Muhammad Hassan-Tom in Kaduna, Nigeria
Beyond the exhilaration that greeted the election of General Muhammadu Buhari as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigeria Armed Forces sees a deep well of expectations that may begin to boil over soon after his inauguration on May 29.
At the moment though, the relief of safely unseating the poorly performing President Goodluck Jonathan administration has been an effective balm bringing succour to the stock and foreign exchange markets which recorded double-digit percentage growth soon after the March 28 presidential polls. On the tragic side, dozens of lives have been lost in wild celebratory gigs across the country.
The President-elect has left no one in doubt about his resolve to tackle the fundamental problems plaguing the nation from insecurity and corruption to poverty and unemployment. In his victory speech entitled “Contract with Nigerian,” he vowed to restore the dignity of all Nigerians irrespective of partisan consciousness.
According to him, “I pledge myself and our incoming administration to just and principled governance. There shall be no bias against or favouritism for any Nigerian based on ethnicity, religion, region, gender or social status.” In contrast to the outgoing People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which styled itself as the ‘ruling’ party, General Buhari declared his All Progressives Congress (APC) as a ‘governing’ party.
On the severe security threat posed by members of the Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnah lil Da’awati wal Jihad, the incoming President said, “But I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror and bring back peace and normalcy to all affected areas. We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism.”
Displaying his grasp of the matters that really matter to the masses, the 72-year-old former military ruler also said, “We shall strongly battle another form of evil that is worse than terrorism – the evil of corruption. Corruption attacks and seeks to destroy our national institutions and character. By misdirecting into private hands funds intended for public purpose, corruption distorts the economy and worsens income inequality. Such an illegal yet powerful force soon comes to undermine democracy because its conspirators have amassed so much money that they believe they can buy government.”
Ironically, corruption and insecurity may not be the most intractable problems even though they are the two biggest tasks before the Government. General Buhari’s military administration between December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985 left a deep mark in these fronts. The regime’s ‘War Against Indiscipline’ and the lengthy jail terms awarded to corrupt politicians remain legendary in the annals of Nigeria’s political history. The hardest part of the war against corruption and insecurity would be the total reorientation and rehabilitation of the society which takes time and almost infinite resources.
The outlook is more dismal considering the economic doldrums in which the nation is sinking.
In the months leading to the presidential election, the price of crude oil, the nation’s economic mainstay, fell by over 100 per cent while foreign reserves fell to an all-time low of just four months of imports. Federal and state governments are owed backlog of unpaid wages running into months and both external and local debts are mounting at unprecedented levels. With acute power and fuel scarcity, the prospects for immediate or even medium-term improvement in the people’s lives remains bleak indeed.
In spite of these obvious obstacles, the tempo of hope for positive change remains high for now. However, some critics are really pessimistic about the ability of the Buhari administration to make enough impact in the next four years to justify people’s expectations. According to Professor Peter Okebukola, a former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), “The incoming administration of General Muhammadu Buhari will be choked by the challenges it has to deal with when it is confronted with the hard facts of the decay in different sectors of the economy. Nigerians will be happy for change and no thanks to the legendary impatience of the citizenry, Nigerians will shift tune from ‘Hosanna’ today to ‘crucify him’ when no dramatic change is seen in the power sector, security, economy, health, education and the general wellbeing of the ordinary man.”