I was talking with a gathering of elderly friends last week, people who grew up during some of Nigeria’s most golden days. The focus was primarily on President Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd.) legacy when he leaves office in around 21 months.
Many people consider 21 months to be a very long time, an eternity full with possibilities. However, this is not always the case when it comes to politics and administration, particularly in a country like Nigeria, where politics and government patronage are the most lucrative sources of income. In a story titled “No, President Buhari, you do not have three years,” published on March 31, 2016, this column made the same point.
Buhari had told members of the All Progressives Congress’s National Executive Council a week earlier: “I know you have been tormented since the election that they haven’t seen anything on the ground.” Well, if you have any plausible answer, it’s that you still have three years to go…”
“…from my understanding of Nigerian politics, Buhari does not have more than the next one and a half, maximum two years, to prove himself and demonstrate Nigerians why he or his party deserves re-election in 2019,” I wrote in response. The President would do well to be aware that by the end of 2017, most politicians in the country, regardless of office, will be focused only on the prospects for 2019. People aren’t even waiting that long in some circumstances, and I’m surprised the President hasn’t noticed!” It turned out that everyone agreed that he could have accomplished a lot more at the conclusion of his first term! The regime has been in place for six years, and it should start thinking about the exact footprint it wants to leave.
So, let’s go back to last week’s conversation with these illustrious gentlemen. One of them stated that President Buhari would be recognized for his achievements in infrastructure development for the rest of his life. As tenure-defining projects, he listed the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, railway projects connecting various areas of the country, and the Second Niger Bridge.
That made sense, but I wondered if he remembered the administration responsible for the construction of the Third Mainland Bridge. He claimed it was the military regime of Ibrahim Babangida. Next, I inquired as to whether the Third Mainland Bridge (probably the most important road infrastructure in Lagos today) is the landmark by which Babangida is remembered. The solution seemed obvious to all of us. When Nigerians think about Babangida, two things spring to mind: the misery he caused them and the possibility that he started the country’s journey down the dunghill. The Structural Adjustment Program, which began in 1986, and the satanic annulment of the presidential election on June 12, 1993, are two examples. To date, Babangida has been unable to provide a specific reason.
Infrastructure development is vital to every economy, hence it is a cliche to expect the government to do so. However, the functionality and sustainability of such institutions are also dependent on a variety of other elements, one of which is the quality of human capital. People in a country must not only comprehend the expense and significance of these structures, but also embrace ownership. That’s on top of the projects’ efforts to create as many job opportunities as feasible.
According to the Yoruba, the child you did not train is the one who will sell the buildings you have constructed. As a result, erecting massive structures when your populace are unhappy, hungry, and uncertain about the future is counterproductive. That is why officials are fighting vandals, with Chibuike Amaechi, the transportation minister, suggesting the death penalty for anyone caught vandalizing railway tracks. What a powerful tool for restraining hordes of untrained, untutored young men and women who have given up hope! And, when it comes to education, data show that between 10 million and 13.5 million children of school age are out of school, which is one issue. Another source of concern is the topic of what students are learning or not learning in school. What is the country’s educational aim, and how is it adjusting its curriculum to meet those demands, as well as the urgency that a competitive globe imposes on all countries? Do we even realize that the rest of the world isn’t waiting for us?
More importantly, the development of infrastructure, which the President’s spokespersons also like to brag about, cannot be the legacy of a man who fought tooth and nail for this office for 16 years, finally achieving it at the age of 72, and promised to save the people from the plague of bad governance and its many ills. Buhari owes Nigeria the task of leaving it better than he found it, having benefited from the best that the country has to offer. Regrettably, that does not appear to be an option right now.
The current position of the boss himself appears to be a clue that things are worse than they were in 2015. President Buhari is currently in London, where he is being treated by doctors he has known for four decades, according to Femi Adesina. That’s a real bummer. It’s a tragic irony that the President chose to seek medical help in a country that is claimed to abduct at least 12 Nigerian-trained doctors per week as of 2018.
It’s made worse by the fact that Nigerian physicians are on strike for the second time in four months. The fact that the President, who promised to develop Nigeria’s economy and enhance revenue sources, has contributed to the N1.5 trillion yearly medical tourism expenditure contradicts his commitment to change. A President is expected to be on a nationalistic crusade rather than demarketing the health business in his country by patronizing an already evolved system rather than driving a long-lasting revolution at home.
Nigeria is worse off in terms of security, which is one of the three areas in which he increased Nigerians’ aspirations. The entire country has become a fertile field for various crimes since the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East and pockets of skirmishes in the North-Central and North-West in 2015; each of the six zones has something unique to deal with. Terrorism, banditry, and kidnappings have become such a big business that some elected leaders try to justify them. According to a report released last week by the House of Representatives’ National Security Summit, as much as $2.4 million in ransom may have been paid in the last nine months. That is not to mention the constant loss of lives and pouring of blood in the President’s native state of Katsina and Kaduna, where he resides.
Then there’s the issue of whether or not the country would even survive! With the government’s repeated attempts at suppression yielding only minor, if any, successes, agitation for the state of Biafra has risen. The Biafra movement has sparked similar emotions in the South-West, forcing the Buhari administration to contend with separatist agendas, terrorism, insurgency, ethnic rivalries, and violent crimes. It is hardly the best time in the country’s history, and the President and his supporters should be concerned.
The truth is that Buhari has little or no time to improve things as he has to for the sake of himself and future generations. As he nears the end of his second term, he should be worried about justice and fairness as predecessors to peace, unity, security, and development for Nigeria and Nigerians. If Nigeria survives the pressures and stress that afflict its mind, it will be impossible to gather the components essential for the economy to grow without this.