Buhari’s 100 days: PDP’s posers versus APC’s defences …. PUNCH

To match Interview NIGERIA-BUHARI/

After losing power to the All Progresives Congress in March, the Peoples Democratic Party has seized every opportunity to highlight what it considers as the ruling party’s shortcomings, FISAYO FALODI writes

The idea of using the first 100 days in office to judge the direction a government is heading for in terms of setting agenda for the economic advancement and socio-political stability of the country has become a phenomenon among the people, especially watchers of political events. The period is usually used as a platform to assess the vision and capacity of the government in its efforts at turning the country around with realistic policies.

Based on this, many Nigerians, especially social media users, therefore expressed dismay when the National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, said early in the week that President Muhammadu Buhari never promised to achieve specific things within his first 100 days in office.

Constitutionally, the President is not mandated to achieve specific things within his first 100 days in office, but observers are of the opinion that Nigerians have accepted the period as a norm to judge the President’s readiness to walk his talk.

This belief has, however, pitted the ruling APC and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party against each other even before the commentators began asking questions about what Buhari has achieved in the last 100 days in office.

Not a few people would forget how the two political parties engaged in ferocious mudslinging to ruin each other’s chances in attempts to woo voters, apart from their campaign promises that were specifically couched to appeal to the people’s emotions.

While the PDP, the then ruling party, pledged to consolidate on its achievements under President Goodluck Jonathan and introduce more poverty alleviation programmes, the APC persuaded the electorate to embrace its doctrine of change in order to rid the country of years of bad leadership by sending looters of public funds to jail.

To the surprise of the PDP which had ruled the country for unbroken 16 years, the APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, won the March 28 presidential election. To say that he raised the hope of Nigerians to high heavens with a vow to hit the ground running is stating the obvious.

Buhari took the opportunity provided by the inauguration of his administration on May 29, 2015 to reiterate his pledge to Nigerians to fix the challenges confronting the country such as insecurity, economic collapse, poor infrastructure, unemployment among the youth and corruption, among others. He repeated this at various fora, including the popular Chatham House, London, the United Kingdom.

But a few weeks after the APC-led Federal Government was inaugurated, the defeated PDP expressed doubt that the new ruling party was adequately prepared for governance, despite the fact that Buhari had visited the neighbouring countries to seek their support for anti-terrorism war.

It claimed that the APC lacked the capacity to tackle the insurgency posed by the Boko Haram sect. According to the PDP, the persistent Boko Haram attacks, which had subsided under the watch of Jonathan’s administration, rose under the APC-led government.

The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who had claimed that Jonathan’s administration almost rolled back the Boko Haram and its activities in the troubled North-East before the general elections, expressed the fear that the sect could also attack Abuja and the southern part of the country soon.

“I am worried about the resurgence of Boko Haram activities in Nigeria. Shortly before the inauguration of the present government, the country had almost rolled back Boko Haram and its activities in every part of Nigeria – from Adamawa to Borno to Yobe,” Ekweremadu had said.

Similarly, the PDP has dismissed all policies initiated by Buhari’s government in the last 100 days.

The PDP accused Buhari of running a discriminatory, vindictive and divisive government as a result of alleged humiliation of the former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, at the Protocol Lounge of the Port Harcourt International Airport by the Director of Protocol, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Hussein.

Apart from flaying Buhari for claiming that the constituencies that gave him 97 per cent support during the last election could not be treated equally on some issues with constituencies that gave him five per cent, the opposition party said a new form of corruption was thriving under the President in spite of his anti-corruption crusade.

The party specifically asked the President to tell Nigerians what he planned to do with a $2.1bn World Bank loan, if he was actually transparent. The PDP also asked the President to account for the cost of governance since he assumed office against the backdrop that he has taken some very serious decisions without recourse to relevant statutory arms and organs of government.

Even Buhari’s visit to the United States on the invitation of the US President Barack Obama, did not make any economic sense to the opposition party.

While describing the President’s much-publicised visit to the US as embarrassing and another miscarried cosmetic intervention to hide government’s inefficiency and inability to face the real business of governance, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said the absence of Nigeria’s economic team for healthy and informed discussion at the meeting with officials of the US government made the trip a serious blunder.

Metuh had said, “Whereas the President has the right to decide who makes his entourage on such an important official visit, which visibly excluded National Assembly leaders, economic experts and had no woman, the manner with which he shamed and walked out Nigeria’s businessmen sends very wrong signal to international investors and poses great threats to inflow of direct foreign investment into our country.

“These Nigerian businessmen were rejected by their President only for them to be valued by other Presidents of African nations who led them into a meeting with President Obama in their own countries on account of their investments in those nations.

“While we reserve our comments on the numerous blunders and gaffes in the presentation of ideas, we note the embarrassment caused by the absence of an economic team for healthy and informed discussion at the meeting with officials of the US government.

“Whereas President Obama came to the meeting with a formidable team of experts and key federal officials, our President had three APC governors with questionable performance and who owe salaries and billions of naira in debts, thereby robbing our nation the benefits and gains of the discussions.”

The PDP spokesperson, while reminding Buhari recently that he (the President) had vowed in his April 2, 2015 interview with CNN to end the Boko Haram insurgency in two months after his inauguration, said it was disheartening that the fight against terrorism had lost steam under the APC-led government.

The latest assessment of Buhari’s government by the PDP tagged the President as a poor economic manager. According to the PDP, the nation’s economy has suffered under the APC since the party assumed power.

The party believed that the state of the economy within the 90 days it assessed the APC represented “the worst in the nation’s contemporary history” and “was direct fallout of uncertainty created by the inability of the Buhari-led government to chart a clear-cut economic policy, worsened by abuse of regulations and flagrant violation of constitutional provisions.”

“Instead of gains, the last three months under the APC-led government has brought a sudden decline in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, with attendant losses and hardship to the citizens,” Metuh had said.

But the APC has a load of defence for the PDP’s posers. The ruling party said that the mess it inherited from Jonathan’s government must first of all be cleared for Nigerians to enjoy better life.

The ruling party, which said it had uncovered several billions of public funds allegedly looted by officials of the immediate past administration, justified why it has yet to meet the much-risen hope of Nigerians in the areas of economic advancement and robust infrastructure, among others.

Lai Muhammed claimed that if only Jonathan’s government had not stolen Nigeria blind, the APC would have had more than enough money to provide school children in the country with not just one but three meals a day and even pay N5, 000 to 50 million most vulnerable Nigerians, not just the 25 million the party promised in its manifesto.

He said, “Despite the almost daily discovery of cases of corruption under the Jonathan administration, the party assured Nigerians of better days ahead, as all its campaign promises will be kept because of the commitment and determination of President Buhari not only to cleaning the Augean stable but also ensuring purposeful governance for the benefit of Nigerians.

“It is clear to Nigerians that the debilitating impact of 16 years of PDP’s misrule cannot be reversed in just three months. It is an obvious truth that it is always easier to destroy than to construct, but nothing will stand in the way of the Buhari administration’s commitment to improving the quality of life of Nigerians and making our country to function again.”

Claiming that the major cog in the wheel of the country’s progress had been the discovery that the pot housing the commonwealth has been licked dry by the looters, the APC stressed the need to work meticulously to recover the looted funds and facilitate the delivery of good governance that would manifest in abundant jobs, strong economy and improved welfare and security for all.

Also, Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, who spoke on the expectation of Nigerians from the President in the first 100 days in office, provided what observers called alibi for his boss.

Shehu, like Muhammed, said the two pamphlets tagged: “One hundred things Buhari will do in 100 days” and “My covenant with Nigerians” which purportedly listed what Buhari would achieve within the period in question, was not funded or authorised by him as the APC Director of Media and Communication during the campaign. He also claimed that the President did not authorise the publications of the documents.

According to him, the circulation of the pamphlets might have unreasonably raised Nigerians’ expectations from the President.

Notwithstanding the insecurity, corruption, unemployment and poor infrastructure Buhari inherited, Shehu said the President had given the job his best shot and re-instituted the values of hard work and administrative efficiency in governance.

Though he preferred to use “activities” to “achievements” of Buhari in the last three months in office, Shehu reminded Nigerians that the President embarked on his foreign policy four days after his administration’s inauguration.

He even said Obama and the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, hailed the President for getting it right by being courageous, focused and firm.

Unlike the PDP which did not see any sense in Buhari’s economic management, Shehu claimed that Nigerians had already started seeing things happen that they thought were not possible in so short a time.

He attributed what he described as improvement in the power supply to the President’s deftness.

Shehu said, “He (Buhari) didn’t put a Kobo to finance the power sector. Yet, reading his body language alone and knowing that there are things you cannot do and get away with under Buhari, electricity supply all over the country has risen to unprecedented heights.

“Actually, some cities are on the verge of getting 24-hour, round the clock power supply. The country generates more power than can internally be taken by the deplorable distribution system we have on the ground, which points to the next challenge that the country faces.

“Framework for the management of the country’s finances has been put in place. The wobbly Naira is being stabilised and inflation is headed towards a single digit. President Buhari is keeping a close eye on the government treasury.

“Boko Haram, which had more or less been allowed to fester for about five years is about being ended but what is even more interesting is that intelligence coming from the fired-up armed forces who now work in synergy with each other is raising hope that the Chibok girls may be found in good numbers in a geographic location of interest somewhere in the North-East.”

An analyst, Mr. Omotunde Adenle, though praised Buhari and his party for showing a semblance of determination in walking their talks in terms of fulfilling their campaign promises; he nevertheless asked them to focus more on governance rather than reminding Nigerians of the ugly past.

“What Nigerians want from President Buhari are practical actions aimed at healing the wound of the past in the areas of infrastructure and health care delivery, not repeated allegations of corrupt practices the President’s party has been celebrating in the last three months,” Adenle said.

While expressing the belief that Nigerians have been cajoled enough by the APC-led government with adjectives such as cluelessness and mind-shattering even while the party was in opposition, Adenle asked the President to match his words with actions by demonstrating that such adjectives would not be used by the people and the PDP to describe his administration soon.

He said, “The President may not have promised to achieve certain things within the first 100 days, but traumatised Nigerians and the business community are desirous of economic policies that will ensure their confidence in the government and that of the foreign investors.

“The honeymoon should have been over by now; one may want to agree with the President that the first 100 days office is used for preparation and for putting some standards of governance in place, but the President should let the preparation reflect in his determination to meet the aspiration of the citizens.”

Adenle, however, asked the two major rival political parties to see the development of Nigeria as a responsibility that must not be allowed to fail.

“He said, “Both the APC and the PDP have complementary roles to play in the development of Nigeria. If the APC could keep the PDP on its toes while the latter was in power, I expect the PDP to do better constructively now that democracy has taken its roots in Nigeria.

“Nigerians will not only blame the PDP if after four years Buhari has nothing to show for being the President of the country; they will also lambast the PDP for failing to provide constructive criticism.”

The President, Rights Monitoring Group, Mr. Olufemi Aduwo, reminded the APC of the origin of the 100 days phenomenon. He mentioned a former US President, Franklin Roosevelt, who in 1933 after he was sworn in, vowed to initiate practical steps within his first 100 days in office to revive the American economy from the great depression.

According to him, Roosevelt’s economic policies saw the US through some of its darkest days from the depth of the depression through the toughest times of the World War in early 1945.

Aduwo said, “America was in a great depression in 1933; things were bad, banks closed, companies failed and Roosevelt, after he was sworn in as the President, promised that he would fix them in the first 100 days. Some of the impacts of that spectacular step are still remaining till today.

“Within the first 100 days of Roosevelt in office, 15 bills were passed. Since then, American government has been following the trend. So, the APC and the President should have known that judging the direction a President is heading for within his first 100 days in office has become a norm among democrats across the word.”

The activist described the celebrated bailout approved by Buhari for the state governors as illegal because the President violated the Fiscal Policy Act.

Aduwo said, “All Buhari did within the first 100 days in office were illegal. Appointment of Amina Zakari as the acting Chairman, the Independent National Electoral Commission, and the delay in the appointment of his ministers did not speak of the President as somebody who is a born again democrat.”

He, however, told the President to focus on building institutions for the development of the country.

“The only way Buhari can achieve any success is to block the avenue through which public funds are being stolen and move on, but if he insists in recovering the looted fund, I doubt if that will be possible,” Aduwo said.

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