Last Monday night, the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, was on a national television station where in keeping to his brief, he made a spirited attempt to paint his principal in a positive light. Buhari, who will be leaving the scene on May 29, after completing his constitutionally allowed two terms of eight years, has been constantly accused of nepotism and favouritism against competence and respect for the federal character.
The Commander-in-Chief has also been slammed on his alleged lopsided appointment of security heads. And, that the economy is in such dire straits that Nigeria has now replaced India as the ‘poverty capital’ of the world. However, in defending the President in his appointments of service chiefs and heads of security agencies, Adesina argued that such selections cannot be subjected to ethnic balancing or federal character. According to the presidential spokesman, before the emergence of Buhari’s government, about 17 local government areas in the northern part of the country were under the control of the insurgents, noting that no single council area is presently being controlled by Boko Haram. Arguing further, he said: “Don’t subject security to ethnic balancing; don’t subject security to federal character.
In fact, the constitution that prescribes federal character even gives the President some prerogatives that he can appoint on his own. “What the constitution requires of you is balancing in terms of each state being represented in terms of certain positions. Those positions are prescribed. Security is not part of it. President will always have the prerogative to appoint those he feels can help him secure the country, and have the kind of country you deserve to have. I would say that the President has been able to keep to his promises.”
On the perception that the nation had recorded more deaths under Buhari’s administration than the previous government, even though security was one of the cardinal areas the administration promised to focus on, the presidential spokesman said credit should be given to the administration because the country witnessed the lowest number of deaths in 2022. He argued: “Do you also know of the report which says in the past 12 years, that 2022 was the year that recorded the least number of deaths in terms of insurgency and insecurity? We know in this country the figure has been coming down over the years.
“No life, ideally, should be lost. One life lost is too many. When reports tell you that between 2015 and 2021 so so number of lives were lost and in 2022 the lowest figure came up, it calls for something positive; you don’t ignore it.” Continuing he said: “Buhari is leaving the country far better and I said it from the beginning in 2015. We knew where Nigeria was: 17 local governments in this country were under the control of insurgents. NYSC could not do orientation; they were not sending people to those places. Is this what is happening today? No.
“The emirs are back in their palaces, local government chairmen are back in their offices, NYSC orientation is happening in those states, youth corpers have been posted to those states. Are you now telling me that there has not been improvement? No.
Let’s be factual, let’s give the government some credit, please.” On the alleged worsening economic situation under the Buhari administration, Adesina also said the economy has been diversified by the government and that the economy no longer depends solely on oil. “This government met a mono-product economy, an economy that depended solely on oil so that any time oil prices crash in the international market, Nigeria crashes with it; but today it’s no longer so. Oil contributes less than 10 per cent of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) today. Oil used to contribute about 90 per cent. “For the first time in our history, Nigeria has a diversified economy. Diversification has long been a promise, but today it’s no longer a promise, it’s a reality. I think people must credit the Buhari administration for that because we now have agric, we now have ICT, and we now have manufacturing to an extent. “We have so many things contributing to Nigeria’s GDP apart from oil. The economy has been diversified first time in over 60 years; that is something nobody will deny the Buhari administration.” Unfortunately, the reality on ground paints a totally different picture. As I pointed out earlier, for the past seven years Nigeria has held the infamous title of ‘World Poverty Capital,’ according to the World Bank. The World Bank data pointed out that four in every 10 Nigerians live below the poverty line of $1.9 per day. And even figures from the government’s own agency, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have shown the tough times people are going through with the last inflation figures (February) put at 21.91 per cent. Only last week, KPMG, a multidimensional consulting firm, disclosed that Nigeria’s unemployment rate would increase to 40.6 per cent in 2023 from 37.7 per cent in 2022. Things are about to get even worse with the Buhari administration determined to end fuel subsidy before it leaves, and this is expected to push the pump price to about N400 per litre from the current N184. That there is still even a subsidy eight years after, despite the strident criticism of this practice when in opposition, is an indictment of the government. And just like all the three administrations before it, the current government has failed to get any of the nation’s four refineries back on stream despite repeated promises to do so and the huge sums committed to fixing them. Millions of Nigerians recall the “good old days” of pre-2015 when the dollar was roughly N197, fuel sold for N87 and a bag of rice was N10,000! Can we also honestly say that corruption, which was seen as the Achilles heel of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been better tackled by the current government – your guess is as good as mine. But then it is not all doom and gloom with a number of signature projects completed or almost completed by the present administration, including the Lagos- Ibadan Rail and 2nd Niger Bridge, among the notable ones. Adesina can also take solace in the fact that all his principal’s predecessors have always been bashed, and more often than not have left with the populace yearning for the ‘better days’ of the administrations they took over from. For instance, when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo left in 2007, the dollar had climbed from the N21.89/N88–N90 (official and parallel rates) he met in 1999 to between N120–N125. While the pump price of fuel had risen to N75/litre from N20/litre. The tenure of Musa Yar’Adua/Goodluck Jonathan saw the cost of living and insecurity rising so much that a majority of Nigerians could not wait to see the end of the PDP rule. In keeping with previous trends, Buhari and his administration have also now found themselves in that position where millions of Nigerians are once again clamouring for the ‘good old days’!