SO soon, 100 days have wheezed by since President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) was sworn into office to lead the Federal Republic of Nigeria over the next four years. One hundred days out of four years may be insignificant, but 100 days could also make all the difference in a four-year programme. Besides, 100 days is a whale of a time if you reckon it by seconds, minutes and hours. To make the point and cut this paragraph short, what I am saying is that the world can actually be changed in 100 days for anyone so minded.
It has become difficult especially for columnists to make a candid assessment of PMB’s nascent era without Nigerians (even ardent readers) labelling you a spoilsport or a saboteur. The feeling is understandable. The generality of Nigerians have been starved of quality leadership for so long that they may have lost some of the capacity to assess leadership and governance adequately.
This is why in a situation where nearly the entire populace is convinced they have never had it so good, it may be dangerous and inimical to one’s well-being to try to state otherwise or showcase some obvious misconceptions. How many Nigerians would accept if it is pointed to them that we have had 100 days of all motion with nary a movement forward yet? Many readers and of course the establishment would take offence and yell bad faith if they were pointed to the fact that PMB has started on a wrong footing and has in fact been in a daze of sort in the past 100 days. Even his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), was caught up so swiftly by ‘100 days’ it now denies time-bound promises it made. How time flies.
There is no doubt that many will disagree and fiercely too, but that is one’s candid reading of the situation. Many will be quick to jump into the fray with the fact that hey; but power has become more stable, fuel has been selling at N87 per litre with those obnoxious marketers back in their damp holes like the worms they are. Refineries are also said to be working; anti-corruption agencies are acting up once again and cheery things are generally happening to us.
I agree. All these and many more have happened in the last 100 days. In fact the most significant happening (notice that I refrain from calling it achievement) in the Buhari second coming is the instant death of impunity. Perhaps for the first time since Tafawa Balewa, we have a president or head of state who is not lasciviously eyeing our treasury every waking moment the manner a stud eyes a beautiful woman. I wager that most of our leaders who have had access to our treasury spend more time ‘plotting’ treasury plunder than national development.
Parable of the train, the pilot, baboons and gorillas: To digress a little, to loot the treasury seems the easy part, the real work must be in managing the loot, hiding it, laundering it, keeping it out of the official circuit and most crucial, making sure your accomplices don’t covet your loot and stab you in the back or vice-versa. You will agree with me that it is no mean task. Why do you think the Americans, so far away, yet have dossier of Nigeria’s loot; a certain former governor lodged his loot in an overhead tank; a former IG of Police buried his in the precincts of his country home, but somehow, the hand of the ‘corpse’ was jutting out. My people say one man cannot bury corpse! It is the same way it’s difficult ‘managing’ money that cannot be kept in the bank. So you ask: why do individuals want to have more money than all the banks in their country can hold?
And once a leader has boarded the loot train, he immediately loses concentration of the arduous task of managing the treasury and ensuring the equitable and wise deployment of the commonwealth.
Once he has cranked the engine of the loot train, he becomes its captain and unknown to him, the show is no longer entirely in his hands; he is spending his tenure managing the loot train, instead of running a country or state. And you know what, it is a longish train whose coaches stretch far back (or down) out of his sight. And of course, all sorts of monkeys and baboons and gorillas would join in on the loot train while the pilot is hurtling on, merrily oblivious of the havoc being wreaked in the coaches behind him. And because the treasury is what any enclave is all about, our captain would soon find he is running a hollow republic of gangsters.
What we have had through most of our history had been loot train captains who have spent time in office managing their loot and the fellow gangsters in their trains instead of running a country. They would pretend at running the country, they would hee and they would haw; they would spew all sorts of rubbish platitudes until their terms were up. This has been largely our lot through history. Sorry we digressed.
Back to PMB, it must be said that he is not bugged down piloting a loot train. He does not have ‘loot challenges’ to contend with and importantly too, the monkeys and baboons who always hover around the treasury are kept at bay. PMB’s challenge on the other hand, is to apply the treasury efficiently, effectively, judiciously and speedily too.
We appreciate the fact that our treasury is intact; we appreciate the fact that this is happening by sheer fact of his personal character and integrity. I cannot remember any other president or leader at the national or even state level one can vouch for who had no loot challenges. We appreciate the fact that as a result of his personal example and good behaviour in office, the baboons and monkeys are behaving themselves so far: the baboons and monkeys of the power sector; of the fuel subsidy saga; of NNPC, etc who were riding merrily in former President Goodluck Jonathan’sloot train are now behaving themselves. We appreciate PMB for this singular – shall we call it achievement, as most of us are mistakenly calling it?
Would I be crucified if I said I think PMB has been dazed by the office so far and that there has been much motion without movement? I have a dozen examples, but for fear of being accused of bad faith or malice, I will proffer just a few. First, they say we cannot form government in 100 days because the rot is deep and needs to be cleansed; he needs to fight corruption; even President Obama did not form government so fast. Fallacy; America’s systems and institutions are so strong government can run pretty well without the presidency.
If the rot is deep, what we need is a proper government to set up systems and institutions quickly. How much can one man do even if he worked alone for four years? There is also this fallacy of getting permanent secretaries to brief the president on their ministry. The ‘cult of Perm Secs’ is probably the bane of the civil service today. I wager that half of the reports they present to the president is worthless report that will not serve us any purpose. He will probably need 40 years to go through all the junk reports they will generate and seek to ‘bury’ him with. Would any perm sec tell us how many ghost workers he has bred and ‘owns’ in each ministry or how many unauthorised appointments he has made since May 29 this year? So much for cleansing rot.
We are saying that fighting corruption is not the President’s primary duty. If PMB had done the right things, for instance, by ‘cleansing the EFCC, ICPC, Auditor-General of the Federation’s office and appointing the right Attorney-General of the Federation, some of Jonathan’s ministers would be in jail by now. Or at least they would not have regained their voices to be making public statements.
We are tired of having to repeat this daily. The President should please quickly set up systems to work for us. We don’t have time; the economy is failing; the country is retrogressing further. And remember he is allowed to make mistakes, so long as they are honestones.