We Are Already Seeing Change By Abba Mahmood

To match Interview NIGERIA-BUHARI/For a long time, due to the checkpoints and traffic gridlocks these bring on highways and inside our major cities, many like me have hardly travelled. Suddenly, Buhari appointed new service chiefs who came with more effective strategies. Instead of always waiting to “repel” terrorist attacks, the military is now on the offensive, taking the fight right to the terrorists’ den. Checkpoints have been removed, bringing immediate relief to the suffering people, particularly in the northern parts of the country.

It is really surprising that, all along, the previous government did not see how ineffective the previous strategy had been. If the terrorists knew exactly where the military was stationed as they mounted checkpoints, won’t these insurgents continue to avoid those checkpoints? This was precisely why there was hardly anyone arrested with dangerous weapons in those checkpoints all along. And that was why these checkpoints did not prevent bombs from being exploded by the insurgents or prevent any terrorist attacks in those areas in those days.

In the area of security, therefore, as in some other sectors, we are already seeing the change we voted for. Last weekend, yours sincerely left Abuja and drove to Kano and Katsina via Kaduna. On the highways and inside the cities, there were no more of those unnecessary checkpoints. Movement was smooth and everywhere was peaceful. From Katsina it took me four and a half hours to drive back to Abuja. Indeed, there is no more siege but freedom everywhere. The potbellied military chiefs, who could hardly climb stairs to their offices, have been replaced with smart and agile ones who are bringing more seriousness to tackling the insurgency menace and have brought better strategies to effect this.

For 16 years, successive PDP governments turned the power sector into a conduit for corruption. Billions were spent, but each time those governments kept telling us that due to one reason or the other power supply was not improving. Finally, the Power Holding Company was unbundled and privatised. Billions were given to the new entities that bought those new power companies in the name of “intervention” funds, but there was no improvement.

When Abacha died in 1998, Nigeria’s power generation was about 4,000MW. Sixteen years after Abacha’s death and after the PDP governments spending over $16billion, by the time Buhari took over, the country’s power generation capacity was less than the 4,000MW. That has been the extent of the rot in this important sector.

Today, less than 100 days since Buhari’s inauguration, we are all seeing an improvement in the supply of electricity to our homes, offices and factories. The other day last week, I got a call from a relative who told me that there was no power outage in the past 72 hours in his compound. Buhari did not spend one kobo in this sector. It is just because those in charge know that it is not business as usual anymore. Everyone is suddenly ready to do the right thing. Those who were used to cutting corners in this sector know that if they don’t stop, the law will catch up with them and they do not have anyone to bribe to let them off the hook anymore.

For over 17 years, the country’s four refineries had been epileptic and hardly functioned. Consequently, Nigeria has exported crude oil and imported petroleum products for a long time now. It is just like selling cow to buy cow-tail pepper soup! All the by-products of petroleum, which are raw materials for other industries that would have created jobs for our teeming unemployed youth, were lost. The refineries refused to work because some crooks were getting stupendous wealth in the business of importation of petroleum products. Nigeria and Nigerians were not seeing the benefits of the oil that the country is producing.

No one would lecture President Buhari on the petroleum industry. He was the one who set up the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the 1970s when he was petroleum minister for over three years and was the corporation’s first chairman. He took a look at the oil sector reports, after assuming office as elected president last May, got briefed by those he found in charge and, before he did anything, lo and behold, Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries were now working. Those who have been stealing the turnaround maintenance funds over the years are very much aware that it is no more possible to do so and they have no one to bribe to cover them again. They just have to fix these refineries or face the law.

Nothing has seen more immediate change than the fight against corruption. Suddenly, the anti-corruption agencies are awake to their responsibilities and are free to do their work. There is no sacred cow or pig anymore as far as the fight against corruption is concerned. Corrupt officials are voluntarily paying back slush funds into government coffers. Private-sector accomplices of those corrupt officials are running helter-skelter to have safe landing. Every corrupt person is now afraid that the law would surely catch up with him or her. They have nowhere to hide and no one to protect them.

Of course, so much is being made out of the issue of Buhari administration’s slow take-off and the fact that his cabinet and certain key appointments are not yet in place. Many have forgotten that Obasanjo submitted the list of his ministers in 1999 on July 20 and Yar’Adua did his on July 28, 2007. These were after thorough briefings some weeks before each of those presidents was inaugurated, during each of those transitions by officials of the outgoing governments in both cases. In the case of Buhari, no documents were submitted till late in May and no official of the past administration briefed him since his election. It was only after his inauguration that the public servants started coming to brief him. Is he expected to appoint people impulsively, with all his experience in government, without knowing the situation on ground just because some people want to be appointed? Experience, it needs reminding, cannot be bought or forged and Buhari was first appointed governor of the defunct North-Eastern State 40 years ago!

We have really started seeing the change we voted for. The only institution that appears to be impervious to change — where the standing order has been substituted with a fake sleeping order, and that is why there is so much disorder there; where renegade comrades, domestic aides-turned-trillionaires, all sorts of people accused of forgery and perjury are temporarily in charge — will also soon catch the change bug. They don’t seem to know that the era of impunity is over. Buhari is leading a silent revolution that will hardly spare the tiniest house rat let alone these giant thieves. Nigerians and the whole world are behind him and his government in this onerous task.

History is on the side of the oppressed.