Jane had been married to David for five years. Things were so-so for her. Then, John came telling her that she was not being treated well by her husband. He promised her a completely new experience in all ramifications.
Eventually, Jane swallowed the bait, divorced her husband and became married to John. She was full of hope. But every time she asks for the Range Rover she was promised, John asks her if it was not a Toyota Corolla that she was given by her former husband. If she asks for the house John promised to buy for her aged parents, John would ask her if David bought her parents any house. She asks for the wonderful care from John as he promised, John asks her if David gave her wonderful attention. She asks to be sent to Harvard for an MBA as promised, John reminds her that it was only a local university that John was able to send her to. She asks for the top-notch protection she was promised, she is reminded that David could not save her from armed robbers and kidnappers.
That seems to be the situation with the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress. There is a constant attempt by those who defend him vigorously to always justify his actions by reminding us that those were done during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Recently, when a former Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, was being confirmed as a minister by the APC senators after the Peoples Democratic Party senators staged a walkout, pictures and stories surfaced all over the social media about how Senator Musliu Obanikoro was confirmed a minister by the PDP senators after the APC senators walked out of the Senate chambers in protest in March this year. Those who promoted such a comparison proudly declared it a draw game, a case of what goes around comes around. But was the APC voted in to behave like the PDP? If so, what was the need to vote the PDP out?
It was also an issue when Buhari submitted the names of his ministerial nominees. A few names on the list raised some questions about integrity which Buhari says he stands for. Even though such people worked hard for Buhari’s victory and ordinarily needed to be compensated, many assumed that Buhari wanted to govern differently. One would have thought that even though those people had not been found guilty by any court, it was only morally right for Buhari to let them clear their names of the allegations against them first before being given national posts. But sadly, there were justification comments about Jonathan appointing people who had questions over their name, thereby giving the impression that since Jonathan did it, it was right and should be copied by Buhari.
Right from the inauguration of Buhari on May 29, this narrative has been the singsong. Shortly after coming into office, Buhari approved the building of a helipad in his hometown, Daura. We were immediately reminded by the “justifiers” that Jonathan did the same thing. Buhari was reported to be using a Mercedes Maybach S600 as his official car, which is more expensive than the Mercedes S350 that Jonathan used. The justification reared its head.
Contrary to what Buhari said that he would abolish the office of the First Lady if voted in, he did not do so after being sworn in. Rather, his office released the official photos of the First Lady. She took over the office of the immediate past occupant, Dame Patience Jonathan, got her staff and started operating. The only difference is that rather than being called First Lady, she uses the term, “Wife of the President.” When people complained, they were asked: What about Patience Jonathan?
Even though Buhari promised to end the Boko Haram insurgency in two months, each time they took over any Nigerian community, the justifiers reminded us that Boko Haram did the same thing under Jonathan. The kidnapped Chibok girls were used for global campaign. Jonathan was condemned for not getting the girls back. Five months after, any time the issue is mentioned (it has been tactfully removed from the foreground to the background), we are reminded that Jonathan was also not able to get the girls released.
After most attacks by Boko Haram, the government does not say anything. When people complain, they are reminded that after all under Jonathan, most times nothing was said after bomb blasts.
When the ministerial nominees were sent to the Senate without attaching portfolios to their names to make it easy for them to be screened based on their suitability for the particular office, we were reminded that it was not a constitutional provision, and that after all, Jonathan did the same thing. Jonathan was criticised roundly for having a minister from each state. His explanation that it was a constitutional provision meant nothing to those who criticised him on that. He was accused of being wasteful. Buhari appointed 36 ministers from the 36 states. When the issue was raised, we were reminded that it was a constitutional provision which even Jonathan did too.
What about the presidential fleet which was said to have 12 aircraft or more? Jonathan was bashed for being wasteful and flamboyant. Everybody said that the President should not have more than two airplanes. Six months into Buhari’s Presidency, we have not heard that the planes have been sold. When the issue is raised, we are reminded that Jonathan also kept such a large fleet.
One wonders, if Jonathan’s standard were the gold standard, why then was he voted out? Did Buhari and the APC promise to be like Jonathan? No. They promised to do things differently, to outclass Jonathan and the PDP. They promised to avoid impunity, corruption, cronyism, intimidation of the opposition, waste, flamboyance, etc. They promised security, jobs, integrity, electricity, social welfare, responsible and responsive governance, justice and equity, fast-growing economy, etc. In one word, they promised CHANGE. Based on that, they got more votes than Jonathan and the PDP. The masses – both those who voted for them and those who did not vote for them – were expectant that change had come: that it would not be busy as usual.
Justifying Buhari’s actions by constantly comparing him with Jonathan is a disservice to him and the APC. The Jonathan standard was rejected by the majority of the electorate for a higher standard as promised by Buhari and the APC. Within six months, a President cannot achieve certain feats but there are some he can achieve. He can ensure that all his actions pass the anti-corruption test. He can ensure that the presidential fleet is reduced to at most two aircraft. He can ensure that his wife does not run any Wife of the President office as he promised. He can ensure that the DSS and police do not breach people’s rights. He can ensure justice and fairness to all.
The President does not need to achieve exceptional things within six months, but the way he acts on little things will determine how he is perceived on big things. Jonathan is gone. This is Buhari’s time. He has four years all to himself. He must set his goal higher than Jonathan’s and never try to justify his action by saying that Jonathan did the same thing. Comparing his actions to Jonathan’s is not change.