Monday, 31 August 2015

100 Days Of President Muhammadu Buhari In Office

As President Muhammadu Buhari marks his first 100 days in office, we note with joy the positive atmosphere that has enveloped the nation and the renewed hope and optimism it has engendered among Nigerians that ‘change’ has indeed come and that we have begun the journey to achieving our deferred dream of making Nigeria a great country.

Since after Nigeria’s independence in 1960, never has there been such a groundswell of optimism in our collective ability to resurrect the ‘crippled and sleeping giant’ of a nation and begin to position it to achieve its manifest destiny of being the voice of and leading Africa and the black world.

Right from the day of his swearing-in, President Buhari made it clear that this would be a new beginning for the country and that he would wage a relentless war against insecurity, corruption and impunity. True to his words, he set about almost immediately on a shuttle diplomacy to rally Nigeria’s neighbours to act in concert to defeat the Boko Haram insurgents that had been terrorising the country and, recently, neighbouring countries. He visited Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, and hosted a summit on the Lake Chad Basin Commission. These visits achieved the important aim of starting and deploying the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) with headquarters in N’Djamena, Chad, to comprehensively tackle the Boko Haram menace. Between these, he also travelled to Germany, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States – all aimed at winning key supports, assistance and friends for the country in the fight against insurgency.

Expectedly, the president wasted no time in sounding the battle cry in the war against corruption and impunity, which many Nigerians have identified as among the main reasons for our national malaise. Through his body language and some concrete steps taken, like the change of guards at the NNPC and other institutions, the president indicated clearly that it would no longer be business as usual and that his administration would vigorously pursue and prosecute corrupt and erring officials. He has been particularly successful in building a national consensus against, and intolerance of, corruption and impunity encompassing the media, civil society groups and the general public. He is also determined to see to the recovery of looted funds stashed in foreign accounts/countries by corrupt government officials and has sought the help of the international community, particularly the United States and United Kingdom, to achieve this.

However, we are constrained to point out that despite the groundswell of support for the war on corruption and the posturing of the administration in this area, no one has as yet been charged to court for corruption. What appears to be happening is a carefully orchestrated campaign of calumny, terror, and media trial that may not conform to the rule of law.

For instance, there was a media blitz against the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, to the effect that he purchased fake military hardware and could not account for a large cache of funds meant for the purchase of military equipment. This led to a commando-like storming of his house in Abuja and his father’s house in Sokoto by the Department of State Security with all the drama that went with it. To our utmost shock, when he was charged to court, he was only charged over offences relating to possession of firearms without licence and not the corruption/mismanagement the administration had earlier touted. This is a dangerous signal. Government must stop the smear campaign and media trials on citizens and take its cases to the courts if there is evidence of corruption on anyone.

Again, even after several denials, and despite our best efforts to ignore the trend, the president’s appointments thus far have shown a tendency towards provincialism, and this is already generating tension among Nigerians, on social media and elsewhere. We are strictly in favour of merit-based appointments as sine qua non for the country to move forward. However, we urge the president to take into account the fragile nature of Nigeria’s unity and extend his searchlight to other sections of the country as he seeks to appoint only highly qualified people of good repute and integrity.

It can bear stressing that President Buhari is not the president of Northern Nigeria alone and must not allow himself to be seen as such. We recall the resounding line in his inaugural speech: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”. We, therefore, urge the president to live up to the letter and spirit of those words and not fritter the goodwill that came with his elections and the early days of his administration. Understandably, many people in his party are now angry and embarrassed at what they termed his unilateral and sectional appointments and actions. As one of the president’s backers recently commented on social media, “A president who ran for election on the mantra of change can’t continue the tradition of invidiously clannish appointments and expect to continue to enjoy national goodwill.”

All said, we agree with Gregory Kronsten, an analyst, that “the president has been very active in the three months since the handover on 29 May”. Even though he has not appointed his ministers, he has, however, “wielded the axe at leading public agencies and indicated policy preferences for a number of industries such as textiles and aviation”.

Going forward, we urge the president to seize the opportunity of the moment to build a national consensus and unite the entire country around the quest for growth and development. The clock is ticking.

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