by ROBERT AWOKUSE
The failures that characterised the Goodluck Jonathan-led Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, administration informed the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari as President-elect. ROBERT AWOKUSE, in this report, takes a look at Buhari’s promises for change in the country and their possible achievement.
After a closely contested presidential election on March 28, former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari’s emergence as President-elect, brought to an end the 16-year rule of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Nigeria.
Reactions have however continued to trail this historical development, especially as to whether Buhari’s election was free and fair or not; but while the international community and many Nigerians are of the opinion that the election was credible, some other pro-Goodluck Jonathan, especially from the South-South and South-East geo-political zones of Nigeria counter such view of a credible election.
One of such, a driver and pro-Jonathan, speaking on condition of anonymity said: “The presidential election is not credible; there are records of under-aged voting in some parts of the North.’’
An indication of this also was evident in Elder Godsday Orubebe’s public show against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, whom he accused of taking side with the All Progressives Congress, APC, during the collation of the results of the election at the International Conference Centre, ICC, in Abuja.
The just concluded poll was adjudged the most keenly contested election between two strong parties – the ruling PDP and the APC, an opposition which now is becoming the ruling party, in the history of Nigeria. The President-elect, Buhari, in his campaign amongst other things had been particular about stamping out insurgency and fight against corruption, the two key issues which are believed to be the core reasons President Jonathan lost in the March 28 election.
Boko Haram insurgency spanned a six-year of relentless attacks on the North-East region, in a bid to establish a caliphate. This prompted the declaration of state of emergency in three states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa and a promise of decisive military action.
The abduction of over 200 school girls from Chibok on April 14, 2014, however, attracted international attention, but unfortunately, not until just weeks to the presidential election did the military began real offensive against the insurgents, a development which has led to the rescue of over 1000 women and girls, never even known to have been abducted.
Jonathan’s loss in the election has been attributed by many to his failure to defeat the terrorist group and to bring back the missing Chibok school girls. Consequently, he has widely been pilloried for his weak policies in combating terrorism. In one of his visits to the worst-hit state, Borno, a few weeks to the general election, he came under intense criticism for his perceived lethargy in dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency, which has ravaged the region.
In addition, the level of corruption and impunity that characterised his administration was also major contributor to his defeat. Many cases of money laundering, corruption, theft, were recorded in his government, many of which triggered bitter reactions from Nigerians.
General Buhari and the APC subsequently anchored their campaign on issues believed to be sensitive to Nigerians’ plight, chief among which are the promise to stamp out insurgency and wage a decisive battle against the scourge of corruption, which has ravaged the soul of the country.
The man Buhari
Born December 17, 1942, Buhari, a retired General in the Nigerian Army was Head of State from December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985. He introduced the famous War Against Indiscipline, WAI, during his stint as Head of State, bringing some level of sanity to Nigerians’ penchant for jumping queues and doing things wrongly.
He ran unsuccessfully for the office of President in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections. In 2003, Buhari ran for president as candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP and was defeated by then President Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP. He again ran on ANPP platform in 2007 and was defeated again by lathe President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who hailed from his home state of Katsina.
Buhari ran on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, a party he formed in 2010, running against incumbent President Jonathan as PDP candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria and Ibrahim Shekarau, a former governor of Kano State, who ran on ANPP’s platform.
Once again, he lost the election to Jonathan, who defeated him with over 10 million votes.
In December 2014, he emerged presidential candidate of the opposition APC and went ahead to defeat Jonathan at the March 28 presidential poll with over 2.5 million votes.
Buhari went into the history books as not only a candidate who contested for the Presidency the most times, but also as one who defeated an incumbent President.
The president-elect has reiterated his commitment to fight corruption, which has been described as a cankerworm that has eaten deep into Nigerian fabric. Some say it is an epidemic that spreads like wild fire, which is fast consuming us as a people, calling for its quick containment before it ravaged us all.
Sequel to these submissions, most analysts are of the opinion that corruption has become endemic in Nigeria, especially in the last four years. Amongst other things, they recalled the alleged missing $20 billion, the police pension fund fraud, the Stella Oduah scandal of buying two cars for N255 million among other celebrated cases. To most people, the unhealthy developments cast aspersion to the present government which somehow robbed it of some decency.
Many continued to bemoan the Jonathan-led administration following his insensitivity to corruption and impunity, stressing that it is the worst in the history of Nigeria.
Consequently, the incoming government has avowed to give zero tolerance for corrupt practices. Buhari, in one of his statements, said that he wanted men of proven integrity, technically competent and ready to serve not based on pocket enrichment but for the good of Nigeria.
He said: “There will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt will not be appointed into my administration. First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue producing entities such as Nigerian National petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only. Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference.”
To this end, he maintained that his asset and that of his cabinet members will be declared in order to entrench transparency. In addition, a proposition to cut the cost of National Assembly may be considered, a development many believe will be gladly applauded, especially as the world is witnessing a fall in the prices of oil.
Also, the Buhari administration has promised to take stiffer measures against insecurity. In an address in London, Buhari’s agenda as he told the world centred on three issues: insecurity, economy and unemployment.
He had said: “Let me assure you that if I am elected president, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has had to recently; that Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa; and that no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service.
“We will give them adequate and modern arms and ammunition to work with, we will improve intelligence gathering and border controls to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels.
“We will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development plan promoting infrastructural development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas. We will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester, and I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front and return Nigeria to its leadership role in regional and international efforts to combat terrorism.”
On the issue of unemployment, the in
coming administration promised to provide job for the youths. Today, the rate of unemployment is worrisome, especially as economic downturn is ravaging the world. This is one of the areas Jonathan has failed, hence incuring anger from many youths. Despite the efforts of the government at providing jobs, the rate of unemployment is growing geometrically by the day and to say the least, Nigerians especially, the youths are not particularly happy. PDP’s failures and the need for change thus became necessary.
Buhari however assured Nigerians, especially the youths of massive job creation for gainful employment. In addition, payment for youths who have completed the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC will be effected.
In addressing the issue of economic meltdown, the incoming Buhari government said it will put in place necessary mechanism and policies that will foster economic growth.
According to him, “in reforming the economy, we will use savings that arise from blocking these leakages and the proceeds recovered from corruption to fund our party’s social investments programmes in education, health, and safety nets such as free school meals for children, emergency public works for unemployed youth and pensions for the elderly.
“In the face of dwindling revenues, a good place to start the repositioning of Nigeria’s economy is to swiftly tackle two ills that have ballooned under the present administration: waste and corruption. And in doing this, I will, if elected, lead the way, with the force of personal example.”
Buhari emphasised the maintenance of our refineries to function full capacity. Obviously, the refineries are in terrible shape and putting them back in order will permanently address the incessant fuel scarcity that has become the order of the day. This will also reduce the pump price of refined products.
In the same vein, the incoming government stressed that the erratic power supply in Nigeria will be a thing of the past. Buhari and the APC assured Nigerians that power problem will be fixed, adding that saboteurs will not have a place in the government.
All these and many more, which are the bane of the Nigerian nation are what the incoming government is planning to salvage.
Many opined that Buhari is a man of integrity, who has no tolerance for corruption, hence optimistic he will deliver. Some recall his antecedent when he was in service of fatherland. According to them when he was the Head of State his economic policies saw the rebuilt of the 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.
Analysts also averred that that his role as the chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, a body created by the government of late General Sani Abacha, and funded from the revenue generated by the increase in price of petroleum products, to pursue developmental projects around the country, was equally commendable. It will be recalled that a 1998 report in New African praised the PTF under Buhari for its transparency, calling it a rare “success story”. However, the same report also noted that critics had questioned the PTF’s allocation of 20 per cent of its resources to the military, which the critics feared would not be accountable for the revenue.
Will Buhari walk his talk? Nigerians await his inauguration and surely, they would hold him accountable for all his pledges. No doubt the challenges are enormous, but Nigerians will not entertain any excuse for failure to deliver.
The question on the lips of many analysts and political pundits is: can he tackle these myriad challenges confronting the country, which the PDP for 16 years has failed to solve? Only time will tell.
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