Barely seven months after his inauguration, President Buhari has been reeling from one national burden to the other. Yet, the sheer enormity of these many burdens have largely gone unnoticed in the midst of politics that has formed the hallmark of public debate on burning national issues.
This is not to say that a few people – deep, patriotic and sensible – have not shown appreciation of the magnitude of the many demons the president has to confront; yet those few are drowned by the entrenched skeptical legions that have made a daily business of haranguing the president. Sadly, this robs the public of a sensible critique of public policies, geared not to browbeat but guide the president.
Having taken stock of the foregoing, I decided to do this piece as my lone-wolf attempt to redirect the attention of Nigerians to the unprecedented magnitude of what this president is actually dealing with. It is not a praise-song, as each paragraph will come with a no-bones, hard-nosed recommendation of how he can do better. They are:
One – Corruption – Yes, corruption in its worst ramification is what has become of Nigeria. Never in our history have we witnessed mass revelations of brazen corrupt acts as we are now witnessing, thanks to the unique style (including the famed body-language) Buhari has brought to bear. And to cap it all, the president has told us that a good number of the looters are returning their loots. He deserves kudos for this, not taunts or some duplicitous lecture on the rule of law. Plus, we all need to encourage the toughness and gusto with which Buhari is pursuing the money and culprits.
My recommendation, though, is this: The president should, despite the push-backs, escalate the ongoing hot-pursuits, while rueing the merits of his campaign promises of amnesty to any looter that turns-in his/her loot. Plus, he should be mindful of the demerits of proceeding with the publication of the names of looters that made restitution. The grim prospects of publication may discourage those still sitting on the fence and worrying about being publicly ‘shamed’.
Two-Boko Haram. On this one, the president hit the ground running, evidenced by the symbolic relocation of the army headquarters to the North-East; and the many gains security forces have made under his strict watch. Yet, it appears that a few people have made a business of looking to any setback, no matter how minuscule, to taunt the president and deride the sacrifices of our battle-weary security forces.
This is sad. Yet, I will recommend that he takes a harder look on intelligence-gathering and sources of Boko Haram funding; and bring to swift justice all Boko Haram elements now in custody.
Three-The federal bailout for states. This one best exemplified President Buhari’s neo-credentials as a benevolent leader, if not a political economist of the realist kind. To be sure, Buhari’s swift intervention ensured that these states were saved from the grim specter of bankruptcy that would have stoked social tension in the land.
This is a first in the history of Nigeria; but the president, as the paymaster, should immediately demand an audit to ensure that the funds were judiciously applied.
Four – Biafra. As regrettable and condemnable as the loss of innocent lives is, the president must be commended for his restraint in not ordering a ‘military’ response. I say this because an otherwise lily-livered or clannish president would have panicked and ordered a military crackdown in the face of the unprecedented level of the recent demonstrations. Through his restraint, he appeared to have acknowledged the right of the people to protest, if not their right to demand self-determination peaceably.
My recommendation: Set up a presidential inquiry on the Onitsha head-bridge killing of protesters and quickly address the real (or perceived) marginalisation of Igbos. Following this path will surely win the ‘Biafrans’ over for now, if not for good. The resurgence of Biafra is not personal or driven by the Buhari victory, but by rising frustration on the part of the Igbos that they are redlined from fully partaking in the Nigerian project.
Five – the dwindling foreign exchange value of the naira. Here, you can’t blame the president because the naira’s value is tied to the quantum of foreign exchange that comes from the sale of our oil. It is beyond anybody’s control as the price of oil continues to plummet. If anybody should be blamed, it is previous administrations that failed to diversify our economy despite the ample opportunities.
Better still, I will recommend that the president tasks his economic managers to come up with a more predictable exchange rate policy that will be less prone to oil price shocks. For investor comfort, he should avoid any appearance of interference with the CBN policy on the naira.
In conclusion, let me say these: As we watch and criticise Buhari’s policies, let us all be mindful that we are all stuck in the Nigerian project together. Therefore, it is our collective duty to criticise sensibly and offer creative or alternative suggestions that will best serve the nation’s interest. Haranguing him won’t cut it. Buhari is not the issue; Nigeria is.
Aloy Ejimakor wrote in from firstname.lastname@example.org