One of the more positive correlates of the so-called silly season is the wave of activism that leaves neither room for ambivalence nor indifference. Call it the binary season: you are either in or out. You are either boarding the train moving to the next level or on signed to team sworn to get Nigeria working again. Whether you are talking of friends turning frenemies sometimes over nothing of substance; the ever-widening chasm over inanities between the so-called tribe of wailers and their hailer-compatriots;the debates over alternative facts and public morality; and now, the sundering of otherwise cohesive groups over base, atavistic politics of convenience; not only are both symptoms of the same binary flu afflicting the polity, neither, unfortunately, would appear to offer tangible guarantees that our country will emerge stronger and better.
Muhammadu Buhari or Atiku Abubakar? That practically is what is on the table. Considering the array of threescore plus 10 candidates that the country has to choose from, it comes pretty close to a distinction without a real difference particularly with the leading alternative quite frankly reviled; making the return of the incumbent looking more like a reward for performance rather than a rejection of that perilous path to which Nigerians swore Never Again – in 2015.
That, most tragically is where we have found ourselves – today.
Has the administration therefore failed? Failure is certainly not the word to describe the administration that came in with a good dose of goodwill in 2015 but somehow failed to measure up to expectations. In any case, if there is any case of failure, it is precisely one of inability to match citizens’ hunger for development, the quest for inclusion and justice with its appetite to make things happen. Admittedly, it came in with bagful of challenges chief of which was a treasury plundered by a departing Jonathan administration. Not only did it inherit a war in the Northeast which it must fight to win or risk the disintegration of the country, it met a vastly depleted and dispirited army no thanks to greedy Generals that saw the war as an opportunity to amass illicit wealth to themselves. And this was at a time the price of oil had long dipped and production severely curtailed by militants in the Niger Delta which held the nation by the jugular. For an import-dependent country, the tightening of the forex regime not only shrank production, it eventuated in the players in the real sector coming to grieve with the economy predictably – tanking.
That was the situation then. Today, the debate is whether the country couldn’t have beaten a different path to achieve a vastly different outcome had the administration been less tardy in its response or less out of depth when the problem surfaced.
Now, that is taking nothing away from the administration’s heroic efforts in some areas. One such area is in the Northeast where the war against the Boko Haram terrorists continues to rage; surely the administration cannot be accused of lacking the will despite the persistence of the scourge. The same is true of the northcentral where clashes between herdsmen and farmers, kidnapping and other forms of banditry have festered; the administration may have misjudged the wave of the criminality at the initial stage, there is some sense that the monstrosities are being dealt with. While the question of whether the administration could have done more would remain an open one, the charge of abdication as we had under the clueless PDP administration of Goodluck Jonathan, will certainly be hard to sustain.
The same can be said of its war against corruption. Unlike the PDP administration which made graft the directing principles of state policy,the Buhari administration has certainly done well to focus attention of that lethal virus that continues to undermine and weaken the nation’s institutions. While it might seem an exaggeration to aver that Impunity Inc. is dead and buried, there can be no denying that the virus has been substantially tamed despite growing charges of administrative overreach by the administration. On this, while most Nigerians will readily agree that the latter will be infinitely better than doing nothing, the administration, contrary to its public averments, is yet demonstrate how scrupulous fidelity to due process can be injurious to its anti-corruption battles.
However, while the administration’s claim to have been able to do more with less may have found validity in the array of projects scattered across different parts of the federation, it is precisely on grounds of underperformance of the economy that the Atiku challenge finds great relevance. For not only are the stats sobering, there is pretty little that the Buhari administration has done to hint at a future, coherent direction to which the economy is headed.
What do you expect in the environment of vacuity of policy? Talk of course. And Atiku has been talking. Why should anyone be surprised that an Atiku, whose claim to economic wisdom is not only suspect but utterly dubious, sell Nigerians a pig for the poke? So, selling NNPC – the national oil that has turned rent collector – is big deal? To who?
By the way, who remembers the corporation’s prospecting arm – the National Petroleum Development Corporation (NPDC) – an agency that does no more than sweet ‘strategic alliance’ deals on behalf of the powerful?
Once upon a time, the agency bled the nation to the tune of billions of dollars in unremitted funds? Do we wait for the next level to get the funds back in the kitty?
Forget Atiku and his grandiose economics. If you ask me, I will say that the man is overrated – simple. He’s nowhere close to the new thinking required to get the country working. However, taking Nigeria to the next level –whatever that means –requires more than the catchy sloganeering on offer by the incumbent. It calls for a radical, new thinking on how to get Nigerians back to work. The problem with the Buhari administration goes beyond itsfixation with fighting corruption; then trouble is that it hasn’t even begun thinking through the problems let alone enduring solutions – sadly with only few months to the end of its first term.