President Muhammad Buhari is such a lucky president who came at the time of need; though he had seen; he is attempting to conquer. He has come on a rescue mission. But not lucky in the Nigerian context because no contemporary Nigerian leader has suffered the humiliation and betrayal he underwent in his quest to lead and cleanse the country. He is really dealing “boldly and wonderfully” with Nigerians as the need arises. In such wise, many are happy while some are unhappy. It is natural. And history has records of how enemies sprout up against good men in societies where massive corruption, injustice, iniquity, lawlessness, free wealth, hooliganism and faithlessness held sway. Nigeria had been under the spell of a cabal in the government.
This cabal has been fighting to undermine the plans of Mr. President who has planned to break the deadly group. It has not been easy but he is dealing with the situations. And positive results are palpable. Let us examine some of his pragmatic methodology in dealing with Nigerians as a people who had proved difficult to govern in the past. There are over a 1001 ways the President has positively dealt with Nigerians, though some people are born destructive critics. The order of placements here is insignificant. Undoubtedly, there are great challenges facing the nation.
His victory in the last presidential polls
This topic, obsolete as it may look, is still very relevant in the discussion about modern Nigeria democratic evolution. The spirit of patriotism in him made him not to lose hope in his determination to change the wrongs of the past leaders and place Nigeria on the course of development. It is patriotic to be persistent for a good cause. Many Nigerians know that he won the previous presidential elections before that of 2015, though he was denied by the wall of corruption. A man who wept profusely for betrayal by his compatriots would have opted out of contest for the fourth time. He set aside all the harrowing moments for 12 years and here he is doing all what is possible to revive our fatherland.
Criticisms have overtaken rationality in many citizens who claim that the foreign trips of the President are waste of funds and administrative time. But sound minds have comprehended the duo of security and economic reasons as the paramount motive for the trips. There can be no compromise to the security of this land. Nigeria was at the brim of national disintegration in a calculated attempt to use Boko Haram from the Northeast. Hardly was it to disconnect foreign hands in the terrorist activities. It still baffles observers the capture of white men and foreigners in the Sambisa Forest which was the stronghold of the terrorists. There were reports of captured foreign war helicopters alleged to have been supplying weapons to the Boko Haram group in the forest that resisted defeat for long time. Just like the way the Niger Delta militancy began and gradually stabilized due to arms machinery dealings, the Boko Haram could not have had factories to produce the arms it required to fight or the money it needed to recruit members. There must have been illegal arms dealings. In the nutshell, the President had to go to all the countries that can help in defeating the terrorists. And for sure, no amount of money spent on such mission to save Nigeria can be termed to be much.
Additionally, results from the trips are manifesting. Boko Haram has been chased out of its stronghold and many countries where looted funds from the nation’s treasury were hidden are returning or ready to repatriate the funds and properties back to Nigeria. Recently, the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi said China was investing $40 billion as part of the plan to deepen relationship with Nigeria, in addition to $22 billion projects already invested.
Defeat of Boko Haram and restoration of Nigerian military dignity
The Boko Haram has been defeated, not merely debased as before. The remnants of the terrorists are running for their lives from one city to the other, still trying to call attention through suicide attempts. By this victory, the dignity of the Nigerian military has been restored. Our gallant military personnel have proved their worth in the world. They have been going to keep peace in other countries. Why was ours not possible? The right President is now with them and with all Nigerians. May the souls of our murdered heroic soldiers rest in perfect peace, ameen. I personally hail the Nigerian military for this great achievement for our dear nation. We must all celebrate with and pray for them.
Removal of fuel subsidy
Fuel subsidy was an empire for corrupt importers who fleeced the country of trillions of naira. It became clear that most of the acclaimed importers were mere political office holders dealing through proxy. Funny enough, each time removal of fuel subsidy was raised the beneficiaries made it look as if Nigerian would suffer untold hardship from that. It was a sacred pole that touching it was a taboo. Before taking over the leadership, President Buhari severally described it as a fraud and non-existent. He has boldly removed it, though it is not clear if all those subsidy fraudsters have paid back their loots. Since the subsidy removal and adjustment of the fuel price to N145 per liter, there has been steady availability of the commodity at the stabilized price. However, the prices of oil control the prices of local commodities and foreign imports. Nigerians are not finding life easy but there is hope of reviewing the minimum wage of N18,000 (about 40 US dollars per month).
Refusal to devalue Naira
The refusal of President Buhari to devalue the Naira to the tune of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other foreign influences has been good indirectly for our economy. Restriction on forex has been a good thing for local processors and manufacturers. Rather, he has supported the IMF decision to ensure alignment between monetary policy and fiscal policy. Despite the hike in prices of commodities due to the impact of forex scarcity and regulation, it is hoped that thing will get better than accepting to devalue the Naira. This would create more problems than solutions for the country.
War on corruption
The war on corruption by the present administration is real and succeeding. 565 billion naira has been recovered and properties worth over three trillion naira have been seized from looters. Cases of corruption being prosecuted by the federal government against treasury looters are many in the courts. Many of the accused looters have spent days in the prisons.
Many have confessed by returning part of their loots, though virtually none of them has been convicted. This is why the menace may not be defeated because the looters know that nothing can come out of the prolonged courts proceedings and judgements. However, the federal government said all ongoing corruption trials should be concluded promptly. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo while meeting with the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) chaired by Professor Itse Sagay urged the anti-graft agencies to step up their engagement with the public.
For the first time, the perceived untouchables in Nigeria including former army chiefs, former federal ministers and senior judges have been held for corruption. Some have spent nights behind the bars. More top shots are still being investigated. There are corruption allegations against the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); such allegations that have caused disaffection between President Buhari and the upper chambers of the National Assembly. In addition, the Niger Delta militants have threatened wide protests against the continuous stay of the duo in the government.
Introduction of TSA and fattening of foreign reserve
The introduction of a Treasury Single Account (TSA) has yielded fruitful results as it has generated and saved huge sums of money for the government. Nothing can be more laudable as this national bank. The Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) used for salary payments to civil servants is gradually being extended to all sectors.
In 2016, about 50,000 ghost workers were discovered in the payroll of the federal government, thus saving the nation about N4.2 billion every month totaling N156 billion according to the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC). In addition, over N23 billion per annum is saved from official travelling and sitting allowances. The reduction in the number of ministries and rationalization of the MDAs has created more efficient public service. The nation’s foreign exchange reserves have also increased to $27.223 billion as at January 16, 2017, according the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN), derived majorly from the proceeds of crude oil. This is compared with the $25.843 billion that it was as at December 30, 2015.
Defeat of age-long padding of budgets
Apart from savings, President Buhari has been inculcating in Nigerians the way public money should be spent. The former practice of padding budgets by the executive and legislative arms of government has been blocked. The controversies this padding menace generated in 2016 budget embarrassed the nation. Series of rogue projects and figures were injected into the financial document. The lower chamber of the national assembly is yet to cleanse itself of these controversies. The President has assured that it is over and that the 2017 will not be padded. So, Nigerians now hope to have a budget that is more transparent, more inclusive and more closely tied to development priorities. President Buhari noted that he had been in government since 1975, variously as governor, oil minister, head of state, and Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), and did not hear the word ‘padding’ till the 2016 Budget.
200,000 jobs created with the N-power initiative
There have been the plans to create 500,000 employment opportunities for graduates, with another 370,000 for non-graduates, in addition to the provision of micro loan facilities for market women. 500 billion naira social investment was earmarked in the 2016 budget for the employment purposes. The project has begun in earnest.
Payment of N5,000 to poor Nigerians
The President promised during his presidential campaigns to pay N5,000 to the downtrodden citizens. The N500 billion social investment plan was part of measures to tackle the myriad of economic problems as well as provide palliatives to the citizenry. The pledge is now being redeemed and pilot states have started implementing it. On how the beneficiaries were identified, the poorest local government areas of states were identified using an existing poverty map for the state. Then the poorest communities in the LGAs were identified. Focus groups comprising women, men, youths are trained to go to each of their communities to sensitize the leaders, including traditional rulers on the selection of the poorest of their societies. But it must be monitored as politicians have been making attempts to hijack the project to replace their constitutional obligations to their constituencies.
Repair of Ajaokuta Steel Company
All issues relating to the Ajaokuta Steel Mill have been resolved by the present administration. It is expected that within the year, production will commence with estimated employment capacity of 100,000 Nigerians. This is a wise move by the government which has the interest of Nigerians in heart. What have been the issues? In December, President Buhari presented a total sum of N4,272,797,371 appropriated for the company, higher than the N3.9 billion budgeted for 2016. Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Fayemi Kayode, reiterated the government commitment to settle all litigations between it and Global Steel Holdings Limited. This company is Nigeria’s leading steel plant. Since its inauguration in 1983, the plant had been embroiled in managerial inaptitude, controversy ranging from allegations of obsolete machines and outdated blast furnace model. Despite its initial completion, the plant was neglected under previous successive administrations.
There is now accountability in government agencies like the customs, the immigration and all other revenue generating organs of the government. There is freedom of operations by the EFCC and ICPC. All the groups attempting to endanger the peace and security of the nation such as the IPOB, Niger Delta and herdsmen are being put under control.
Enough of the struggle to convince Nigerians that President Buhari means well for our dear country. The above achievements are manifestations of patriotic revolution. Wailers and sadists cannot cease to be in a society but it is important to note that even the sadists know too well that the man at the helm of affairs of Nigeria today is not corrupt; he hates corruption and its associates and he will do anything constitutionally possible to crush them. He is rebuilding a totally broken country - reconstructing the spine of the Nigerian state and this has made hardship inevitable.
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]