Buhari and the ‘Hailing Hailers’
Muhammadu Buhari, a retired military officer, former military Head of State, politician and statesman was elected as the fourth president of the Fourth Republic of the Nigerian federation after his fourth attempt, on march 28, 2015. The election of Muhammadu Buhari as president of the Nigerian federation is a lesson in steadfastness, courage, determination and fidelity. Buhari, more than any other individual in Nigeria, kept genuine political opposition alive throughout the 16-year rule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He had consistently refused to participate in any arrangement that sought to compromise opposition, in the name of a government of national unity, a bait which the ruling PDP used to neutralise opposition parties.
True to his reputation for integrity, honesty and fidelity, Buhari was able to avoid the temptation of material favours in exchange for abandoning his ideals and quest for good governance, and hence had contested every election against PDP candidates since 2003, each time recording impressive results, despite losing eventually. The history of the development of Nigeria’s democratic process stars Buhari brightly, because without him Nigeria may have ended up a one-party state. There is no democracy without opposition and a vibrant political environment.
However, Buhari has been president for over a year and appears to be overwhelmed by the task of leading Nigeria to progress and prosperity. He often blames the current socio-economic woes of Nigeria on the maladministration of PDP. He blames PDP for the pervasive corruption and moral decay bedeviling our country. The president gives an impression that the PDP achieved absolutely nothing in their 16-year rule. In fact, he sometimes infers that PDP destroyed Nigeria and he cannot perform a miracle in one year to rebuild the country.
Therefore, the below average performance of the Buhari administration in the last one year, against popular expectations is often blamed on PDP. The president’s enormous crowd of supporters agree completely with him. He enjoys a devout following, cult like even, that regards him as infallible. They are the hailing hailers. They are aided greatly by the efficient APC propaganda machinery. The propaganda is carried out with fascist precision with the aim of indoctrination, and it has succeeded in creating an army of fiercely and subjectively loyal supporters who are intolerant of criticisms or opposing views. The frenzy and mass hysteria is dangerously palpable. Nigeria is gradually becoming George Orwell’s Animal Farm where like comrade Napoleon, Buhari is always right.
While it is not in doubt that the PDP’s 16-year rule fell below average and left Nigerians largely disappointed, it is equally farcical to claim that Nigeria did not record any achievement during the period. The situation in 1999 when President Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP was elected president, was far worse than what APC’s Buhari inherited. The present democratic dispensation was preceded by 16 years of military rule, from 1983 to 1999. Military rule in Nigeria was characterised by large scale corruption and thorough abuse of power. The legacy of that prolonged military rule was the total collapse of state institutions, decay in public infrastructure, bankrupt public corporations and complete lack of accountability and due process in the management of the affairs of state.
President Obasanjo inherited a foreign reserve of about $3.7Bn, with the price of crude oil hovering around $17pb with a maximum peak of $64pb and a combined foreign and local debt of about $34Bn. He inherited an impoverished and corrupt civil service. He immediately set out to work without complaining too much about the past. He assembled a team of experts and very bright minds who, through a series of reforms, transformed the economy of Nigeria from the confused mixed economy of the military era into a modern private sector driven economy. Within one year of his administration, President Obasanjo increased minimum wage to N7500 for federal government workers, which instantly pulled a lot of working class families out of rank poverty into the middle class.
By the end of his tenure, President Obasanjo had grown our foreign reserve from $3.2 billion to $32 billion, with an additional $9 billion in the excess crude account. Nigeria experienced an unprecedented inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI) worth about $50 billion which rapidly expanded our economy and created massive employment and job opportunities, culminating in individual prosperity for a significant section of the citizenry. Nigeria’s GDP growth rate was positive at an annual average of 7 percent. Nigeria’s inflation rate, which reached an all-time high of 47.56 percent in 1996, dropped drastically to a record low of -2.49 percent in January 2000 and later steadied at a 12.13 percent average.
Obasanjo also led Nigeria out of its debt burden by getting a relief of $18 billion from our creditors after paying off $12Bn. He established the EFCC and ICPC to fight corruption comprehensively and he succeeded largely in making Nigerians realise that public officials need to be accountable for government money and can be punished if found culpable of graft. The various reform initiatives of the Obasanjo administration laid a solid foundation for our future growth and development, which have supported and guided succeeding administrations, including that of the current Buhari administration. Besides, some of the pillars of and leaders APC at the three arms and tiers of government were former members of PDP, who were actively involved throughout the period of PDP’s rule. The Nigerian ruling elite are one and the same irrespective of party differences. The problems confronting Nigeria as a nation are beyond partisan divides but fundamentally rooted in the operational structure of state. Therefore, blaming PDP at every opportunity is becoming stale rhetoric.
President Buhari should lament less over the past and courageously move the nation forward like former President Obasanjo did in 1999. He must realise the reason he was voted into power – the perceived and real failures of the Jonathan presidency, economically and otherwise. It must be emphasised again that contrary to claims by this government, they inherited a better government than PDP did in 1999. As at May 2015, our foreign reserves stood at about $29 billion, with about $2 billion in the excess crude account, in addition to optimally performing revenue generating agencies which ensured steady income into the federation account. Nigerians rejected former President Goodluck Jonathan due to the better candidacy of Muhammadu Buhari.
Therefore, the Buhari administration does not need to constantly remind Nigerians of the lack-lustre Jonathan administration. In fact, any comparism between Buhari and Jonathan is an indictment on the Buhari administration. All that are needed are pragmatic solutions to problems. President Buhari is human and should be treated as such. Conversely, whoever loves him should tell him the truth at all times so that he can succeed and quit the scene with a louder ovation and his age-long reputation intact after his tenure.