Sixteen minus one
It is not unusual for the fierceness of the support for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Party (APC) to find expression in the riposte that the citizens must not expect an automatic realisation of the change the party and its helmsman promised. Their expectations have often been scaled down with the reprimand that if it took the last administration 16 years to liquidate all props for corporate probity and sanity, it smacks of sheer perfidy on the part of the citizens to ask the president and his party to rebuild the nation in just one year.
But this position has turned out as a self-fulfilling prophecy since the Buhari administration is pathetically denuded of the hallmarks of stellar performance as it marks one year on Sunday. No doubt, the promise to fight corruption was irresistible. Let’s get all the money stolen from the national treasury and deploy it in the development of electricity, roads and other infrastructure. No one really opposed fighting corruption. Indeed, the citizens thought that fighting corruption was a grand idea and that once this was resolved, the nation would sally forth towards its destined path of greatness.
But a year after, the fight against corruption has been reduced to a part of the nation’s cocktail of chimeras. Forget about the arrests and their razzmatazz of media trials. The question the citizens are asking now is, how effective has the anti-corruption campaign been in the past one year? This is simply because the Buhari administration’s prosecution of the anti-corruption campaign has been divorced from the rigorous imagination that would have earned it more credibility. It is convenient for the Buhari administration to engender an environment in which the focus is only on the members of the opposition whom the anti-graft agencies arrest and ask to refund the money they have stolen. But the inconvenient and a much more credible way to prosecute the anti-corruption campaign on the back of audacious imagination would have been to extend it to both foes and friends. Now, it is the people who ought to be among those being tried who are dictating the terms of the anti-corruption regime. Let’s strip the argument that we should start from somewhere and use some people as scapegoats of all its sophistry. As long as the anti-corruption campaign has not caught up with all former leaders who made their billions simply on account of occupying public offices, and as long as it is only targeted at the members of the opposition and critics of the policies of the Buhari administration, we cannot regard it as one of the achievements of the past year.
Again, there is the need to worry about the anti-corruption campaign as it has not by any means improved the lot of the citizens. If the billions are being recovered as we have often been told, why have they not been invested in the economy to revamp it? Rather, the stark reality today is that the citizens who are outside government are stuck with an economic fate that is far bleaker than it was before the Buhari administration. Those who had the hope of getting employment during the administration of Buhari have been disillusioned. Worse still, thousands of others have been thrown into unemployment. Their woes have been worsened by failed electricity and the scarcity of fuel that made them to spend a significant part of their time in the last one year trekking in search of fuel.
Apparently taking their cue from the notion that in this administration the life of the average citizen is not worth anything, contrary to all platitudes, the wanton killings of the citizens by security operatives have not been uncommon occurrences in the past one year. The famed discipline of Buhari has not percolated through the various security agencies. In fact, it seems that with Buhari being in Aso Rock, the security operatives have been given a licence for impunity. This is why they remorselessly invaded government houses as in Akwa Ibom State. In Ekiti State, security operatives arrested state officials and took them to Abuja in a bid to corral to them to impeach Ayo Fayose who has become a virulent critic of the Buhari administration. Impunity is stretched further by the Buhari government not releasing those legitimate courts have granted bail. They must all be incarcerated to suit Buhari’s sense of justice.
Buhari emerged as president because there was a relatively fair and stable electoral system. But in the past one year, the Buhari administration has tended to erode those electoral gains before his emergence. From Kogi State to Bayelsa, elections have been marred by inconclusiveness. The nation’s electoral system has been threatened with willful cancellations.
Buhari has been on the cusp of successfully bringing the fight against Boko Haram to a close. But this appears to be offering only a temporary respite as he has failed to effectively address the issues that are the breeding grounds for the religious fanaticism that gave birth to Boko Haram. Beyond the often linkage of religion and terrorism, we must take cognisance of the fact that if the society galvanised the opportunities for education and employment for the youths to be creatively engaged, they would not be available for brainwashing and killing of other citizens. It is because such opportunities are lacking that militancy also festers in the Niger Delta. It is the same reason that has given birth to the agitators under the aegis of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The Buhari government has glossed over the need for an equitable federal system that would ensure that opportunities are not available to only those who have access to power at the federal level. Such opportunities are what would erase the impression that one part of the country is favoured more than another. There should be equal opportunities that would give all the stakeholders in the country a sense of belonging.
It is easy for the Buhari government to think that it is doing well since there is no longer a vibrant opposition that would brand it clueless as it was the lot of its predecessor . Yet, it should cover up the lost ground of the past year by responding to national issues with a sense of urgency that they require. But if Buhari and his APC do not appreciate this urgency, they may stick to their notion that to rebuild what has taken 16 years to destroy, they would need an equal number of years. Then though the citizens are groaning under so much economic hardship, they have to wait for 16 years for their fortunes to change. The APC would keep making promises of creating jobs, of succouring the vulnerable in the society notwithstanding that the citizens have no assurance that these promises would not be broken like the previous ones. But there are now only two options open to Buhari and his party: seize the moment and leave behind enduring legacies or finally squander the already diminishing goodwill of the citizens they have on the altar of dereliction and smug omniscience.