Editor’s note: Five months in, President Muhammadu Buhari is being assessed by Nigerians, and not all conclusions are positive. Ebuka Onyekwelu, the Naij.com columnist, says President Buhari still has to outline the country’s course. The government is not defined by the leader’s image alone, but also by well-pronounced strategies and decisive actions.
President Muhammadu Buhari has now been in charge of the country’s leadership for five months. Effectively, the President has three years and seven months to the end of his tenure. In other words, the election has come and gone, the victory attained, how has the promises and agenda of the President and the APC been transformed into actions and results? We must understand that the life of this administration is running fast to a close end, it is therefore highly imperative to pause and ask questions, to asses in other to ascertain the pace at which the government is meeting the needs of governance, and be able to determine the results the government has achieved. Consequently, this is not an attempt to recount and include political statements or promises as an achievement, but an overview with specific target only on tangible achievements, actions and in summary, efforts at translating promises into experiences.
Towards governance and leadership
Since the transition and change of leadership in May, the business of governing and leading Nigeria has been entrusted in the care of President Buhari and his party, the APC. The president has enjoyed goodwill not only from supporters but also from admirers around the world, primarily because of perception of him as committed, honest, and incorruptible.
Ordinarily, these are ideals that even private individuals pursue; for the same to be associated with a politician is indeed iconoclastic.
Buhari, who was a military head of state between 1983 and 1985, now a democratically-elected president, will not find his return to leading Nigeria easy. It certainly would have been easier to change Nigeria in the past thirty years than after that. But that notwithstanding, the government has risen to the occasion of governance.
Whether in a democracy or autocracy, governance is a very serious business and must be approached with all seriousness. A leader like the president of Nigeria must not be seen as unserious or weak. It is dangerously disastrous because, aside that it will create several power blocks with attendant consequences, the government will appear directionless and generally unviable. This is why it is very important for a leader to be seen as strong.
The president is not physically present in all the agencies, parastatals, departments and institutions of government; it is the perception of the leader by those working in those outfits that determine their attitude to work and, subsequently, how well the government runs.
I am not saying that a president should be feared, I am saying that when a president gains a reputation as strong and serious-minded, the impact on the general outlook of the day’s government is remarkable.
The same is true when the reputation is that the leader is weak, inactive or dull. President Buhari, owing to perception of him as a disciplined leader and stoutly anti-corruption, has provided good leadership and governance of the country, though he has run the country without ministers.
Fundamentally, the Nigerian state is functioning well and operating as ought to. This does not imply that there are no challenges or that the government has solved all Nigeria’s problem in five months. But the favourable perception of the president by the masses which has been baptized “body language” commands a level of commitment throughout government bodies. For instance, former President Jonathan invested in power, but we did not experience improved power supply until President Buhari took over.
There could be many explanations to that but in any event, though President Jonathan takes credit for the structures put on ground, the way President Buhari is seen is important in understanding why the supply improved in his few months in office.
Towards the masses
For the past five months, the president’s policy direction has not been clear. The economic policy of the president has not been revealed.
For all intents and purposes, the goodwill and popularity of the government hinges on the reputation of the president rather than on actual planned and executed programmes to improve the lives and general well-being of the masses.
Power supply has dropped, which would require “repairs,” the economy is allegedly heading towards recession, no one has yet been imprisoned for corruption, money is yet to be recovered through the administration’s war on corruption, Boko Haram are still on the rampage.
Those are real problems that are solved by sound governmental policies followed by actions to ensure attainment of set goals. While it is important for a government to be headed by a man or woman of high reputation, good governance delivery is not sustained by reputation. It is sustained by government’s actions and strategic policies.
While it is important to offer a sense of hope to people during electioneering campaign through promises, once the election is over, making more promises or recalling old promises automatically becomes irrelevant for the victors.
The government in the usual parlance should “hit the ground running”. We cannot say this of President Buhari’s government today. The government is thriving solely on the reputation of the president, not on actual work initiated and executed by the government to benefit the masses.
In the five months of President Buhari’s government, we are yet to see the direction of the country’s movement. We are still bombarded with promises of getting down corrupt people, and we are still reminded of campaign promises. No, the time is running out fast, and the government should swing into full action to deliver dividends of good governance to the masses.
Ebuka Onyekwelu for Naij.com
Ebuka Onyekwelu is a political scientist. He is a public affairs analyst and activist with concerted interest in Africa’s crisis of development and leadership. Follow him on Twitter @ebukaequity.
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