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OPINION

February 16: Yea Or Nay For Buhari?

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As the presidential and National Assembly elections hold tomorrow, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, President Muhammadu Buhari, has naturally found himself as the cynosure of all eyes. Buhari is as passionately loved by many as he is despised by others.

Buhari was a military head of state from 1983 to 1985. He regained public relevance with the coming to power of Gen Sani Abacha in 1993. Abacha’s death in 1998 ushered in civil rule and gave the retired Maj Gen another shot at his much-desired aim to lead the country again. But it turned out to be an uphill challenge as he found himself contesting and losing at the polls and in the courts three times, before finally edging out an incumbent in the 2015 elections.

Hate or love him, the septuagenarian has proven himself a patriot, a man of discipline, a man known to live within his means, a man of unbending will and tenacity, and a man determined to change the lot of the extremely poor.

This is self-evident in his four-year tenure. Working through an economic slump occasioned by a dramatic fall in crude oil prices while dealing with flashes of insurgency across the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has no less, achieved the following:

Numerous completed and ongoing road projects nationwide and revitalisation of critical rail lines across the country for economic and social development.

The Southeast alone is said to be currently benefitting from up to 69 road/bridge projects either completed or currently ongoing or about to commence.

The Anchor Borrowers programme provides loans to farmers of rice, wheat, maize, cassava, poultry, soybeans and ground nuts. Approximately 350,000 farmers nationwide have benefited from this policy as a result of which rice production has increased significantly and eight new rice mills have been built.

The Buhari administration has entered a partnership with Morocco for the supply of phosphate to ensure local production of fertilizers. In tandem with this, 1) 12 blending plants revitalised 2) More than 12 mill bags of fertilizer locally produced since 2017. 3) Annual savings of $200 million in foreign exchange 4) Drop in cost of Fertilizer

The solid minerals sector is another one which is thriving well and a veritable source of foreign exchange. It is another sector the Buhari administration is focused on growing.

Social investment project is the largest and most ambitious of such projects in Nigeria’s history. It domiciles the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme active in 26 states, feeding over 9 million pupils 2) Conditional Cash Transfer providing 5000 naira to indigent households in 26 states. 3) Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, Farmermoni (small Agric loans); Marketmoni (for medium scale traders); Tradermoni (micro loans for petty traders) 4) N-power Programme (500,000 Nigerian graduates earning N30, 000 spread across the entire nation) to be scaled up to 10 million beneficiaries by 2023.

Pensioners who had been owed for years as well as students on government scholarships who had been abandoned to their fate by successive governments have also finally been granted relief, courtesy of the current administration’s efforts to tie up loose ends left by previous governments.

Despite all these and much more, the Buhari administration is accused of “causing the recession.” It is worthy to note that the minister of Finance and coordinating minister of the Economy in the immediate past administration, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, had warned that the nation’s economy was in danger urged the Jonathan administration to save. Her warning is corroborated by Mr Peter Obi, then governor of Anambra State and current running mate to Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, who indicated that not only were the minister’s pleas roundly ignored, governors insisted the funds be shared across the states. We might also recall the treatment meted out to yet another CBN governor, HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who warned that: “Over $20 billion unremitted to the Federation Account, and if nothing is done by 2015 upward, Nigeria will know what Economic crisis is!” He was suspended by the Jonathan administration for his trouble.

Most people are no longer in top form once they hit middle age. Buhari in his 70s is certainly no spring chicken, however, his bout of ill health shrouded in silence, left many Nigerians wondering if he is fit enough to govern. Rumours making the rounds in this regard include talks that he died and has since been replaced by a body double or clone. Others believe that he is going senile owing to occasional slip-ups at public engagements. So far, no debate has been raised about his sanity.

Will it be a resounding ‘yea,’ a reluctant ‘ok,’ or a definite ‘no’ from Nigerians tomorrow?

Mom is a director of Public Affairs in the Jime/Ode Campaign Organisation and writes from Benue State.

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