Buhari’s offerings and the imperative of a new deal
That President Muhammadu Buhari is alive is heartening for well-meaning Nigerians but not mischief makers who had wished that the wicked rumour they deliberately packaged and instigated was real. Presidential spokespersons and other officials of government who have the duty to tell Nigerians and the rest of the world the truth about Buhari’s whereabouts, had put up a spirited defence of the president in the best ways possible.
They must, however, continue to disabuse the minds of Nigerians that Buhari is not incapacitated, until he returns to his desk. But the truth- around which is a national consensus- is that Buhari is not enjoying the best of health. And, this is understandable. At 74, he is easily vulnerable to physical exertions. After all, how many septuagenarians in our part of the world – where life expectancy is 47 years – enjoy the best of health? Some may want to posit that Buhari should have considered the age factor before deciding to present himself for the job. Good point, no doubt!
A counter point is that Buhari deserves commendation for responding to the urgency of national redemption without considering the incalculable damage the pressure of office could do to his age. This is a measure of his patriotism and love of country – that he took up the gauntlet to serve when some of those in power appeared to have misunderstood the political economy and wantonly mismanaged the wealth of the nation.
In taking up the challenge of governance, he was, perhaps, consumed by the wrong assumption that the Nigeria he ruled over in 1983 to1985 – a period of 20 months – before he was ousted through a palace coup is the same country he had fought hard since 2003 to govern. He succeeded in 2015. He has, however, been humble enough to confess that it is not the same Nigeria and that he had, indeed, underestimated the problems confronting the nation. That is commendable.
It is also commendable that Buhari is fighting anyhow to recover the nation’s looted funds. It is a good starting point. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, under Ibrahim Magu’s command, must enjoy some plaudits for successfully driving Buhari’s anti-graft machinery along the line of recovery of stolen public funds. Even if this is the only achievement of Buhari in four years – recovery of stolen funds, their return to government’s coffer and prevention of officials of his government from perpetrating the same perfidy – he would have helped to inculcate in the bureaucracy a renewed sense of moral armament that underscores the truth that public fund is our commonwealth to be deployed for public good and not to be stolen to satisfy gluttonous personal aggrandizement.
Indeed, Buhari would have built a huge legacy that typifies a renaissance in the prudent management of public finance. Had the previous governments been judicious, they would have built up savings for us and invested heavily in administrative machinery that would have translated into accumulation of capital and development of sophisticated infrastructure that would have underpinned a robust economy that is largely immune to recession.
Nigerians should rally support for the president in his anti-graft war. I believe he will get the maximum support if the garb of alleged selectivity that makes the anti-graft agency seems to target only plunderers who happened to be in the immediate past Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government is removed and the inquisition is made to include all who committed financial crimes regardless of party affiliation(s).
Besides, there is the impression being created with respect to overall outlook of governance that Buhari promised to transform Nigeria in a year. That is not correct. Even the intervention by the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, that Nigerians gave the APC government a four-year mandate and, therefore, should wait till the end of the term is also not the correct position. Buhari was very clear in an interview in 2014 before he emerged the presidential candidate of the APC that it would take a minimum of five years to take Nigeria out of the woods and had said that Nigerians should be ready to suffer for that long.
The PDP even made an issue out of this during the electioneering through a paid advertorial, with which it called public attention to the danger of voting for a man who had declared, point-blank, that they would suffer for five years. Nigerians discountenanced the public service announcement and voted for Buhari. It would appear they realised that change is always not a sweet experience and had accepted to cooperate with him in displacing the status quo and compromised officialdom that had been entrenched in our body politic over the years.
But the poor masses who are victims of the current economic hardship can no longer remain steadfast in their original support for him. It is, therefore, time to focus on the economy. The economy must be taken out of recession. It is doable. The president only needs to mobilise the nation’s economic potential. Where are the Nigerian equivalents of the British economist, John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), whose “Keynesian Solution” or “Economics” had a major impact on modern economic and political theory and on many governments’ fiscal policies? He helped to formulate certain functions Britain and U.S. should discharge to stabilise the international economic system. The bottom-line was massive state interventions.
We have them here in their numbers. Buhari should search out a solid economic team to chart the way forward. The countries that were badly affected in the western world during the depression, for instance, intervened to push up market demands by undertaking public works and financing them by money creation (deficit financing). This generated additional income and employment, with market demands for goods and services gradually picking up. Consequently, normalcy was restored and development resumed.
In the United States of America, it was called the New deal. The New Deal was the domestic programme of the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1939. The deal brought about immediate economic relief as well as reforms in industry, agriculture, finance, water, power, labour, and housing, greatly increasing the scope of the Federal Government’s activities.
The New Deal generally embraced the concept of a government-regulated economy aimed at achieving a balance between conflicting economic interests as opposed to the traditional American political philosophy of laissez-faire. Here, APC during the electioneering in 2015 successfully de-marketed former President Goodluck Jonathan with its mind-boggling promises. Buhari just flowed along. It is time to come to terms with the reality of fulfilling those promises.
• Ojeifo is a journalist and publisher.