in power alone put at $2 billion annually.

Thirdly, the president is not likely to be in office for the next 10 years. So if that is so, how will he determine its realization? He cannot dream for another person; our government is personalized and ethnicised; it depends on who is there and where he comes from. For instance, former presidents Obasanjo and Yar’Adua were from the same party but their policies were different based on their ethnicity.

Moreover, the Economist calls him Baba-Go-slow; how can such apparently disabled and incompetent leadership produce this revolutionary development. Finally, Nigeria has no big and uniting vision that can catalyse the people and mobilize her resources; we are just a collection of nations with different world views about our coexistence – each unit intent primarily on what it can take from it – and no great task can be achieved without unity; and until the “we” question is settled greatness will be denied.

So for those waiting for the promised shockers and surprises from this government, good luck!