by Tochukwu Okorie
Many are of the view that President Buhari’s administration is no longer to be considered too young to deliver the basics to Nigerians who have been visibly traumatized in the face of harsh economic atmosphere that has cascaded the entire polity in the last few months. This is in addition to the grave menace of Boko Haram that is threatening to completely decimate Nigeria.
It is against this backdrop that many Nigerians have become increasingly restive and unwilling to continue the gamble with an ineffective government unable to secure their lives and livelihood. The euphoria that greeted the ascendancy of Muhammadu Buhari as is usually the case with every new government in Nigeria has since waned and angst and disorientation has now taken over as Nigerians appear to wait endlessly for at least a modicum of sign or intent in the direction of the flowery promises pelted down on them by Buhari and his political party, the All Progressive Congress, APC.
The economy has taken a nosedive as the stock market continues to slide by chunks. Investors are said to have lost no less than N271 billion in one week alone between Monday and Friday last week. Yet all that has come out from presidency is that the president is busy “clearing the Augean stable”. How in the name of whatever is holy is that supposed to be connected to laying out an economic blueprint and announcing clearly defined policy objectives and directions in order to sure up investors’ confidence? The economy is in desperate need for mega investments that will at least reduce the unemployment tally and mitigate the incidence thereof. Yet all this administration has done is pour cold water on the enthusiasm of investors who were trooping into Nigeria only a few months back.
The utterances that have emanated from Aso Rock are enough to make the entire world think that Nigeria is the riskiest investment climate ever and is also capable of robbing the already beleaguered and troubled Naira of whatever is left of its value. But policy makers are still rather in the business of buck passing trying desperately to conceal apparent incipient ineptitude and lack of in-depth knowledge of the workings of the economy. Many analysts are of the opinion that Nigeria has overwhelmed Buhari and his acolytes.
In the 18 months prior to May 29 handover, prices of food items where so stable no one ever noticed the falling value of the Naira. These analysts say was attributable to the robust food and agriculture policy that had practically turned Nigeria a self-sufficient nation at least in the area of food. Today, ordinary tomatoes are a luxury as only few households can afford enough for one meal.
In the run-up to the elections our ears were constantly belabored with how in a terrible state the economy was and how Buhari with his magic wand was going to turn things around within the first 100 days if elected president. Nigerians bought into the change mantra believing that the General actually has the Midas touch required to make our Naira equivalent in value to a dollar within the first few days of his government if elected. As we speak, the Naira is racing up to N250 to a dollar with no apparent remedy in view.
Buhari and cronies also told us that petroleum subsidy was a scam. In fact, Adams Oshiomole, Governor of Edo state had made it his morning cry to impugn on daily basis the fuel subsidy regime decrying it as a fraud. Buhari was going to make fuel available at N40 per litter if elected. We believed him. Whether by fate or providence, a crippling grueling scarcity hit the nation in the twilight of the Jonathan’s administration and Buharists even after they had worn the election kept berating that administration making a sing-song of how Buhari would upon assumption of office wipe out scarcity. True to the claim, Buhari’s federal government was able to reach a deal with marketers the content of which is known only to a few in the inner circle and like magic fuel queues disappeared. Sure enough, “we said it” was the immediate reaction of Buharists. The celebration did not last for another week before the queues resurfaced. Marketers were said to have owed banks so much that no bank was willing to finance importation of petroleum products even if it is one liter. For real? What about the magic wand? Needless to say that the amount of subsidy arrears owed to importers and marketers now stand at over N47 Billion. Okay. So much for the economy and fuel.
The president’s inaugural speech carried one policy statement only. Command center for the on-going operations in the North-East was to relocate to Maiduguri, the epicenter of the campaign. Nigerian’s cheered and applauded. A Daniel has come to judgment. Boko Haram has met its waterloo eventually. Or, so Nigerians thought. Shortly after, the president ordered that all military checkpoints be removed. Nigerians again cheered. Seven weeks on, rather than abate, insurgency has taken a more daring dimension. It is on record that at least 444 persons have been killed in the various attacks in the last 6 weeks. Unofficial figures hover between 700 and 1000. This is world record!
Buhari is said to be embarking on silent probe as he holds interrogative meetings with Permanent Secretaries and heads of parastatals. He has also set up a foursome awesome to foist a predetermined guilty verdict on the management of NNPC. The story is that appointing ministers will interfere with the ongoing probe, hence the refusal of Buhari to appoint even the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Well said. It has however been pointed out that the real reason the president has refused to appoint ministers is not actually so that there will be no interference in the probe, but rather so that there is no interference in the appointments that the president has already started making to favor the north. Analysts say that the tenures of most appointive positions in the MDAs are falling due. The politics of their replacement is the real reason Buhari is not in a hurry to appoint ministers knowing full well that he is obligated to appoint ministers at least one from each state of the federation. These ministers if appointed will take charge as chief executives and will definitely have an opinion as to who occupies what position under their ministries.
There is growing discontent everywhere you turn. People are now asking, “Is this the change Nigerians voted for? Is this the change we were promised? Haven’t we rather shortchanged ourselves in voting in a gerontocrat and octogenarian whose ideas about the world are as archaic as referring to the German Chancellor as the president of West Germany? Haven’t we been hoodwinked into believing in a spurious change without properly profiling the self-acclaimed change agents?
It would appear that Nigerians have inadvertently boarded a vehicle of marauders referred to in Nigerian parlance as “one Chance”. Whoever survives may be alive to see Buhari’s miracle government, that is, whenever the Augean stable is finally cleared.
Tochukwu Okorie is is an Economic Policy Expert and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Management.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.