Suffering Citizens and Buhari’s Phantom Regrets
By Jerome-Mario Utomi
If there is any statement in recent times that portrayed President Muhammadu Buhari as a leader with understanding that ‘public order, personal and national security, economic and social programmes, and prosperity is not the natural order of things but depends on the ceaseless efforts and attentions from an honest and effective government that the people elect’, it is his declaration during an interview with The Signature 50 magazine, that he would only feel better as a president when lives of citizens improve.
Buhari in that interview among other things noted that looking back at his five years in office as President, his greatest regret is that despite international ratings, lives of Nigerians are yet to improve as he had expected.While Buhari as part of his achievements expressed happiness that the economy is no longer in the forlorn state that it used to be, he, however, regretted that the progress being made has only reflected on the international rating of the nation’s economy not on the lives of Nigerians.
This is no doubt a constructive declaration that peripherally earned the president a height of respect. Mr. President’s worry becomes particularly more appreciated when one remembers that the challenge of development is one of the greatest problems that have dominated world history. As human beings have always been concerned about how to improve their condition of living and better confront the forces of nature and the environment.
Despite the concerns expressed above, a more constructive understudy of Mr. President’s policies, politics and speed in strategic decision making process in the past five years reveals that impeded improvement of lives in Nigerians was as a result of government’s poor leadership judgements and failure to perform the great roles of planning and acceleration of development processes.
This assertion comes in different forms and shapes.
Fundamentally, aside the ‘ignorance hypothesis theory’ which among other provisions ‘maintains that poor countries are poor because they have a lot of markets failures and because policymakers do not know how to get rid of them and have heeded the wrong advice in the past, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson in their book; Why Nations Fail, provides a compelling understanding of what set the groundwork for Nigerian’s poverty.
The duo classified political and economic institutions as either inclusive or extractive; they argue that countries with extractive institutions tend to be poor, while those with inclusive institutions tend to be rich. While submitting that sustained growth occurs when countries move away from extractive political institutions and towards inclusive ones, they concluded that inclusive political institutions give rise to inclusive economic institutions, which then generate economic growth.
To further demonstrate this belief is the words of Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe who recently wrote; today, our Vice President, Prof Osinbajo, gave a speech on improving the ease of doing business through reforms. A friend in New York sent me the link with this comment: “…your country does not know that the only reform Nigeria needs for foreign investment now is a stable currency. Your problem has gone beyond bureaucracy”.
Similarly, bearing in mind that good governance entails the diligent exercising of the economic, political and administrative authorities to manage a country’s affair at all levels within the rule of law in such a manner that delivers maximum dividends to citizens’, Mr. President need not ask question or regret why the nation’s economy is not impacting in the lives of the people. The reason is simple. By his continued refusal to heed the call by Nigerians that his security votes and other avoidable expenditures need to be slashed, President Buhari has not demonstrated good leadership example.
Going by reports, the 2020 financial estimate shows that Mr. President and His Vice will spend N4.2Billion. Out of this amount, travel will gulp N3.3 Billion, while catering will take N149.1 Billion. This high cost of governance has not only led to poor delivery of democracy dividends but its happening in a country where over 112 million Nigerians now live below the UN poverty line.
Even if Mr. President provides answers to the above source of worries, his inability to stamp out corruption in the country is another obvious reason why Nigerian masses could neither breathe nor their lives improve.
To explain this fact, graft according to Rudy Giuliani is nothing new; it may be the second-oldest profession. Powerful people and those with access to them have always used kickbacks, pay-to-play schemes, and other corrupt practices to feather their nests and gain unfair advantages. And such corruption has always posed a threat to the rule of law and stood in the way of protecting basic civil and economic rights
Corruption is, but a human problem that has existed in some forms. Its fights in Nigeria also dates back to Colonial governments as they (Colonial Overlords) sufficiently legislated against it in the first criminal code ordinance of 1916(No15 of 1916) which elaborately made provisions prohibiting official bribery and corruption by persons in the public service and in the judiciary. Also at independence on October 1, 1960, the criminal code against corruption and abuse of office in Nigeria were in section 98 to 116 and 404 of the code.
What is, however, new is that corruption has recently transformed into an instrument of national strategy. The development has gotten so bad to the extent that if what happened in the time past was a challenge, that of the present is a crisis.
Separate from the corruption crisis rocking the country, there are other legions of reasons why socioeconomic lives of citizens may not improve easily except the Federal Government takes theatrical steps to address the current situation in the country.
More particularly, the present state of poverty, insecurity, infrastructural decay, terrorism, a high rate of out of school children and youths unemployment, unchecked population explosion, technological backwardness, corruption, poor planning and implementation of policies, are but testaments that this administration like its predecessors neither understand nor possess the needed expertise to perform modern jobs of leadership.
To explain, regardless of the field, for one to do any job creditably well, certain steps must be followed. This step in the words of Lance Bettencourt includes; defining what the job requires; identifying and locating the needed inputs; preparing the components and the physical environment; confirming that everything is ready; executing the task; monitoring the results and the environment; making modifications and concluding the job. Because problems can occur at many points in the process, nearly all jobs require problem resolution steps. Some steps are more critical than others, depending on the job, but each is necessary to get the job done successfully.
Regrettably, such logic doesn’t hold-up here.
For example, if the present Government is in the habit of identifying and locating the needed inputs, preparing the components as well as confirming that everything is ready before introducing new policies as specified above, the FG would not have come up with recent order directing all property owners and their agents to charge 6% Stamp Duty on all tenancy and lease agreements they enter into with all leases and remit promptly to the Service
What is more, if Mr President had expressed a little interest in monitoring the outcome of his past actions with the hope of making modifications, maybe, he would have considered as misguided priority the 1.6 billion dollars taken to fix Lagos to Ibadan, the request for 5.3 billion dollars to fix from Ibadan to Kano, 3.2 billion dollars to fix Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, and Lagos to Calabar which is about 11.1billion dollars, If Mr. President had had the interest of Niger Deltans at heart, he would not have declined assent to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as recently passed by the 8th Assembly nor ignored the deafening call by well-meaning Nigerians to have the future of this country discussed. Or better still, have the 2014 national confab report implemented; as the content of that report has the capacity to make this political entity and its integral parts, more efficient, more acceptable, more productive, more functional and above all, more equitable.
Most importantly is the revelation that the solution to our national poverty goes beyond showing mere regrets, to include tackling tragic leadership gaps.
Jerome-Mario Utomi, a Lagos-Based Media Consultant could be reached onj [email protected] , 08032725374