Though not necessarily a Buharist, as, I understand, apologists for this administration are called, I must start by disclaiming a few false ideas gaining ground in political discussions.
It is true that under Muhammadu Buhari, some things have changed for the worse, but the seeds were sown before his advent. Nigeria has ceased to be the largest producer of oil in Africa and the largest economy in Africa, but President Muhammadu Buhari, or indeed his government, did not invent the Niger Delta Avengers and has no control over the price of oil in the international market. Nigeria is no more the number one destination for foreign investment in Africa. The reason for this is not far from the fact that the immediate past government did more than enough damage to the economy and eroded all confidence in it.
It is true that the naira has tumbled in value. Sad but true. From N160 to one United States dollar, Nigerians now need about N410 to get one single U.S. dollar! But this is not because of Buhari alone. It is common knowledge that the immediate past government mis-managed the economy, failed to save when oil prices were at their highest and frittered away the takings.
Food items have become so expensive while income has reduced not only because of today’s poor management but also because of yesterday’s incompetence, shortsightedness and greed.
The seeds for rising graduate and non-graduate unemployment, collapse of the manufacturing sector and all avenues for genuine production were sown in the previous years. For every little gain made in those years, we now know, the cost in corruption was too astronomical for a nation to bear.
Buhari and the All Progressives Congress could and should have done better. There is no doubt about that. But laying the current economic crisis solely at their doorsteps is carrying politics too far. They may have turned out very slow or poor in managing the crisis, but they certainly did not create the mess we are in today.
Which brings me to a tragic phenomenon which should agitate all Nigerians: the atrocious level of political conversation in the land, occasioned by the weakness of the political platforms, their barrenness in terms of ideas, nakedness in terms of ideological garb and hollowness of character.
I once lamented on this page the looming tragedy of death coming on the heels of failure at the polls for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. I minced no words in saying that given its poor performance in office, PDP was anything but a democratic party for the Nigerian people. With its undemocratic ways, incompetent leadership and free money-fuelled hubris, it was only a matter of time before it imploded.
What I did not reckon with, against the background of its protracted leadership crisis, was that it is hardly a party by any stretch of the imagination! If there ever was any question over how power and money are the only things that can hold Nigerian politicians together, not any principle or idea, look at the crisis in the PDP. Take members of the Nigerian political elite out of power, which also means taking them out of the source of money and you would see the strength of the thread binding them in the presence of none!
The current pitiable sight of PDP as it struggles to even elect a leadership for itself is a study in how a nation was conned, not led, for 16 years by an assemblage of lightweights and sinecurists.PDP may yet emerge out of its mess to become something more edifying of our democracy, which is the desire of every Nigerian, but the current signs are not comforting at all.
This, again, is the natural consequence of a political party with no core principles or binding idea other than power and money. Yet, Nigeria needs strong, vibrant and principled political parties, populated by patriots who would seek power, not for its own sake or for personal aggrandisement, but for the purpose of using it for the greatest good of the greatest number.
The tragedy today is that neither of the two biggest parties offers the kind of political refuge Nigerians crave. The change of baton from one to the other has been heart-warming. But nothing else is!
In fact, the ruling All Progressives Congress upon which so much hope was placed, has demonstrated the kind of sloppiness at managing its success as make all reasonable people conclude that it is hardly better than the ousted party in terms of principles and vision.The cardinal ideas on which it sold its populist agenda of change have been largely abandoned. Changes have only been evident in the frequency of back-tracking from avowed positions or disclaiming of promises earlier made.
I remember saying a few months ago that since the party’s rise to power, contradictions in APC have become too glaring and the lose thread binding its leaders together had progressively given way under the strain of clashing ambitions on one hand and hubris on the other. This still holds true. The party’s leadership is weak and brings little or no influence to bear on governance at all levels. Because there was no clear vision, no real ideas on service to Nigerians, shared by its leading lights beyond getting Goodluck Jonathan out of power, sniping at each other over the power they won has been the sport since last year.
I hereby reiterate my position that because the ruling party has very little influence over Buhari’s actions and decisions, he has been flying off at his own whim in whatever policy direction, even repudiating the party’s position or manifesto! A grand show of deceit then reigns in which party leaders, elders, officers or whatever you call them, scurry after him out of courtesy, not necessarily out of faith in what he is doing. This is a huge disservice to Nigeria!
Changes of positions or policy reversals have been so frequent and excuses have been too many. The coordinating offices may have been staffed, but the millions of the poorest of the poor to whom a promise of a monthly grant was made are still waiting for its take-off.
The plan to give loans to small and medium enterprise at very attractive interest rates with a view to building an economy around small businesses and democratising wealth creation is yet to materialise. Some of those at the commanding heights of the government talk down on the people, demonstrate gross incompetence and contradict themselves at will.
So bad have things become that the ousted PDP, very well endowed with manipulators and shameless opportunists, have been hard at work, trying to re-write history and make both Buhari and the APC look like crisis creators.
And these efforts have succeeded not just because of what a poor crisis manager President Buhari is. And to be frank, he has been poor at managing the substance and the symbols of his duty. The problem has been his failure to carry his own people, his party and, by extension, the rest of the people who invested hope and trust heavily in him as well as in the APC, along.
It must be said once again that Buhari’s conduct so far advertises a narrowness of horizon that is unexpected of and unacceptable from the president of a country like Nigeria at a time it needs a broad-minded, large-hearted father figure. In his appointments and deployments, he has relentlessly demonstrated a poor appreciation of Nigeria’s diversity, a short sight of its size and a narrow view of the country’s range. To make matters worse, the party that should help expand his horizon and lengthen his reach appears cast away, its leadership and leading figures treated like a ladder for which there is no need anymore.
I still believe Nigerians made a good choice in voting the APC into power. And they should not be fooled by postulations of what the exchange rate was and what it is today, what oil prices were or what they are today. BringBackOurCorruption should not be contemplated at all. Buhari’s problem is self-inflicted and the APC is finding it difficult to live up to expectations because it bristles with so much discontent it can do without. It is within the context of those discontents that the current confusion thrives. The government’s best thinkers and planners are hardly in the know of what it wants to do or how to explain its actions and inaction. When they explain, they can only do so half-heartedly.
As I once said, Buhari and his kitchen cabinet may enjoy their seeming detachment from their party or the elders and may choose to actively promote this loose state of affairs because it allows them to rule at whim and on their own hunches. But it is false comfort!
Nigeria needs strong, vibrant and principled political parties for democracy to thrive and for service to be delivered to the people. Neither the Peoples Democratic Party nor the All Progressives Congress gives much comfort today.
Even so, the APC, for reasons best known to it, is worse off! When a party enjoys the level of trust it does (or did), there is no greater indictment than any conduct on its part that reminds Nigerians of the ousted party. This is what the revisionists are preying on. This is why spurious data and false scenarios can be used to paint the picture that things were even better in the past and that the crisis manager is the crisis originator. Hell, no!