By Terrence Kuanum
It was a mark of President Muhammadu Buhari’s rising profile and towering popularity that a young man who was excited over the president’s outstanding achievements attempted to behold and have a handshake with him. This was at the recent Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival in Kebbi State which the President had gone to declare open. The international tourism event had been kept in the cooler for about eleven years due to security considerations. As the President was conducted round the arena for inspection, especially to have a view of the rice pyramid and take photographs with farmers which signposts the enviable achievements of his administration, a highly elated young man who was also excited with seeing his much adored President in such a close range attempted to have a hand check with his folk hero.
Naturally, as is the practice all over the world, he was blocked by security aides. As he was being prevented from getting to the President, he protested that he ought to be allowed to greet his President. Now, professional spoilers are trying to make mischief of the event by circulating that the President was attacked by the armless young man. What a misrepresentation and misinformation! They are passing a manipulated version of the video clip off on the social media as an attempt by the young man to attack President Buhari. Because of the apparent scarcity of politics of civility, foot soldiers of vicious politicians are mischievously trying to humour unsuspecting Nigerians with negative narratives. But given President Buhari’s record of verifiable achievements in all sectors of our national economy, the bookmakers will continue to hit their heads on the wall.
A cast of some of the profound breakthroughs by the President since his years in office would surely confound the alliterative desperation of social media emergency journalists and headline casters. When the administration was inaugurated on May 29, 2015 with the imprimatur of the change mantra to tackle insecurity, corruption and put the economy on a sound footings, nobody thought the journey would be a smooth ride. But expected and unexpected challenges have really cropped up. And with the galaxy of serious-minded and devoted men and women in PMB’s team, there are now footprints of irrevocable achievements by a committed and responsible administration. In fact, while inaugurating the National Food Security Council on Monday March 26, 2018 in Abuja, President Buhari had this to say: “Nigeri’s journey in the last three years has been a very turbulent one. The country’s need for critical job creation sectors which have been ignored for decades is now beginning to yield results.”
Yet, to all intents and purposes, the Buhari administration, despite all odds, has been able to weather the storm to record ground-breaking strides. In the area of infrastructural development, taxation, transportation, agriculture, and other critical sectors of the nation’s economy, the government has made remarkable impact. The overwhelming viewpoint amongst analysts is that in spite of all odds, the Buhari administration has broken the jinx of corruption, insecurity and economic stagnation in the country. The President is very well respected in Africa and the world at large. He was recently called the Warrior of Ant-corruption Battle in Africa. Indeed, anywhere Buhari goes around the world, he radiates that aura, charisma and the carriage of a morally upright reformer who is gradually but steadily effecting a lasting change in his country. The hitherto predictable tradition that was so entrenched in the country regarding massive looting of the national treasury is now a thing of the past.
Whereas some of the nation’s intractable challenges have continued to endure since it is usually not possible to fix what has been destroyed for almost two decades in just four and a half years, Nigerians believe that, ultimately, a lot of work has been done. There is a seeming consensus among Nigerians that while the country is not yet where it should be, it is, of course, on the way to the Promised Land under the watchful eyes of Nigeria’s ‘Mai Gaskiya.” Upon assumption of office, he told the Boko Haram insurgents that their days were numbered. With dispatch and elan, he announced the relocation of the Nigerian Army Command Centre, to Maiduguri, Borno State.
The President took this decision in order to put the Nigerian Army in a position of strength to be able to effectively tackle the rampaging sect whose violent activities had accounted for the death of over 15,000 Nigerians mostly poor, defenseless and armless women and children. This was the beginning of the end of the sect as it underscored the level of seriousness he attached to the menace of insurgency. The appointment of Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, a distinguished war tactician who has the capacity to dare even death, was what confined the Boko Haram power to only Borno State until the dreaded sect was technically defeated. Today, the sect which attacked as far as the Federal Capital Territory, does not have the capacity to threaten states like Yobe, Kano, Kaduna and Adamawa.
Another area the Buhari administration has not disappointed in the last four years and seven months is in the area of fighting corruption. In line with his antecedents, the anti-graft crusade has been massive and total. To begin with, since May 29, 2015 when power changed hands, it has been a new dawn across the length and breadth of the country – political circles, the civil service, and government offices. Even though the phenomenon of corruption is still rearing its ugly head, there is the general atmosphere of fear in Nigeria that a new Sherif is in town and he is a Big Brother who is monitoring everybody. PMB has not suddenly turned all Nigerians to saints but the mindless impunity with which government officials inflated contracts, misappropriated funds and diverted monies in the past has not been noticed in the present administration. On assuming office in May 2015, the first thing President Buhari did was to implement the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy and made sure all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have one central account rather than each having multiple accounts which they used to siphon monies. Billions of naira have been saved for the country through this policy.
In fact, the fear of Buhari is the beginning of restraint. He has ensured that no form of reckless looting is taking place anywhere in Nigeria under his watch. This view can be accentuated in the way he booted out former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, one of his closest loyalists for decades. He also extended the same gesture to former head of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina, the former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr. Ayo Oke, the former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on the Recovery of Public Property, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, and the former Head of Service, Mrs. Winifred Eyo Ita. The President is also dealing decisively with those who stole our commonwealth into their private pockets in previous administrations. Former State governors who were protected by immunity clause while in office have now been on trial and some convicted. Former Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki is still facing trial, former Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State is on trial while former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu has been convicted and is serving prison term.
President Buhari and his team of brilliant men and women have demonstrated enormous capacity to lead and make Nigeria stay on course by strengthening the shock absorbers of the economy even in the midst of dwindling revenue and instability in global oil prices. President Buhari has never owed workers’ salaries even during the biting economic recession in 2016. In his characteristic magnanimity, he gave bailout funds and Paris Club refunds to State governors to enable them pay salaries, pensions and to meet other obligations in their respective states. This is what his predecessors never did even when there was oil boom. The Buhari administration has also been deservedly credited for insisting on fiscal discipline and engaging the restive Niger Delta youth in some productive dialogue which has brought sanity to the region and halted attacks on oil installations. This helped the country to exit recession in record time. The World Bank also recently gave the country a pass mark due to the new regulations and reforms introduced by the present administration in the business registration process. The World Bank has ranked Nigeria the 145th out of 190 countries in the Ease of Doing Business index. These and many more that cannot be included here for space constraints have galvanized President Buhari’s popularity index among the poor and downtrodden who would insist on even giving him a hug anywhere they can find him. So, let the wailers continue to rant to the contrary. Nigerians are proud of their performing President.
Kuanum, an author and researcher at the Global Amnesty Watch contributed this piece from Gboko.