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Buhari’s Presidency: Whither the change agenda?

Courtesy of COVID-19, many Nigerians conveniently forgot that Friday last week being May 29th marked the fifth anniversary of the present administration of President Muhamadu Buhari. An under him had been rather austere, even before the pandemic came calling. Buhari was first sworn into office as President on May 29th 2015, and was also sworn in for a second term which terminates on May 29th 2023. Thanks Therefore to the mainstream media for having the presence of mind to remind the country that COVID-19 or  not, Buhari as President has just three more years to remake Nigeria or leave it just as it is, or even worse. The question now borders on what Nigerians make of the past five years and what they expect in the remaining three years of his tenure.

In the flow of commentaries on Buhari’s past five years, the objective parameters remain the level of fulfillment of the campaign promises on which he rode into elective office as President. In fact, a most supportive facility for revisiting Buhari’s key campaign promises has been provided by the International Press Centre (IPC) Lagos, through its 2019 landmark compilation, and by which Nigerians can hold the president accountable. The 30 campaign promises featured by Buhari as recorded in that publication, provides a graphic framework for ranking his administration over time, in terms of performance and other considerations.

The promises range beyond fast-tracking the development of critical   infrastructure, fighting corruption, stemming incidences of insecurity and insurgency as well as rebuilding the Nigerian economy. Interestingly the status of each of these promises is presently in the public domain hence rehashing such in this piece may not provide more than salutary benefit. Of more significance is the future of the President’s executive proclivities, with respect to the political circumstances of the country. Succinctly put, which way the country is going with Buhari in the saddle, remains the topical question.

Apparently in a bid to earn their pay the Presidency’s image makers deployed several platforms to highlight Buhari’s achievements in the past five years which admittedly comprises a mixed bag of positives and negatives. Incidentally however, between the score cards by the media and the presidency, lies a complement of seemingly irreconcilable discrepancies, as much of the latter’s claims, remain not only unverifiable, but are contested even by some officers in the administration. This leads to the challenge of interrogating such ‘authoritative’ claims in the context of their articulation and purpose. Were they intended for hoodwinking Nigerians in order to secure political ends for the President, many would ask.

This contention remains fundamental to considerations in respect of the social compact between an elected leader and the citizenry – this time between Buhari as president and Nigerians as the citizenry. In the context of the social compact between the citizenry and the elected leadership, lies the imperative of both parties delivering their obligations to each other with good faith and fairness. Here, the citizen delivers on his allegiance to be loyal and comply with the proclivities of government, where the latter through its official actions, delivers correspondingly. Where a state of imbalance occurs as in the Nigerian situation under the present administration, it amounts to disservice in its most basic sense. In that situation, the ordinary citizen is left cheated and holds the short end of the social compact deal.

In his popular allegorical book ‘The Animal Farm’ the Irish author George Orwell deployed the situation as would occur in a self-governing settlement comprising farm animals exclusively, to prove that it only takes the passage of time, credulity and complacence of a community, to be taken for a ride by its leadership, whether elected or emergent through any other process. Seen on a comparative basis therefore, this is where Nigeria has landed, after five years of Buhari in office as President of the country.

Interestingly, in the cascade of commentaries on Buhari’s five years, significant mention had been given to his personal credentials, which constitute undeniable positives in judging him as a person. Among these have been copious mentions of his commitment to fighting corruption and indiscipline during his first missionary journey as a military leader between 1983 and 1985. The truth remains however that whatever accolades that derived from his earlier show in those days, have served their purpose as providing the lift for his latter ascendancy into the office of president of Nigeria. The issue now is what he had offered since coming to office and what he promises now as incumbent of the office. That is what Nigerians will take to the bank (put metaphorically), and it is hardly inspiring. Little wonder that commentaries on his five years in office had featured more lashes than praises, based on objective appraisal of the successes and failures of the administration with respect to actualizing its campaign promises.

A common take away from the commentaries now remains the need for the President to redeem the remaining three years of his mandate, pursuant to terminating or at least vitiating the leanness of the days of his presidency. And to put the situation in everyday language, it is against the expectations of change in the order of governance, and which he personally promised,   that Nigerians are viewing his remaining days in office. What they are asking for is nothing less than a paradigm shift in governance across the country, and in a manner that will cascade in impact to the other tiers of governance.

Fortunately, the President still has enough room and time to redeem the dipping image and fortunes of his administration by facilitating a recourse of the entire machinery of the federal government to the provisions of the Nigeria’s Constitution, starting from the Directive Principles of State Policy, which to a large extent have been complied with in the breach, by his administration.

On a final note, while this column congratulates President Muhamadu Buhari for surviving the intricate web of intrigues and other booby traps which lie in the path of anyone involved in administering this great country, it also wishes to see Nigerians and posterity judge him fairly, even after he  leaves office, come 2023.

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