President Buhari’s Dwindling Stature
Six months ago after Nigerian Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the results of the 2015 presidential election with General Muhammadu Buhari as the winner, the world stood still for a moment. Nigerians sang “hail Buhari” and religious people proclaimed GMB as God’s angel that would save Nigeria. His reputation was so high that nobody fathomed what could possibly bring him down to earth. Those who voted for him were sure that God had answered their prayers. Those who voted for his opponent Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had to hide in shame.
Six months after the election those who voted for GEJ are happier for their choice than those who voted for GMB now. My unscientific pol of PMB supporters showed a strong decline in enthusiasm for PMB. Even the vocal internet warriors are showing diminished support or outright rejection of PMB. Many have suddenly become either deaf or lost their ability to type; to speak up. PMB defenders are no longer praising him but have resorted to blaming the past government, or blaming Biafran demonstrations; or blaming Tinubu and occasionally blaming APC or Saraki or Speaker of the House. It has gone from promoting the man to casting aspersions on others.
What went wrong?
- His outing to EU and America showed awkward moves in both planning and execution. Told to bring a shopping list to EU G20 meeting, he had none, no list; and no ideas. His handlers did not know or did not understand what he was going to USA and UN to do and what agenda items he should demonstrate mastery. The giant of Africa let Africa down as he spoke to an empty chamber. Part of these mistakes were due to the fact that he did not have a foreign minister. But then again it was his responsibility to have appointed one. Nobody was in charge.
- PMB’s first appointments excluded large segments of Nigeria as he shamelessly favored his old northern Nigerian pals. His reason that they were people he could trust and that he was looking for incorruptible Nigerians made more people angry as the implication was that the south did not raise trustworthy people. Some of his defenders said that he had just appointed a dozen or so people that he has thousands more appointments to make. But when he made subsequent appointments the basis of selection – not corrupt, and still trustworthy, did not support those criteria. The defenders bowed out. Or fizzled.
- If PMB’s reputation was falling, that of his party, APC, was falling at a faster rate. It became clear that the party was/is ridden with fractures and back stabbing and had no national objectives and programs. There is no harmony. This weakness made PMB weaker than he could have been and this might account for his other failings. Without a strong backing by his party he has virtually lost control of the legislature which might account to PMB not sending bills to the legislature.
- Then came the mishandling of Nnamdi Kanu’s case. Today’s leading stories on Nigeria is about Biafra not about Nigeria. Reuters, Newsweek, NYT, WSJ, London Times, etc., are now writing more about Biafra than about Nigeria.
- The weakness of naira has not helped PMB’s stature. People blame this on PMB’s inability to articulate his economic policy. Nothing illustrates the lack of a clear economic policy as vividly as the display at the presentation of the 2016 budget. Observers did not see his economic team standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him. His finance minister was a no-show reviving the accusation that PMB is shy among women especially women with power. Was the finance minister part of this budget preparation or was she a mere “parlor wife.” Is Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s ghost hovering around in Abuja? The budget itself befuddled finance experts as it lacked any details and as defense and police gobbled up N53 billion which equals the total for combined health, transport, agriculture, rural and urban development, education, and water, the basic essentials. Nigeria is not at war unless one counts Biafra. N20 billion for education as an example, in a nation with over 50 universities it means about $2 million each for the year. Nobody could run a grammar school on that. How many miles of road can be macadamized for N4 billion? Even $4 billion? I am aware that the operating budget is not completed yet but the capital budget is where the meat is.
- A good budget starts with projects: what are we going to do? It is only after this question is firmly decided that sources of funds are debated. Did PMB follow this standard, if so why is the information on capital projects so stingy?
- There are many other bungling of events such as announcing that executive committee meetings would be bi-weekly and three days later calling for emergency executive meeting to discuss the budget.
- The minsters have been nominated and confirmed, but are they at work? Where are they? Where is the foreign minister? They seem to be so quiet.
Where do we go from here?
PMB can still revive his dwindling reputation by working with all Nigerians especially those he had assigned jobs. We want to know what Fashola is going to do in his many ministries. What are Amaechi’s road vision? What is the target year for Nigeria to become an exporter of food as opposed to net importer? I went to an African shop in Boston and nearly every food item had “A product of Ghana” label on it. Where is Nigerian agricultural industries? Would this not be better than trying to make cars with imported raw materials? Will a chocolate factory somewhere in Ekiti state not make more sense that Ajaokuta Steel mill? How about many kinds of juice factories in Benue or Cassava processing factory in Achi/Oji River, Enugu state? I used to love corned beef from Kano, I believe. When will it be built to supply all of Africa and beyond?
Teachers in Teacher Training Schools are advised to start from the known to the unknown. IF PMB follows this advice he might be the promised messiah Nigeria is looking for. But if he is more interested in arresting and detaining Nnamdi Kanu his reputation will continue to decline and eventually fizzle out.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
December 11, 2015