President and National Leader, Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, Nigeria, and Inter-Religious International Federation for World Peace, Rev. George Ogurie, in this interview looks at some of the activities of President Muhammadu Buhari during his first 100 days in office. He spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU. Excerpts
In few days, President Muhammadu Buhari will mark his first 100 days in office. How will you assess his performance so far?
In the first one hundred days in office, it seems the President has been trying to familiarise himself with the presidential terrain. He is treading cautiously because the waters are indeed murky. It would be rather unrealistic to expect dramatic changes in a hundred days. However, in 100 days, the policy thrust and direction of the administration should be clear and in focus. So far, what is clear is that the administration is aimed at cutting down on the cost of governance and conserving resources needed for development. It has created an awareness of zero tolerance for corruption, which is the means by which the resources we need for development are fritted away.
Do you think his anti-corruption crusade is paying off? If yes, in what ways?
It is too early to say what gains we have with regard to anti-corruption. I think we are still at the level where we are just discussing it and creating the awareness. Fingers have been pointed at a few former public officers but we are yet to witness anything dramatic. It is advisable to exercise caution in a fight like this, given the level of rot. The president could have just come in, create a few sparks and make some noise at the start and after a few months things would return to ‘normal.’ Is that what we expect of his anti-corruption? I don’t think so. I think we expect more. I don’t think also that a Ghana style anti-corruption of the 1980s will work for us either. If the president, therefore, is embarked on a well thought out, diligent and meticulous approach to anti-corruption that will yield a long term result, I would welcome that.
What is your view on the recently constituted Anti-Corruption Committee headed by Prof. Itse Sagey? What is your advice to the committee in carrying out their job?
That’s it. He sets up a committee of eminent legal experts to advise him on how to deal with people found culpable. I think it is a brilliant idea to have a body of experts look into our existing laws to determine their effectiveness in dealing with corruption if we are serious about this fight. It confirms the view that the anti-corruption fight this time will not just be cosmetic. What advice can a non-learned person like me give to such a formidable team of learned persons? None! They have been told what to do. They know how to do it, that’s why they were chosen. They should do it with all sincerity as a service to the nation and to posterity.
Do you think the administration is winning the war against the Boko Haram?
Well, Boko Haram has actually been on the defensive since the last days of the previous administration. The attacks they carry out here and there may be understood from the principle that attack is the best form of defense. Yes, the conditions for victory are in favour of the Federal forces.
How do you see the three months ultimatum given to the military by the President and his December deadline for the routing of the sect?
We have had a lot of deadlines in the past about when Boko Haram should be defeated, so any skepticism that one may entertain upon hearing this one is not misplaced. But like I said, we see that since this year Boko Haram has been put on the defensive. So let us hope that this problem will finish soon. I am optimistic also because the condition by which any administration might drag its feet or play politics with Boko Haram does not exist anymore. We are moving on.
In terms of dividends of democracy, how would you score Mr. President so far? Some people say it has been much talk, less action. Do you think so?
Dividends of democracy: Is it in terms of infrastructural development, growth of GDP and GNP, stable exchange rate of the naira or general better quality of life for all Nigerians? Or, is it only the fact that we can speak our minds freely without fear of intimidation? If it is in terms of socio-economic and physical development, I would still say it is too early to be giving scores at this stage. We need to learn not to be like the proverbial tortoise that fell into the toilet pit and was there for seven years. In the process of bringing him out, he began to hurry the people to be quick because the stench was killing him. Given the peculiar circumstances of the administration being of a new party in power, I sense that time is needed for the president to come to terms with the nitty-gritty of the office, adjust and sharpen his policies accordingly, find and screen credible personalities to work with in order to deliver the required services. We should be willing to allow him such time so long as it does not drag on. After this we will then expect efficient and quality services. Anything short of this will then be a disappointment.
How do you see his foreign policy so far?
So far, we have no Minister of Foreign Affairs and no Ambassadors appointed by this administration. President Buhari has been doing the job of the Foreign Affairs Minister by himself so far. By his body language, we see what looks like a return to the traditional Afro-centric foreign policy that had been characteristic of Nigerian governments before the PDP governments of President Obasanjo and his successors, which tended to be more responsive to global trends. Our past Afro-centric policy was more in the image of the so-called ‘Big Brother.’ Now we are the ones needing help. Thanks to Boko Haram and insurgency in the North-East. Perhaps the President was able to see from a vantage position outside of government that it was important to cement relations with our neighbours and secure their unfettered cooperation and support in the fight against terrorism. Hence within this short period in office he has visited all countries bordering Nigeria.
However, the need to balance Afro-centrism and Globalism is important. The President would need to ride on the goodwill his administration is currently enjoying in the international community as a vote of confidence in his anti-corruption stance. It looks like the impact of our foreign policy will depend a lot on the changes we are able to make at home – victory over corruption (VOC), a transparent and credible judicial system, peace and security. With these achievements we can attract more direct foreign investments that will be instrumental in propelling us to our rightful place in the global economy.
BY EJIKEME OMENAZU. DAILY INDEPENDENT