The Democracy Day nationwide broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari last Tuesday May 29th, which marked the third anniversary of the present administration, offers itself as a landmark with respect to commentaries on his tenure, by all and sundry. In one vein are the traditional felicitations from him as President to Nigerians across the country and abroad, which preceded a parade of claims of achievements by the administration. Heavy on his success score card are key administrative reforms which undeniably have helped to streamline the process of governance. Among these is the Treasury Single Account (TSA) .
In the light of prevailing circumstances which include the tone of contemporary politics in the country, it is hardly in doubt that a core aim of the broadcast could be to serve as one his early second term campaign salvos, with the aim of proving that good governance has not only come to, but is now on course in Nigeria under Buhari. In other words, the veiled message of the broadcast is that the President is fulfilling his role with respect to the social compact his administration has with Nigerians, hence he should be given a second term come next year polls, to achieve more for the country. In this respect nobody would deny him the opportunity of presenting himself for re-election, just as he would also be expected to provide a level playing ground for all comers interested in contesting any office in the land at the polls, to participate without let or hindrance.
However it is also significant that even before and after his broadcast, commentaries on the three years of the administration had been flowing in torrents in both the regular and social media, with their central tendency offering a telling contrast from the thrust of his message. Ostensibly while the President was reading from a prepared speech to Nigerians, many country men and women were lamenting over some patent untruths in his message, as such were not statements of fact about the country. Talk of the difference between lying and telling a lie!
The point of separation between the President’s message and the thrust of public opinion remains their respective takes on the concept and definition of good governance. For instance, while the President was reeling out the positives on his administration including of all things, the claim on improvement in the power sector, it remains an unanswered question how many Nigerians who actually watched his show, did so with power from their private electricity generators.
For some who watched him during the broadcast, their concern was over his expressed priorities, many of which as the country’s leader, did not tally with those of the cross section of the citizenry, as borne by present realities. Not a few of such were therefore disappointed, as the core burning issues were sidelined, in favour of what the President remains fixated on, as his personal preferences.
For instance the President avoided any mention of the failure of the administration, that after three years in office and with copious promises of change, is yet to give the country a timely budget even with the 2018 package; which as he was speaking was six months late! Are Nigerians to believe that even with his avowed determination to fight corrupt practices, late budgets which are technically dead on arrival, are none issues to him?
Also missing in his broadcast are any significant details with respect to the efforts of the government in resolving the ongoing outrage of herdsmen killer gangs. Details of how many of them have been arrested and prosecuted, or are in the process of facing the law, are of tremendous interest to many Nigerians. Such details in the broadcast would have upgraded it from the drab monologue which it turned out to be, to a stuff on which follow-up conversations that highlight the President’s positives, would have thrived.
Yet another area remains the Niger Delta in respect of which the administration has been playing mere lip service. While the President in his broadcast talked about peace in the region, hardly is there any tangible evidence that his administration intends sustainable peace in the region as the core provisions of equity are yet to access the region. So far the disposition of the administration to the zone has been one of being tall on promises and short on delivery. It may be significant that the President recently appointed Professor Charles Quaker-Dokubo as the new Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) for rehabilitating the ex-agitators in the region. Yet even Dokubo the new PAP helmsman can only go so far as his principal President Buhari allows. As far as the dalliance between the administration and the zone is concerned, valid questions need to be resolved with respect to meaningful interventionist responses by the administration.
However of the most significance in the President’s three years stay in office is one of the areas which the broadcast did not mention, and that is the issue of responsiveness of the government to the expectations of the citizenry. Beyond whatever context the concept of good governance is presented none would dwarf responsiveness in terms of primacy. In a world where success in governance is hinged on a process of government acting on behalf of the governed, the present administration has so far operated with a deficit of responsiveness. And that is its main handicap. From the President to his ministerial cabinet and other potentates in office, an air of all knowingness pervades their conduct of public affairs. A most graphic fallout of this situation is the widespread spate of crises at the national level and in most state chapters of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), much of which were subdued, until the recent jostling for offices in the party congresses exposed the demons in the system.
The question now is after three years of Buhari’s administration how many Nigerians identify with the claims of good governance in his broadcast and are looking forward to his continuation in office come 2019? Only time will tell.