By Femi Odere
One of Fredrick Nwabufor’s recent articles on President Muhammadu Buhari on the Cable.ng online news portal where he’s one of the main contributors to that newsfeed was an interesting read. Nwabufor’s central thesis in the piece was that Buhari has been demystified. The article in question was interesting not because of the quality of its content or any profound intellectual reasoning advanced for the demystification, but because of the author’s regurgitation of a pre-determined and badly used narrative that Nwabufor and his co-travelers just must keep projecting even in the face of stark and empirical facts about the Buhari presidency. However, it should be stated right off the bat here that the most ardent believer in Buhari would be elevating the president to a demigod if he insists that the president has not made mistakes. He has. Buhari himself was quite upfront (in his usual blunt and honest characteristics) in his inaugural address to the nation that his administration would make its own share of mistakes in its four-year tenure. But the mistakes advanced by Nwabufor that warranted the conclusion that Buhari has been demystified was nothing but the “old wife” tales, as we shall see presently.
It is pointless to regurgitate Nwabufor’s apparent disgust with President Buhari here on account of the words and phrases he deployed in his characterization of the president, but the reasons advanced for the president’s so-called demystification is my concern. Nwabufor’s demystification argument can be classified into three major components. These are the president’s delayed ministerial appointments, the country’s recession and the 2016 budget, all of which flies in the face of empirically hard facts about Buhari and his administration.
Granted that the official explanation given that the daily debriefings of the president by all federal permanent secretaries and heads of government parastatals necessitated the delayed ministerial appointments—-among other strategic reasons that may not be for public consumption—–may not have been good enough for Nwabufor and his co-travellers that they must constantly deploy this outdated flogging device for pillorying Buhari at every given opportunity, the unprecedented accomplishments of some of the ministers to-date should have put paid to his barking at some delayed appointments, and his tail between his legs. But Nwabufor seems unperturbed.
It would be recalled that Hadi Sirika, the Minister of State for Aviation whose parastatal is subsumed in the Ministry of Transportation with Chibuike Amaechi as the head, announced in the first quarter of this year that the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja would be shut down for repair of the only runway whose damage predated the Buhari administration for six weeks. The runway was so badly damaged that Wolfgang Goetsch, the Managing Director of Julius Berger in his submission before the Senate said that with the “extent of damage and deterioration of the runway over time from one end to the other end,” the country has “absolutely no option than to close the runway for these six weeks” otherwise the runway “could be fixed without closing down the airport, but would take more than two years.”
The hues and cries from the public that trailed the minister’s decision to close the Abuja airport for that period may not necessarily have emanated because of the inconvenience that the closure would cause to air travelers to and from the nation’s capital, but because Nigerian governments have the unenviable history of never making good on any promises they made to their people. The Nigerian public may have had that instinctive feeling that somebody probably came up with that idea as a pretext to not only siphon the monies for the repair, but that the repair itself would likely leave them worse off as six weeks may extend to months without any plausible explanation, let alone a repair. As if Sirika’s six-week deadline for the completion of the runway was not laughable—-if not disconcerting enough—-the junior minister said he would resign his appointment if the runway went beyond the stipulated delivery date. The Abuja airport was closed on the 8th of March and was ready for use on April 17, 2017—-two days short of the six weeks—-to the dismay of Nigerians.
It would also be recalled that Buhari made it quite clear to Nigerians on his inauguration that the country’s development can only be sustained if we produce much of what we consume locally and are less dependent on crude oil for our development. He anchored this laudable objective on Agriculture and Solid Minerals. Since then, these two sectors have consistently contributed to the nation’s GDP according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) quarterly reports. Perhaps, one may not be able to say this better than Ajayi Temitope who buttressed this fact in his comments about the Buhari administration. Hear him: “Nigeria has cut import bill by more than 50 percent on rice and ramping up production in wheat and other produce. The FG through CBN banned 41 items from accessing foreign exchange (forex) from official windows. This was mercilessly criticized by the ‘experts’ but the Buhari administration is winning the argument today with increased local production and industrial capacity utilization by factories/manufacturers sourcing raw materials locally. With the rice and wheat success in Kebbi and other states especially in the north, private capital is flowing into the processing sector of the agriculture value chain. Wacot just opened Tomato Paste factory in Kano, Olam will commission a N20 billion Livestock and Chicken Hatchery plant in Kaduna in September among other investors. Buhari went to Morocco and signed a deal on Phosphate and Gas pipeline between Nigeria and the North African nation. Phosphate is a major component for fertilizer production. With this deal, the FG, working with the Sovereign Wealth Fund, had reactivated 11 moribund fertilizer Blending Plants in Nigeria in the last one year that have created 50,000 jobs and producing 1.3metric tones of fertilizer”
With respect to the solid minerals sector, in his realization that the first steps that must be put in place for Nigeria’s solid minerals to be on a sound footing, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi the Minister of Mines and Steel Development produced a “Roadmap for the Growth and Development of the Mining Industry” towards establishing the mineral resources that are available in Nigeria as well as which of these minerals are in commercial quantities through “geological mapping” in accordance with international best practice which is one of the critical ways by which investors can seriously engage this sector. This has since been established. What’s more, Dr. Fayemi has successfully untangled the very complex legal and administrative knots that had rendered comatose the Ajaokuta Steel Mill in Kogi State that previous governments had used as “cash cow” that has been so unconscionably detrimental to the country’s interest and take-off in the heavy industries.
It is important to recall some of the unprecedented accomplishments of some these ministers whose appointments were delayed seven months into the Buhari administration with the hope that Nwabufor would tell Nigerians in specific terms what these ministers would have accomplished if they had taken off on the first day of the Buhari presidency. If not, Nwabufor and his co-travelers should cease and desist from mouthing this pedestrian and unintelligible argument of delayed ministerial appointments just to cast aspersions on the president.
The second leg on which Nwabufor tied Buhari’s so-called demystification was his erroneous belief that the president should be held responsible for the country’s recession. He should not. The hard fact is that the recession seeds were planted and watered by President Jonathan with his reckless, if not criminal, mismanagement of the country’s financial resources in his six years in office. Again, one wouldn’t have been able to argue this more convincingly with incontrovertible evidence that Buhari is far from being responsible for the country’s recession better than Ayayi Temitope.
Hear him: “The economy despite 5 years [of] unprecedented oil boom, collapsed since late 2013 when [the] previous administration had been borrowing from China to buy arms and other lenders to pay salaries. By 2014, states were already in trouble with months of unpaid salaries to workers. By May 29, 2015 when Buhari took over, Nigeria was already on life support with 33 states owing between 12 and 18 months workers salaries and that of pensioners. The price of crude, the only major source of foreign exchange had plummeted to about $30 per barrel from the height of $120. It was obvious [that] Buhari [was] starting from below ground zero.” With the foregoing, it can be seen that the country was clearly in a recession before Jonathan left office. But he was scared stiff to tell the Nigerian people about it because he was well aware of the unimaginable and unprecedented looting in the country’s history, if not anywhere in the world under his watch. Hanging the recession albatross on Buhari’s neck is not only disingenuous, but a wicked calculation to give the proverbial dog a bad name in order to hang it. This is one of the wicked narratives about the Buhari presidency it seems to me, that must be pushed back by well meaning Nigerians.
Nwabufor’s vacuous assertion that the lack of full implementation of Buhari’s 2016 “Budget of Change” was blamed on Jonathan was nothing but an attempt to throw as much mud as possible at the president with the hope that some of it would stick. Again, it would be recalled that Buhari personally presented the 2016 Budget to the joint session of the National Assembly on Tuesday, December 22, 2015. The president’s personal presentation of the budget and its timeliness were in themselves a significant milestone in the annals of our democratic experience. Nwabufor should be reminded that for three straight years, Jonathan didn’t see the importance of personally presenting the nation’s budgets to the legislative body because he probably knew that the budgets would be implemented in their looting by both his executive branch and the legislature. The Minister of Finance and the so-called Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala presented the budgets on these three occasions on behalf of the former president.
Nwabufor should also be reminded that it was not after the national assembly had unanimously approved the budget estimates of N6.06 trillion from the initial N6.08 trillion and transmitted to the president with the highlight, but failed—-if not intentional to attach the details of the budget because that has always been the fraudulent practices of the legislative body—-that the president declined to give his assent, insisting on seeing the details. The details made available later proved to have been incredibly “padded,” prompting the executive arm to return the budget to be reworked. This was, however, the very first time that Nigerians became aware that their budgets have always been padded every year since 1999 which was in and of itself very revealing. On Friday, May 6, 2016 President Buhari finally signed the dotted line after he was relatively satisfied that the thieving national assembly had made the necessary adjustments, almost five months after the budget presentation. One wonders why Nwabufor was unwilling in his piece to point his keyboard to the lawmakers who deliberately delayed and vacillated on the 2016 budget because they wanted the art of governance to be business as usual. Nwabufor is apparently not interested to know that it was in this president’s first budget that the highest amount was earmarked and spent on capital projects in the nation’s history.
Fredrick Nwabufor has demonstrated the fact that he would rather remain in that disgraceful, corrosive and ignoble trajectory that has made Nigeria a wasteland not only because he would never see any good coming out of Buhari, but his declaration that he agreed “with Ben Murray Bruce that Nigeria has not made any progress in the past two years” and that “there is just no sign of progress anywhere.” How could Nwabufor and the senator of ‘common sense’ have seen any progress anywhere when looting the country is the only means by which progress can be defined by them? Nwabufor would do well to also keep us abreast of what happened to the senator’s seized assets by AMCON.
Femi Odere is a media practitioner. He can be reached at email@example.com
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