ISSUES | Buhari Has Made Great Strides One Year On – By J Boima Rogers
By J Boima Rogers
A little over a year ago I suggested an agenda for President Muhammadu Buhari to address the needs of Nigeria; highlighting the Boko Haram menace corruption and the infrastructure.
The President has delivered or made significant attempts to do so. There are still major challenges, notably, the problems in the Delta, electricity power generation, the economy and public perception. These challenges are largely caused by forces outside his control or have come about since he came to power.
There are severe limitations on how he can manage the major external factor, the world oil price, but his stated objectives and budget seek to ameliorate the effects of low and volatile world oil prices. The President is doing his best to grapple with new issues. He needs to make maximum use of his leverage and convince the electorate the country is moving in the right direction.
The president has made impressive gains against the Boko Haram problem in a very short time, degrading them significantly and limiting the geographical spread of their operations. In a recent report by Global Terrorism Index it was reported that 6,006 people died in 270 attacks in 2015. In the first three months of 2016 the number of deaths was 422, in 36 attacks.
If we extrapolate the 2016 figure total deaths from terrorism in 2016 should be less than a third of those in the previous year. This simple arithmetic underestimates the progress being made since deaths from terrorism have been declining dramatically since March 2016. In fact going by this rapidly declining trend we would expect deaths from terrorism in 2016 to be a tiny fraction of what they were in 2015.
Buhari has done in one year what former President Goodluck Jonathan could not do during all the years he was in power. Buhari achieved this feat in his typical efficient and effective fashion. This included getting rid of the ineffectual and corrupt army chiefs, shifting army command to the epicentre of the crisis, working with neighbouring countries to set up the Multinational Joint Military Task Force and eroding civilian support for the group, largely by demonstrating his resolute decision making prowess.
This success has been welcomed by Nigerians and acknowledged by foreign observers with the Fund for Peace, publishers of the Fragile State Index (FSI). The FSI has recorded significant gains in the country’s Security Apparatus Index and substantial reduction in the growth of negative indicators in the Fund’s five year and ten year trends.
Buhari’s effort at addressing corruption has been partly through measures adopted but also through his reputation. There have been many reports of officials making restitutions of funds even before receiving official summons. He replaced the heads of revenue generating agencies, including the head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. He has directed relevant agencies to vigorously pursue corrupt officials, to get them to pay back what they looted and prosecuted for such offences. He has also badgered foreign governments to repatriate stolen funds with some success.
In his first budget, one of which its stated objective was to minimise inefficiencies, he created the Efficiency Unit.
The unit will monitor personnel and pensions, conduct continuous audits and extend the integrated payroll information system. The Treasury Single Account (TSA) system aims to increase transparency and improve remittance of collection of revenues. The TSA system has seen a very significant reduction in the number of accounts maintained by government departments, which officials used to defraud the state.
The country’s infrastructure deficiencies has been addressed by more than doubling the expenditure on capital spending from 15% to more than 30% during Buhari’s first budget. He has also engaged in discussions with foreign governments, notably China to secure funds for infrastructure projects.
While Buhari’s efforts at addressing the issues noted above are laudable, the country has serious challenges, relating to old and news issues. The fight against corruption is still very much work in progress and the country still ranks quite high in the corruption and fragile state indexes. While the president has indicated that he is keen to rehabilitate and expand the country’s infrastructure, it is not clear if he will get the relevant funding. He also has yet to come up with a detailed blueprint and action plan for the sector. What then is the way forward for Africa’s sleeping giant? Firstly, Buhari is still the best deal in town, with regards to his sincerity, determination and policies. Ironically the main challenge for him is democracy. The Nigerian patient needs major surgery which can be painful and the patient needs time to heal. Will the patient have the tenacity and patience? Will he succumb to the false and discredited statements of selfish and corrupt stakeholders who have lost out?
Mr Buhari’s time is limited and he will soon be facing his masters and mistresses, the electorate who will evaluate his record and decide if he should be given time to continue work on his difficult job. Will he get it, who knows, democracy is a strange business and the electorate has often taken perverse decisions. So Mr Buhari you have a tough call, keep up the good work but you also need to be a super sales man. Interestingly when I first heard the President in Oxford I doubted whether he had the right sales pitch, no doubt he will prove me wrong again.
J Boima Rogers is the Principal Consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford MEMO. www.oxfordmemo.co.uk
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