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By Ikechukwu Amaechi
President Muhammadu Buhari has less than two years in office. Indeed, he has about 19 months from until May 29, 2023 when he is constitutionally required to hand over to the next president chosen through the ballot box.
He has spent 77 months in office. And he cannot elongate his tenure because the Constitution bars him from serving more than two terms.
It is good for every administration to take stock as it inches closer to the lame duck corridor.
What has been done? What is left to be achieved? Answering such questions honestly ensures that an administration leaves office on a high note.
On Tuesday, the administration rose from a two-day mid-term ministerial performance review retreat in Abuja with Buhari tasking ministers on project delivery and directing the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, to convene quarterly coordination meetings on nine priority areas.
He not only directed ministers and permanent secretaries to redouble their efforts and work in synergy toward total delivery of targets to improve the livelihood of all Nigerians, but also instructed them to ‘‘ramp up implementation’’ of their mandates along the nine priority areas, stressing the need for synergy between fiscal and monetary authorities to keep the economy on the trajectory of growth.
Buhari urging ministers and permanent secretaries to work towards achieving “total delivery” of targets to improve livelihoods means that he believes that his administration has achieved so much in the last 77 months.
Therefore, now that it is on the home stretch, all that needs to be done is to ramp up implementation.
Obviously, the president was impressed by what he heard from his ministers when the retreat went behind closed doors on Monday.
‘‘The retreat provided an opportunity for us to undertake an objective assessment of our stewardship in line with the contract we signed with the Nigerian people to deliver on our electoral promises,” Buhari crowed.
‘‘From the assessment report and discussions at this retreat, I am glad to note that progress has been made towards the achievement of our objectives.
‘‘The independent performance assessment report presented on day one of the retreat indicates that significant progress has been achieved in the delivery of the ministerial mandates,” he concluded.
Many who thought that because he had recently sacked two ministers, the retreat would be another opportunity for him to shake hands with other non-performers, get rid of them, and bring in fresh faces to take the administration to the finish line were disappointed.
Those Nigerians were naïve to expect a president who looked them in the face and boasted in his nationwide broadcast to mark 61st independence anniversary that no administration since 1999 has done as much as he has in six years to discard with the services of those prodigies that helped him create his fantasy land.
“A lot has been achieved in the last six years on many fronts: in infrastructure, social care, governance, Nigeria’s image and influence in Africa and the international community.
“But critics misdiagnose incremental progress as stagnation. Since coming to power, this administration has tackled our problems head-on in spite of the meagre resources. No government since 1999 has done what we have done in six years to put Nigeria back on track,” Buhari boasted.
That amounted to telling a barefaced lie with a straight face because available data shows the exact opposite.
But the retreat was organised to amplify that claim rather than stocktaking. It was not a time of introspection. It was time to ululate. An avenue for chest-thumping. And Buhari did that brazenly.
He does not take responsibility for anything, certainly not for security where he has exclusive preserve as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, even as he appropriates the few islands of success in the national ocean of failures.
That is why he said in his October 1 speech that “in particular, security is a bottom to top undertaking. Joining hands and hearts together would enable us to secure ourselves and our country.”
But, what, in reality, is Buhari’s scorecard?
He listed the priorities of his administration to include building a thriving and sustainable economy, enhancing social inclusion and poverty reduction, enlarging agricultural output for food security, attaining energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, expanding transport and other infrastructural development, business growth, entrepreneurship and industrialization, access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity, building a system to fight corruption and improve governance, social cohesion and security.
So, in which area has the administration excelled?
Buhari came to power through propaganda and outright lies and wants to continue wheedling the unwary with his cocktail of fibs.
The truth, however, is that there is hardly any of these priority areas where his administration has recorded a sterling performance even if the yardstick for measuring success is reduced to Buhari’s very low standards.
For instance, unless for someone coming from the moon, no honest Nigerian can say Buhari has built a thriving and sustainable economy in the last six and a half years. If anything, the economy is in a shambles.
It takes an enervating level of impenitence for this administration to lay claim to enhancing social inclusion and poverty reduction in the 77 months it has been in office.
All pretentions to the contrary notwithstanding, there is hardly any Nigerian that can claim to have been lifted out of poverty because of the policies of the Buhari government. Instead, the government’s half-baked fiscal and monetary policies flung open the gates of penury and extreme deprivation. Nigeria under Buhari’s watch has more poor people than ever before, and governance continues to be dogged by inefficiency and waste.
Social disparity, which encourages divisiveness, has never been this wide and more Nigerians have been thrown into poverty since the advent of the Buhari presidency than at any other time since after the civil war in 1970 and that explains the unprecedented level of social anomie and complete breakdown of social bonds.
It is unconscionable for Buhari to claim that his administration is chaperoning the country towards attaining energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products.
Despite all promises in 2015 prior to the election that brought the All Progressives Congress (APC) to power, Nigeria is still importing refined petroleum products, spending trillions of naira in subsidy and nowhere close to attaining energy sufficiency in power.
Of course, it will be ridiculous to claim power sufficiency with 3,000 megawatts of electricity serving an estimated population of over 200 million.
It is laughable for Buhari to claim that his administration is enhancing access to quality education when university students recently lost one academic session due to industrial action by lecturers.
How can the government boast of “quality education” which its high priests, including the president, consider not good enough for their children? Their lack of confidence in their “quality education” is the reason why all their children study in Europe, North America and Asia.
The same goes for healthcare and productivity. Many Nigerians opt for self-medication because healthcare is no longer affordable and Buhari himself has made health tourism an essential element of his annual calendar in the last six years.
Nigerian doctors are queuing up at every foreign embassy in Lagos and Abuja seeking visas to run away from their own country.
It is equally laughable for him to lay claim to improving governance and creating social cohesion as well as security for all.
Nigerians have never been more insecure in the last 50 years, and the level of division because of Buhari’s gross mishandling of diverse ethnic nationalities is the antithesis of social cohesion.
His policies have stifled business growth, entrepreneurship and industrialization.
He has also failed to build a system to fight corruption, as many Nigerians argue, with good reason, that graft thrives despite the fabled fight being waged against it.
As Dr. Christopher Kolade, Nigeria’s former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, aptly noted in his October 31, 2019 interview with TheNiche, “The only person that doesn’t know we are fighting corruption is corruption itself.”
Even what could have been achieved in raising agricultural output is blunted by the unmitigated violence visited on hapless farmers by terrorists, making food security a mirage.
Not only that, as Premium Times newspaper noted recently, “Despite its professed commitment to developing the agricultural sector, and indeed investment in the sector, agriculture has grown at the weakest rate under the Buhari administration than any other government since the return of democracy in 1999.”
According to the online newspaper, while the sector grew at an average of 15 per cent in the past five years under Buhari, it grew by 133 per cent under the Obasanjo administration; 19.1 per cent under President Umaru Yar’adua and 22.2 per cent under Goodluck Jonathan’s government.
So, why is Buhari ratcheting up his success rhetoric? The answer is simple. He knows his time is up and wants to write the history by himself. How wrong. The verdict of history is inevitable. No distempering or whitewashing changes it.
And no-matter how hard leaders try to manipulate the verdict, they fall flat because history is inscrutable. It is like a sphinx.
The good thing, though, is that while Buhari wallows in self-glorification, Nigerians, who obviously know better, have moved on. For so many, his horse of failure has already bolted from the stable and people are already calculating their losses from their bad political investment in him in 2015.
• Ikechukwu Amaechi is celebrated journalist and writer, and he is Publisher of The Niche