The pervading atmosphere in Nigeria’s socio-economic and political space is that of Change. The Change mantra has become the buzzword in the Nigerian social media arena with ingenious jokesters expanding their trades by employing the word for humorous ends – thanks to the infinite capacity of the Nigerian person for happiness, no matter the matter and whatever the weather.
Perhaps one of the most significant things about the events leading up to the victory of President Buhari in the last general elections is that many Nigerians moved beyond the narrow confines of individualistic considerations to the broader concerns of society. They defied persuasions to mortgage their votes and instead chose the path of honour and integrity.
It was an extremely passionate time for the electorate and the decisions of voters were largely predicated on their judgment of past performances, or the history of the contenders, or both. Any way you slice it, in the end, the citizens - by their decisions at the poll - made a statement that they deserved more than political bickering and ideological sloganeering – they wanted change! The manifesto of the Party which promised this change was the sales document into which the electorate bought, locked, stocked, and barreled!
In their numbers, Nigerians made an impressive showing that’s akin to the attitude in advanced democracies where the decisions of voters are largely driven by the performance, or the prospects of performance of a contender, and the records of the existing office holder help to swing voting patterns one way or another.
Just like the American electorate who voted for Barack Obama to become the first African American to hold the office of the President in the United States of America, riding on the promise of change, the Nigerian electorate waited long hours in the sun, endured the pain of brutal assaults, risked the arena of conflict, and went on to insist that their votes must count in order to ensure that the change they desired became a reality.
Today, the masses, which hitherto were considered misguided, can no longer be undermined: there is now a reawakening and an enlightenment which is leading many people to demand lasting political impact as opposed to ephemeral gratification. In addition, more people now have access to electronic communication and new media and are conversant with the political shifts taking place all over the world and this is rapidly redefining political parameters and changing the way people view the world.
In these changing times, political parties and associations of all descriptions are tested for their ability to deliver on the promises they make to voters and their supporters alike. Political manifestos are no longer mere tools for electioneering, but legitimate proposals aimed at ensuring that the masses have the prospect of effecting changes in society.
A few weeks later and many waters gone under the bridge, Muhammadu Buhari is the President, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria hanks to the change agents all over the country, as well as pockets of the those around the world whose dogged fight, support and sacrifices made the change possible.
Now the ecstasy of the election victory has somewhat quieted and the confetti has long stopped raining down. Expectedly, Nigerians wait with bated breath for the much-anticipated change.
Many people have already begun to present differing versions of the scorecard of Mr. President since he assumed office: while some have rated him fairly well others think he has been abysmal and that his ‘body language’ (a term which was generously employed in a variety of situations during the last administration) does not support the much touted change which he promised. There are yet others who hold the view that it is premature to assess the President who is just a couple of weeks in office. Within the labyrinth of sententious and judgmental assessments, you will find those which, painfully, are far from being altruistic but predicated on narrow ideological prejudices with the ultimate aim of scoring political points. To the protagonists of the latter category of assessments, we owe our collective sympathy, for we stand now at the precipice of a historic moment in our national history, whereupon, for the collective good of our people, everyone ought to put aside all vestiges of narcissistic inclinations and embrace the spirit of the moment while canvassing issues on purely objective grounds.
It is fitting, however, to discuss the perspectives of those who have taken somewhat patriotic views of the performance of the President and what Nigerians can expect in the coming months and years judging by the early signs of the present administration.
There is a cartoon depiction of the President on the Sahara Reporters’ website which portrays the President moving at a snail’s pace, this, among other swipes taken at the President, are not the focus of this article. Also on the Sahara Reporters site, Dr. Wumi Akintide (an ardent, or should I say, erstwhile supporter of President Buhari and the cause he represents) presents a vivid and sinister picture of the performance of the President in the period he has spent in office. A précis of some of the chief concerns of Dr. Akintide as indicated in his article are as follows:
a. The President has yet to constitute his cabinet or make any categorical statement regarding the direction they should take;
b. The President has yet to issue any statement regarding the  soldiers who are on death row for alleged conspiracy, cowardice and mutiny in 2014 in respect of the fight against Boko Haram – a cause for which they had perennially risked their lives;
c. The President continues to work with the Service Chiefs from the immediate past administration many of which are generally perceived as corrupt and inept;
d. The President was sluggish in dealing with Ayo Fayose or closed his eyes to the events in Ekiti State, giving Ayo Fayose the leeway to entrench himself in the State.
In addition to the that, Emmanuel Ogebe of Organization for Governance Accountability in his article titled ‘’A Week in Democracy: President Buhari’s ‘Change’ Scorecard’’ published in Thisday newspaper of June 14th 2015, presents a pungent analysis of the President’s performance in office so far and what that portends for the future of Nigeria. He argues, in a manner analogous to Akintide’s argument above, that: (i) the President has yet to appoint key aides; (ii) the President’s appointment of two media aides is an unnecessary duplication and that the President’s media aides had begun, by their pronouncements, to betray crass incompetence on even very elementary matters which might be an ominous sign of things to come; (iii) the President’s inaugural speech came with a flawed counterinsurgency strategy: he proposed studying the causes and sponsors of Boko Haram after subduing them.
It is important to indicate that the seeming impatience of Nigerians with public office holders has a somewhat long history. Back in history, Nigerians had described the late President Umaru Musa Yar’ardua as ‘Baba Go -Slow’, a term which was coined as a result of the perceived lethargy or total inaction of the then President. Also, during the tenure of the immediate past President, he had earned himself the sobriquet ‘Jonny Go-Slow’ on account of what many people perceived as the tardiness and total lack of direction of his administration.
It is understandable that in a country bedeviled by a plethora of maladies of varying forms and sizes needing urgent attention, the masses will scarcely have the luxury for a pussyfooting and prevaricating leader, much less the patience of one who promised change and gave the impression that the same would be more or less a transmogrification.
To put matters in context, it is apposite to examine the steps the President has taken so far against the backdrop of the larger picture of the change which he promised. To start, the President had almost immediately, after assuming office, engaged the international community headlong in a multi-pronged dimension (at the G7 forum, and at the regional level with leaders of the African Union) which included discussing strategies and agreeing on a combat formula and the cost to tackle the menace of Boko Haram. This is in addition to the previous step he had taken to relocate the army command to the war-torn zone as well as subsequently engaging traditional rulers in the Northern region on steps they can take to support the fight against the insurgents. President Buhari had equally stated that he will review the all operations against Boko Haram, and this, in the estimation of some legal practitioners, may include reviewing the case of the soldiers on death row. This is a sensitive matter which should neither be handled with undue haste nor without proper legal and other considerations.
It is generally agreed that terrorism is one of the most critical issues in Nigeria, and a President who has so far taken swift, directed and spirited actions in that regard can hardly be regarded as slow or uncertain of how to solve the crucial problems facing his country.
In the wake of the new administration, the nation was almost been grounded to a halt on account of the petroleum crisis with major oil marketers refusing to back down on their demands. The new administration engaged the independent petroleum marketers and an agreement was reached and because of that today’s fuel queues have greatly diminished in most parts of the country and the hardship of the masses has been abated.
On a related note, in view of the alleged massive corruption and wide-scale rot in the sector, there had been various calls both locally and internationally for the new administration to probe the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Nigerian oil sector at large. In this regard, the Federal Government has commenced inquiries into fuel imports by independent marketers and this has started to yield results: some operators in the industry have volunteered to return stolen funds to the national coffers. Others have agreed, by way of a bargain, to import fuel without subsidy. This step is neither an act of prevarication nor sluggishness on the part of the President.
Furthermore, the President has taken steps which show that he intends to run a lean government thereby minimising waste and the cost of governance, which were the bane of the last administration. In this regard, he has indicated that he will work with 15 Special Advisers according to the list he sent to the 7th Senate. This should obviate any anxiety over the President appointing two media aides. We can continue to list the many steps taken so far by the new administration which should give Nigerians hope that better days are ahead.
With regard to the constitution of a cabinet, the President has made it abundantly clear that a process of thorough scrutiny is ongoing to ensure that the right persons fill the available positions. I reckon that this is laudable and equally applies to the appointment (or retention) of any service chief. What is important is that the nation is being governed, critically issues are being addressed, and the economy is being properly managed and there is no lacuna.
For the first time in Nigeria’s democratic experience, we have a President who has unapologetically insisted that he will not use his office or position to oppress or suppress those who belong to a different political Party or ideological bloc. Thus far, the President has this promise.
It is therefore my considered opinion that President Muhammadu Buhari is on the path to bringing about the change which he promised and which Nigeria desperately needs.
Above all, we must realise, as President Barack Obama admonished, that “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”