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Buhari and the journey of a thousand miles by Steve Ayorinde

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Those not too keen to take a break from the past are now eager to award a low mark to President Muhammadu Buhari for his first 30 days in office. They want to signpost the President’s first one month with the internal strive within his party and the little administrative lapses he has had to deal with in taking full charge of the country. Assessments of this nature are not unexpected and are indeed welcome. But besides sensing that a harsh verdict is deliberate or misguided from the opposition, this type of appraisal is usually reserved for the President’s first 100 days in office. The 100 days in office is an American concept traced to the extraordinary first months of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. That period started the contemporary custom of taking a new President’s measure just after three months in office, because the 100-day mark provides a useful yardstick for assessing a new administration. Without discountenancing the genuine yearnings of the masses and analysts who were sold on the concept of change and who wanted Buhari to hit the ground running, the first one day, one week or the first month should indeed count for something. There can be no time to waste in this onerous task of rebuilding a beleaguered nation. But in most cases, the assessor sees only what he chooses to see or emphasize. And in any case, it is only month that we have witnessed out of the 48 in his first term. This is why it is important, in evaluating the tone of this administration, not to confuse the internal striving within the All Progressives Congress and the tussle at the National Assembly with the change that Buhari promised through the need to chart a new course for Nigeria. Comparing his first days in office with the late Umaru Yar’Adua’s, and submitting a verdict that the president is slow, therefore, is hasty and needless. Except one is being cheeky with Buhari’s ‘old age’ in comparing it with Yar’Adua’s infirmity, it should be obvious to see a world of difference between Yar’Adua who succeeded Olusegun Obasanjo’s reformatory government from the same party and Buhari that emerged after a hard-fought electoral battle and five wasteful years of Goodluck Jonathan. The expectations should be different. While Yar’Adua was expected to essentially continue with the economic reengineering of his predecessor which focused on debt cancellation and some frugality in spending, Buhari is expected to start on a clean slate, build an entirely new structure in securing lives and property and in managing our resources and to basically discover where the dead are buried. The structure that Jonathan left behind is rotten and sickening and it will be unfair to imagine that Buhari will perform magic in dealing with it at a go. A regime that doubted the veracity of the kidnap of more than 200 school girls and politicized national security so much so that it had to pay for foreign mercenaries when the international community kept it at arm’s length must have left substantial rot that would require an enormous amount of goodwill and tact to deal with. We are talking about a regime that spent a quarter of national budget on spurious fuel subsidy yearly, growing waste from N285bn to N1.3trn in its first year and excused corruption for mere stealing… a clear case of institutionalized corruption and impunity. That administration did not leave this country on a mere sick bed. We were left at the intensive care unit without us even knowing it and yet we are asking to be discharged after just a month with our blood pressure still reading 230/180. The two key pillars upon which change is expected are the national security issues and the efficient management of resources. Both have definitely occupied the Buhari orbit in his first month and it is apparent that a changed approach is already being felt. On terrorism in the North-East, the first task is not to be in denial. We have seen Buhari relocating the military command to Maiduguri, saying in effect that the battle line must be redrawn and that tactics must change. The President’s first official trip was to review the collaboration with key allies like Chad and Niger. In his second week in office, He got the G-7 in Berlin to commit to the cause and when he finally meets President Barrack Obama at the White House on July 20, PMB would have succeeded in getting the world to reabsorb Nigeria with open arms into its fold because the international community believes that in this new President lies the integrity and commitment to fix the world’s most populous black nation. Not being a conventional war, however, the intelligence gathering must change beyond the obvious and the elements of warfare become more strategic. The world celebrated when Al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Ladin, was killed in Pakistan. But how many people knew that the 24-hour operation was preceded by a 24-month painstaking military intelligence? It is okay to wonder if the President is satisfied with the performance of the current service chiefs and, in particular, the National Security Adviser. But this is the President’s prerogative, and like a General in battlefront, he must be allowed to offer the lieutenants in the frontline another opportunity and gradually rebuild confidence and commitment in an already fatigued and somewhat compromised military. It is also clear that the process of recovery has started in the management of resources. Suddenly, electricity has scarily improved and local refineries miraculously declare July as our month of surplus, when their refining capacities will be fully restored and the current N1bn-a-day subsidy hopefully is gone forever. And naysayers say nothing has changed? The Buhari era is definitely here! Yet, several millions of dollars are being returned into the treasury with PMB saying ‘we aint seen nothing yet’. Billions of stolen dollars will be recovered in the next three months, he promised. And why we should hold him accountable on this promise, it is unlikely that the type of pilfering that characterized revenue-generating federal agencies will continue under Buhari’s watch. His major assignment, frankly, is to recover stolen wealth, in cash and properties, and block further leakages. I share in the eagerness to have a few key appointment made in good time. The Chief of Staff and the Secretary to the Federal Government are important in this regard, moreso that the Senate has granted his request to choose 15 Special Advisers. But I also appreciate the President’s plea for caution. Who says we no longer have the type of Super Permanent Secretaries of old in the civil service who can hold their own before appointee ministers and commissioners resume? Afteral Lagos has produced a competent governor from the civil service fold and, like Buhari, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, is already establishing an unmistakable imprint with assistance from only his core team and the civil service. We should look forward to how things unfold till September. It will be a hundred anxious days, no doubt, but they will be defining moments for Nigeria when the President would have fully transitioned from President Elect to Chief Executive and new voices of power would have fully emerged. It is only then that Buhari’s preliminary record will be worth examining fairly.




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