By Yusuf Bulama
President Buhari is a resolute man, firmly entrenched in the old school. We know this. It is a strong reason of why we wanted him, and cheered him on en masse for Presidency. However that very same quality that endears him to us is the very same that is now invoking our ire. It is now three weeks into his tenure, and Nigerians have not yet seen a miracle.
The minute-by-minute, micro-blogging age of the internet has spoiled us. News updates are all-available and more keenly observed by anxious Nigerians. However, in our clamour for any and every bit of the news, the lightening-fast bloggers that update and provide us instant tid-bits are the ones rewarded the most by our clicks, a reason why the tabloids and gossip sites reign supreme. It is a self-sustaining vicious cycle. And when it is costly for even the established media houses to be rigorous in their getting to the bottom of the news, then you can imagine a little how it is for the man of the moment, President Buhari, who is the focal point of all of this news and our attention. The proletariat needs its fix. With his cards held close to his chest, our president isn’t giving us any.
We need to remind ourselves of who President Buhari is. We know him to be rigorous, thorough and transparent. We have pleaded with him to act as a democratic leader, a nigh anomaly in the African scene, and he has readily acquiesced. This, for all the right reasons, limits the speed and ferocity of his actions in his office as leader, especially when compared to his military tenure in 1983.
We also need to re-evaluate the barometer for success that we hold President Buhari and his APC administration to.
The expectations on the President are enormous, and I think somewhat unfair, although during campaign he has done nothing on his part to calm these expectations, and rather fueled them further with grand promises. No matter the grandiosity of some of his claims, however, the first on the check-list has unequivocally been security. And even the casual observer, who is willing to be fair, can see that this is where the President has given his utmost attention. The meetings with the G7, and also the leaders of our neighbouring countries who form the coalition against Boko Haram, expressing appreciation and also discussing strategy and funding is heartening. The first significant official act the President has taken, literally minutes into his Presidency, is to declare that the army control and command centers move to Maiduguri. He met with army chiefs in a matter of days and they have since complied with the directive. These are not the actions of an idle President.
The second barometer of success for President Buhar’s regime is the continuation and execution of the plans already laid out by his predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan. Although Jonathan’s regime was undoubtedly an unmitigated disaster, his plans for privatisation of the power sector (which shall also open up job opportunities), empowering of SMEs to especially boost youth entrepreneurship, and agricultural reforms to feed the nation and empower more competent people in this all-important sector, as well as targets to increase revenue via minerals mining are right on the mark. Everything we hear from President Buhari suggest his aims at ensuring continuity and execution where these plans are concerned.
The third barometer on which President Buhari should be judged is how he modifies the national landscape regarding our economy. Most important of this is security, which he is already addressing. For the Nation to be able to function healthily, the endemic culture of corruption ought to be addressed. Now this is where the sheer presence of the President is itself a catalyst factor; corruption can’t thrive where it is not tolerated. Although investigations and arrests of members of past regimes, which many Nigerians have been expecting, haven’t yet kicked off, one wonders with the current state of the economy whether that would be the most worthwhile exercise. Corruption has been so prevalent since the late 60s that to open this book now with reckless abandon would exhaust much of the resources of the current government. This is where Buhari, once again, acts merely as a catalyst and enabler, laying the foundation for these investigations and also future deterrents to be possibilities and mainstays.
The most important aspect of this is to draw a stark divide between the executive, judiciary, and legislative arms of Government. So far we have heard all of the right noises from the President. But crucially, we have also seen evidence of the President’s true stance on this through his abstinence from the recent elections of the National Assembly. Despite huge pressure from strong elements of his APC party and the emerging victors Saraki and Dogara’s alliance with the PDP, Buhari kept a wide berth on all proceedings. This is excellent and welcome change to how we are used to seeing things done in Nigeria and Africa, and consolidates Buhari’s status as the prime adherent to true democracy currently in Nigerian politics, going a long way to shattering his image as a blood-thirsty dictator. His press release through media adviser Femi Adesina, declares that the elections had been ‘somewhat’ constitutional, and this is true. Even ordinary Nigerians lambast Buhari for not imposing his will in these proceedings, citing his non-interference as an act of weakness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. By respecting the boundaries of the powers on his office, Buhari was the embodiment of the meaning of the word ‘strength’. He was not one to fall to temptation.
Buhari’s plans for pragmatism and consolidation of MDAs is all-important. The EFCC and ICPC especially, which were seen as lapdogs of past regimes, could now be stewarded without any form of interference by the presidency. This move also minimises costs on Govenment, especially with the frail state of the economy the Jonathan regime has left behind. Another welcome development is the proposed reduction of federal Ministers from 42 to 19. Financial prudence is not a term associated with African leaders, and Nigeria now not only has to be prudent, but also seek alternative means of wealth creation as petroleum is no longer the commodity it once was in the global market. It is wonderful to see therefore that the President and Governors such as El-Rufai and Dr Ganduje are showing early signs of sensible leadership where finance is concerned. All this three weeks into their tenure, with the baggage inherited, ought to be seen as signs of encouragement!
Nigerians also seem to be impatient regarding the announcement of Ministers. This is baffling. What are Ministers expected to do without Government directives? The President has only received the reports of the transition committee from the chairman, Mallam Ahmed Joda, and the cause of the delay of this audit was no doubt the failure of the previous Government to provide the necessary notes more than 48 hours before inauguration. Do people expect the President to make moves for the sake of making moves? All Presidential decisions have to be informed and transparent, and the appointments of the Ministers should be no exception. This impatience stems from our gossipy micro-blogging culture, and also insidiously, by the self-interest of several who wish for the President to make the appointment into these wealthy seats with input from their favourite politicians. We should be less concerned with who the Ministers are as we should be with what they actually do after they are announced. I predict, however, that some gleefully anticipate these announcements with the hope of mounting an inevitable uproar merely for the sake of dissent.
The only cause of concern for me this early into the regime is the seeming reluctance of the President and his deputy to publicly announce their assets as promised, and the mishandling of the situation by the previously immaculate Garba Shehu. We do not love the President nor did we vote for him because of a propensity to pull the wool over our eyes, but rather the opposite. And this baffling reluctance towards fulfillment of a campaign promise is inconsistent with the image of President Buhari that we, his admirers, have. It is also a great fuel for negative speculation.
President Buhari is a resolute person, and if there is one not to get drowned out by all the noises and bickering of impatience, then without a doubt it is he. His promises have been numerous. However, all things considered, he appears to be on the right and consistent course to delivering them.
Resoluteness is one of the valuable traits our elders had that is fast being lost by our Twitter and Instagram, ‘right here right now’ generation of micro-blogging and links sharing. However, running Nigeria is not a micro-task. And just as President Buhari has demonstrated his capacity to evolve with the times, so us youth should also demonstrate an ability to learn the valuable traits of our elders and exercise patience.
Yusuf Bulama wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org