This year’s Democracy Day is unique for many reasons. Among them is the fact that it is next to the forthcoming general elections. Another reason is because it provides an opportunity for the evaluation of the three years of Nigeria under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, writes MUYIWA OYINLOLA
Exactly three years ago, President Muhammadu Buhari assumed the leadership of the country. His victory at the 2015 general elections was sweet, in the sense that, that was his fourth shot at presidency. He had not been so lucky with past attempts.
His victory was also unique. This is because he was able to defeat a sitting president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, whose political party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had ruled the country for 16 years by then.
The victory of Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) was easy but not a total walk over; certain indices had started showing that all was not well with the country, hence, the yearning for a change of leadership.
Buhari, a former military Head of State, whose regime had zero tolerance for corruption was the symbol of APC, a new party which was a coalition of five political parties and groups.
Corruption was one of the vices that marred Jonathan’s administration, and Buhari’s APC cashed in on it. Apart form corruption, insecurity was threatening the nation, with the then dreaded Boko Haram insurgents in control of some local governments in the North-east. The party also took advantage of the then dwindling economy to launch itself into the heart of the masses who voted for the party.
Today, three years down the line, and with the president seeking re-election, the campaign promises of the president and his party, the APC have been tackled by a number of individuals, groups and some political parties.
But the Emir of Borgu Kingdom, Alhaji Muhammad Sani Haliru Dantoro (Kitoro 1V), has lashed out at critics of the Buhari-led administration, saying there is no way anybody would expect the president to clean the Augean stable of the mess created in the Nigerian system for 16 years by previous administrations of the PDP.
He stated that “under PDP’s 16-year rule- that is between 1999 and 2015, before Buhari came to power- the Boko Haram insurgents were on the rampage, maiming and killing innocent citizens. There were military checkpoints at every kilometer. Life then was generally unsafe. Just as we all know that insurgency cannot be wiped out in such a short time, today, life is generally safer in Nigeria.”
“Heavy military check points that were usually seen at every kilometer has gradually disappeared, giving way to safer and more relaxed quality of life. The days of bomb blowing at motor parks are gone for good”.
Also speaking on the three years of this administration and the 3-point agenda of the party, the National Auditor of APC, Chief George Moghalu, stated that: “Fighting corruption is a process. It’s not something you wake up one day and kill. It is endemic. It has affected out national life. It has affected our polity, our economy, everything that has to do with our country. So, fighting corruption requires commitment, it requires determination. And that is exactly what is happening now.
“Yes, the reactions are expected. If I tell you I don’t expect what is happening then I’m lying. Corruption has the tendency of fighting back, and it fights back in more ways than one. So, this also might be a way of fighting back. It is not about APC members not being indicted. I’ve tried to answer this question a few times. Those in APC, for example myself, were you expecting to find my name on the list of those who collected money from the office of the NSA in a PDP government? The answer is no.
“Same applies to a lot of leaders of the party. If you have issues that have to do with corruption involving anyone in APC, nobody has sent us petition. There are established institutions for fighting corruption. EFCC is there. The ICPC is there. Nobody has been told not to write petitions. EFCC has told us over and over, the chairman has told us at different fora that if you have any issue, report it.
“A government that is trying to shield anybody will not allow the whistle blowing policy. This is one thing the government has sustained. The whistle blower policy of government. What this has done is that it has given opportunity for people to draw the attention of security agencies to any corrupt activity or any corrupt tendency.
“Will you also say government has told those who are going to give these information that ‘please, look at the list of APC. Don’t give any information as regards to them?’. Hence, it will not be correct to say that the anti-corruption war of government is not yielding result.
“What you can say is that corruption is fighting back, which is expected. What we expect now is for government to sustain what is being done so that if corruption is fighting back there will be maximum resistant.
“Today, it is no longer business as usual unlike before when you could do anything and get away with it. Before anybody gets involved in some corrupt activities now, I think they do some weighing. They weigh the consequence. I think that is where we are now. Government has really attended to the issue of corruption.”
In the area of economy, Moghalu stressed that “When you talk of the economy, we must look at the challenge from where we started to where we are now. These are some of the issues we must take to account. Where were we before this time? What was our economic situation like before we came into office?”
“For example, oil was selling between $100 and $120 per barrel but sadly enough, we had no savings to fall back on in challenging situations. Don’t forget that by the time the president took over, it crashed to about $30 per barrel. So, government was struggling to keep up with promises made in the course of campaign, taking into account the resources available to government.
“And if you look at the promises made, government promised diversifying our economy. Look at where we are now in agriculture. Look at the investments and the returns that have been made with regards to rice production. Look at the level of government’s diversification in the area of agriculture. Look at the efforts of government as regards Solid Minerals. Look at the investment being made in the Mining Sector. Government is doing quite well. Yes, we may not have reached where we’re going but it’s a process. Government is committed and is dedicated to the process. I am optimistic like a lot of Nigerians are, that we will soon get there.
“The economy is improving. Naira is stabilizing. Barring the challenges, government has done very well. We need to encourage them so that the efforts can be sustained. Fortunately, with the kind of leaders have, we are going to get to the level that government desires today and Nigeria will be better for it.
While speaking in then same vein, National Vice Chairman (South-south) of the party, Ntufam Hillard Eta said that: “If you put the coming of this president in the contest of his campaigns, three issues will be prominent.
“One, the issue corruption; the issue of security and the issue of economy. And these three, if we’re to speak on them and interrogate them properly, you will come to the conclusion that Mr. President has done a great job in an attempt to deal with these issues”.
In the area of anti-corruption war, Eta noted that “For instance, if you take the issue of security, you will remember that there was a time in this country that the Commander of the Armed Forces was sharing territory with a terrorist organization in the North-east. You’re aware that Boko Haram overran about 14 out of the 774 local governments in the country. At that time, one could not say that Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria was in control of the entire territory of Nigeria. That is not the case today. There is no local government area in Nigeria today that has the flag of any organisation other that of Nigeria.”
“But that is not to say that the issue of insecurity has been completely overcome. We have now the issue of the herdsmen and farmers. It is taking a new dimension and I’m very suspiciously of the dimension that it is taking. Mr. President, with information available to him has told us that one of the variables responsible for the heightened irregularity is the intrusion of people who fought the civil war in Libya and other Sahalian socities. And again, I personally won’t rule out the politicisation of those clashes. Having said so, I know that security or lack of it is work in progress.”
While speaking with regards to the economy, he stated that: “If you take the issue of the economy, towards the end of the last administration, we had to resort to borrowing from our reserve to be able is to pay salaries. We had to conjure figures, and borrow to import.”
“And this was a government that was earning between $80 and $120 per barrel of oil, and we were producing at our maximum of 2.2 million to 2.5 million barrels per day, for six years. And this was a government that inherited about $68 billion in its reserve and about $38 billion in the Excess Crude Account.”
“Given all these favourable variables that came together under that government, it was heart rending that that government left only about $23 billion in the reserve and about $500 million in Excess Crude Account. So, it was a great task for Mr. President. Here was an economy that was running into recession. Here was an economy that was predicated only on oil. And the price of oil had crashed. Here was an economy that did not have any reserve, because $23 billion to 180 million people can be said to be no reserve at all. This was an economy that had to borrow from its reserve to pay salaries.
So, Mr. President’s work was cut out for him. And he started by diversifying the economy. And today, the effort at diversification is becoming visible to the eyes.”
“Today, agriculture is beginning to take the place that it used to take in Nigeria before the advent of oil. By the grace of God, we’re almost exiting the importation of rice and other staples. In fact, for the first time, Nigeria is now exporting yam. There is a focused and deliberate attempt to develop the agricultural sector of the economy and it is yielding fruits.”
“The same thing goes for the Solid minerals sector. I thing the government has done very well in those areas. The economy is responding. As you can see, the reserve that was at $23 billion, even at the time of boom; as today, in the time of recession, because of the prudent management of the economy and the conscious of effort to look out for tomorrow, the president has built the reserve from $23 to $47 billion. And he is not borrowing from the reserve to pay salaries. And you also note that infrastructural works are going on everywhere.
“However, that is not to say that things are rosy for the average Nigerian. But I’m saying that the president has put the economy on the right right direction and that in no distant time, every family in Nigeria will be affected by the positive result that will come from this effort. That is for the economy.
“In the area of corruption, there has never been a time that the government of Nigeria recovered from looters the humongous amount of money this government has been able to do. Again, never has any government in this country tackled the Justice system where corrupt people hide not just their loots, they also hide their guilts.
“Mr. President has been able to shake up the judicial system, and today you can see that the judicial system is beginning to sit up to give the kind of justice system that Nigeria needs to be able to tackle corruption.
“So, on the whole, I don’t think it is yet uhuru. But I also don’t think we’re progressing in error. I think that Mr. President has taken solid steps on these three issues. So, I do not believe in the position that we have unfulfilled promises.