Weighing Buhari on his own scale

‘There have been arguments back and forth on who the wailers really are as of this day and time. We all now buy more expensive food. We pay more for electricity, higher taxes and now petroleum products. A light-hearted opinion is that every Nigerian is now a wailer, silent or otherwise. We are in one hell of a ride.’

Friends at a forum had an argument centred around President Muhammadu Buhari’s promises to Nigerians before he became the president. They weighed Buhari the candidate against Buhari the president. It was a casual peep into the president’s promises as a candidate against the current realities in the country.

President Buhari came in 2015 with what Nigerians called “body language”. The body language period was when things ran fairly smoothly in the country while the polity recoiled to observe what manner of president we would have. One of the things that readily come to mind was widespread social media reports of stable electricity in parts of the country by excited supportive Nigerians. Body language was a social media hit. Its effect was electric.

Soon, while the wait seemed to be getting too long and confusing for the formal appointment of ministers Nigerians already knew, the nation was beset by the asset declaration brouhaha. Nigerians asked the president to make his assets declaration public. They swore that he said he would do so, and that as a man of integrity, it was taking too long. They Nigerians angling to see the underbelly of President Buhari might have read Proverbs 13:12 in the bible on hope deferred.

It was one winding twist in the new administration that tugged at other questions, including that about the aeroplanes in the presidential fleet. The president’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, ebullient Mr. Femi Adesina said he confronted the president with the assets declaration issue upon his appointment. Mr. Adesina told Nigerians to calm down, that President Buhari asked him to show where he stated that he would make his assets declaration public. That turn of events, in a way, poured cold water on the rising expectations of some Nigerians.

Meanwhile, the president’s Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, too, at his own end, was shredding APC’s “My Covenant With Nigerians”. That document, the brainchild of Dr Kayode Fayemi’s Research and Documentation team of the All Progressives Congress 2015 campaign, was seen by millions as the bible of the coming administration. But the new administration denied that forgotten APC manifesto through a widely circulated opinion article by Mallam Shehu. He said: “There is a certain document tagged ‘One Hundred Things Buhari Will Do in 100 Days’ and the other, ‘My Covenant With Nigerians’. Both pamphlets bore the authorized party logo but as the Director of Media and Communications in that campaign, I did not fund or authorize any of those. I can equally bet my last kobo that candidate Buhari did not see or authorize those publications.”

Shehu’s excuses for President Buhari’s refusal to take responsibility for his party’s manifesto was hinged on the now common explanation that in the course of electioneering, the campaign had “so many centres of public communication which, for whatever reason, were on the loose.” He said “As a consequence of these publications, expectations have been raised unreasonably, that as President, Muhammadu Buhari will wave his hand and all the problems that the country faces – insecurity, corruption, unemployment, poor infrastructure – would go away.”

Also, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, before becoming Minister of Information, said Buhari never promised to do anything in 100 days. He said “Buhari never promised to do anything in 100 days, that’s the honest truth. You see, when you are running a campaign, all kinds of literature will emerge from all sorts of groups but there are only two documents that you can judge a party with: That is the constitution of the party and the manifesto of the party. Those are the only two documents that are registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission; you can go to court or hold a party accountable for them.”

It was therefore from the outset that this administration began to shift the goalposts during the game. Or how would one explain the denial of one’s party’s manifesto after election? But Adesina admitted in 2017 that President Buhari promised three things: “We ask ourselves: what are the promises the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari made before they came into power? Of course, they were three. The campaign was on three major planks: secure the country, fight corruption and restore the economy.”

By inference, what the president’s men are telling Nigerians is that we should ignore everything including the party’s manifesto and assess Buhari based on security, fight against corruption and restoration of the economy. Doing that hands us the privilege to ask ourselves how good we have come from 2015, since there was no distinguishable campaign promises in the 2019 election.

Nigeria’s security situation is a common knowledge. In the corruption fight, the head of our anti-corruption agency is currently being quizzed on corruption charges, after about five years in office. On the economy, Nigerians’ default experience is Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s song, “Suffering and Smiling”. Other countries are designing ways of cushioning the effects of the COVID-19, Nigeria is creating new taxes while raising existing ones. The first two days of September 2020 witnessed the hike in the prices of fuel and non-existent electricity. No one is sure yet where the soaring prices will land by 2023.

Some have laughed that we could be on the path said to have been walked by the Irish. England during its occupation of Ireland was said to have imposed taxes based on the number of windows the Irish had in their houses. The windows allowed sunlight into their homes and the Irish were made to pay tax for God’s sunlight that came in through the windows. The Irish called it “daylight robbery”.

 

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