Barely seven months after his inauguration, President Muhammadu Buhari has been reeling from one national burden to the other. Yet, these many burdens have largely gone unnoticed in the midst of the base politics that has formed the hallmark of the public debate on burning national issues.
This is not to say that a few people – deep, patriotic and sensible – have not shown some appreciation of the magnitude of the many demons the President has had to confront since his coming; yet those few are drowned out by the entrenched skeptical legions that have made a daily business of traducing the President untold. Sadly, this robs the public of a sensible critique of public policies, which will better guide – not harass – 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’s not a praise-song, as each paragraph will come with a no-bones recommendation of how the President can do better. They are:
One – Corruption – yes, corruption in its worst ramifications is what has become of Nigeria. Never in the history of Nigeria have we witnessed mass revelations of 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. The President deserves kudos for this, not taunts. Plus, we all need to encourage the toughness with which he’s pursuing the money and the culprits.
My recommendation, though, is this: The President should heighten the hot-pursuit while rueing his campaign-trail promise of amnesty to any looter that turned-in his loot. Plus, the President may reconsider the decision to publish the names of looters that turned-in, as the 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, all with the makeshift relocation of Army headquarters to the Northeast; and the many gains security forces have made under the President’s 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 our security forces.
This is sad; yet – I will recommend that the President takes a harder look on intelligence-gathering and sources of Boko Haram funding; and bringing to swift justices all the Boko Haram elements now custody.
Three – federal bailout for States. This one best exemplified President Buhari’s neo-credentials as a benevolent leader, if not a realist/political economist. And he was even-handed to boot – doling out cash lifelines to both PDP and APC controlled States, share and share alike. To be sure, Buhari’s swift intervention ensured that these States were saved from the specter of bankruptcy.
This is a first in the history of Nigeria; but the President, as the paymaster, should immediately demand an accounting to ensure that the bail-out funds were judiciously applied.
Four – Biafra. As regrettable and condemnable as the loss of lives is, the President must be commended for his restraint in not ordering a ‘military solution’. I say this because an otherwise lily-livered President would have panicked and ordered a military crackdown in the face of the magnitude of the recent demonstrations. Through his restraint, Buhari appeared to have acknowledged the right of the people to protest, if not their right to demand self-determination.
My recommendation – Set up an inquiry on the Onitsha head-bridge killings of IPOB members; and address the real (or perceived) marginalization of Igbos, and you win the ‘Biafrans’ over without firing a shot. The resurgence of Biafra is not driven by the Buhari victory but by a rising frustration on the part of Igbos that they are not equal partakers in the Nigerian project, as presently led.
Five – the dwindling foreign exchange value of the Naira. Here, you can’t blame the President because Naira’s value is tied to the quantum of foreign exchange that comes from sale of our oil. It’s beyond anybody’s control as the price of oil continues to plummet. If anybody should be blamed, it’s the previous administrations that failed to diversify our economy despite the ample opportunities.
Better yet, I will recommend that the President should task 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, the President should avoid any appearance of interference with CBN policy on the Naira.
In conclusion, let me say these: As we watch and criticize 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 criticize sensibly and offer creative or alternative suggestions that will best serve the nation’s interest. Buhari is not the issue; Nigeria is.
. Ejimakor writes from [email protected].