Second term: Another false start by Buhari

In 2015, it took President Muhammadu Buhari six months to announce his ministers and as long as three years to name members of different boa...

In 2015, it took President Muhammadu Buhari six months to announce his ministers and as long as three years to name members of different boards. He never even named the boards of some agencies in the four years of his first term in office. For example, the board of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) was never constituted throughout the four years of his tenure.
In addition to the six months it took to form his cabinet from the day he was inaugurated, the President also had the two months between the March 28, 2015 election and the May 29, 2015 inauguration date. He was also lucky to be the first Nigerian civilian president to win an election without his opponent challenging his victory in court or criticising the process of his election. So, he had the luxury of having the time to concentrate on his plans for the nation right from the day he was declared the winner of the election.

 Those two months were enough for him to form his cabinet and take off with zest on the day of his inauguration. To borrow the cliché: He would have hit the ground running. Given the number of times he contested elections and the passion he put to it, he was expected to have attacked the issue of governance with dispatch right from the date of his inauguration.

The excuse given by him for not utilising the pre-inauguration two months as well as for taking six months to name his cabinet and crucial government functionaries was that he needed to take his time to get the best. Curiously, most of the people he named as ministers were those who were already known and were even working within his party in different forms. So it was surprising that it took him that long to “search for” them. Ironically, even among those ministers, two were found to have breached the constitutional provision that before a person can take up any employment position, that person must undertake the one-year national service of the National Youth Service Corps scheme. One special adviser was found to have forged his secondary school result with which he gained admission into the university.

Even though the President has refused to acknowledge it, the lateness in forming his cabinet affected his administration and the country negatively. There was some uncertainty about the direction of his administration because of the lack of a cabinet. Many ministerial actions could not be taken early because there were no ministers.

It was expected that in this second term, he would not repeat the mistakes of the past by showing more eagerness to tackle the problems of the nation, given that the nation has deteriorated under his watch economy-wise and security-wise. Even though he has blamed every negative thing that occurred in his administration on his predecessors, that has not wished away those problems. Poverty is increasing by the day; insecurity is worsening by the day. These issues need to be solved or at least arrested to avoid further descent.

From February 27 when he was declared the winner of the election by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, Buhari had three months to form his cabinet. That was long enough time for him to name all those who would work for him in all sectors and capacity. However, his second term kicked off on May 29 without any word on his cabinet. He has, therefore, breached the constitution by using aides that were not appointed officially. A lawyer has sued him for this breach. Curiously, his inauguration took place without any speech to tell the nation what his general plans are. The excuse was that his speech would be delivered on June 12, which is the new Democracy Day.

But Democracy Day is completely different from Inauguration Day. The Inauguration Day is the official take-off of his second term of four years. Democracy Day of June 12 is like the Independence Day of October 1. Democracy Day and Independence Day have nothing to do with the tenure of the President. Those dates are for speeches about the importance of democracy and independence respectively. Therefore, the Inauguration Day belongs to the President and the governors who are sworn in on that day, while the Democracy Day and Independence Day belong to the nation and the people.

The reaction of a man whose house is on fire and that of a man whose roof is leaking can never be the same. When the man whose house is on fire acts like the man whose roof is leaking, he is saying that he either does not understand the gravity of the situation or that he does not care about the house.

In June 2018, The World Poverty Clock showed that Nigeria had become the country with the highest number of poor people in the world, overtaking India whose population is seven times larger than Nigeria’s. The report stated that 86.9 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty. But the matter did not stop there. The report said that every six minutes, one Nigeria would go into extreme poverty. Consequently, by the end of 2018, a total of 90.8 million Nigerians were in extreme poverty.

 Last week, The Economist stated that 94 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty. Noting that unemployment rate stood at 23 per cent, having grown for 15 consecutive quarters, the paper said: “The Nigerian economy is stuck like a stranded truck. Average incomes have been falling for four years; the IMF thinks they will rise for at least another six.”

 In addition, the security challenge from Boko Haram that was restricted mainly in the North-East has spiralled to the North-West and North-Central, with an upsurge in the activities of killer herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers. Sadly, the security agencies seem helpless and overwhelmed.

 In addition, even though Buhari has been trying to revamp the infrastructure, the infrastructure across the country has been deteriorating at a faster rate than the speed at which it is attended to. For example, in 2013 when the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was inaugurated by Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the plan was that Julius Berger and RCC, the construction companies handling the two sections of the 130-kilometre road, would complete it in four years (2017). This is 2019, yet the road is not anywhere near completion.

 Over the decades, it has been the same story: while a new administration is reconstructing a road somewhere, dozens of other roads are dilapidating and forgotten; and while a hospital or university is being revamped, dozens of other hospitals and universities are falling apart or even virtually abandoned. It, therefore, becomes a vicious cycle that ensures that much of the federal infrastructure is always in terrible condition across the country.

 Given this emergency situation in Nigeria, one would have expected that issues related to governance would be treated with some fervour, to see how much ground that can be covered. When a man has an old car for a long trip, he leaves home much earlier than those with brand-new cars. He knows that his car will not move as fast as the new ones and may experience technical hitches on the way, especially when stuck in a traffic jam. By leaving much earlier, he gives room for all these, and subsequently gets to his destination in good time. That is the case of Nigeria. But it is disappointing that after spending four years in office, President Buhari does not still realise this.

—Twitter @BrandAzuka

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