Few days before he assumes office as the president of Nigeria, General Muhammadu Buhari has come to terms with the huge tasks ahead of him. Unlike the time of the campaigns when promises were reeled out without with qualms, when miraculous change rented the air, reality seems to have set in and the president-elect is literally on his knees begging for time writes EMMA ALOZIE
Since General Muhammadu Buhari was declared winner of the March 28 presidential elections, it seems that the reality of the enormity of the work before him has dawned on him. At every event or forum, he has never wasted time to plead with Nigerians not to expect miracles because according to him, the tasks ahead are enormous.
This sharply contracts with myriads of promises the General and his All Progressives Congress, APC inundated Nigerians with, in the build up to the elections. The campaign promises ranged from the realistic to the utterly ridiculous.
For instance, General Buhari and his APC promised to stabilize the international oil price. He also promised to make one Naira come at par with the Dollar. The APC promised to reduce pump price of fuel to at least N47 per litre and promised to pay 25 million poorest Nigerians a stipend of N5000 every month. The party also promised to create 3 million jobs in the first one year and pay youths corps members who are unemployed an equivalence of their allowance one year after leaving service. The party boasted of providing free feeding nationwide to all pupils and students of primary and post primary schools in Nigeria.
The promises were overwhelming and even Professor Chukwuma Soludo in his now famous treatise titled “Buhari vs Jonathan: Beyond the Election’ cautioned that with the state of the economy, it was impossible to fulfill such bogus promises. “Even with all the loopholes and waste closed, with increased efficiency per dollar spent, there is still a binding budget constraint. To deliver an efficient national transport infrastructure alone will still cost tens of billions of dollars per annum even by corruption-free, cost-effective means. Did I hear that APC promises a welfare system that will pay between N5,000 and N10,000 per month to the poorest 25 million Nigerians? Just this programme alone will cost between N1.5 and N3 trillion per annum.
“Add to this the cost of free primary education plus free meal (to be funded by the federal budget or would it force non-APC state governments to implement the same?), plus some millions of public housing, etc. I have tried to cost some of the promises by both the APC and the PDP, given alternative scenarios for public finance and the numbers don’t add up. Nigerians would be glad to know how both parties would fund their programmes.
“Do they intend to accentuate the huge public debt, or raise taxes on the soon to-be-beleaguered private businesses, or massively devalue the naira to rake in baskets of naira from the dwindling oil revenue, or embark on huge fiscal retrenchment with the sack of labour and abandonment of projects, and which areas of waste do they intend to close and how much do they estimate to rake in from them, etc?”, Soludo asked.
This poser Soludo raised pre-election seems what General Buhari is looking to solve now. Perhaps this is the time the size of the task before him has dawned on him and he is fast pleading with Nigerians to give him time.
Speaking when the governors elected on the platform of the APC paid him a congratulatory visit, he said he was nervous in explaining to Nigerians that the change they voted for would be slow in coming. He prayed for more patience from Nigerians arguing that Rome was not built in a day.
“The expectation is too high and I have started nervously to explain to people that Rome was not built in a day. We have to think of how to persuade people to give us a chance to organise the economy immediately and get these problems fixed,” he said.
Also while playing host to Northern Elders Forum led by Ambassador Maitama Sule, the president-elect begged them to begin to disseminate the information that he needs more time to effect the change. He asked Nigerians to temper their expectations with justice.
“Now we have invariably inherited all the problems, especially in the north east. I am sure that you have heard about or seen the children recovered from Sambisa forest. Only the children and women are remaining while all the able-bodied men have been gotten rid of somehow. Some have been taken to as far as Adamawa state to be resettled. A generation has been denied education and health care. Infrastructure has gone.
“You can imagine what is happening in the high seas where up to 400,000 barrels of crude oil which we rely on is stolen everyday with the full cooperation of those who are supposed to protect it. The price of oil has gone down and 90 percent of the foreign exchange we rely on comes from that.
“So, you have to convince your constituencies that we have virtually arrived at the wrong time and that they have to temper their expectation with some justice towards the leadership.
“The biggest message is to try and persuade the people that it is not possible to change the state of affairs now. It took 16 years and those 16 years, most of you know it better than myself, that Nigeria earned revenue more than what it earned from 1914 till then,” he said.
General Buhari is not alone in asking for time. Even the Catholic Archbishop Emeritus, Anthony Okogie, in a statement he made available to the News Agency of Nigeria pleaded with Nigerians to exercise patience with Nigerians.
“I think we are expecting too much too soon. Change will come but it will be gradual but surely. It will amount to putting the cart before the horse to expect radical revolution from the General. We must exercise patience and give him chance to deliver on his promises. What he needs more than anything is our support, cooperation, collaboration and goodwill,” he said.
With the president-elect literally on his knees begging for time before he could bring about the change he promised Nigerians, the question is, how much time does he need? How much time will be enough for Nigerians to start reaping from the promises of change they happily voted for?