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President Buhari And The Blame Game – OpEd

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The Buhari administration has made a fetish of lame excuses, the blame game and buck passing for its inability to deliver on its promises. In fact, the administration has turned the blame game into an art form. Recall that the administration was ushered into power in 2015 by long-suffering Nigerians secured in the belief that the incoming All Progressives Party (APC) would make a difference in their lives and wipe out the perceived misdeeds of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). PDP described as the largest party in Africa had been in power for16 years and it had failed abysmally to deliver the dividends of democracy for Nigerians. Puffed up with pride and hubris, the party had boasted that it will rule for more than 60 years. But the APC, a special purpose political vehicle turned out to be its nemesis. But today, things have turned full circle with Nigerians clamouring for a return to the PDP years since things have further worsened instead of improving. In the present circumstances, an estimated 95 million Nigerians are projected to fall into poverty in 2022, according to the World Bank reports.

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Indeed, many Nigerians expected the APC administration to hit the ground running, instead, President Muhammadu Buhari on assumption of power acted with the speed of tortoise, as if he had the whole time to revamp the economy. It was as though Buhari came to power with no blueprint to fix the nation. He repeatedly at every turn heaped blame on his predecessor for mismanagement and running the economy into the ground. For a man who had run for president four times, it was unsettling that President Buhari would spend almost five months before picking his cabinet.

Now President Muhammadu Buhari has taken the blame game to a new level. On Tuesday during a working visit to Imo State he asked a rhetorical question: “I don’t know why people are not commending my government? In terms of time and resources, this administration has done extremely well. I have to say it because those who are supposed to say it are not saying it. I don’t know why.”

The president’s question is loaded in so many respects because it connotes the impression that his performance has been superlative and as a consequence he has delivered on the dividends of democracy to an ungrateful and unfeeling people, who lack the empathy to show gratitude to a supposedly hardworking leader whose sole aim is to make life more abundant for them. As far as Buhari is concerned, he has delivered on infrastructure development, especially his legacy project, which is the Second Niger Bridge at Onitsha, as well as the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railways, ongoing Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Kano-Jibia-Maradi (Niger Republic) railways among other projects being undertaken by the administration. As he’s wont, the president also lamented that the achievements of his administration are not being trumpeted enough by those who are supposed to do so. Buhari also reiterated that his administration has performed “extremely well” but that people have failed to commend him.

At the same time, President Muhammadu Buhari accused Nigeria’s elite of not showing enough concern and patriotism. In his estimation, he has done so much with so little in order to provide basic infrastructure. He argues that as of now oil production output has halved by almost 50% compared to the 16 years of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) era when production output was about 2.3 million barrels per day. Today oil production has dropped to about 1.2 million barrels per day due to large scale oil theft in the Niger Delta. In fact, the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) recorded its lowest figure of 972,394 barrels per day in August. Already both Angola and Libya have overtaken Nigeria as the largest producers of oil in Africa. As expected, the president further took a swipe at the Obasanjo, Yar’Adua-Jonathan era, saying the previous administrations failed to develop infrastructure despite the fact that the nation earned so much from the sales of crude oil at that point in time.

Buhari who spoke during the commissioning of some projects undertaken by the administration of Governor Hope Uzodinma, stated that when he became president in 2015, many local government areas in Borno and Adamawa states were controlled by Boko Haram. Touting his score card, he said, that is no longer the case. Buhari also described Boko Haram terrorists as “fraudulent people,” adding that his government has overwhelmed them.

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Outlining his achievements for the past seven years, Buhari said that: “Between 1999 and 2015 when we came in, I would like people to check the Central Bank and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), the average production was 2.1 million barrels per day. Nigeria was earning at this time 2.1 million times but look at the state of infrastructure, look at the road…look at the railway, it was virtually killed. Power, we are still struggling.

“But when we came, unfortunately, the militants were unleashed, production went down to half a million bpd.” He added that the price of crude oil also went down when his administration came to power. 

But who should take the blame for failing to blow the president’s trumpet. Wittingly or unwittingly, the president seems to be heaping blame on his communication team as well as the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. However, many will disagree because his communication team have not only overreached themselves in a bid to trumpet the president’s achievements, especially when their claims and defence of the administration flies in the face of current reality. They have given a good account of themselves, even though many Nigerians may disagree with them. Because of this, Nigerians have given the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed the moniker: ‘Liar-in-Chief for his unbridled defence of the president.

As for the elites, they don’t owe the president any obligation, even though he has accused them of being unpatriotic and not showing concern. However, his duty is to ensure they do their fair share and not short-circuit the system. On its part, the opposition PDP owes the nation the duty to criticize and keep the ruling party on its toes, and not to cozy up to the president.

But the point is, Nigerians did not vote Buhari to give excuses rather they believed he had the character, capacity and competence to get the job done. His penchant for excuses and buck passing gives the impression of a lazy workman who is always complaining about his tools. Though the economy was not his strongest suit, but many expected him to make a difference in the area of security. While appreciable progress has been made in the northeast, the northwest and parts of the north central have become hotbeds of terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.

Even so the president’s lamentations about the fall in oil production grates on the ear because he has the whole machinery of government and the security forces at his disposal to put an end to oil thefts in the Niger Delta which has almost crippled the economy and consigned the nation to the third position as an oil producing country in Africa. Basically, government’s failure to protect its strategic assets underscores the fact that it has failed signally in its responsibility. That’s why the administration should not shift its lapses and incapacity on hapless citizens. Still, the buck stops at the president’s table for the massive loss recorded in the oil sector, which is estimated at about $1billion between the first and second quarter of 2022. Wringing his hand in helplessness is not acceptable.

In fairness to the Buhari administration, it has made some strides in infrastructure development but all this pales into insignificance in light of worsening security challenge, a comatose economy, widespread unemployment, burgeoning debt profile that has asphyxiated the economy, runaway inflation and attendant high cost of living. Due to excessive borrowing, the administration has reduced future generations to a life of penury and peonage.

Obviously, it’s easy to divine why Nigerians have not been shouting the Hallelujah chorus for the president. This cannot be farfetched. First, the administration conveys the impression that it does not care enough about education, giving the fact that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike for more than six months, leaving millions of students in the lurch in ongoing spat between ASUU and the government. Government’s failure to find a lasting solution to the intractable problem of sustainable funding for higher education has not endeared it to students and parents. On the other hand, Nigerians are rubbed the wrong way as they watch with disbelief as politicians and high-ranking government officials regularly parade the pictures of their children in social media during graduation from universities abroad, without sparing a thought for millions of students marooned at home as a result of the decaying and deteriorating education system. Of course, this further rankles many Nigerians who have no other choice than the existing public universities that have become a shadow of their former selves.

In the same vein, the health sector is virtually on its knees as more than 13,000 health workers including doctors have left for greener pastures in the past two years. Most of the public hospitals have been reduced to mere consulting clinics, as the quality of healthcare has deteriorated considerably. Only recently National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) threatened to embark on strike action if government fails to meet their demands.

On the other hand, insecurity has worsened resulting in about 2 million people taking refuge in the Internally Displaced Person’s (IDP) camps. Besides the deteriorating security situation has driven many farmers away from their farmlands, which portends a clear case of looming food insecurity. As a result of all these existential crises it would take the height of extreme forbearance for people to continually hail the president, despite their own fears and challenges as well as the general insecurity that has made life nasty, brutish and short.

Most disconcerting of all is that the cardinal promise to fight corruption has taken the back burner and it has been sacrificed on the altar of expediency. Now corruption is more pronounced, with some mind-boggling cases that have shaken the nation to its foundation. Today corruption walks on all fours, and it has seemingly doubled or even quadrupled on Buhari’s watch.

So, on what basis should the people applaud the president since universities have been under lock and key for more than six months, cost of living has hit the roof, corruption has grown wings, insecurity has worsened, the four refineries are not working seven years down the line and after millions of dollars have gone towards their rehabilitation, just to mention a few challenges starring Nigerians in the face.

Also, other soft issues such as the mismanagement of our diversity by the president has further alienated him from the people. Rightly or wrongly, many believe that by several acts of omission and commission, the president has further exacerbated our political fault lines. Plus, his uncompromising stance on the issue of demarcating cattle routes as well as provision of grazing land for herdsmen, which has been a source of insecurity and conflicts in many communities, have pitted the president against many communities, especially in the south.

In the past seven years, Nigerians have shown unparalleled forbearance and long suffering despite the rising frustration and poverty that have made life unbearable for millions of compatriots. As things stand, all the ingredients that gave vent to the Arab Spring are present in Nigeria today and that is why the president should be grateful that things have not taken a turn for the worse.

In conclusion, the president should spare us the blame game and rather concentrate his energies on his primary responsibility of securing lives and property for which his administration still has enough room to improve upon its current performance. At the moment, many believe the administration is punching below its weight in the security sector.

Kola King

Kola King is a Nigerian journalist and novelist. He worked for more than two decades as a reporter, correspondent and editor in major national newspapers in Nigeria. He's the founder of Metro newsletter published on Substack. His debut novel A Place in the Sun and was published and released in 2016 by Verity Publishers, Pretoria, South Africa. His writing has appeared in Kalahari Review, The Missing Slate Literary Journal, The New Black Magazine and Litro magazine. He earned a Bachelors degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.

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