• Echoes Of Restructuring, True Federalism Pulsate
• Canvass State Police As Solution To Alarming Insecurity
• President Has Failed To Fulfill Campaign Promises – Arewa Youths
• Institutional Failure Partly To Blame For Nation’s Woes — Olurode
With about 365 days left in the life of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, concerned stakeholders have called on the president to attempt using the remainder of his term to assuage the pains of Nigerians on many fronts due to poor governance.
Largely criticised for having failed in government, President Buhari was urged to reverse “abnormal and deviant political practices,” that keep preventing the nation from progressing.
Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Musa Rafsanjani while assessing governance under the current regime, noted that the administration had fared poorly in terms of the justice system, anti-corruption, economic regeneration and inclusiveness.
He noted that despite promises and commitments to combat corruption, graft practices remained a menace crippling socio-economic development, including poor public service delivery, fast-falling educational standard, dilapidating healthcare, bad roads, rising unemployment that precariously breeds social vices like half-baked graduates, maternal and child mortality/morbidity, vandalism, armed robbery, kidnapping and youth agitation, among other ills.
On the economy, he recalled that prior to 2015, inflation rate remained at single digit, like 7.7 per cent throughout 2014, and that in 2015 when Buhari took over power, inflation rate averaged 9 per cent. In recent years, he observed that the nation has seen persistent surge in inflation rates, reaching the highest levels in seven years.
Rafsanjani lamented that recent data released by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that Nigeria’s inflation rate had since skyrocketed amid increase in food prices and poor purchasing power, including food inflation that climbed to 20.57 per cent in January 2021, making it the highest in over 11 years.
He bemoaned increasing recurrent expenditure, noting that the amount budgeted for recurrent expenditures had reportedly increased from N2.65tn in 2016 to N6.83tn in the proposed 2022 budget.
“This opacity impedes socio-economic development with negative impact on macro-economic stability, job creation and other socio-economic activities that drives growth and development. A huge proportion of government budget is used to support administrative structure of government, as a result, poverty is pervasive as economic growth slows down.
“There are also duplication and overlap of responsibilities in the public service. High cost of governance has impacted gravely on resource availability for investment in critical sectors that would have driven development,” he noted.
Southwest socio-political groups, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, Afenifere and Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), called on President Buhari to use the remaining part of his term in office to restructure Nigeria for the practice of true federalism.
While the three groups scored the government low in performance over the last seven years, they noted that the President could still use the remaining year to save the face of his government by taking the bold step of addressing the issue of governance system in the country.
In separate interactions with The Guardian, spokesman of Afenifere, the umbrella body of all socio-political organisations in the Southwest, Mr Jare Ajayi, said the score-card of the present administration is not cheery at all.
In a reaction on the commemoration of the administration’s May 29 take-over date, captioned, ‘Seven Years On: Afenifere Scores Government Low, Reiterates Calls For Restructuring, State Police,’ Ajayi said the score-card of the present administration is not cheery at all.
According to Afenifere, all major yardsticks to assessing an administration shows negative results for the current administration going by its performance in the last seven years.
“The economy is in its worst form in the history of this country. The Naira is at its weakest point ever while the cost of living is very high, going by the prices of commodities and services.
“Corruption, which the then candidate of the ruling party, Muhammadu Buhari and his party promised to stamp out is at an unprecedented level. So high is corruption and impunity in Nigeria today that it is a miracle that the country has not gone under.”
Afenifere also scored the government low on security, which according to the group is another area the Buhari administration has recorded the opposite of what it promised Nigerians shortly before and after it came to power in 2014/2015 and in 2019.
“Nigerians were assured that the then incipient banditry and terrorism would be defeated, that they would be able to sleep with eyes shut and be able to move around freely in safety. But as is the case with the two issues mentioned above, economy and corruption, at no time in the history of this country has insecurity been this alarming.
“At home, in the workplace and on the road, the hearts of most innocent Nigerians are always in their mouths out of fear – fear of unwarranted attacks at any moment, of being robbed, being kidnapped and being harmed in various other ways.”
Suggesting what the president should do in the remaining one year, Afenifere said, “One of the ways by which President Buhari’s administration can redeem the pathetic situation is to be more committed to Nigerians and to be more democratic.”
President of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Mr. Wale Oshun said it had become a must for Nigeria to address the challenges posed to the country’s progress by poor and lopsided governance system.
While he agreed that almost all the problems confronting the country started before Buhari’s government, he noted: “President Buhari can change the scenario and write his name in gold if he takes the courage to address the lopsided governance system in Nigeria. He may not call it restructuring but a condition where all the component parts of the country dialogue and agree on how to live in unity.”
President, Yoruba Ronu, Mr Akin Malaolu also described democracy under President Buhari as nothing to cheer. He expressed the hope that the President would care to leave a legacy and turn around what he termed misadventures he helped create in “the seven years of sorrow, pains and tears.”
Malaolu said, “In 2015 when Buhari took over government, he mapped out three key area of priorities, which are improvement of economy, fight against corruption and a promise to tackle insecurity. Today, his style of governance has enthroned nepotism, corruption has bounced back fully, the nation has no energy plan nor for the development of critical infrastructure in the area of electricity and aviation utilities, while many big manufacturing plants are either shutting down or downsizing.”
Tasking the government on steps to take in its last 12 months in office, Malaolu said, “If the President wants to leave a good legacy, he should start to tinker with the policy of ‘I before others’ that have stagnated the nation.
In like manner, members of the Arewa Defense League (ADL) scored President Buhari low in governance, saying he has failed to salvage the nation from socio-economic woes plaguing the country after seven years in office.
The group stated that the only legacy left the administration could bequeath to Nigerians in its last year in power is to conduct free, fair and credible elections, which will lead to the transfer of power to credible leadership that would reposition the country beginning from 2023.
While assessing the past seven years of President Buhari, President of ADL, Alhaji Murtala Abubakar said: “the nation has passed through difficult times under this government and is worse off in terms of insecurity, employment, corruption and the economy.”
In the southeast, apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo refrained from assessing the president, saying that it would do so “at the appointed time,” but statesman, Chekwas Okorie, opined that the performance of President Buhari so far has been a mixture of good and bad. He stressed the need, however, for Buhari to rise above ugly perceptions of ethnic bias about his leadership style.
Okorie, who is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), acknowledged that the president came into office at a time of serious global challenges, which had taken a toll on the economy including developed countries, adding that he had managed the situation fairly well.
Okorie admitted, however, that in the area of providing leadership, which should have united this country, Buhari has not done well. “His leadership style is such that most Nigerians believe that this country has been skewed in favour of an ethnic group. The appointments in critical sectors including security services are not giving other people a sense of safety not to talk of a sense of belonging,” he said.
Okorie advised President Buhari to, within the next 12 months, address critical areas that could unite the country more and solve the energy crisis. “He does not require constitutional change to support the states that are ready to protect their spaces, that is why the Ebubeagu could not take off because they were waiting for the president to give approval. The Amotekun has not been having it easy with the authorities because they have not been given free hands to operate. The healing process can just take one executive action.”
For renowned sociologist, Prof Lai Olurode of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), it may be unfair to totally label President Buhari’s administration a failure.
According to him, though, sometimes, individuals cannot be divorced from state institutions that they represent, it is important to restrain from the error of making individuals accountable for all that is wrong with the state or its structure because the state sphere has its own weak ends, which an individual, no matter how strong, cannot alter.
“The state is autonomous, to a greater extent, from the travails or weaknesses of its leader. The two aren’t to be conflated without coming to a falsified conclusion. Certainly, President Buhari cannot be completely exonerated from devastating governance architecture in Nigeria that seems to have registered its presence brazenly in Nigeria since 1999. But we cannot afford to be too judgmental.
“We must not gloss over sporadic and scattered instances of good governance under this administration. A balanced verdict on Buhari’s years in Aso Rock must concede certain achievements to its government in the past seven years or so. There was the massive investments in road construction and railway as an alternative mode of transportation. At least, the Lagos-Ibadan railway line continue to receive impressive accolades, ditto is Lagos-Ibadan express road, which two previous administrations couldn’t achieve much with. The second Niger bridge is there, so is Abuja-Kaduna railway line. Travel time had reduced in some cases.
“Access to social services might have improved but the number of Nigerians falling into poverty is on the increase even by government own statistics. Most policies targeted at the poor and poorest segments of society are recording poor outcomes. Out of school children couldn’t be said to be as lucky as they were under President Jonathan. The population of internally displaced people is still robust and probably increasing,” Olurode said.
He added that what had certainly diminished Buhari’s modest achievement is his being overwhelmed by security challenges. “Perhaps, apart from the civil war years, this regime had recorded more bloodbath and a sense of acute trepidation regarding safety of life and property. Citizens’ lives meant very little under this regime. But we must admit that political divisions and the winners-take-all approach to politics meant that politics remains a fiasco and war.
“Politicians are probably fueling insecurity crisis in Nigeria. Insecurity has become a major business. Kidnappers and bandits are having a free reign. Negotiations with bandits receive more attention than normal business and ethical transactions.”
To reverse the abnormal and deviant political practices, Olurode submitted that there is need to reform the political culture in a way that political exclusion will be mitigated and all are made winners.
“Government is a major spender and it controls the most profitable sector. Everyone is desirous of inclusion in that sphere. If we continue along this unsustainable path, development will remain a dream as military culture will remain dominant in our socio-economic and political life. Without restructuring Nigera, development and indeed sustainable one at that is simply not feasible,” he added.
Executive Director, CISLAC, Rafsanjani noted that the justice system, for example, has serially violated court orders, and gone against the rule of law it repeatedly touted.
He said: “Consequently, under the current administration, performance of the judiciary as an institution of government has worsened and become an impediment to citizens’ rights and our democracy. By December 2021, The Republic Magazine estimated that Buhari administration had ignored more than 40 different court judgments that it considered hostile to its political agenda.
“In addition to this, Nigeria’s justice system has an alarming corruption problem. A recent report by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), accused judicial workers of soliciting and receiving bribes of more than $25 million between 2018 and 2020.
“In September 2019, President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, had accused the Buhari-led government of undermining the independence of the judiciary. He accused the executive arm of government and its agencies of plotting to ‘tele-guide the activities and decisions of the courts.”
Rafsanjani observed that President Buhari’s administration has continued to undermine human rights and freedom as well as civic space, a situation that has on several occasions triggered worries by civil society groups on unwary development threatening citizens’ fundamental rights and freedom as well as civic space at all levels.