When he threw his hat into the ring for the 2015 presidency, President Muhammadu Buhari promised change. His supporters weaved his hugely successful quest for the presidency on the desire and pronounced need to change from the dastardly order that was pulling Nigeria down the labyrinth of decay. He didn’t promise change for change sake. He knew the enormity of the problem and the confrontation that awaits him as he dared the monsters for a fight. Change became the mantra that caught the fervent attention of millions of Nigerians who were sorely tired of the farcical conduct of affairs of the country by the then PDP government.
Since he made his triumphant entry to the country's presidency, President Buhari has worked hard to bring about the change he promised. He has worked so hard to effect needed reversal of the culture of decay and rot that prodded the country down the brinks of despair and bankruptcy. In doing this, President Buhari is facing a dwindling revenue base, wrought by the sharp decline in oil revenue. He inherited a country riled to the marrow by corruption and misrule; twin decibels that prevailed for the time the PDP was in power. He inherited a battered bureaucracy but these were not enough deterrents in his bid to recover a nation set on the paths of wasteful prodigality. He knows that without this battle, the country is headed to the sewers. He knows that in this battle, he must face the array of battalions of corruption brigadiers who profit handsomely from the fruits of corruption. They were the minions the PDP nurtured and grew for sixteen years, especially in the last six years when the promotion of corruption and the deifying of the corrupt became officialdom's favorite pastime. Buhari knows that he is bound to court powerful mortal enemies, with looted wealth dripping from all their pores, with his decision to engage corruption in a bloody fight. He knows he will be cajoled, catcalled, abused, distracted and maligned by the forces of corruption using several excuses but he powered on.
In his first one hundred days, President Buhari has drastically changed the perception that government position is for freeloading and unrestrained purloining of the commonwealth. He successfully fended off the self-serving heckling that he must immediately appoint his ministers by those that wanted him to continue doing same of the same even when the results are awful to the nation. He shunned the distractive booby-trap of starting off with rolling out mouth-watering appointments of state officials to continue the ruination of Nigeria. Of course, the change he promised and for which he was elected never accommodated such larceny. He rather tarried to look into the offices and the duties that go with them so as to plug the rat holes through which the ruination of the well-endowed country was carried out. He surfed the books and asked questions and took in culprits in his belief that governance must be sanitized to benefit all and not a select few. Sure, he believes that stealing is corruption and this heralds a new dawn in the hugely abused country and the change it procured on March 28.
President Buhari was to go further to walk through the syndicated wolf-crying of the departing forces of corruption who felt that his quest for probity targeted them and their evil ways. The new Sheriff brooked no nonsense in asking any person with soiled hands to come and account. Silently, the guilty returned parts of their loots and those who were recalcitrant were taken in for questioning. Yea, change has come. With his appointments trickling in, in meticulous manner, it is obvious that the perception of public service as avenues for relentless stealing of public funds is gone for good and this remains a huge headway towards clearing the Augean stable that was imposed here by PDP's remorseless belief in the carnal powers of corruption.
By the time President Buhari was sworn in on May 29, 2015, the country was clearly hobbled as life practically screeched to a halt. Public power supply, despite the noisome boasts of the outgone regime, went dead despite the trillions stolen in the guise of reviving the power sector. It is an eternal shame that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Power, Goodnews Igali recently claimed that the PDP inherited a total of 3,500 megawatts of electricity in 1999 and sixteen years after, with nearly N3 trillion spent on the sector, achieved a paltry 1,000 megawatts in sixteen years! Even then, most Nigerians see these as mere statistics as the power supply situation before Buhari came, was woeful. Nigerians wallowed in pit darkness before Buhari landed with his change mantra and since then, the story has turned around for the better, as power supply has dramatically improved! Shamed by this development, the PDP was to claim credit for the upswing but embarrassingly cannot explain why with the paltry addition it added to power generation for sixteen whole years and nearly N3trillion spent on the sector, Nigerians never enjoyed any regime of power stability for the period it was in power. What gave? Change that can only come with a new leader who is averse to dirt, corruption, lethargy and incompetence, sitting on the throne.
By the time Buhari came, Nigeria, the sixth largest oil producer on earth, was undergoing a deliberately complicated oil crisis with the price of a liter of petrol going for as much as N400. The departing PDP government said it owed ubiquitous importers of oil several trillions of Naira and that Nigeria must brace for a total removal of subsidy if we must have fuel. They said Nigerians guzzle oil like vampire guzzles blood and that the government cannot fund such luxury. They said our refineries have gone irreparably bad and should be discarded as junks. They told us that Nigeria must be perpetually dependent on imported fuel products and of course, the poor hapless citizens must pay through a dubious subsidy removal trap. This was the well-oiled web of deceit that blossomed some fat cows to the detriment of ordinary Nigerians. This made the country's oil sector a beehive of rot which profited close cronies of the out-gone regime and robbed Nigerians, especially the common masses silly.. But these were to change with the coming of Buhari. Today, petrol is sold at the official N87 per liter in every nook and cranny of the country. The refineries that were marked for the grave have powered back to life. We are no longer regaled with a repetitive recitation of paying trillions of Naira to dubious fuel importers if we must enjoy fuel. What happened? Change is on the throne!
By the time Buhari came, the economy was hovering on the fringes of bankruptcy. The culture of profligacy and waste fervently promoted by the PDP ensured that the states went broke as soon as revenue from oil took a dip. By the time Buhari landed, the system was a near bedlam. States received mere pittance as their statutory allocations and as such were not able to fulfill the barest of responsibilities like paying workers salaries. The hemorrhage wrought by free plundering of resources endured that every sector of the economy in every strata of government went bankrupt and the imminence of a social crisis was writ large on the polity. But drawing from a prudent handling of statecraft, President Buhari was to latch on hitherto plundered fonts of the abused state economy to leverage the states of the bailout funds to deal with the crisis. Sure, change has come and the entire country is better for it. The insolvent states have bounced back to life!
Prior to his coming, the country's foreign reserve was taking a serious gash from the purloining by the Jonathan government. The reserve which should serve as a backup to the economy was subjected to indecent freeloading by the government even as it drew handsomely from a providential oil windfall. The critical state of the country's foreign reserve under Jonathan was aptly captured in the position of Prof. Charles Soludo, the erstwhile Governor of the Central Bank thus; “For comparisons, President Obasanjo met about $5 billion in foreign reserves, and the average monthly oil price for the 72 months he was in office was $38, and yet he left $43 billion in foreign reserves after paying $12 billion to write-off Nigeria’s external debt. In the last five years, the average monthly oil price has been over $100, and the quantity also higher but our foreign reserves have been declining and exchange rate depreciating.
“My calculation is that if the economy was better managed, our foreign reserves should have been between $102 –$118 billion and exchange rate around N112 before the fall in oil prices. As of now, the reserves should be around $90 billion and exchange rate no higher than N125 per dollar,” the parlous state of the reserve prevailed till Buhari came and pronto, the fund which never witnessed any inflow during the Jonathan regime, was injected with a hefty $3 billion in Buhari's first month in power in a deft bid to build up the reserve, even at a time Nigerian revenue dwindled drastically. Yea, change has indeed come!
Before Buhari came, the economy bled through multifarious fronts the minions of the Jonathan government invented to further the feel-good economy it ran. Conduct of government business revolved around maximizing the interests of the friends, allies, fronts and hirelings of the top deck of the Jonathan government. Revenues that should feed the common purse were shared out to henchmen of the government and under this culture, cronyism reached a worrying height. But since Buhari came, a new order has dawned as he has ordered that all government revenue be funneled into a Treasury Single Account while transparency in the conduct of government business has been instilled. It is no longer a free feeding culture for those close to the government and their various layers of hangers-on. Indeed, a new Sherriff has come and the old order has yielded place to a new order and Nigeria is better for it.
Governance in Nigeria under Buhari’s has become an organized and serious business. It is no longer a loafer’s pastime where all manners of layabouts freely cavort. The seat of power is no, longer a beehive for all manners of time-wasters, fortune hunters and traders of fortune. It has become a center of serious business for the interest of Nigeria. People are getting serious because a serious person is in position. Nigeria is on a rebound. Sure. Change is trending! What more, Nigeria is trending in the international community which clearly sees the bright days ahead despite the economic gloom the country faces. Buhari is showing that with leadership, a country can surmount any problem. The security crisis that met Buhari on ascension has been strategically dealt with as the threats of insecurity greatly recede under his watch. Change has indeed come!
As we can glean, Nigeria is on the mend. It is on the rebound. The people are feeling it. The country is oozing it. It is no longer business as usual. The times are hard but we have a competent hand at the steering. The elements are tough but our man is poised to soften it. Never has the prospect looked bright, even as the means withered. Change has ensured that we source real and viable hope in the face of austerity and Buhari’s first 100 days on the throne has ensured this.
Peter Claver Oparah