As President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress, APC, recently marked 100 days in office, our Niger State Correspondent, HAMMED SALAWU, collates the views of Nigerians about the government and concludes, “it is not yet uhuru” for Nigeria. Excerpts:
It has been mixed bag of opinions concerning the government of All Progressives Congress, APC, which prides itself as harbinger of change. While fanatics of the party in government believe it is the best thing to happen to Nigeria, its ardent critics opine that it is not yet uhuru for the country.
How did Nigerians form their opinion about the government? The frenzy and hoopla that greeted the campaigns towards the last general elections put many people on edge. While some reasoned that the past Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, government had sufficiently driven the country to the precipice, opinion favoured the then opposition APC to form government for the much-desired change.
Hope was rekindled in the inauguration speech of President Muhammadu Buhari where he assured, “I am for everybody and I am for nobody”. However, recent happenings, especially, in the area of his first set of appointments, have shown where the president belongs as such appointments have been skewed more than 98 per cent in favour of his northern geographical zone. Although, people have said it is the prerogative of Mr. President to make his appointments, but the principle of Federal Character should not be jettisoned in making key appointments into his cabinet.
Another critical section of the country, the women, have also roundly criticized the appointments as not meeting the United Nations’ affirmative action, as only two women have so far featured in about 35 appointments so far made by the President!
Venting his views on the activities of the government so far, especially, at the federal level, Mallam Bologi Zubair, in a chat in Minna, said that so far, so good. He based his argument on the current anti-corruption war of the government that had made people imbibe civilised conducts in doing business. He is of the opinion that the war against graft is real and potent. In fact, according to him, “the fear of Buhari is the beginning of wisdom.
“Look at what is happening in the energy sector; look at the great improvement within such a short time. Look at our fuel stations across the country, where embarrassing queues have all disappeared within 100 days of Buhari government. I can assure you, in the next one or two years, Nigeria would occupy her place in the comity of civilized countries if the trend continues!
“Let me also tell you what is happening in the fight against insurgency in case you don’t know”. Bologi believed the renewed offensive against the dreaded Boko Haram sect is heart-warming, stressing that within a reasonable timeframe, the abducted Chibok girls would be released safe.
However, Abdullahi Bala believes the anti-corruption crusade should wear human face. He would not want to admit that the fight was in good faith in view of the fact that such had been more selective than total.
“Let us see more of President Buhari’s party men and cronies behind bars for corruption charges. Let us try to divorce the current fight from’ run him down’ attitude of successive government, where anything done by previous government were demonized, and only theirs, saintly.
It is only then that I would begin to give credit to the APC government”, Bala concluded.
In his acceptance speech after being declared the winner of the presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Abuja, President Buhari has assured, “this is not the time for confrontation, as this is a moment we must begin to heal the wounds and work towards a better future.”
But, the opposition believes such had been in breach, rather than operational, as there had been allegations and counter accusations of “witch-hunt” in the whole episode.
Recent defence of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration by his erstwhile minsters, gave credence to the above. At a parley conveyed by the former President, he reiterated he was not “a thief in government”, while his then Ministers took a swipe at the present government to deliberately want to sweep the gains of the last government under the toga of “massive corruption” that would do nobody any good.
Dora Kingsley (not real name), as she preferred anonymity, said the current onslaught on the country by the present government was not part of its campaign promises. Dora, a Federal Civil servant in Niger state, noted the stringent economic hardship on the people, believing that while President Buhari pursues looters to their hideouts, he should also evolve economic policies that would positively affect the lives of the people.
She pointed out that Nigerians cannot afford to wait endlessly for the dividend of democracy promised by the government, all because he is fighting corruption in the system.
“As I am talking to you, you would admit that there is no clear -cut policies or blue print at the moment as affecting the focus of the economy. All the campaign promises of abundant job creation have not been attended to, no clear sign of government meeting the promise of paying N5, 000 to the less privileged, the unemployed and the vulnerably groups. For how long do we have to wait for all these to materialise?”
She reasoned that government has been positive in the area of fashioning bailout for states owing salaries, but, beyond this, according to her, there should be a concrete measure towards ensuring such states do not slip back to the calamity in future.
The suffocating economic predicament now was the bone of contention by Mallam Garba Jallo, who admonished the government to run a government with human face. He stated that the present economic crunch has eroded the initial hope of positive change Nigerians envisaged from the government.
He lamented that if government refused to listen to the yearnings of Nigerians, the goodwill of the people might be eroded, giving way to hopelessness and despair.
While the spate of criticisms and lamentations heightened at the national level, matters at the states have not fared better. A respondent said in many of the states under the control of the APC, welfare of the people have not received optimal attention by the states governors.
He described the situation so far as “arrogance of power”. Explaining further, he said the elected officials smile to the banks every month end to access their salaries and emoluments, while those who elected them continue to wallow in abject poverty, because,” any welfare at all is considered corruption.” It is a kind of “you can go to hell, if you like.”
“Take Kaduna State for instance, today, it is either the government is pursuing vulnerable groups from the streets, or sending the residents to cold weather situation by demolishing their houses in the name of recouping government lands. You would agree with me that was not the change the people envisaged and desired!
“Look at Niger state, where the critical elements of the society, the youths, invested heavily in the new government. Immediately after inauguration, what governor Abubakar Sani Bello did was to shut these people out of government, describing them as miscreants but believe me, he would still see the need for these “miscreants” as 2019 approaches.
After his inauguration at the Bako Kontagora Township Stadium in Minna, the state capital, on May, 29, Niger state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, pledged to salvage the state and reposition it for meaningful development, praying for wisdom and courage to be able to take tough decisions in the interest of the state.
But, Mallam Ishaku Gobir, a member, free readers’ association, as those who patronised newspaper vendors at the Total area news stand are called, regretted that nothing of such has been noticed of the governor, who had been accused of governing the state from abroad, instead of staying in the state to see things for himself.
The governor, who promised to run a transparent, just and accountable government that would be the envy of the people, also said he would establish a fair and transparent system for generating additional internal revenue to be able to provide infrastructural facilities and social services to the citizenry.
Unfortunately, about N150 million had been reportedly missing from government coffers in government house, report of which resulted in government unleashing the State Security Service, SSS, on media practitioners in the state recently.
“As a follow-up to the heavy debt burden being bequeathed to us by the outgoing administration, I will like to use this opportunity to assure the people that this administration will carry out a forensic audit to determine how these funds were applied and for which projects.
“More importantly, to ensure that their costing were with acceptable rational level and there was transparency in obtaining each loan”. But, Gobir asked rhetorically, whether anything of such had taken place after 100 days in government?
He also alluded to the initial accusation of nepotism leveled against the governor who appointed his Secretary to the State Government, SSG, from his country home of Kontagora, regretting such was inimical to the government that prides itself as agent of change.
However, as Nigerians dissect the APC government across the country, maybe, we should take solace in the assurances of President Buhari in his acceptance speech, where he said,
the good people of Nigeria, your obligation does not end with casting your ballot. I seek your voice and input as we tackle the national problems. This will not be a government democratic only in form. It will be a government democratic in substance and in how it interacts with its own people.
No doubt, this nation has suffered greatly in the recent past, and its staying power has been tested to its limits by crises, chief among which is insurgency of the Boko Haram. There is no doubt that in tackling the insurgency, we have a tough and urgent job to do. But I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror, and bring back peace and normalcy to all the affected areas. We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism.
Let me state clearly that President Jonathan has nothing to fear from me. Although we may not agree on the methods of governing the nation, he is a great Nigerian and still our president. He deserves our support and permanent respect by virtue of the office he has held.This is how an honourable nation treats its servants and conducts its affairs; and this is how Nigeria should be.
Furthermore, we shall strongly battle another form of evil that is even worse than terrorism, the evil of corruption. Corruption attacks and seeks to destroy our national institutions and character. By misdirecting into selfish hands funds intended for the public purpose, corruption distorts the economy and worsens income inequality. It creates a class of unjustly enriched people.
Such an illegal, yet powerful force soon comes to undermine democracy because its conspirators have amassed so much money that they believe they can buy government. We shall end this threat to our economic development and democratic survival. I repeat that corruption will not be tolerated by this administration; and it shall no longer be allowed to stand as if it is a respected monument in this nation.
I ask you to join me in resolving these and the other challenges we face. Along the way, there will be victories but there may also be setbacks. Mistakes will be made. But we shall never take you for granted; so, be rest assured that our errors will be those of compassion and commitment not of willful neglect and indifference.
We shall correct that which does not work and improve that which does. We shall not stop, stand or idle. We shall, if necessary crawl, walk and run to do the job you have elected us to do.
I realise that the expectation of our people today is as high as their commitment to change has been strong and their belief in us unshaken. While we pledge to begin doing our best immediately, we would like to appeal to them to appreciate the gravity of our situation, so that we become more realistic.