The more things change…
Yes, it’s been five years since Buhari began another tinkering with Nigeria. The first time, he did so all starched up in khaki uniforms with matching jackboots. Those have since been replaced by trade mark tailored babaringas. You can also not miss those fitting caps that are uniquely Buhari.
Five years down the democracy road, Nigerians, with mixed thoughts and feelings, are struggling to answer questions bordering on whether the President has done enough to better the lives of its citizens in the last 5 years.
As expected, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, released a statement to mark the watershed, assuring Nigerians that the Buhari administration was still focused on delivering the promise of change.
“Day by day, step by step, the President and his team are making the change that Nigerians have demanded. And it is a demand. Elected officials are servants, not masters. They govern at your discretion. The authority is yours to grant – and it is yours to take away” the statement read in part.
Congratulations to the President and, perhaps, his media managers who have since reeled out a long list of accomplishments.
This anniversary, however, is one that the ruling party cannot gloat about without caution. The facts on ground do not call for endless celebrations if the following question is honestly addressed. Is the living condition of Nigerians comparatively better or worse over the past 5 years?
As this and other questions beg for answers, a peep into some relevant data that mirror the progress and developmental attainment of the nation throw up scary images.
In June 2018, according to projection by the world poverty clock, Nigeria overtook India as the world poverty capital, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty.
On April 12, 2019, the Minister of Education, Prof. Adamu Adamu, after conducting a National Personnel Audit of Private and Public schools in Nigeria revealed that the country had 10,193,918 out-of-school children. This is sadly complemented by a 2019 Federal Mortgage Bank revelation that Nigeria was suffering over 22 million housing deficit.
Amidst these minuses and more, the Buhari administration has reportedly borrowed more money than any of his predecessors.
On May 28, 2019, the National Assembly received a letter from the President seeking approval to borrow $5.513bn. This is apart from the N850bn lawmakers recently approved, and another $22.79bn which the Senate had already approved and is pending before the House.
Many would disagree with official claims that these borrowings have had palpable impact on the lives of Nigerians. The matter is not helped by strong perceptions over the years that Mr President had been too insular and hardly leading from the front.
Critiques believe that this attitudinal challenge is the reason rapid developmental progress has largely eluded the country.
In this regard, they have pointed to issues of insecurity, persistent corruption in public service, disrespect for constitutionalism, worsening standard of living and threat to national unity as matters for urgent concern.
At the moment, it would seem that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Two other talking points
Nigeria police and other stories
The clamour for the restructuring of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has been high since President Muhammadu Buhari ascended the Presidency in 2015. This outcry is not unconnected with the series of crimes ravaging different states of the federation.
In the past week, the President approved the creation of five new zonal commands of the NPF and directed the reorganization of departments of the force especially the Force Intelligence Bureau (FBI) and the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID), granting them full autonomy. This was disclosed in a statement signed by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu.
The statement reads in part: “President Muhammadu Buhari expresses confidence that the reorganization will further bring policing closer to the people, improve the response time of the Police to incidents across the country, and generally promote efficiency in service delivery.”
Commendable as it is, the President must come to terms with the fact that a restructuring of the Nigeria Police Force must be holistic and transparent.
Except he chooses to pretend, the cries for community, state or regional policing are not unfounded. The pitiable state of the police is simply a failure of the unitary command structure currently in practice.
The back and forth with the Southwest Amotekun initiative, and the recent alarm raised by the Chairman of the Southeast Governors’ Forum, David Umahi, over alleged plans to derail an earlier understanding on Community Policing in the zone call for serious query.
Or, how else can the actions of the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, be explained when on two occasions he was alleged to have reneged on agreements reached with governors.
No doubt, the police is deserving of all the attention it is currently receiving, given its everyday challenges. However, none should be deceived into thinking that without a fundamental restructuring, the pressing issues of police efficiency and effectiveness would be overcome.
Powerless powerful governors!
Rampaging bandits, in their hundreds, invaded several communities in Sabon Birni Local Government Area of Sokoto State, last week, killing no fewer than 74 people. This sparked outrage and deep concerns among the people in the state and the Northwest zone.
In reaction to the bloodletting, President Muhammadu Buhari directed a full time and sustained military offensive code-named “Operation Accord” against bandits making life a horror for people in Northwest and Northcentral States of the federation.
“We will not abandon you to your fate because we are determined to bring these mass murderers to their knees and crush them totally,” President Buhari assured in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
Though the President’s response to security challenges has been largely reactive than proactive, he, nevertheless, deserves some commendation.
That said, nothing is as worrisome as watching Nigerian governors running to Abuja for security cover – just like the governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal did recently– when he was confronted with the slaughter of over 50 indigenes.
Dressed as Chief Security Officers, Nigerian governors are arguably sitting ducks. Regrettably, there appears to be a conspiracy of cowardly silence as they all seem satisfied feeding fat on monthly security votes which are never retired.
Needless to say that until the necessary will is found to revisit the structural deficiencies in the constitution, Nigeria would continue to grope with measures that hardly provide adequate security for its growing population.
Author: John Chukwu