By UMAR SA’AD HASSAN–
When former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was asked what he had been able to achieve in his first six months as president during the “Presidential Media Chat”, he said those months were for “laying the foundation”. There and then, I knew we were in trouble. Whatever skyscraper he had plans of building would last a lifetime if Nigerians hadn’t witnessed any huge stride in about 180 days. He ended up leaving the nation far worse than he met it.
In the first 100 days of a Nigerian presidency, there are usually two sets of voices – the first singing the praises of the president with a “Rome wasn’t built in a day” chorus and the second, reminding us just how much impact can be made in that time. Both have an almost equal chance of swaying anyone with their arguments. So when every genuine lover and well-wisher of Nigeria — ones totally devoid of any kind of sentiment — has cause to applaud the performance of a president in roughly four months, it sure is a Champagne moment. President Buhari has performed exceptionally well if you are viewing from the right lens and not one tainted with political, ethnic or religious bias.
I for one have vehemently criticized his lopsided appointments and regrettable utterances in the US: promising to treat those who voted for him better than those who didn’t. So I can conveniently say, at the risk of sounding immodest, that my lens couldn’t be clearer.
He may have his flaws but they haven’t taken his eyes off the prize – delivering the dividends of democracy to the people.
The most valid yardstick for assessing my assertion would, simply put, be: The state he met the nation in and the state it is in today. He met the nation in what was unarguably its most terrible state in recent times: power stations were shutting down as a result of scarcity of petroleum products with banks and GSM companies at their heels and the average man on the streets was buying fuel for as much as N300 per litre. Today, there are no queues at filling stations and Nigerians are celebrating a most remarkable improvement in power supply. I ask people who argue for the need to let some more time pass before reaching a conclusion based on reports doubting its sustainability and attributing it to raised water levels as a result of heavy rains if we lacked rains during the previous administrations that squandered trillions of our money. The fact that won’t change is we are witnessing perhaps the best power supply in recent times and this progression kicked off in just less than one month of PMB’s assumption of office as president.
We now have a president walking his talk on the fight against corruption by not focusing on the EFCC alone but by also reaching out to the judiciary to ensure the courts dispense justice speedily.
If you consider the fact that the nation was so terrible the president said, before he was sworn in, that he needed up to October to make meaningful impact just to be on the safe side, he deserves plaudits for what he has done in barely four months. I believe in the Buhari government and what it is building unlike when the “foundation” laid seemed to exist only in the sub-conscious of our former president after six months in office.
It is a good thing for the opposition to be restricted to the barest of constructive criticism; it means things are moving just as they should. They have come out to say the president hasn’t laid down a viable plan for the economy, forgetting that no positive economic transformation can take place without the basics – steady power and fuel Supply which are being immaculately addressed, and also insecurity which is a little more complicated but has been commendably contained, to say the least, considering our capabilities viz-a-viz what we are up against: bombers ready to die with their victims. If ever we lacked weapons to fight insurgents, I expect to hear from the defence chiefs themselves who are more or less actively involved in the war and not just dishing out orders from an air-conditioned office somewhere in Abuja as was the norm.
While I might not say the president isn’t late in appointing his ministers, I ask: Can anyone effectively get around an excuse that goes thus: time needed to study the 800-page Ahmed Joda committee report and streamlining it with plans to cut down the cost of governance by reducing government ministries and agencies, time needed by the new SSS boss to purge the outfit of bad elements before embarking on proper screening of nominees? While holding firm to our opinions, it is also important we keep our minds open and not argue blindly. As a lawyer and minister in the temple of justice, I watch people go scot-free for wrongs I strongly believe they committed because the law places a certain burden of proof on me and whoever I represent. What is sometimes isn’t just what is, till it can withstand any tackle while on its own two feet.
The best outcome of any war against corrupt government officials is one in which they are not only successfully prosecuted and jailed but also dispossessed of all cash and assets totalling the amount they looted. Though one can’t fully assess the war on corruption till the outcome of most probes are made public and we see how thorough prosecution is when the courts are back from vacation, preliminary steps taken have been quite convincing. This administration has gotten the US to commit itself to helping it retrieve stolen funds and one wouldn’t doubt the potential of the union to yield fruits if US officials can categorically state that an unnamed former minister of ours stole as much as $6 billion even before the war has fully gathered momentum.
I respect the fact that PMB means different things to different people. Some parties have even refused to hang his portrait on their walls, which reminds me of what President Obasanjo once said: “If taking down my portrait and smashing it would make Nigeria better, then please do so.”
You may call him an ethnic bigot or any of the negative things you deem him to be and have people nod to your reasons, but in your heart of hearts and indeed every Nigerian’s heart, he is making Nigeria work again. That we can’t deny.
Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.