By Babafemi Ojudu
Today, May 29, 2016 marks President Muhammadu Buhari’s first year in office. It has indeed been an all-round exhilarating year, not only for the government but also for the generality of Nigerians.
There is nobody in Nigeria today who does not agree that the current challenges that the government face stems from deep seated rot in the system which pervaded the entire nation prior to President Buhari’s assumption of power.
Precisely one year ago, President Buhari took over the mantle of office to wide acclaim from Nigerians. Before that fateful day, Nigerians had watched aghast and rather helplessly as the country continued a fast downward spiral, as if racing to join the ignoble category of failed nations. A year ago, though the sorry state of the economy was partly due to the falling prices of oil, Nigeria’s biggest foreign exchange earner, a bigger part of the problem, however, was unbridled corruption, mindless depletion of our foreign reserves and gross mismanagement of the country’s dwindling resources.
To compound our people’s woes, Nigerians lived in fear. In the Northern parts of the country, especially in the North East, it was the fear of the dreaded terrorist group, Boko Haram. In the southern parts of the country, the fear of being kidnapped was rife, while armed robbery completed the pathetic picture of insecurity in the land. As if that was not enough misery in people’s lives, the perpetual darkness the country was plunged into due to the ever present power failure made living in Nigeria almost unbearable.
In the knowledge of the truth that Nigerians deserve better, President Muhammadu Buhari campaigned vigorously round the country using the slogan “Change”. Nigerians embraced that change by voting massively for President Buhari. One year after, the President is not unmindful of the fact that “change” which he is midwifing has come with some necessary pain. Changing a system that has decayed beyond the widest imagination of even the most fertile minds comes with some pain. It is this pain that Nigerians now face. However, this fleeting pain shall pass. President Buhari has stated repeatedly that he feels the pain that we feel. He is assiduously working to mitigate and calm our pains with the proverbial ‘balm of Gilead’.
It requires great courage for a leader to tell his people an inconvenient truth. The truth is that the reality of the times demands some measure of sacrifice from every citizen, if the country is to be returned to the glorious path to prosperity. President Buhari, characteristically, has shown his mettle as a courageous leader even as he tackles the numerous challenges that confront the country. When the history of Nigerian Presidency is written, President Buhari will be remembered as the most consequential President in Nigeria who stepped in at a critical time to change the unfortunate trajectory of a nation that was on a downward spiral.
Taking stock of the past 365 days; while it cannot be said that the country is out of the woods, there is no denying the fact that the hemorrhaging in the system has been stopped. On the day President Buhari mounted the saddle of office as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he promised to deal decisively with the godless terrorist group, Boko Haram. That promise which he put into action immediately by relocating the military high command to Maiduguri is almost a “fait accompli”. There is no doubting the fact that the Nigerian military with the coalition of neighboring countries which President Buhari forged, have routed Boko Haram. What remains is to clean out the fleeing remnants of the group. President Buhari has been able to achieve this feat by restoring the dignity of the Nigerian Armed Forces and equipping them properly to combat this unprecedented and unconventional warfare. The rescue of one of the Chibok girls from the den of terrorists is a flicker of hope that the rest of the girls would be returned safely to their parents and loved ones.
Another battle which the President promised to wage on his inauguration day is the war against corruption that has permeated and eaten so deeply into the Nigerian socio-economic and political fabric. President Buhari has also kept faith on this. Since his assumption in power, he has relentlessly waged this “non-negotiable” war against corruption. It is the President’s belief that the battle against corruption holds the key to the reconstruction of Nigeria’s economic and social systems destroyed by past governments. The Billions of Naira of Nigeria’s stolen money that has so far been recorded bears eloquent testimony to the huge successes recorded in this area. Gone is the era of looting the country’s treasury with impunity.
In line with his promise to cleanse the system, President Buhari’s searchlight has beamed brightly on the Nigerian National petroleum Corporation (NNPC), cleaning in the process the national scam that was the fuel subsidy regime. In the fullness of time, Nigerians would start reaping the benefits of the deregulation of the Oil industry. Without a shadow of doubt, this is an area that past Nigerian governments refused to touch, even with a ten foot pole. President Buhari has shown tremendous courage by dealing with this issue once and for all.
Critiques of President Buhari’s administration harp on his foreign trips as costing the country money. What they fail to point out are the huge benefits that have continued to accrue to the nation as a result of these trips. Close watchers of President Buhari’s government will readily admit that Nigeria’s leadership position in the world stage and at the Sub-Saharan Africa level has been restored. The frosty relationship between Nigeria and many world powers no longer exist. In the recent past, the country’s near pariah position in the world stage made it impossible for a country of Nigeria’s stature to purchase even the most rudimentary armaments for its military that was prosecuting a war against terrorism.
One of the greatest achievements of President Buhari’s first year in office is that of reducing the size and cost of governance. No longer is Nigeria running an over bloated political system that bogs down the economy. The President has reduced the number of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, thereby saving the country billions of Naira now being channeled towards other developmental projects and infrastructure. In addition, the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has helped block many leakages in the system through which the country’s funds were siphoned into private pockets. Reportedly, about 2 Trillion Naira has been saved as a result.
As Presidents Buhari’s government enters its second year, Nigerians will begin to see the positive impact of various policies measures that the government has put in place to restore the country’s economy and strengthen our democracy. While his first year in office has been spent cleaning the Augean stable, the coming years will see Nigerians benefitting from the government’s programmes to create employment for the teeming youths; strengthen the institutions of government; revitalize the economy by encouraging indigenous and foreign investments and improve the energy situation in the country. With the current passage of the budget and other measures so far put in place by the government, Nigerians will have cause to smile again. The best is yet to come.
Senator Babafemi Ojudu is the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters