The tradition of a 100-day marker to assess presidential effectiveness was started by Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), in 1933, when he inherited the calamity of a depressed US economy.
Faced with a collapsing economy, such as we face in Nigeria today, FDR hit the ground speeding! He engaged the US congress and eventually secured an unprecedented FIFTEEN landmark legislation, between March 8 and June 16, hence the birth of the “Fifteen legislation in 100 days” yardstick, for assessing Presidential performance and the foundation for FDR’s widely successful “New Deal” programs – which included regulating and reforming of the banking system, unleashing massive government stimulus pending package to restart the economy and putting people back to work, and the creation of a social services network to support those who had fallen on hard times.
Several of the programs created during those three and a half months are still around in the US federal government today.
The justification for the first 100 day marker is that it is the period during which a new presidency has its most goodwill and political capital, with the public and legislature, to ram through legislation that would form the foundation for hoisting its reformative agendas. It is also in keeping with the words of Shakespeare that, “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.” Although not perfect by any means, this 100 day measure has survived the test of time.
Therefore, any democratically elected President, who fails to vigorously secure much of its programs’ legislative infrastructure, within the 100-day window, does so at the risk of administering over a failed tenure.
While most uninformed political commentators may confuse the unsuspecting public , by arbitrarily scoring executive or administrative actions, such as declaration of assets, appointment of personal aides, executive pronouncements, etc, not backed by force of legislation as performance, the truth of the matter is that the performance measures are not arbitrary, they are as clear as black and white.
Performance credit is awarded with successful legislative actions – the bulwark of any reform agenda.
When Barack Obama took the reins of US government in 2008, the US and world economy was cratering at a dizzying speed. Obama hit the ground racing!
Obama responded promptly and aggressively with legislative policy actions, within the first 100 days, which has been described by some as the boldest and most far-reaching in history, and credited for turning around the US and global economy.
These legislative actions included; The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) – which provided $787 billion of fiscal stimulus to jumpstart the US economy; The Financial Stability Plan- a comprehensive plan to restart securitized lending, increase small business lending, create a market for purchasing toxic assets off bank balance sheets, and ensure that banks are adequately capitalized, and The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan – a $75 billion program to stem the tide of foreclosures and enable homeowners to refinance at lower interest rates.
Since adopting the Presidential system of government, Nigeria has also taken to measuring its Presidents and Governors with the first 100 day performance yard stick.
On May 29, 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was sworn in as Nigeria’s President, during which he reaffirmed that “the leadership we have pledged is decidedly transformative. The transformation will be achieved in all the critical sectors; by harnessing the creative energies of our people. We must grow the economy, create jobs, and generate enduring happiness for our people.”
Other than getting his executive cabinet confirmed by the National Assembly within his first 100 days, President Jonathan recorded no other legislative initiatives or wins, in furtherance of his transformation agenda – a missed opportunity that he never recovered from. His supporters would provide a list of dozens of accomplishments, during this window, but mostly executive or administrative actions that don’t count towards the score card.
Saturday, September 5, 2015, today, marks the first 100 day of the Buhari-led All Progressive Congress (APC) government. Ahead of this day, President Buhari and his team have strenuously made attempts to distance the presidency from two documents (‘My Covenant with Nigerians & What I Will Do In My First 100 Days) which were widely and aggressively circulated by the APC as its “Change Agenda”, against which Buhari’s administration performance was to be assessed.
In an excerpt from one of those documents Buhari pledged to “Ensure that under my watch, no force, external or internal, will occupy even an inch of Nigerian soil. I will give all it takes to ensure that our girls kidnapped from Chibok are rescued and reunited with their families. Deliver a Marshal Plan on insurgency, terrorism, ethnic and religious violence, kidnapping, rural banditry and ensure that never again will Nigerian children be slaughtered or kidnapped at will. Continually acknowledge our diversity and consciously promote equality and equity in all government businesses and activities. Unveil a health sector review policy to ensure efficient and effective management of our health systems with focus on prevention, etc.”
Regardless of the denial of ownership of these documents, President Buhari gave a broad overview of his domestic agenda during his inaugural speech when he said “At home we face enormous challenges. insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems.”
With the exception of the request for approval for him to appoint 15 special advisers and a couple other appointments, President Buhari has neither introduced nor secured any legislation within his first 100 days, leaving him with no legislative infrastructure to begin to move his “Change Agenda,” when he is most popular. This performance is worse than that of Goodluck Jonathan, who ended up with an unremarkable presidency, but whom at least at this point of his presidency have had most of his cabinet confirmed by the Senate and in place.
Without any significant legislative accomplishments in his first 100 days, Buhari has the makings of another failed presidency.
Edward Oparaoji is a professor of pharmacy and chairman, Nigerian-American Leadership Council, a Washington DC Based think-tank. Connect with him on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.