FOR a government that is yet to deliver any spectacular benchmark against its self-imposed messianic mission and the wellspring of support that heralded its rise to power, it is understandable that Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari’s first 100 days in office has been mired in controversy.
It need not have been so. The controversy arose largely from the divergent views expressed by the President and leaders of his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) on the matter. While the APC leaders had confidently asked Nigerians to wait for Buhari’s scorecard after his first 100 days , the President had left no one in doubt that he did not subscribe to any form of jamboree to showcase his performance.
The crux of the argument is the legitimate expectation that a leader should be able to establish the benchmarks of his administration after 100 days in office. In other words, a leader who is still groping for a roadmap after 100 days risks being dismissed as ill-prepared for the task.
Constitution of the cabinet
Paradoxically, people are beginning to regard the Buhari Administration in that light particularly with his failure to constitute his cabinet, a group whose membership he should have known even before being elected. Nigerians are not excited by the argument that he is looking for ‘saints’, the unblemished extra- terrestrials whose monk-like distaste for material things would accord Nigeria respect on the global transparency index.
At the other end of the assessment, it is tempting to subscribe to the argument that operating without a cabinet (a violation of the Constitution?) gives him the opportunity to run the country as a sole administrator while implementing some hidden agenda.
Let us look at the matter differently: not as the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) would see it but from our own perspectives as voters and citizens. So how has he fared in his first 100 days? We should be able to assess his first 100 days against the background of his election promises and our expectations from the mandate freely given to him. And that is without prejudice to whether he subscribes to the principle of first 100 days or not.
Let us recall that Buhari had hinged his voter appeal on three cardinal premises: waging a war against corruption, rolling back terrorism and revamping the economy to create jobs. Full power supply and such other economic indices were all embedded in these broad categories. We can proceed to examine his performance against these parameters.
However, before we go any further, it is remarkable that in spite of the bitter campaign that preceded his election, it has not occurred to the President to unambiguously benchmark national reconciliation or healing as an important and urgent national challenge.
Most Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief when, at his inauguration, he stated that he would be President for all. However, it will appear that the applause went off too early: indeed, it is a source of immense anguish that in his first 100 days, President Buhari has, through his utterances and appointments deepened the religious and ethnic divides that have been the bugbear of national life in Nigeria.
When he made the tacit reference about discriminating against those who did not vote for him, many had thought that it was a slip of tongue. But those who know Buhari very well had no doubt whatsoever that he meant every word of his. That explains the fact that out of all his appointments so far, he has conveniently ignored the south east geo-political zone as if it does not exist.
Some have argued that it is a throwback to his first coming as military head of state when there was no military officer of south east extraction in the first Supreme Military Council he constituted; others have pointed to the low coverage of the south east when he was chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) during the reign of General Sani Abacha.
To make matters worse, statistically, it can be argued that, going by the appointments he made in his first 100 days, Buhari regards the entire south as a mere supporting cast in the Nigeria project. It is not surprising, therefore, that the south west zone sees Buhari’s action as a betrayal, taking into account the game-changing contribution of the zone to his electoral victory. This inexplicable failure to run an inclusive government within his first 100 days casts a huge slur on the integrity of the Buhari Administration.
Yet there is a sense in which Buhari’s efforts have become the vindication of Goodluck Jonathan: the inability to dismantle Boko Haram was not for lack of trying by the former president.
What has emerged is that the internal and external conspiracy to undermine Jonathan’s effort, all in a bid to send his administration packing, allowed Boko Haram to acquire a life of its own. Buhari now wears the shoes and to the dismay of all, contrary to his promise to secure the release of the Chibok girls once elected, nothing has been heard of them. Meanwhile Boko Haram is still with us!
Nigerians expect the APC propaganda machinery to provide convincing explanations for this glaring failure to honour an electoral promise instead of portraying virtually all the public officers who served under Jonathan as looters of the treasury even before being arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction.
What one finds particularly baffling is the contradiction thrown up these past 100 days. On the one hand, Jonathan is held up as a patriotic Nigerian who saved the country from disintegration and the West African sub-region the frightening ogre of a destabilizing refugee crisis. On the other hand he is demonized as a villain who superintended over a corrupt government.
Yet, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina whose candidacy for president of the African Development Bank (ADB) was spearheaded by Muhammadu Buhari served the Jonathan Administration as minister of agriculture. For sure, Buhari would not have campaigned for a corrupt person to represent Nigeria on such a sensitive international Board. Besides, the administration needs to convince the public that limiting the anti-corruption fight to the Jonathan era meets the tenets of fair play and does not amount to a witch-hunt or selective justice.
Not with scandals like Halliburton and Siemens still very fresh in our minds and begging for resolution. To be seen to be fair, Buhari should throw his searchlight back to 1999. That’s not too far back: the records of oil receipts, power and road sector projects as well as the privatization process are still available.
As a matter of fact, it has been suggested that to give his anti-corruption fight greater credibility, the President should start by probing the sources of funds for his campaign. Sure President Buhari is familiar with the adage that to come to equity, one must do so with clean hands! We can only wait and see how this drama plays out.
Meanwhile, it is too early in the day to pass a verdict on the economic programmes of the government. But critics are quick to point out that his promise to firm up the value of the Naira has not been fulfilled. Such critics argue that failure to anticipate the collapse in oil price is indicative of a weak economic team and a clear danger that we are in for a government by guess work.
What about the improved power supply situation? Nobody expects Buhari to take credit for this. For this is one sector where his administration is yet to take any major step in its first 100 days. What we are left with is the inescapable conclusion that the country is beginning to reap the dividends of the sustained implementation of the power sector road map even into the dying days of the Jonathan Administration.
To acknowledge this contribution will not, in any way, diminish the stature of President Muhammadu Buhari, a stature that has been adroitly demonstrated in his commanding presence in the West African sub-region in the past few months.
In summary, the feeling out there is that in spite of the frenzy over the anti-corruption campaign, from a policy standpoint, the first 100 days of Buhari have been marked by a befuddled vision and the unmistakable absence of any clear landmarks except for provocative infractions of extant civil service rules and the disquieting repudiation of the federal character principle.
Whether Buhari will learn the lessons and correct his mistakes or whether, like the Bourbons of France, he chooses to learn nothing from history, is left to be seen.
Daminabo Franklin wrote in from Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State of Nigeria.