As the nation gradually approaches the 2019 general elections, an exercise that will determine the second term or otherwise of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, opposition groups are already arrayed against the government in what is regarded as a potential battle for the soul of the nation.
Worried, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in January, dropped a letter in which he took Buhari to the cleaner and specifically declared his objection to his second term dream. Titled ‘The Way Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria Movement,’ the letter addressed salient socio-political issues, detailing Obasanjo’s difference to some of the policies of the president’s administration. Obasanjo encouraged Nigerians to pit tent under the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) with a view to effecting change of government at the 2019 elections. Just last month, the movement formally announced its fusion with a political party known as the African Democratic Congress (ADC).
While the curious public was expectant of a counter-offensive from the government quarters, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, turned the letter to advantage to highlight some of the achievements recorded by the Buhari administration since its inauguration on May 29, 2015. The reaction shocked not a few who had relied on the antecedent of Mohammed to witness crossfire from the two sides.
A public analyst, Ademola Johnson, expressed his surprise at what he called the government’s feeble response to Obasanjo, whom he described as one of the architects of Nigeria’s woes. He said the government should have come harder on Obasanjo to demonstrate its zero-tolerance for mischief against the administration. President Buhari’s terse reference to an alleged $16b power fund sleaze under Obasanjo’s administration, however, put some smiles on the face of Johnson, even as he urged the president to always speak up in the interest of his aspiration and that of the long-suppressed Nigerians as a whole.
Latest development in the All Progressives Congress (APC) is narrowing the chances of the party to secure second term ticket at the federal level. Last Monday’s recognition of factional executives at state levels had raised dusts with the losing faction threatening legal action that may cause distraction to the preparation for 2019 elections.
Be that as it may, to the credit of the government is the significant success so far recorded in the North-Eastern part of the country where the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents had held sway, especially during the five-year tenure of the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan. Although the war against the rebellious group is far from over as the militants are alleged to still launch occasional attacks in some communities, normal life has since returned to the zone.
For instance, El-Kanemi Warriors Football Club, a team founded by the former military governor of Borno State, AbdulMumin Aminu, in the late 80s to project the name of the state in the field of sports, has returned to their home base in Maiduguri. The escapades of the insurgents had made Maiduguri Stadium a no-go arena for footballers hence the team’s relocation to Katsina State at a great disadvantage. Similarly, an official factsheet issued last month revealed that public secondary schools have resumed in Borno State after two years of closure, just as Emirs of Askira and Uba returned to their respective palaces, two years after fleeing for safety from the insurgents.
Given the undercurrent and open threats launched by some Niger-Delta militant groups against President Buhari’s government before it was sworn in, there was a strong indication that the government would spend a better part of his administration in engaging the groups. That President Jonathan, their kinsman, was defeated in the March 28, 2015 elections heightened the apprehension.
Not unmindful of the sensitivity of the matter and the danger it portended to the nation’s economy, the administration came up with what it called ‘New Vision for the Niger Delta.’ The initiative was aimed at harmonising a robust set of promises, solutions and ensuring that the people of the Niger Delta benefit maximally from the region’s oil wealth. The initiative offers a detailed response to the 16-point demand agenda submitted to President Buhari by the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) in November 2016.
One of the tangible results of the scheme was the take-off of the Nigerian Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State. The university was granted approval in January 2018 by the National Universities Commission (NUC) to commence undergraduate degree programmes effective 2017/18 session, and commenced academic activities on April 12, 2018.
Another result was President Buhari’s approval of an additional N35 billion for the 2016 budget of the Presidential Amnesty Programme. He also approved the establishment of modular refineries across the nine states of the Niger Delta as well as resumption of construction work on abandoned projects across the Niger Delta, including the all-important East-West Road. The implication of the above is the relative peace being enjoyed in the region, resulting in rise in crude oil production.
However, the Ijaw Youths Congress (IYC) has broken its silence over the development cautioning the federal government from taking the existing peace for granted. During a media interactive session held in Warri, Delta State, president of the group, Pereotubo Oweilaemi, said enduring peace could be achieved only if the government respects the 16-point demand agenda which PANDEF submitted to the president to the letter.
The government has received accolades from another front, especially for its Homegrown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) in which 45,394 public primary schools across 24 states. Over 80,000 direct jobs are said to have since been created from the school feeding programme; with 87,261 cooks currently engaged in the 24 participating states. All 36 states of the federation and the FCT will eventually benefit from the programme.
In addition, the creation of what it tagged Efficiency Unit (EU) to spearhead the efficient use of resources and ensure reduction in recurrent expenditure has earned the government some goodwill. Set up in November 2015, the unit is reducing wastages, promoting efficiency, ensuring prudence and adding value for money in all government expenditures. Aside these, it is also effectively monitoring Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, identifying and eliminating wasteful spending, duplication and other inefficiencies and identifying best practices in procurement and financial management. So far, the Federal Government has saved N34 billion for the nation.
Furthermore, the National Economic Council (NEC), under the chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, approved the audit of key federal revenue generating agencies, with revealing results: a total sum of N526 billion and US$21 billion was underpaid to the Federation Account between 2010 and 2015. NEC has now approved the extension of that audit to cover the period until June 2017.
Buhari’s June 6 letter in which he officially accorded recognition to the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the late Chief MKO Abiola, has earned him wild applause across the length and breadth of the nation and even beyond the shores of Nigeria. The president, in the said letter, declared June 12 as Democracy Day, in contrast to May 29 which his predecessors observed from 2000.
“Accordingly, after due consultations, the federal government has decided that henceforth, June 12th will be celebrated as Democracy Day. Therefore, government has decided to award posthumously the highest honour of the land, GCFR, to late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the cancelled June 12, 1993 presidential election,” the letter read in part.
However, the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has continued to be a pain in the neck of the Buhari administration. The party has, at various times, described the much-vaunted achievements of Buhari as part of the efforts to hoodwink Nigerians into voting for APC in the 2019 elections.
PDP’s deputy national publicity secretary, Diran Odeyemi, said “The President Buhari administration is claiming that economic growth is back and consolidating; but are we talking about the same economy where people are pauperised with no salary in two-thirds of the states of the federation? Are they referring to same country where inflation and recession are on the increase? Is it the same economy where people are unemployed and retrenched, even in the face of increased cost of living, increased fuel price etc? There is no evidence or a good result to justify that. It is just one of the economic propaganda to deceive Nigerians,” he said.
The landmark initiative on aligning of monetary, fiscal and trade policies of the government, Odeyemi said, was PDP’s achievement, which is not being credited to the party. He also faulted the government on making business work through support for micro, small and medium scale enterprises, adding that all business premises have become churches as investors are taking away business because of insecurity and corruption in government.
“What and where are the businesses? The rate of retrenchment and unemployment is an indicator of the failure of this claim,’ he queried.