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Cover Choice, POLITICS

Buhari: New Horizon, Fresh Hopes

Posted: May 31, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Ekene Okoro Lagos

The distance between the period of the 2015 general elections and May 29 seemed to be too far. The date marched on, but slowly. It seemed the speed with which the months leading up to the elections had finally lost steam and was now foot dragging towards the inauguration.

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However, Nigerians were prepared to wait. In the course of waiting, they were forced to endure the harsh economic climate that trailed the sundown of the last administration under President Goodluck Jonathan.

The week that ushered in the transition was perhaps the most daunting. It looked like the problems besieging the country had conspired to test the resolve of Nigerians.

The lingering fuel crisis reached an all time high in the country, forcing Nigerians to sleep in fuel stations for the product that was never available. If the fuel impasse was not enough, the epileptic power supply dealt the knockout blow, forcing homes, offices, and business outlets to close up shop or run skeletal services during the period.

But as much as the hardship took its toll, Nigerians were prepared to wait for May 29, a date many said mark the beginning of the end to some of these problems.

The eagerness with which Nigerians counted down to  May 29 is only second or comparable to May 29, 1999, when the nation made a historic return to democratic system of government after several years of military dictatorship.

The eagerness, expectations and the hope with which Nigerians welcomed democracy in 1999 seemed to have diminished in the last 16 years, plagued by allegations of mismanagement and corruption by previous governments.

No doubt, many Nigerians share the optimism that Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, comes with him an aura the nation needs at the moment.

His victory at the March 28 election has continued to inspire new hope among citizens that perhaps, the Nigeria of their dreams will begin to take shape with him as captain of the ship.

Examining Buhari’s Inaugural Speech

One thing political observers and Nigerians looked forward to during the swearing in ceremony of President Buhari was his inaugural speech. This, for many is the first peep into the shape the new government would take in the coming months and years.

Buhari’s speech seemed to live up to expectations. He tried to touch on the major issues plaguing the nation including power supply, corruption, insecurity, unemployment and economic growth.

Top of the President’s agenda is tackling the Boko Haram menace. Over the years the activities of the sect had dealt severe blow on governance in Nigeria, especially in the North-east, with thousands of lives and properties worth billion of naira destroyed and millions displaced from their homes.

The belated last-minute strike back in the past six weeks did little to redeem this image. The inability to rescue the Chibok girls who have been in captivity for over a year is also a low point for the present government.

Buhari gave a hint of what to expect from his government’s fight against insecurity especially the Boko Haram menace and was emphatic in his words.

Admitting that it was the most immediate challenge confronting his administration, Buhari submitted that the insurgency cannot be defeated by basing the Command and Control Centre in Abuja, hence he revealed his intention to relocate the Command Centre to Maiduguri until the sect is completely subdued.

For him, defeating the sect would also be measured by his administration’s ability to rescue the Chibok school girls who were abducted April 15, 2014.

For the traumatised parents of the girls, the words of the President were reassuring.

Buhari had said, “This government will do all it can to rescue them alive. Boko Haram is a typical example of small fires causing large fires. An eccentric and unorthodox preacher with a tiny following was given posthumous fame and following by his extra judicial murder at the hands of the police. Since then through official bungling, negligence, complacency or collusion Boko Haram became a terrifying force taking tens of thousands of lives and capturing several towns and villages covering swathes of Nigerian sovereign territory.

Buhari did not in any way suggest that the option of negotiating with the sect or offering them amnesty was on the cards, instead the government will take the battle to them headlong with the Armed Forces leading the charge from the front.

“Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of. At the end of the hostilities when the group is subdued the Government intends to commission a sociological study to determine its origins, remote and immediate causes of the movement, its sponsors, the international connections to ensure that measures are taken to prevent a reoccurrence of this evil.

“For now the Armed Forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko Haram. We shall overhaul the rules of engagement to avoid human rights violations in operations. We shall improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human right violations by the Armed Forces.

“Boko Haram is not only the security issue bedeviling our country. The spate of kidnappings, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmers clashes, cattle rustlings all help to add to the general air of insecurity in our land. We are going to erect and maintain an efficient, disciplined people – friendly and well – compensated security forces within an over – all security architecture.”

If his template is anything to go by, the sect will be in for a fierce battle to finish.

Solving the epileptic power supply is also top of the to-do list of Buhari’s administration.

The present government is not ignorant of the fact that Nigerians have long suffered hardship due to the incessant power outage, directly affecting businesses and the quality of life.

Buhari also noted in his speech that the power situation perhaps is the biggest culprit for the dwindling economic performance over the year.

To the President, a country with a population of about 180 million citizens but generates only 4,000MW, and distributes even less is appalling to say the least, especially with the past reforms and huge funds expended on the sector since 1999 with no tangible result.

His speech also gave hope that respite may be on the way. According to the President, it was time for a change; hence the merry-go-round must give way for a concrete and achievable plan.

“Careful studies are under way during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians,” the President assured.

Though no time line was given by the President on when Nigerians can begin to look forward to regular power supply, they would cling to the hope that by 2019, power outage will become history in Nigeria.

Unemployment also got a mention. Buhari recalled that it was one area his party promised to give a serious look into if given the mandate.

This challenge, he said will be tackled frontally through revival of agriculture, solid minerals mining as well as credits to small and medium size businesses to kick start these enterprises.

“We shall quickly examine the best way to revive major industries and accelerate the revival and development of our railways, roads and general infrastructure, the President added.

Enter Government Of Accountability, Rule Of Law

Buhari’s opening remarks shortly after his swearing in was the talk of the day. He surely left some of his critics and supporters dazed.

Stressing that he intend to keep his oath and serve as President to all Nigerians, his statement where he said he belongs to everybody and nobody has got some thinking about what he meant.

While some deduce that he was hinting on a running an all inclusive government, others feel it was a subtle way to remind party members hoping to ride on him to achieve personal interest that he is not game.

Not done, Buhari perhaps also calmed the nerves of some aides of the immediate past president and those who had stepped on his toes in the past that he was not in the mood to witch-hunt.

For Buhari, “These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue.”

Nigerians, indeed, expect Buhari’s administration to be distinct from the President Jonathan’s era in more ways than one.

For years, criticisms have trailed the large chunk of revenue the cost of running government takes from the annual budget to the detriment of capital projects, hence there would be high hopes that the new administration will move to make amends.

Buhari’s supporters hold strong the view that with him in the saddle, the era of unaccountability in governance will give way.

Those who hold this view, flash back to his stint as Head of State within the period of December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985.

In order to reform the economy, Buhari, as Head of State, started to rebuild the nation’s social-political and economic systems, along the realities of Nigeria’s austere economic conditions.

The rebuilding included removing or cutting back the excesses in national expenditure, obliterating or removing completely corruption from the nation’s social ethics, shifting from mainly public sector employment to self-employment.

Buhari also encouraged import substitution industrialisation based to a great extent on the use of local materials and he tightened importation.

Jonathan on his part, many opine, was more casual in his approach to governance, allowing several mishaps identified within his government go unscathed.

At a time when the economy was said to be growing, feelers were that the nation’s wealth was concentrated in a few hands.

The falling oil prices and rising foreign exchange rate, coupled with a growing number of Nigerians striving to afford the basic things of life were some lows of the government in recent times.

His inaugural speech also suggested a semblance of a government with respect for rules, orders and procedures.

If the words of the President are anything to go by, then democracy will be given the chance to thrive. Vowing to work consciously work the democratic system, Buhari promised that the principle of separation of powers, one of the cardinal points of democracy will be strictly adhered to.

“The Federal Executive, the President assured, will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the Legislative and Judicial arms of government.

“The law enforcing authorities will be charged to operate within the Constitution. We shall rebuild and reform the public service to become more effective and more serviceable. We shall charge them to apply themselves with integrity to stabilize the system.

“For their part the legislative arm must keep to their brief of making laws, carrying out over-sight functions and doing so expeditiously. The judicial system needs reform to cleanse itself from its immediate past. The country now expects the judiciary to act with dispatch on all cases especially on corruption, serious financial crimes or abuse of office. It is only when the three arms act constitutionally that government will be enabled to serve the country optimally and avoid the confusion all too often bedeviling governance today.

“Elsewhere relations between Abuja and the States have to be clarified if we are to serve the country better. Constitutionally there are limits to powers of each of the three tiers of government but that should not mean the Federal Government should fold its arms and close its eyes to what is going on in the states and local governments.

“Not least the operations of the Local Government Joint Account. While the Federal Government cannot interfere in the details of its operations it will ensure that the gross corruption at the local level is checked. As far as the constitution allows me I will try to ensure that there is responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country. For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.”

Waging War Against Corruption 

The perception, whether real or imagined, that the immediate past administration Jonathan was unwilling or unable to fight the scourge of corruption earned it more knocks.

Buhari also looks set to enforce an administration with little room for corruption to thrive.

The President has always carried a toga of one who abhors corruption. He did not mince words when he described it as a form of evil, worse than terrorism, pledging to lead a battle against the hydra headed monster.

He had said, “Corruption attacks and seeks to destroy our national institutions and character. By misdirecting into selfish hands funds intended for the public purpose, corruption distorts the economy and worsens income inequality. It creates a class of unjustly-enriched people.

“Such an illegal yet powerful force soon comes to undermine democracy because its conspirators have amassed so much money that they believe they can buy government. We shall end this threat to our economic development and democratic survival. I repeat that corruption will not be tolerated by this administration; and it shall no longer be allowed to stand as if it is a respected monument in this nation”.

President Buhari is not oblivious of the expectations of Nigerians. If for no other reason, the decision of the electorate to give him the nod ahead of an incumbent president is a clear indication that they seek a break from the norm as well as a government that would better their lot.

Turning The Change Mantra To Reality 

From tomorrow, Nigerians will be hoping to see the ‘Change’, Buhari and his team promised.

Without doubt, the confidence Nigerians have on President Buhari is hinged on his personal integrity. Nigerians are not so interested in what happened in the past, what bothers their mind is change, not as a slogan, but as a practical impact on their lives.

This change, Senate President, Senator David Mark submits can only come if Nigerians rally round the new administration to deliver the dividends of democracy.

To the Senate President, “In spite of the imperfections, there is no alternative to democracy because it gives power to the People and they make the ultimate decision.

 

“I have been an active participant during the Military era and the current democratic dispensation. I am in a position to say without fear of contradiction that democracy is the best kind of government.

“It is a product of the wishes of the people. It is representative and participatory. Indeed people have a say and determines what they want through the ballot boxes.”

Mark implored citizens of Nigeria to give the new administration the needed support and cooperation to enable it achieve its set goals uninterrupted.

He stressed the need for all to be agents of peace and unity of Nigeria saying “We all owe it a sacred duty to ensure peace and unity of the nation no matter how high or low our positions may be”.

The Senate President however urged Buhari to embark on people centred policies and programmes that would improve on the welfare and security of the people.

Such policies and programmes he listed to include but not limited to addressing insecurity situation, unemployment and epileptic power supply in the country.

In doing so he advised them to be guided by the fear of God, applying the rule of law, respect for human rights, freedom of expression, justice and fairness to all.

But much as Buhari’s inaugural speech seemed to have raised hopes, some feel it was not punchy enough to suggest how he intended to drive the process of change.

This was the view of constitutional lawyer and rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa.

He described the President’s speech as illusory, vague and lacking in concrete action plan to address the fundamental issues plaguing the country.

Adegboruwa said It would seem that Buhari was still on the soap box, whereby promises and promises and intentions, are the order.

The lawyer said it was gratifying that Buhari vowed to tackle the rot in the power sector, but he did not give any direction on how to do that. He said it was his view that the “President has not addressed the real issues affecting our lives in Nigeria.”

Adegboruwa added, “He (Buhari) is the President of Nigeria now and my expectation was that since March 28, 2015, when he won the election, when he received the certificate of return from INEC, when he got assurances from Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, that his election would not be contested, General Buhari would have outlined his main policy direction. But alas, that has not happened today.

“For instance, the President did not say anything on his foreign policy directive, on issues relating to global warming and climate change, the violence in the Middle East and the general global economic downturn. Also, the President was silent on the mode of tackling corruption, which indeed has been the main thrust of his electioneering campaigns; he was silent on the collapsing aviation sector, he kept mute on the unpaid salaries of millions of workers across the land, the huge debts that the Jonathan administration has bequeathed to him and indeed the main means of generating revenue, to run his government, apart from oil,” Adegboruwa highlighted.

Besides, the fiery lawyer pointed out that Buhari gave no hint on the mode of reform of the judicial system and the administration of justice generally.

The president, according to the lawyer, did not also state the expected policy statement on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

“Even the Boko Haram insurgency, to which the President devoted most of his speech, ended up in a policy disaster, of cause after effect; in that the President will only know the cause, origin and perspectives of the criminal organisation, only after he has succeeded in killing them all.

“In all, the Inaugural Speech became another campaign promise, a general rendition of statements of intention, without action. It was too vague and illusory, like a speech being delivered by a novice in power. This is the President who has ruled this country as a Head of State, through a coup d’état in 1983, and one that has sought to rule this nation since 2003, so he had all the time in the world, to have mapped out his cause of action and strategies. This is surely not the speech expected from our GMB.”

Adegboruwa however hopes that Buhari will the coming days reveal more concrete reforms and action. Nigerians are also on the same page. They await the wind of change with great expectations.