It’s not exactly on the mark yet, but it would be on September 5. President Muhammadu Buhari will be 100 days in office and the question will be, what has he done for us lately? From what I hear, the president is not a huge fan of this 100 days business.
He is aware that he is expected to perform the biblical equivalent of feeding 180 million people with five loaves and two fish but I guess he is also uncomfortable with being taken hostage by popular milestones.
Yet, there are at least two reasons why he cannot escape it this time. One, since former US president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, tried to save America from the Great Depression with remarkable work done in his first 100 days in office, that record has become a common standard by which public officers are judged.
Two, shortly before the presidential election in March, a document, said to be Buhari’s 100 day covenant with voters, was widely circulated and taken to be, well, Buhari’s covenant. It has turned out that it is not.
The document, which covered nearly everything – from corruption to insecurity and the Niger Delta, and from agriculture to diversity and a promise to publicly declare his assets – was neither issued by Buhari nor signed by him.
But since it has taken nearly 100 days for this to come to light, a disclaimer would be even more embarrassing as we have seen with the assets issue.
So, he is stuck. A combination of history and accident compels us to ask the question, what has happened in 100 days?
If the spokesperson of the opposition PDP, Oliseh Metuh, were in the room, your guess is as good as mine what his response would be.
He would say it’s been a 100 days of witch-hunt, flip-flop and motion without movement. This response would be consistent with the excerpt from a popular online diary kept for former President Goodluck Jonathan by his supporters when he travelled briefly out of the country in July.
The diary, under the heading, “While you were away,” gave the ridiculous impression that the country was missing Jonathan so badly it was on the verge of collapse. While he was away, Boko Haram had seized half of the country. While he was away, Buhari bailed out some states despite complaining of an empty treasury. While he was away, Buhari launched a massive witch-hunt against those who served in the last administration.
It was pure Fayosespeak.
In the last 100 days, Buhari has dealt with a few issues rather awkwardly: the flip-flop on a few high level appointments; the delay in key appointments – for which the Barack Obama example was an incorrect reference, and the poor handling of the sharing of offices in his party, which has had a knock-on effect on pace and cohesion.
Yet, the while-you-were-away diary couldn’t have been for anyone who lived in the country in the last 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party during which Jonathan was here as deputy governor, governor, vice president, acting president and president.
It would be dishonest to assess the last 100 days without taking into account what happened in the last 16 years under PDP, especially the five on Jonathan’s watch.
The former president came to power under very difficult circumstances and a number of the serious problems he inherited, including widespread kidnappings, decaying infrastructure and Boko Haram, predated him.
But the problems also presented opportunities.
His predecessor, Umaru Yar’Adua, had laid the foundation for peace in the Niger Delta, curtailing years of violence that had reduced oil production by nearly 50 percent; the power sector reform was confused but redeemable, as were the institutions charged with fighting corruption.
To top off his luck, crude oil prices remained at around $100 for four straight years. Confidence in the economy grew and the foreign reserves peaked at $46billion in 2013. Jonathan seized his spell of luck – or, more correctly, allowed his cronies to seize it – but not for lifting the burdens of the millions who voted him into office and the country that looked up to him for service.
Instead, he stretched his luck almost exclusively for a presidency of five and a half, comprising four women, some cowboys and the rest of us.
The result is that, by the time we were rid of him in May, he left behind a country robbed to a strand of hair and fighting for its very life.
It’s fair to argue that Buhari should – or ought to – have known what he was asking for. Why did he come to the party unprepared? This argument underestimates the shock, fear and desperate response of Jonathan’s government when it became clear that the administration was finally on its way out. In those final days, the modus operandi in everything, including the transition programme, became ‘whatever cannot be made difficult must be obfuscated’.
Still, some progress has been made in 100 days. Terror attacks have not abated significantly, but for the first time in years, we have in place a government that is serious and determined to win the war. That message is resonating with our soldiers in the frontlines and our neighbours and partners in the war.
Power supply has improved remarkably. On the day of Buhari’s inauguration, the total power generated in the country was 3,155 megawatts. It was 4,067.1 megawatts on Monday. And in-between both values a new peak generation of 4,545 megawatts was recorded on July 7. The improvements have more to do with a change in attitude than anything else.
Impunity is in regress, confidence is growing and thieves are running even when no one’s chasing them – yet. These may be small, small steps but a feeling of confidence, of knowing that there is someone in charge, is crucial to long-term success.
Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah has been getting the stick for reportedly saying that, for stepping down, Jonathan should get a free ride even if he and his friends stole all the money. That was a mistimed hyperbole.
Stealing was not just a small part of the 16 years of PDP; it was the overriding purpose of government, which reached its golden era in the last five years.
In contemplating the last 100 days, the point for me is not whether Buhari has done anything at all; it is that we have been saved the utterly disastrous prospect of another four years of Jonathan.
That is not just Buhari’s greatest achievement; it’s our collective redemption song.