Opinion: Deconstructing Buhari’s “tough” last term By Emmanuel Onwubiko

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As a young claretian who just got enlisted into the sacred vows of chastity, obedience and poverty in the claretian missionary sons of Mary of the Catholic Church in Utonkon, Benue State, my first shock came when one of the formators told us thus: “May your ways be rough.”

I particularly didn’t know whether to say ‘Amen’ or to say silently like the Protestants would say that ‘it is not my portion’.

I however swallowed the hard theological pill and affirmed ‘Amen’ just like many other contemporaries chorused in unison.

In my quiet times however, I approached this formator, who is a well-built young priest, and I asked him to please explain to me the theological implication of that prayer which to me sounded very harsh.

He looked at my pretty innocent face and gave me a smile, saying that the prayer meant no harm but that it was only a caution so we know that the journey to the catholic priesthood is characterized by twists and turns since all that glitter are not gold and that anything worth doing is worth doing very well.

Well, I thanked him and went straight to my room but not without reflecting deeply on the words he gave me.

But as we proceeded to the philosophy studies, I had an early encounter with Socrates, the father of philosophy who stated that “an unexamined life is not worth living.”

This sacred words of Socrates was further confirmed by Immanuel Kant, a modern day philosopher who stated that “I think therefore I exists.”

With all the above experiences in mind, the saying therefore very recently by the Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari that his last four years would be tough, did not shock me in any way.

As variously captured by the media, President Muhammadu Buhari gave an insight into his forthcoming second term in office, saying “my last lap of four years will be tough.”

Buhari was declared winner of last Saturday’s presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with over 15,191, 847 votes to defeat his main rival and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar with 11,262, 978 votes.

Speaking while hosting members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa who had converged to congratulate him on his re-election, Buhari said his second term would be tough because Nigerians are so easily forgetful.

The president, who said he deliberately went through the rigorous days of campaign in all the 36 states of the federation before the election, added that he opted to campaign in two states per day to make a statement to the opposition that he was strong and fit.

He also said the next administration would face the economy very squarely because of the huge unemployment rate bedeviling the country, which he said had become a huge problem to everybody.

However, he expressed gratitude to God that the agriculture sector had helped a lot in strengthening the economy through what he described as soft loans to farmers, pointing out that agricultural output has consequently been rewarding because of the steady rainy seasons. This Presidential claims have no verifiable proofs because millions of farmers still operate within the fringes of manual labours and have yet to get any form of financial facelift to upgrade to mechanized farmings. 

However, the politically correct president, who thanked God for the steady rainfall, submitted that investment in agriculture would have been a futile effort if there had been no good and promising rainy seasons.

He praised states such as Lagos, Ogun, Kebbi, Jigawa, and notably Ebonyi, which he said had played notable roles in stopping rice importation through large scale rice cultivation especially with the unpredictable state of the oil sector.

Responding to the congratulatory visit by his ministers, Buhari asked them to also congratulate themselves on the election victory, saying if he had lost the election, the ministers would not have come around to congratulate him.

Buhari who has lately become very philosophical, also gave us the texture, colour and characteristics of his next cabinet.

President Muhammadu Buhari said that only people of integrity will make his cabinet in his second tenure of office. Does this mean he has many crooks in his current cabinet? One of his ministers forced her qualifying NYSC certificate even as another dodged national service upon graduation. Still, another Advisor has fake WAEC certificate. 

However, the President who also promised women and youths that his administration will not disappoint them said that he will not exclude people of his generation which he said is his own constituency in the distribution of positions.

President Buhari stated this during a victory dinner organized by his wife Dr. Aisha Buhari on Saturday night for the All Progressives Congress Youths and Women Presidential Campaign Council at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa Abuja.

While acknowledging the role played by women and youths towards his re-election, he reassured Nigerian women and youths that he will not disappoint them in the next four years.

The group, women and youths had in their demands appealed for more women and youth representation in the next cabinet.

But President Buhari in his remarks, promised that only those with integrity and interest of Nigeria will be considered for appointment to the next cabinet.

According to him, “I assure you that I have listened on the representation made that my cabinet should include women and youth.

Don’t celebrate it yet, I said I have listened to some of the representation made here. Well, I myself I am considering some of the old people and I will protect my constituency too.

“But I will assure your I will continue to have a team of people of integrity that are really concerned with Nigeria and Nigerians.”

He also assured them that in his second term in office, he will not disappoint them. He said, “I will not disappoint you, our objectives are the same. We have to fix this country so that the next generation can have a country to be proud of.

“We are working very hard to get the infrastructure in place, the roads, the rails so that Nigeria will mind their own businesses.

“I very much appreciate your coming here tonight …, but I’m congratulating ourselves for succeeding, if we had failed, my good God, thank goodness we have succeeded.” President Buhari noted that more fertilizers were being made available to Nigerian farmers at a lower rate, adding that food importation was reducing while more Nigerians have started to embrace agriculture.

Deconstructing the above affirmations of president Buhari has come out with a synthesis that he may after all not have meant harm at all but to warn Nigerians that it is not yet Eldorado.

If the explanation offered to me many years ago by my formator is anything to go by, then it is not a bad thing entirely that president Buhari has further cautioned Nigerians not to expect a bumper harvest of prosperity and the easy life in his last term going by the fact that his first term witnessed the worst case scenario in the area of economy.

The last four years of Buhari between 2015 to 2019 just before Nigerians went to the polls last weekend which has come out with a very controversial outcome stating that Buhari won by 15 million thus beating his nearest rival of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, saw Nigeria go through the first ever economic recession in thirty years.

Also, during the years under review as aforementioned, there were cases of closures of factories in the manufacturing sector due to collapsing infrastructure just as capital flights led to phenomenal job loses which even by official estimates saw Nigeria losing millions of jobs. Even the sudden postponement of the February 16th polls led to the sudden loses of over $7billion according to estimate by the chambers of commerce and the Nigerian stocks exchange.

Experts say the postponement cost Nigerian businesses about $7.605 billion (N2.737 Trillion). The amount is about two percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), $427 billion. These experts spoke to ThisDay Newspaper.

Also, the Nigerian Bureau of statistics said that 3.3 million Nigerians suffered job losses in 9 months in 2018. The Bureau of statistics stated the above in its labour force statistics, released on December 19th 2018. The labour force report, for the 04 2017 to 03 2018 released on that date states that the number of unemployed Nigerians rose from 17.6 million to 20.9 million.

Nigeria also faces terrible problems of infrastructure collapse and acute energy poverty just as these spectacular social crises have meant that the costs of living in most parts of the country are at the highest intolerable degree. The crises of infrastructure collapse and energy poverty means that the private sector and the real manufacturing sector would not operate optimally. Even the ministry of power and the Presidency budgets multimillions to purchase and fuel generators. 

I think, these are areas that president alluded to in his speech in which he warned all of us to brace up for the realities of hard and tough times. Those who work in the Presidency know that even the state house clinic suffers from corruption and lack of amenities. So the tough times are domiciled amongst the staff of the Presidency especially those without any form of control of public funds. Last year, a driver in the Presidential Villa reportedly committed suicide due to hardship even when the National Assembly members who face no hardships collect HARDSHIP’S ALLOWANCES running into millions yearly.  

What we need to do as citizens is to participate qualitatively in the governance of our country by monitoring the implementation of the  budgets at all levels and follow the trails of implementation of these budget lines in our different communities.

The coming 9th session of the National Assembly must open up the process of procurement and throw the informations to the faces of Nigerians so all Nigerians can very easily follow the different stages of implementation. Buhari should appoint the Council to oversee the Bureau of Public procurements so the meetings of the Federal cabinet stops being used as procurements and contracts awarding forum. 

The president must run a lean government made up of smart ministers and also scale down the cost of government by appointing very few technical advisers and avoid populating government with boys and girls of politics.

The next national Assembly must reduce the cost of running their offices even as government appointees need to also be captured by the new national minimum wage bill that the government has approved. 

Let no one in government be paid juicy salaries that are not covered by the National minimum wage Act even as the Revenue mobilization board must be inaugurated and allow to autonomously operate.

President Buhari should get tough with corruption tearing apart his administration from the top most echelons. Within his kitchen cabinet, corruption is loud and clear. 

The NNPC which he runs as petroleum minister even against a binding court’s verdict is a cesspool of corruption under Buhari just as the law enforcement agencies only go after political opponents of Buhari. 

This double standard must be resisted by all Nigerians.

If all these tough measures are adopted universally not minding political, ethnic or religious affiliations, and if strategic security jobs are allocated to reflect federal character principles and not concentrated in the hands of Fulani and Hausa Moslems then it is a welcomed tough tenure.

This story by an international news magazine is apt: “His (Muhammadu Buhari) victory this time will not generate the same euphoria it did in 2015. The former general, who ruled briefly as the country’s military dictator after a coup in the 1980s, has struggled to fulfill many of the campaign promises he made four years ago. Mr. Abubakar’s people’s Democratic Party (PDP) claims the results were rigged. In a sign of growing voter apathy, turnout, which languished at 44% in 2015, fell to 36% this time.”

“For many Nigerians, the election has been tarnished by the sloppiness with which it was run. The vote was originally scheduled for February 16th, but INEC postponed it just hours before it was meant to begin because it had been unable to get materials, such as ballot papers, to polling stations on time. When the vote was held at last on February 23rd, observers say most polling stations opened hours late for the same reason, and many election officials were unprepared. The European Union’s observer mission cited “serious operational shortcomings.” (The Economist, March 2nd – 8th 2019).

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs @ www.huriwanigeria.comwww.huriwa.blogspot.comwww.emmanuelonwubiko.comwww.thenigerianinsidernews.com

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