Before the honeymoon is over
President Muhammadu Buhari, like Jonathan Goodluck, came to power with a lot of goodwill. But the honeymoon of power does not often last long. Buhari at inception, received the same public endorsement like Jonathan. But the time is ticking, the people are asking questions, raising issues and wanting to know when the regime will fire the cylinder to get the national project moving. Buhari obviously started on a very good note.
His frontal attack and demobilisation of the Boko Haram forces within the first year of his rule is highly commendable. His fight against corruption, whichever way people may see it, is also very good. Some interpret it to be party-inclined targeted at PDP forces, but it was the PDP that was in power at the federal level, which has to bear the burden of accountability for what happened under the PDP Federal Government. There are no issues in that.
The biggest pain of the people, apart from national security is the economy. The economy is in decline, not the fault of the Buhari regime, but global economic trends with a drastic decline in the price of oil – Nigeria’s main export product and foreign exchange earner. Since then, revenue has plummeted, the naira has been in free fall, energy shortages have increased dramtically, and consequently, living standards are wobbling, with the rate of poverty likely to intensify.
What the people expect from the Buhari regime on the economy are basically two. First is a clear blueprint on the present and future that the government envisions for the country and the roadmap for achieving it. The people desire a clear articulation of the policy direction that the economy will take, and steps towards it. Second is a strong political machinery in government that not only understands but demonstrates the competence, capacity and energy to drive the vision with utmost commitment. The Buhari regime had its plate full when it came into power with Boko Haram and other challenges, but after about one year in power, the people will sooner than later be getting restless and asking questions on the road ahead.
The Buhari economic blueprint, which could be embedded in the the national development plan, will have to speak to strategies of diversifying the economy, reviving the nation’s broken infrastructure and expanding them, growing the domestic private sector, creating jobs, and enhancing the quality and standard of education in the country.
For Nigeria to leapfrog into the future, it would have to take innovation, science and technology more seriously. In a knowledge-driven world, intellectual property rights will be perhaps, one of the most precious assets any country can have, as it constitutes the safeguard to protecting human invention and creativity. Innovation and creativity do not come by coincidence; they are products of the knowledge base of a society, the prevailing incentives and the general environment created for them.
Permutations about a second term ticket barely a year into office is certainly not the way to go. It is usually diversionary, deflective and restricting. Once a leader gets into a second term race, he/she would have to live by compromises. I would assume that media reports about the President on the second term politics are not correct. Babatunde Fashola in Buhari’s cabinet can tell the story of how service to the people earned him a second term in Lagos State in spite of resistance to it by some powerful forces. On the hand, Jonathan Goodluck can also tell the story of how tonnes of dollars could not secure him a second term in power. Buhari would have to make a choice on the path to take.
There is work to do, which is fixing the economy. Buhari must focus on it squarely and get things moving before the honeymoon fizzles out. The regime has started on a good note and must keep the momentum going. In keeping the momentum, it must articulate an economic agenda for the country that will create a vision of the future that we all want, be proud of, and can all believe in.
• Prof. Adejumobi lives in Lusaka, Zambia and writes in his personal capacity.