BY EMEKA EJERE
The jinx-breaking achievements of President Mohammadu Buhari, as listed by the Presidency last week would have been a huge boost to his local and international image. But that does not seem to be the case with responses of harsh socio-economic realities in the land coming from discerning Nigerian public.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had inadvertently provoked the debate when he, in a statement titled, ‘Jinxes broken by the Muhammadu Buhari administration — Presidency,’ flaunted policies and projects begun and completed in the last six years under the watch of his principal.
Adesina had noted that a giant-sized jinx was broken recently when the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) announced a first net profit of N287bn in its 44-year history.
He said, “NNPCs success is by no means the only major jinx broken in the lifetime of the Buhari administration. They abound. And here are just some of them. The list is by no means exhaustive:
“Policies and legislation: Petroleum Industry Bill signed into law in 2021, after almost two decades in the works. It is aimed at reforming a Petroleum Act dating back to 1969, as well as other supplementary laws and regulations.
“Deep Offshore and Inland Basin (Production Sharing Contracts) Act, 2019, amended for the first time since 1993.”
He also listed the over $6bn of inherited Cash Call Arrears now being cleared by the regime since 2016; adding that more than $3bn of the arrears (due to International Oil Companies) had since been paid.
The Presidency also added that it undertook the first overhaul of the Company and Allied Matters Act in 30 years as well as the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018. It listed the Itakpe-Warri Rail Line which started in 1987 but was abandoned and later completed in 2020.
The statement read, “Completion of four standard gauge railway projects between 2016 and 2021: Abuja-Kaduna Rail Line, Abuja Metro Line, Itakpe-Warri Rail Line and Lagos-Ibadan Rail Line.
“President Buhari is the first President to start and complete a rail project in Nigerias history.
‘Bodo-Bonny bridges and road: Construction finally kicked off in 2017, after several decades of planning, and three false starts. The long-awaited Ogoni clean-up kicked off under the Buhari administration.”
But no sooner had Adesina released his exaltation than conflicting scorecards started pouring in with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), saying such achievements reeled out by the government had no impact on the lives of Nigerians.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the Presidency ought to be ashamed that Nigerians are worse off than they were in 2015 when Buhari took office, instead of celebrating phantom achievements.
Ologbondiyan further said, “Let us even assume that the claims by the regime are true, how has these impacted on the lives of Nigerians? What is the value of a Nigerian life today?
“The exchange rate of the naira to the dollar is the worst in our history. The President has failed this nation; Nigerians cant wait to vote out this rudderless regime and all it represents.
The PDP is not alone in its disagreement with Adesina. A former Commissioner for Information in Edo State, Mr. Kassim Afegbua, noted that it is a matter of fact that in spite of the claimed achievements mentioned by Buharis publicists, Nigeria has never been this pummeled on all fronts.
According to him, the poverty and hunger that stare Nigerians in the face is symptomatic of the failures of leadership under a 79-year old retired General who, in all ramifications, should actually be retired and resting.
In a piece titled: The Real Jinx Buhari Should Break, Afegbua said: “The real jinx that President Buhari should break are the vexatious incidents of kidnapping and terrorism that have ravaged us for too long. He should break the jinx of growing and unsustainable unemployment rate of 33.8% in a country that is still heavily dependent on imports.
“He should break the jinx of nepotism that makes some citizens second and third class citizens in their country by the sheer fact of their state of origin. He should break the jinx of disunity that has created fractures in the walls of unity that hitherto bind us.
“He should break the jinx of selective amnesia that dominates public discourse on anti-corruption fight. He should break the bogey of corruption and financial malfeasance that is still being treated with kid gloves right before the very eyes of the president.
“He should reach out to all geopolitical zones, feel the pulse of their suffering and bloodletting, seek penitence, and generate dialogue that would help mitigate all the halitosis his weak leadership has brought upon us.
“He should break the jinx of hunger, poverty, Internally Displace Persons, deprivations, and want occasioned by poor economic policies that are neither here nor there.”
But with the Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, going a step further by praying that God will give Nigeria a president who has a good heart like Buhari for the good of this country in 2023, the Presidency is not entirely alone in its high rating of the President.
Umahi, who spoke while addressing State House correspondents after meeting with the President Monday, praised Buhari for some landmark projects in the South East, especially the Second Niger Bridge which, he said, was becoming a reality; and the award of the eastern corridor of the railway line which he said would accelerate commercial activities in the region.
He said, “I came to see Mr. President. One is to thank him very highly for a number of mega projects that he is doing in the South East. The second Niger Bridge is fast becoming a reality. Each time we visit that bridge location, it is always like a dream. So, we the people of the South East are very grateful to Mr. President for this.
“We also thank him for the award of these Eastern corridors of the railway line. This is a project that is going to fast track the commercial activities of our people.
“I recall that when I was in school, I used to take a train from my state, Ebonyi and then get up to Maiduguri where my brothers were staying, for my holidays. Mr. President is about restoring that hope. We are deeply very grateful.”
However, his Rivers State counterpart, NyesomWike, on Wednesday reacted with a counter prayer, saying that even Buhari himself knows that God would not give Nigeria another leader like him in 2023.
Making a veiled reference to Umahi at a stakeholders meeting in Port Harcourt, the state capital while addressing business owners in the state on the controversy around Value Added Tax, Wike said, “That was how a governor was saying that he prays that Nigeria gets another president like Buhari.
“I said what has gone wrong with him? You mean there shouldnt be a psychiatric check on the governor? Sycophancy. And you know that the President knows that you are telling lies to him. He knows. It is unfortunate. May God help us!”
Corroborating Wikes position, a public affairs analyst, Barr.Tunji Abdulhameed, prayed that Nigerians may never find themselves in what he described as a mess, saying a serous president would have as least intervened in the lingering doctors strike.
“As far as Im concerned the President has failed. May we never find ourselves in this kind of mess again,” he prayed.
Amid worsening insecurity and persistent double-digit inflation in the country, Nigerians, especially the middle class, have called for immediate remedies, lamenting that indeed, the situation has rendered them poorer as indicated by the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update report.
The report had revealed that rising inflation pushed an estimated seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.
Although Nigerias headline inflation retreated for the second time in May, dropping from 18.12 per cent reported in April to 17.93 per cent, Nigerians in the middle class segment insisted that the high cost of living has become almost unbearable for them, adding that they were getting poorer by the day.
The situation has seen some economists and allied professionals charging the government to retool its policies towards jumpstarting industrialisation, saying only active production could save the countrys economy from total collapse.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said recently that the countrys Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 5.01 per cent in the second quarter of this year as against 0.51 per cent in Q1 while inflation dropped to 17.38 per cent in July from 17.75 per cent in June.
But analysts are worried the improvement in numbers is not reflecting in peoples wellbeing.
Speaking on Thursday, the Chief Executive Officer of Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, observed that Nigerias GDP is rising and inflation rate is falling, but more people are living below the poverty line.
Rewane, a member of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council, who was speaking at this months edition of the LBS Breakfast Session, posed what he described as five tough questions for Nigerian policymakers.
He said, Cheery news and angry people! Why? (Why is GDP up and income levels down?). Beans 122.22 per cent, pepper 100 per cent, flour 61.54 per cent but inflation falling! Wow! What is the truth?
The best hedge against inflation? Real estate/equities/bitcoin or precious metals? Will the naira crash to N600/$ as BDCs scramble? Is the PIA (Petroleum Industry Act) going to make things better for us? 1. Petrol 2. Insecurity 3. New investments.
There are no immediate answers either from government or the people.