A Hundred Days too Soon

Politicians like preachers’ trade on hope and fear; hope, that unquantifiable substance, it never loses value and is never in short supply. It is little wonder that churches are sprouting in new places every day or that politicians saddled with scandal or baggage almost always get a second-chance. It maybe explains why Donald Trump is surging in the polls.

For Nigerians, many will be hard-pressed to remember a time in recent history, where the country had been as hopeful as they were for the 2015 Presidential Elections and the subsequent swearing in of President Muhamadu Buhari.

Over-Promising and Under-Delivering

Perhaps swept away with the tide of optimism and hope, Buhari while campaigning overpromised and perhaps was a bit hasty and naïve in criticizing his predecessor unreservedly while insisting that he would do a better job and he would do it fast. It is against this backdrop that he is being criticized for non-performance. In truth the sacred first hundred days is a PR gimmick institutionalised by Franklin Roosevelt in response to mounting pressure during the great depression, the truth is even well intentioned administrations barely accomplish anything in a full term not to begin with the first hundred.

To those more able to distinguish between electioneering and governance, Buhari was never going to be able to deliver on all of his promises and in truth, no politician is ever able to. They only say things to get in the door, once in they realise that the room is not as big. So unsurprisingly the President hasn’t fulfilled most of his lofty declared ambitions in a 100 days

What he has done??

However, while still tight-lipped, the President has done a few things and given some hint into the kind of Presidency he hopes to have. There are early indications that the President will dramatically change the way the Federal Government does business, already he has announced plans to uncouple the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation which has long been a lightning rod for graft and corruption. The President has already done away with the previous management and put in place a highly recommended and renowned technocrat from Exxon Mobile, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu.

There are also indications that he will disband or collapse several agencies of government for leaner and more efficient service delivery; a welcome step, anyone familiar with the Nigerian Federal Civil Service understands that the unending alphabet soup of government agencies and parastatals is another way to hide behind shadows and mirages to steal.

The President has also introduced fiscal responsibility; Godwin Emefiele the newly-minted Central Bank Governor announced that the foreign reserves had risen by $2.89b in the first month of the Buhari administration according to national daily ThisDay. While many will attribute this to the Presidents’ lack of activity than anything else, it reveals a circumspection with national resources that bodes well for the administration as they commit to national development in lean times.

Seemingly, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has gained new lease and the courts are emboldened, having already nabbed the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki and a former Governor Lamido Sule in its dragnet. As a corollary the President is rumoured to be planning a change of the Naira which will immediately trap those with excess cash in hand most of whom acquired it illegitimately.

The President has also retooled his security apparatus appointing new service chiefs and in so doing making the fight against terrorism his.

What he still needs to do??

President Buhari was elected as a wartime President largely in part for his military credentials, credentials which will be sorely tested if he fails to bring the bloodletting to an end. There is already chatter that the President hasn’t done enough to press on the gains of the last military campaign, especially since a common election refrain was how hastily the menace of Boko Haram would be dealt with.

In naming new defence chiefs he has put his stamp on the military efforts, which is the first step, however it must transcend this. The Leahy act has put restrictions on the support America can offer; President Buhari should then make an about face to China; Nigeria’s Foreign Policy has always benefitted from Non Alignment and it shouldn't stop now. A bride that is jilted doesn't stay at the altar hoping the groom will one day change his mind. Sino-African relations are blossoming and the President shouldn’t only look east for armament but he must also insist on technology transfer and attempt to resuscitate the moribund Defense Industries Corporation of Nigeria.

In a similar vein, the sliding price of oil, Nigeria’s primary export product and the rise of the greenback also present the President with an opportunity to divest the economy and begin to generate incomes from other promising sectors, namely manufacturing and a knowledge-based economy.

The President should also begin to fill in key posts in his administration, a hundred days in is enough time to make up your mind on the type of personnel he will need. Truth is in Nigeria’s murky world of politics, very few have been left untainted by association or deed, he will find no angels for his posts, however he must remain unbowed to the pressure from within and without to be derailed off his mission if indeed this is all forethought- his laissez-faire approach might just bleed the leeches dry as they wait for appointments that will never materialise.

New Culture of Accountability

Already there is a palpable fear of sanctions for offenders, which has trickled down. Nigerian civil servants notorious for dubious work hours have been reporting to their duty-posts early, permanent secretaries who are de-facto cabinet members till the President announces their bosses are wary of appending their signatures to procurements or contracts. But it goes beyond that, the key challenge for Buhari supporters now and indeed for all Nigerians isn't whether they will remain engaged over the next four years but if they will remain as vigilant with the Presidency under Buhari as they were under Jonathan.

Already there are interesting signs, advocacy groups like the Red Card Campaign that actively monitor the promises of elected politicians have gained traction. Awareness campaigns spearheaded by the youth vigilance are also gaining traction, one of note is the campaign to have the elections in Akwa Ibom state revisited. Popular and social media activists like Japeth Omojuwa have already signalled warnings to the Presidency that the cost of complacency is to return to the opposition.

A few days too soon

These are interesting times for Nigerian democracy and a hundred days is too soon to judge what sort of an impact Buhari will have on the learning curve. It now behoves the President to set realistic expectations and move the country from electioneering to governance.

But here is an interesting thought, what if President Buhari was never the one, what if he was never meant to have all the answers? What if all he does is sanitize the way government operates and leaves way for people more innovative and more in keeping with the times? Would it be enough? The answer is simple.

In 1460 days if all the President Buhari does is reverse the antipathy and the pirating of national resources, if all he has done is strike the fear of a swift and decisive government against those who gleefully squander national resources, then he would have done enough and rewritten his history. But as it stands, we will need a few more hundred days to tell.

 

Babatunde Oyateru currently heads Corporate Communication for Shelter Afrique and is a frequent commentator on Nigerians affairs. 

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