The mid-term reports: Facts and fiction
So, we have received the mid-term reports from the federal and state governments. What do we make of them? Two takes. One, we can view them as the mere oiling of the traditional democratic machinery under which rulers are obliged to make periodic reports to the ruled. Or two, we can look closely into them past the sickening self-adulatory propaganda, and see if our country is on the narrow path to peace, unity and national development.
Both of them throw up important questions. One, are we better off now than we were before we made our informed choice between PDP and APC in 2015? Two, do we see and feel the change promised by President Muhammadu Buhari and his party or do we see all around us more of the same two years after? Three, do the mid-term reports give us reasons to believe that we are better governed now than before since our return to civil rule on May 29, 1999?
These are fundamental questions. I would imagine that wherever two or three Nigerians are gathered, they would discuss them and try to answer them. You can be sure that opinions would naturally differ between the supporters of the governments and those who hang on the thin thread of giving up on a country from which Andrew wisely wanted to check out of in 1984/85. This is neither unusual nor unexpected. It is impossible to view issues of our national development from the same perspective; or even generally accept that our rulers are not doing too badly. It seems to me that we tend to view the success or failure of government almost entirely from our individual benefits or lack thereof. It would be foolish to try to make a government contractor give it a failure mark. Perhaps, that is simplistic but as I see it, it is as simple as that.
Many people would find it easy to address the first question. Indeed, responses to it have become something of amala joint for political pundits and those bedecked in the badge of professional disenchantment with government at all levels. There they gather and there they pontificate on the failures, mostly, and the successes of the federal and state governments in the past two years. And there they render the verdict that the ordinary people of this country are the human mules saddled with the sacks of our economic difficulties. You hear their groaning, not their laughter.
Whatever we make of the mid-term reports must be moderated by two sad visitations from fate on our country. The first is the illness of the president. If President Buhari had been here, he would have presented his mid-term report and received appropriate marks for his efforts so far. You could be sure that those who are disappointed with it would not spare him. They would lay the cane across his back. As it is, we must be in our best behaviour as we pray for his return to his seat in Aso Rock, healthy and strong enough to fulfil his sacred promise to the people: change.
Secondly, no one foresaw the current difficulties in the economy. The recession makes it difficult for us to properly assess the competence of the government in the management of our economy. We cannot hazard a fair guess as to where we would be today if the recession did not happen or if it was a mild shock to our economy and simply passed on. Whichever gods dropped this dead herring on our path must be ashamed of themselves.
The other questions are more difficult to address because one cannot produce empirical evidence to support whatever assertions one makes for or against how we are governed and to what positive effects. If we say we are better off now than we were in 2015, for instance, we have to show in what way or ways ours and our country’s circumstances have either dramatically changed or dramatically improved. It has never been easy to define good governance. And this not being a mathematical question, it does not give us easy answers either.
Still, we would be uncharitable to deny that the administration has made some commendable efforts in at least three fundamental areas. The anti-graft war is perhaps the most publicised area of its success so far. But the man also promised us infrastructural development and a new national approach to the revamping and the repositioning of agriculture. We hardly hear much about the last two but I hear that the ministers in-charge, Babatunde Raji Fashola (works, energy and housing) and Chief Audu Ogbeh (agriculture) are working round the clock to make Buhari win the laurels. Both men came into their offices well recommended by their past performances. Their reputation is as much at stake as that of the president himself.
But we cannot discount this: a well-oiled propaganda inevitably attends mid-term reports and gives us a false sense of progress where we see can none. But if you looked into the newspapers on Democracy Day, May 29, you would have no reasons not to believe that the federal and the state governments have quite remarkably turned this country into a little heaven within only two years. And you would be inclined to accept that the poor are leaving their poor circumstances behind as they cross in droves to the other side where the grass is always luxuriant. Makes you ask: where were all these superlative performers when our country was thrashing in the marsh?
Each election circle gives the electorate reasons to make a choice between competing politicians and political parties. The choice we make is arguably informed by our honest belief that either an old government is good enough for us to renew its mandate or opt for a new administration that offers us more seductive promises of a better tomorrow. A mid-term report is assessment time for us. Did we make the right choice of parties and individuals in 2015 or were we tossed about by the sentiments and the shenanigans of politics?
A government is as much a victim of fate or luck or circumstance as the individual. We can see that from the current recession. Whatever Buhari had in store for the country and its people in the area of a sensible management of the economy has been shunted aside by the arrival of the recession when we least expected it. Still, the electorate is not usually persuaded by the victimhood. It is persuaded by promises fulfilled or unfulfilled.
The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, is not unaware of that. Under his keen watch, the administration has stepped into its third year in office. This is the year before the 2019 general elections. That sentence is pregnant.
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