President Muhammadu Buhari deliberately set out to make Nigerians feel good during the last Christmas celebrations. The assurance he gave in his Christmas message that he would fulfil the promises he made to the electorate before his tenure ends was obviously an effort to re-enforce or re-build public confidence in government.
It is, in fact, an assurance that has made all those who had ever forgotten or never believed that the president was ever serious about those promises or even still aware of them to, perhaps, have a different impression now. The assurance must have also made a lot of Nigerians who are compelled by patriotic instinct or their respective professional callings to always hold government accountable to begin to identify and isolate those promises, contextualise them and, as accurately as possible, determine the rate of fulfilment by the president.
Promises, especially the appealing ones, are the most effective instruments or weapons that are freely used by politicians to gain the support and the resultant votes of the people. Power-seekers are always expected or even required, just like Buhari courageously did, to make huge political capital out of every situation and to particularly formulate promises of a change for the better.
In the 12 years (2003-2015) that he campaigned for the presidency of the country, Buhari made promises that overtime sunk into all those millions of Nigerians that eventually became his supporters, a lot of whom were even fanatically so. The kind of solid support base that he created for himself which resulted in his emergence as president got its root from the promises that he made or, more precisely, the positive change that he seemingly represented.
It is easy for most Nigerians to remember that as a candidate, Buhari vowed to urgently provide adequate security, improve the national economy and fully fight corruption. At that time and unfortunately up till now, it was the challenges in these areas that were and are still threats to the survival and development of the country.
Therefore, when Buhari consistently sang a song that contained his resolve to turn around the situation, more people than had ever been imagined made themselves available for him. In the last two of the 12 years of his struggle, Buhari saw and enjoyed absolute volunteerism in the various aspects of the campaign which made it to, in some parts of the country, become everybody’s affair.
What was even more instructive was his expressed resolved to adopt an approach that will be both rapid and comprehensive as required by the situation. He, in fact, appeared to have understood the challenges as some kind of emergencies to which any responsible government should respond most speedily and adequately.
But, even with all the assurances that he gave in the course of the campaigns, those conversant with the intensity and the scale of the problems never expected results too quickly. They only hoped that the problems would dwindle at such a rate that, within reasonable period, improvement would have been most noticeable and therefore quite appreciable.
This means that by the expectation of most Nigerians, the president who is now about to exhaust one-quarter of his second term should have been talking about something else, not the fulfilment of his campaign promises. He should have been busy working towards the consolidation of his outstanding achievements in various spheres of national life.
Having now re-affirmed commitment to the fulfilment of the promises he consistently made in the 12 years of his campaign, the president simply admitted that he is not yet an achiever. It is a kind of self-indictment that weakens the minds of even the staunchest supporters.
Buhari apparently considered such a re-affirmation as the safest route and the only option left for him in his bid to continue to look good in the eyes of Nigerians. In the absence of clear achievements as evident in the prevailing insecurity, severe economic challenges and the unsatisfactory results of the anti-corruption war, such approach looked most practicable and result-yielding.
But it was an approach that has elicited responses that are much less favourable to him than he might have expected them to be as they are a combination of disappointment, shock and surprise. This new promise that he would keep the past promises has already necessitated the evaluation of the performances of the administration with a view to establishing whether or not there is any basis for the president to think that he can make a difference before the end of his tenure.
The basic conclusion that has been drawn from the results of the evaluation is that those promises are already practically broken. There, of course, would have been no reason for Buhari to raise the issue of fulfilment at this stage if they are still unbroken; that is if he had lived up to them.
Although he desperately attempted to raise the hope of the citizens by, as contained in the Christmas message, urging Nigerians to “invoke the indomitable spirit in us and see the present order of things as a phase that will also pass, just like other unsavoury situations in the nation’s history”, the most fundamental and clearest element of the message was the veiled confession that the basic expectations of the people have not yet been met. The effort or promise, at this point, that such expectations would be met had actually only amounted to an exercise in futility.
It has, in fact, almost appeared that the tenure of the present government is a missed opportunity for the president to, on the one hand, prove his patriotism by providing leadership that is required for the overhaul of the country’s structure and the upturn of its fortunes and, on the other hand, for the people to fully benefit from democracy which is their chosen system. While anxiously waiting to see what the President will do about his new promise, Nigerians and, more particularly, Northerners have already counted themselves as more losers than gainers as far as the performances of President Muhammadu Buhari are concerned.