T HE Eid-el-Kabir holiday turned out to be a time of lamentation for President Muhamamadu Buhari. He had gone to his hometown, Daura in Katsina State to observe it, perhaps to escape the distractions which distressing economic fundamentals have become to him in Abuja. Alas, there was no peaceful getaway from the problems.
The country is deep in recession; people are hungry; in many cases, angry as inflation has spiralled out of control. Workers have been thrown out of jobs and many of those who have managed to retain theirs, struggle with irregular salaries. Things are tough. The President knows it as he is wont to confess.
This past holiday though, he absolved his administration from blame as he has done so many times in the past. He said in his Sallah message to Nigerians that the recession is the outcome of the worldwide economic downturn and failure of the past administration which according to him, failed to plan and save for difficult times. The 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) must necessarily take the blame because it left his administration with nothing to run the country, he suggested.
Buhari also alleged that governments of the former ruling party achieved nothing in terms of infrastructural development in all its years in power. ‘‘I want Nigerians to realise that what this government inherited after 16 years of the PDP government was no savings, no infrastructure, no power, no rail, no road and no security,” he lamented in a chat with newsmen at his private residence in Daura after observing the Eid prayers.
The President’s cries came after what appeared to be a lull in the administration’s blame game and at a time many Nigerians are of the belief that after 15 months in office, the Federal Government should be preoccupied with the efforts it is making to revive the economy rather than be saddled with what might have been in administrations long gone. Nigerians are aware that those administrations fell below par. But Buhari came, offered his superior services and was given the job. The least they expect now is for him to offer excuses at every turn because of the daunting challenges he faces.
There is a sense that given these odds stacked against it, government has decided to return to the path of lamentation. The President himself, gave reason it should be so. “It is impossible to separate the present from the past to appreciate the extent to which mistakes of the past are affecting everyday life today.”
But days before Sallah, Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on media and publicity, was the one who signalled that the era of lamentation and blame game was not about to go away. In a widely circulated newspaper article titled: “What is President Buhari doing with the Economy,” he explained why Buhari must keep looking at the past.
“Let me start by asking an important question: who wants to kill racy introspection? There is a cacophony of voices telling the Muhammadu Buhari administration to close its eyes to the past; that given the enormous tasks that lie ahead, history and its consequences for our nation should be the least of the government’s preoccupation at this juncture. I disagree. Let us keep a fiery memory of the past so that we don’t repeat its mistakes. Look back, look ahead. The future must of necessity be built on the foundations of the past.”
I will be surprised if in the days and weeks to come, other government functionaries and defenders of government do not key into this message. But critics think the solution to Nigeria’s economic woes rests in assembling a competent management team.
The President has harped too much on the lack of savings from the previous governments. I believe that he has pursued this line of argument either because he has not been availed with accurate facts or it is a sign of increasing frustration over the turn of events. The immediate past government in particular realised that only the culture of saving for the future could help preserve the country’s commonwealth and ensure sustained prosperity and growth and consequently inaugurated the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, (NSIA) with a $1billion seed money.
State governors, who are the ones unable to pay workers salaries today, rejected it. Despite appeals by then President Goodluck Jonathan for them to eschew opposition to the idea and work to realise the NSIA objectives, they headed to the Supreme Court to challenge its constitutionality.
Who knows? The situation might have been different today if the governors had embraced NSIA and the President would have been spared of constant lamentations.