In this piece, FISAYO FALODI and GBENRO ADEOYE examine President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour vis-à-vis his campaign promises
When in April 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari won the presidential election; there was little doubt that the President would, within the first six months in office, clear the supposed rot he inherited from his predecessor as a result of his articulated campaign promises to Nigerians.
Shouts of joy rented the air in most parts of the country and sadly, some lost their lives in a frenzy of excitement that followed the announcement of Buhari’s victory after engaging in daredevil cars and motor bikes stunts. It was a historic moment for the country because an incumbent President graciously accepted defeat to a candidate from the opposition party.
Buhari rode to power on the mantra of change and Nigeria’s socio-economic situation under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration further gave his (Buhari) campaign of change a breeding ground for success at the poll.
Power supply at about 1,000 megawatts for an estimated 170 million Nigerians during the electioneering campaign was arguably at an all time low; about 30 per cent of the adult population and 60 per cent of the youth are unemployed; about 70 per cent of the population are living below poverty level; while fuel scarcity helped to contribute to the frustrations of the populace.
Often at various public fora, Nigerians were wont to vent their frustrations at the condition of the country’s economy, which many have described as embarrassing, hence the call for change of leadership by some members of the public.
During the political campaign that preceded the election that brought Buhari into office, he and his party, All Progressives Congress, made a lot of promises that matched the yearnings of the people, thereby raising their hopes.
The issues of insecurity, poor power supply, corruption and unemployment are some of the foremost challenges that require the President’s immediate attention. Nigerians eagerly await the much touted change he had promised them, even if it has only been eight weeks since he took the oath of office.
Since President Buhari’s assumption of office on May 29, he and the APC seem to have realised the enormity of the task before them and have therefore been calling for patience and understanding from the general public.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour during the week while on an official visit to the United States, he said he was committed to his promises, but pleaded for time to deliver on them, saying it would not be right to pass judgement on his performance vis-à-vis his campaign promises within a year.
“I think I can be held to my promises for the next three and quarter years I have and I think 12 months also is too early for anybody to pass judgement on my campaign promises,” he told the CNN.
Already, some Nigerians have expressed disappointment with the President’s statement. According to them, Buhari’s comment suggested that he was prepared to renege on some of the promises.
Some Nigerians have also described Buhari’s administration as “slow” after its failure to appoint ministers and some other key principal officers several weeks after inauguration.
Although Buhari has said that he would appoint his ministers in September, this has further generated controversies over his style of governance.
A lawyer and social commentator, Mr. Liborous Oshoma, expressed disappointment with the President for speaking to Nigerians through a foreign medium, adding that his recent appeal for patience should have come during the political campaign period.
He also criticised the President for failing to back his promises with a blue print to include time frame.
Oshoma said, “Now President Buhari has gone to America, typical of our leaders and he is very happy to talk to Amanpour when he has not spoken to Nigerians since his inauguration. So, we only know the thoughts of our President through foreign media, not our local media.
“Secondly, I wish he had made this statement during campaign, but I would want to say that the media would want to modify that statement to mean that all the work that there is to be done cannot be completed in one year. But during campaign, that is why we consistently asked the APC and Buhari to give us time frame and to tell us how they intended to achieve all of the many promises that they made.
“But unfortunately, we found out that promises are thrown in the public during campaigns and because of these promises, Nigerians are overwhelmed and they voted for such candidates, and then the candidates get into office and tell you that the time is not enough.
“Remember former President Oluseegun Obasanjo in 1999 told us that within 200 days, power problem would be a thing of the past in Nigeria. But then he came into office to say that he didn’t know that the problems were this enormous. And till today, we are still grappling with power failure. And here again we have a President who is telling us that 12 months will be too small to do anything meaningful.”
One of Buhari’s promises that have been under critical scrutiny is his assurance to curb the activities of Boko Haram in the North-East. This is because in his short time in office, the insurgent group has killed not less than 500 persons and injured many others.
Meanwhile, while presenting a paper titled, “Prospects for Democratic Consolidation in Africa: Nigeria’s Transition” at Chatham House in London in February 2015, Buhari had assured that his administration would deal with insurgency in the country, if he was elected as President.
He had said, “Let me assure you that if I am elected President, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has had to recently; that Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa; and that no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service; we will give them adequate and modern arms and ammunition to work, we will improve intelligence gathering and border controls to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels, we will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development plan promoting infrastructural development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas.
“We will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester, and I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front and return Nigeria to its leadership role in regional and international efforts to combat terrorism.”
Following his victory at the poll, Buhari, in an interview with CNN in April, 2015, also reiterated his commitment to deal with the Boko Haram, saying it would be done within two months.
He had said, “We know how they started and where they are now and we will rapidly give attention to security in the country. And I believe we will effectively deal with them in two months when we get into office.
“We will need the cooperation of neighbouring countries such as Cameroon, Chad and Niger. There were efforts made by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, but it was not good enough and it came rather late.”
But the report was swiftly refuted by the APC, after its Director, Media and Publicity, Presidential Campaign Organisation, Mallam Garba Shehu, described it as untrue, in a statement made available to journalists.
Shehu said, “The President-elect is still waiting to be sworn in on May 29. After the ceremony, he would need time to study the security situation and plan strategically with the security chiefs as to the way forward.
“Time is of essence here. Therefore, President Buhari didn’t and wouldn’t peg the decimation of terrorism within two months.
“The General was unequivocal about cleansing Boko Haram from our land; he would do a good job of it by giving a permanent push to rid Nigeria of unscrupulous elements.
“It would be unfair and mischievous for someone to ascribe to him what he hasn’t said.”
In his campaign manifesto, President Buhari had described Nigerians of goodwill as “angered by failures of corrupt and poor leadership.”
He said, “They are frustrated by economic policies that did not deliver on its promises. Nigerians are therefore impatient and want to regain their lost rights. Nigerians are worn out by conflicts, all over the country. Nigerians are now striving for a fresh start. This start must come from a new team, new ideas, that are committed to the promotion of acceptable and sustainable reforms.”
He thereby vowed to restore the task of securing the nation and prospering the people, however, noting that he was counting on the public to work with him “to reform our rotten political system, by getting involved, taking responsibility and working together as a team.”
He said, “I, Muhammadu Buhari believe that our polity is broken. Our nation is in urgent need of a fundamental political reform. This requires honesty, integrity and forthrightness in order to improve governance, so as to make it transparent and accountable to all Nigerians. Make me your Presidential candidate in both the Primaries and the Presidential elections.”
President Buhari had promised to provide allowances to discharged but unemployed Youth Corps members for 12 months while in the skills and entrepreneurial development programmes; provide one meal a day for all primary school pupils; and create a social welfare programme that ensures the payment of at least N5, 000 to each of the 25 million poorest and most vulnerable citizens.
Buhari also promised to revive Nigeria’s economy, saying, “In the face of dwindling revenues, a good place to start the repositioning of Nigeria’s economy is to swiftly tackle two ills that have ballooned under the present administration: waste and corruption.”
In addition, the APC promised to pursue the expansion of electricity generation and distribution of up to 40,000 MW in four to eight years from the current state of about 4,000MW.
The party’s manifesto also promised to embark on programmes to create one million new jobs annually and one million new home owners in its first year in government and one million annually thereafter.
A social commentator and rights activist, Mr. Olufemi Aduwo, agreed that 12 months were not enough to judge President Buhari’s performance. He said his recent appeal would also not dash the hopes of Nigerians.
He said, “Such comments will not (dash the people’s hopes) because in fairness to Buhari, 12 months out of four years may not be enough. We cannot judge the President within one year because his government would need time to initiate and implement his own programmes.
Aduwo, however, said certain indicators would tell in time how well and fast the President is going in fulfilling his campaign promises.
He said, “But as his government is progressing, there should be indicators that would be monitoring the implementation of the programmes.
“Nigerians will have to compare and contrast the administration of Buhari with that of his predecessor to evaluate whether the government is actually working towards achieving its set targets.
“They will have to ask questions on what he has been able to achieve in terms of saving money for the development of the country and blockage of leakages through which corrupt people steal public funds.”
However, Oshoma said President Buhari should have furnished Nigerians with the road map of his plans by now, adding that it would be wrong for Nigerians to wait blindly for the implementation of his plans.
He said, “So, Nigerians are not asking the President to do magic, all we are basically asking the government is, we want to see the foundation of things to come. We want to see the road map. So when Nigerians see these things, the President can take four years to begin to do whatever he needs to do.
“But to ask Nigerians to just wait blindly like they are waiting blindly now is wrong. Now there is basically nothing happening- we don’t know the direction of the government or the direction the economy is going. Fuel is still selling at N110 per litre, and the government is not even making any statement about it.
“We don’t know the health policy; we don’t even know the education policy of the government. People don’t know whether fuel subsidy will stay or be removed.”
Meanwhile, Aduwo advised Buhari to target realistic goals and “block the leakages through which public funds are being stolen and identify and tackle the problems denying Nigerians access to their immediate needs.”
“For example, some of the President’s campaign promises like generating 20,000MW of electricity is not achievable in four years because you need $1.2bn to generate 1,000MW,” he said.
“With 6,000MW of electricity in Nigeria, though it may not be enough, every part of Nigeria will have electricity.”
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