EMMANUEL UCHENNA UGWU
The Nigerian presidency has yet again made the ridiculous assertion to the effect that, in a country of 175 million people, only President Muhammadu Buhari possesses a reliable memory of his all campaign promises, and so, only Buhari is competent to score his own progress in redeeming his debt to the electorate.
Last week, a civil society organization, The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), published the result of its fourth reading of Buharimeter, a governance accountability tool that tracks the fulfillment of campaign promises the incumbent ruling party had proposed to the electorate during the campaign. The report states that, seven months into Buhari’s forty eight months long term, he has satisfactorily made good on only one of his 222 catalogued campaign promises!
That underwhelming report card –at once, a tribute to Buhari’s insufferable slowness and a warning of the prospect of his failure –riled Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity. He repudiated the assessment and dissociated his principal from the documented promises CDD measured Buhari against.
Shehu demanded praise for his boss.
‘’He is making good strides towards improving governance by tackling corruption. Till date, a good number of persons believed to have collectively stolen billions from taxpayers have been arrested and are facing the courts.
‘’We are working with our allies across the world from Britain and America to France and Germany and UAE to source, locate and repatriate misappropriated funds.’’
And he savaged CDD as enemy propagandists. Calling them ‘’partisan and mischievous’’, Shehu said,
“The latest CDD episode is a shocking reminder to their failed attempt to hold the president to ‘100 promises in 100 days’ which disastrously crashed on the head of the proponent.
‘’ The elevation of the act to a new high of 220 promises is a knee-jerk reaction that seeks to play to the gallery and score points against the president.’’
As is discernible from Shehu’s disavowal, the official oracle of Buhari’s court is manifestly territorial. He would not brook any meddling trespass on his presumed, privileged monopoly. He would not permit the usurpation of his putative sole authority to pronounce on the performance of the Buhari presidency.
Shehu would instinctively impute ill will to anybody outside the realms of officialdom who appoints himself to the task of studying the metrics of governance in their own country. He won’t count it an exertion in responsible citizenship. He judges it an exercise in treasonable mischief!
The contempt that inspired him is obvious. It presupposes that the citizen who lives outside Aso Rock is too distant, too ignorant, and too incompetent to monitor the success of the regime.
Shehu reckons that Nigerians should be resigned to Buhari’s faculty of recall. We must accept that Buhari is responsible for only such promises as the 73 year old is able and willing to remember. The remainder of the promises he can’t or won’t remember don’t exist.
Of course, you can’t help but notice Shehu’s compulsive worship of the person of Buhari. Shehu denounces Buharimeter because he imagines the instrument for measuring the efficiency of the present leadership of Nigeria is a weapon custom-fashioned to ‘’score points against the president.’’
In Shehu’s mind, Buharimeter is the handiwork of Buhari’s haters. The latest report did not allocate abundance of credits to Buhari. Therefore, the intent of CDD must have been to embarrass Buhari and rob Sai Baba of public affection.
Shehu doesn’t figure that citizens own the country. And that, in a democracy, the electorate hires the leadership of the country to serve. And that the people have a right to monitor their stewards and hold them accountable to their electoral compact with the citizenry.
Shehu showed utter disdain for the voter. He gave expression to the falsehood that the voters’ value expire after the election season. Those human beings are nonentities once they are separated from their votes. They are not entitled to expect or check the arrival of the deliverables they were persuaded to exchange their ballots for.
Now, the Buharimeter Report gave due credit to the Buhari administration for the progress it has recorded in degrading the capability of Boko Haram in the North East. It acknowledged that Buhari has improved Nigeria’s anti-terrorism architecture, boosted the morale of the Nigeria military, and energized alliances with Nigeria’s neighbors.
The report also noted that Buhari has strengthened the institutional fibers of Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies. He has motivated them to execute their mandate to arrest and prosecute corrupt individuals and return their loot to the Nigerian treasury.
Shehu affirmed that. He added no other Buhari achievement as appendix. Which is an admission that Buhari has recorded no perceptible success beyond the Buharimeter assessment.
Shehu, nevertheless, felt duty-bound to attack the essence of a report he agrees with. He was responding to a false sense of obligation to disparage anybody that publishes any material that doesn’t heap absolute flattery on Buhari. Shehu was mimicking the pathetic presidential image management philosophy that Doyin Okupe had popularized and trademarked: Shehu was being Buhari’s ‘’attack dog’’!
Okupe, former Special Adviser to the President on Public Affairs, had retailed the blasphemy that Goodluck Jonathan of Otueke was Jesus incarnate. Okupe insulted any Nigerian who was not similarly converted.
To be sure, the massive goodwill that swept President Buhari into power placed on his head the crushing burden of incredible expectations. He was not a superhuman with a magic wand. He would need to work to get things done.
Buhari’s spokesmen had a duty to help him creatively communicate this prosaic truth to Nigerians. But instead, they elected to devote themselves to extricating him from his promises and accusing Nigerians of imposing fictive attributions on Buhari.
They began this trick when Buhari neared his first 100 days in office. Preempting that the date would necessitate a festival of reviews of his nascent administration’s success, Shehu sneaked in to put an infinity of distance between Buhari and the campaign promises contained in ‘’One Hundred Things Buhari Will Do in 100 Days’’ and ‘’My Covenant With Nigerians’’. He swore on ‘’my last kobo’’ that they were lying literatures produced, packaged and propagated by persons and groups infatuated with the Buhari. They projected –as teenagers in love –their outsize fantasies on Buhari. Buhari did not know them.
Fact checkers would later prove Shehu’s claim to be false. They verified that the Policy and Research Directorate of the Buhari campaign headed by former Governor of Ekiti State now Minister of Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi, authored ‘’My Covenant With Nigerians’’. Staff of the campaign circulated the document. And the All Progressives Congress showcased it on its website.
As Shehu’s denial sparked controversy, Lai Mohammed, APC’s National Publicity Secretary now Minister of Information and Culture, chimed in to aver that ‘’Buhari never promised to do anything in 100 days.’’
Four months later, Shehu is still advancing that stratagem of denial. Though 87 percent of the 222 promises of Buharimeter were culled from the APC manifesto and 13 percent were curated from media reports of candidate Buhari’s public commitments at his campaign rallies, Shehu, the spokesman of the Buhari campaign, claims that Buhari promised much less.
This is, no doubt, a troubling proposition.
Buhari charted his path to power with many promises. Promises were the very road he walked on to the State House. If he dictated Shehu’s denial, then the Nigerian people have to reconcile themselves to the fact that they have been scammed!
They may now content themselves with the few promises Buhari has deigned to retain: The daily feeding of 2.5 million primary school children and monthly payment of 5000 naira handout to unemployed youths. The problem, though, is that Nigeria cannot fund the two socialist policies. Prudence, today, demands that Nigeria’s drying oil revenue be channeled to urgencies of infrastructure deficit.
Buhari’s predecessor sacked Nigeria. Nigerians see the confirmation in the voluntary confessions of Jonathan’s cronies. And majority of Nigerians support Buhari’s effort to disgrace the thieves.
But the plunder of the past has become the standard excuse the Buhari administration invokes to rationalize its present inertia. Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo and Lai Mohammed now work shifts, serving Nigerians that distasteful diet. So invested is this regime in blaming Jonathan that finger-pointing seems to have become the raison d’être of the Buhari presidency!
Now, even in ideal times, Buhari can’t clear all of his campaign promises. The perfect storm of falling crude price and the scorched earth he inherited from Jonathan has further vitiated the probability of Buhari delivering on majority of his 222 promises. Still, Buhari needs to watch the Buharimeter alongside the countdown clock.
Buhari ought to face the mirror of his campaign promises every day of his finite tenure. He should respect the Buharimeter as the reflection of his vows and accomplishments. This will furnish him with the right perspective he needs to secure a befitting legacy.
If Buhari keeps booing the Buharimeter and lapping up the praises of his salaried sycophants, he will likely wake up on his last day in office to confront his squandered opportunity and a heartbroken nation!
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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