WEDNESDAY COLUMN by USSIJU MEDANER
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Again, Mr Secondus asked if we have a performing Commander-in-Chief in Nigeria. So I also ask, how much more competent can the president become before these people finally swallow their pride and acknowledge his achievements? Let’s take a look at the performances of the president that made a die-hard PDP bigwig like Governor Wike of Rivers State say, “If it is infrastructural development give it to the president”.
The president’s achievements cut across many segments of Nigeria’s economy and social strata; social investment development, infrastructural developments, school feeding programmes, winning the war against corruption, advances in the war against insurgencies, payment of pensions and gratuity to abandoned retirees and Biafran police officers, helping states to meet up salary payments and increment of labour minimum wage among so many positive achievements.
We are all aware of the economic realities as at the time the administration of President Buhari came on board in 2015. The country was at the low and still was a free fall as attested to by Dr Ngozi Iwealla, Charles Soludo, Emir Sanusi and several others. While the national foreign reserve was mostly depleted, the international price of crude oil fell below $35 per barrel. While trying to navigate the realities and the imbalances in Dollar-Naira exchange rate caused by massive hawking of dollars and depilation of foreign reserves, the country, like several other nations, went into full recession. The government of President Buhari navigated the country out of the recession to the surprise of all in a record time and has performed like a government with unlimited access to resources when the opposite is the case.
One major achievement of the APC-led government is the success recorded in the fight against corruption. For the very first time in the history of Nigeria, past serving governors were convicted of crime against the state and sent to jail. Today Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame are cooling off in jails. It’s the same administration that exposes the mammoth outright mismanagement of fund by the erstwhile National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki to the tune of $2.1 billion and has traced the final destination of the money to several individual accounts and is currently still recovering them. It’s in this same administration that Diezani’s looting and mismanagement were uncovered. Under this same administration the wife of the former president Jonathan had been made to forfeit several stolen monies with the latest being a 1.04 trillion few weeks ago. We are all aware of the successes of the whistleblower policy; the Ikoyi monies and several others.
The last few months were interesting with the uncovering of corruption in the judiciary and the suspension and eventual removal of the CJN Justice Onnoghen by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The president has also made considerable achievements in social investment and job creation. In the past when government wants to support small scale businesses, states end up submitting names of their family members, friends and cronies, and eventually, the direct target of the program get nothing, but in the case of this current government, Vice President Osinbajo has been travelling from market to market, directly handing cash over to these traders. The Marketmoni and Tradermoni has been a major boast to small businesses in states that have benefited so far.
The N-Power program is currently putting smile on the faces of over 500,000 youths across the country in the efforts to combat unemployment among the youth population, the first stage of N-Power has engaged over 500,000 youth beneficiary collecting N30,000 monthly stipends from the government while they are engaged in various productive ventures. The school feeding program ongoing in about 23 states feed school pupils once daily and the reach keep increasing till the entire 36 states and the FCT are covered.
Then we have the massive commitment to infrastructural development and the successes recorded. The great news coming from the railway development program has gladdened our hearts as a people. Today people working in Lagos could afford to live in Ibadan or Abeokuta and vice versa.
On road construction, the ongoing works are numerous to list but what hit us all most and confuse friends and foes alike are the magnitude of ongoing works in the Southeast, a region that expect to get nothing from the administration having giving the president only 6% of total votes cast in the region in 2015. Today the second Niger Bridge which the PDP promised throughout their stay without fulfilling is under construction, thanks to President Buhari. No wonder the governors from the region could not hide their respect and love for the president.
The administration of president Buhari is also beating the drum of his massive impact in alleviating the plight of retirees of various government establishments. Staff of Nigeria Airways, Nigerian Railways Corporation, members of the Biafran police force and several others had a sigh of relief years after they were ingloriously laid off. When the president took over power in 2015, about 23 states in the country were insolvent and could not pay workers’ salaries. Today, the president repeatedly bailed them out until they were good. Today the same government has increase labour minimum wage from 18,000 to 30,000.
Today, the war against the insurgents may not have been won completely but Boko Haram has been dislodged from the cities and villages of Nigeria and forced to make a retreat into the dense hiding enclaves mostly around neighbouring countries. The period in which Boko Haram controlled population centres, displaced federal government structures and effectively administered communities under them has ended.
Albeit there are measures in place currently to tackle the security challenges in the country, there is also the need to look at the trend in the events. After the elections have been concluded and results announced, the security situation around the country, especially in the north, has worsened. This raises pertinent questions to critical minds on this sort of coincidence: that when Atiku was declared loser in the concluded elections, insecurity heightened beyond limits, extending to places where such villainous acts as banditry, kidnapping, farmer/herdsmen clashes and insurgency were not known or uncommon. The situation which was under control has suddenly degenerated. It makes it difficult to estrange the schemes of the desperate opposition in the affair.
Thank God, the security operatives have risen to the occasion by effectively effecting arrest in the volatile areas:
Military intelligence have also revealed that some unpatriotic citizen tango with terrorist groups to worsen the security situation in the country and to create distrust and discord between the military and the citizens.
My candid point here is that if the allegation by the military is proven to be true, thus, these rebellious acts should be treated as what they are, treasonable offences: tempering with the peace and security of the country. From all indications , seems like some indicted politicians does not want Nigeria to attain the height which they could not get us to; this is evident in their outbursts on different occasions. Hence, no person found guilty in the investigations should be spared of the stick waved by the government.
President Buhari promised Nigerians change. Before he assumed office, there were no longer rules in this country; the leaders were running the country like their personal properties. There was neither financial accountability nor expression of social and moral accountability to the people. The country was making money but they were busy looting it and creating atmosphere for corruption in government offices and businesses. The result was the damage to the economy. We were ‘technically taken into recession’ (in the words of former finance minister Okonjo Iweala).
Also the fear of the government to effect money changing policy as was done in 1984, forced those who had stolen and stockpiled Naira to engage in panic Dollar buying, converting the Naira to Dollar. These threatened the strength of Naira and weakened it against the Dollar. This happened also at a time when the price of crude oil was at its minimum in about 20 years.
So, when he came in, he met a collapsing economic and social system ravaged by an internal insurgency (Boko Haram) that became sophisticated because, instead of suppressing it at the bud, the past administration turned it into a corruption conduit. This to the death, displacement of communities from almost 17 LGA’s and continued hostage taking of innocent Nigerians while billions of Dollar allocated to suppress the insurgency were been shared by the same people whose responsibility it was to protect us. This was the situation inherited and time was not wasted in putting things on ground to start the process of revival and reconstruction of all dilapidated infrastructures.
Turning Government business into corruption conduit is another fight the APC-led government engaged massively. The process of doing business changed as soon and the Treasury Single Account (TSA) was fully enforced thereby making it difficult for anyone to take public monies illegally. This angered so many people who tried to ensure that President Buhari is not returned elected in the 2019 general elections, but they failed because Nigerians know better.
The BVN ( Bank Verification Number) policy was equally fully implemented which made it difficult for corrupt individuals and looters of our resources to have a safe haven. They have no hiding place anymore. As a result of this, several prosecutions of corrupt individuals were concluded and a lot more ongoing. This has led to the recovery and forfeiture of huge sums of monies stolen by corrupt individuals and past leaders.
These recovered monies we have put to good use ( through funding of the budget) in the interest of the entire country. Together with monies we recently borrowed, we have been able to commence the rapid construction of road network across the country leaving no geopolitical zone out. For the first time in over 28 years, Nigerians could once again be proud of railway transport system. We are all witness to the massive ongoing construction across the country (Lagos-Ibadan-Kaduna-Kano, Itakpe-Warri, among others).
The Anchor Borrowers Programme was created to ease business for the farmers and the response and outcome has been magnificent. Farmers in group now find it easy to access capital and raw materials: seeds and seedling included at very low interest rate.
The MarketMoni and TraderMoni programmes have provided small capital to traders (market women and men). Currently above 300,000 traders have benefited from the first stage of the program and several others will soon benefit too.
In keeping with the campaign promises before the 2015 elections on provision of social welfare package for the poorest among us, the payment of ₦5,000 Conditional Cash Transfer was commenced to identified recipients in states that were picked to kick start the programme. This is to be expanded to all the state of the federation.
Bold steps were taken to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production and we are about to reach the targeted goal. Nigeria is now closer to becoming self-sufficient in rice production with our annual production capacities increased. The rice industries in our erstwhile major supply countries have witnessed decline in export rate because Nigeria has stopped patronizing them.
The question we ought to ask today is not about the competence or lack of competence of the administration of President Buhari, but what had been happening in other administrations before him that make the task of re-orienting and developing Nigeria such a herculean one. Our level of aspersion to changes only reveals the level of our alienation from real developments and change since our return to democratic governance in 1999.
The competency of all PDP governments since 1999 should be queried instead.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.