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Buhari Perfecting Goodluck Jonathan’s Pitfalls?

Tobi Aworinde of The Punch recalls various events which occurred during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan that attracted fierce criticisms from President Muhammadu Buhari (and his party) and highlights that the retired General is following in the footsteps of the man he once criticised.

Kano wedding vs Kano rally 
One incident, which Nigerians will not forget in a hurry, occurred on April 14, 2014 when 276 girls were abducted by the Boko Haram insurgents from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State. In the early hours of the same day, 88 persons lost their lives when the dreaded sect also carried out a twin bombing at a crowded bus station in Nyanya, Nasarawa State.

Jonathan, barely 24 hours after both tragedies, travelled to Kano where he attended a lavish political rally to celebrate the defection of a former governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, from the All Progressives Congress to the then ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party. Among Jonathan’s many vocal critics then was Buhari, who expressed his disappointment on his Facebook page, describing Jonathan’s action as “very unfortunate” and “unpresidential.”

He had said, “While the country is still mourning, President Jonathan, yesterday, went on to visit Kano State to welcome former governor of the state, Ibrahim Shekarau, to the PDP.”

Almost four years after, Buhari, as President, committed the same blunder that he asked Nigerians to crucify Jonathan for.

The President proceeded to Kano on Saturday, March 3, to honour the invitation of two serving governors, Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo State) and Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano State), whose children, Idris and Fatima, respectively, got married at an extravagant ceremony.

Notably, this was barely 24 hours after a Boko Haram attack on an Internally Displaced Persons camp in Rann, Borno State, that left three United Nations workers and three soldiers dead, and a communal clash on the Mambilla Plateau in Taraba State, which claimed the lives of no fewer than five persons.

A lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan, Mr. Idowu Johnson, while assessing the two scenarios, said, “During Jonathan’s government, we had a weak state and a weak leadership. Under Buhari, the state is a bit strong; the leadership is not that strong but it is stronger than that of Jonathan. That is why we can see some kind of comparison between the Jonathan presidency and the Buhari presidency.”

Dapchi vs Chibok schoolgirls’ kidnap 
Despite his condemnation of Jonathan’s handling of the Chibok schoolgirls’ kidnap and the pledge to annihilate the insurgents within a few months after his inauguration, the dreaded sect is still on the rampage. In Buhari’s first month in office, about 500 people, including soldiers, were reportedly killed by Boko Haram. In the first four months of his presidency, Amnesty International estimated that 1,600 Nigerians were killed by the sect.

This was a far cry from the assertions of the ex-major general, who repeatedly criticised the military under Jonathan.

Critics were quick to point out that the same approach was adopted by Jonathan when the Nigeria Governors’ Forum in its November 2014 meeting approved the withdrawal of $2bn by the Jonathan to tackle insecurity.

In his New Year address to the nation this year, the President again declared Boko Haram defeated.

But on February 19, the “defeated” Boko Haram abducted 110 girls from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, leaving the international community aghast.

According to Buhari, on March 14, his administration’s response was better than the previous administration following the Chibok girls’ abduction.

The spokesperson for the Bring Back Our Girls Movement, Mr. Sesugh Akume, in an interview with Punch, expressed disappointment in the President over his comments on the Dapchi girls’ abduction.

Akume said, “We shouldn’t be glorifying failure. The fact that the Dapchi girls (abduction) happened at all is not something that we should be talking about. It means we didn’t learn anything from what happened in Chibok and it is a shame.

“When the President went to Dapchi, he didn’t connect with the parents. He simply went there, made a political statement and came back. That is completely unacceptable. The parents said they felt worse after he came than when he did not come.”

The Federal Government, on March 21, confirmed the release of 101 of the Dapchi girls.

Fuel crisis 
In an interview with Daily Trust, five days before his May 29, 2015 swearing-in, Buhari condemned the Jonathan administration’s inability to address the issue of fuel subsidy. When asked to react to the anxiety of fuel importers, who were unsure of the direction of his incoming government, the then president-elect flaunted his experience as Federal Commissioner of Petroleum and Natural Resources from 1976 to 1979 when General Olusegun Obasanjo was the military Head of State.

Buhari also boasted about his achievements in the oil and gas sector in 1984 when he was Head of State. He explained how he appointed Professor Tam David West as the Minister of Petroleum and introduced innovations that saw the nation exporting 100,000 barrels per day.

He had said, “We could tell how much Nigerian crude cost, the cost of transportation from there to the refinery, the cost of refining, the cost of transportation to the pump stations and maybe five per cent (would) go for overhead. I can understand if Nigerians pay for those costs but for somebody to say he is subsidising for Nigerians, who is subsidising what?”

A highly confident Buhari, with strong conviction that he alone had what it would take to tackle the nutty issues in the sector, appointed himself the Minister of Petroleum Resources, and chose the then Executive Vice Chairman and General Counsel for Exxon Mobil (Africa), Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, as his second-in-command.

Nearly three years into his administration, however, the President has been unable to eliminate fuel subsidy. In fact, the fuel crisis came to a head in December 2017, which was characterised by scarcity of petroleum products, soaring fuel prices and countless Nigerians having to cancel their holiday travel plans.

Subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise known as petrol, was reported to have risen by N40.70 per litre. On Thursday, Kachikwu said subsidy on petrol costs the Federal Government N1.4tn annually.

Analysing the fuel crisis, during the Jonathan and Buhari administrations, a former Chairman, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Ledum Mitee, criticised Buhari for failing in his promise to end fuel subsidy and institute reforms in the oil sector.

Mitee told Punch, “The promises which the President made while he was campaigning are clearly different from what we are seeing today. Subsidy, insofar as he (Buhari, as a candidate) was concerned, was a scam which should be discontinued.

“Today, we know better that we are still paying subsidy. So, I think that clearly, this is an area that he has not fared well. It is very difficult to even see what the clear policy direction really is.”

Naira free fall 
As the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Buhari constantly made promises that the naira would be equal to the dollar in value, if he assumed office.

Not long after Buhari assumed office, however, the naira took a nosedive. Within one month, the naira went from N180 to N222 to the dollar and by February 2017, it depreciated to N500 to the dollar at the parallel market. In December 2017, the Central Bank of Nigeria weakened the naira, selling dollars at 307 on the official interbank market.

Nigeria currently has at least five exchange rates, but the average Nigerian exchanges about N360 for a US dollar.

Speaking on the development, an associate professor of Economics at the Ekiti State University, Abel Awe, noted that as of the time Jonathan took over, the official exchange rate was N155 to the dollar. He explained that along the line, there was a decline in the international oil price and that the government was unable to realise adequate revenue.

Awe stated, “Today, the parallel market value of the naira is 360 to 363. It is very easy to criticise, but by the time you get there and see the reality on the ground, then you know that to make political promises and statements is very costly at times.”

Corruption 
Three weeks to his exit as president, Jonathan, like most pundits, predicted that he would face persecution in the hands of the incoming administration of Buhari. He also warned his aides and ministers to be prepared for persecution as well.

Today, Buhari seems to have all but taken legal action against Jonathan. The EFCC has probed almost everyone of note connected to Jonathan and his administration. For instance, the anti-corruption agency froze several accounts belonging to the former First Lady, Patience Jonathan, containing over $15m, and arrested her sister at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

A former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, another prime target of the EFCC, has also been charged with money laundering.

Buhari’s government, however, is not without its own persons of interest. The incumbent Minister of Transportation and Buhari’s 2015 campaign director, Rotimi Amaechi, alluded to this while speaking to journalists in February.

Asked if there was no form of corruption under Buhari, he said, “I will nearly be a foolish man to say that, but compare the magnitude if there is any. Before, it was with impunity; now, there are consequences for stealing.”

Consequences notwithstanding, the Buhari administration has witnessed the recall and reinstatement of indicted government officials, among several other scandals.

The government faced severe criticism after it was learnt that a former Chairman of Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, who had just been reabsorbed into the civil service, was still on the EFCC’s wanted list for his alleged role in a pension biometric scam in the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation to the tune of N2bn.

Similarly, in February, Buhari recalled the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf, who was suspended by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, on July 6, 2017, giving unjustifiable reasons for the controversial recall of the NHIS boss.

Yusuf, who is being probed by the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, was accused of perpetrating fraud to the tune of N919m.

In his appraisal of the Buhari administration’s corruption war, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership told Punch that there was room for improvement.

The Director, CACOL, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said, “When Buhari was contesting election, we had high hopes that his antecedents would work for him and that he was going to be a no-nonsense president, albeit that he would have to pass through other arms of government before he could take final decisions.

“He said he was going to make his asset declaration public, but several months later, we didn’t see the asset declaration. It took so much effort before he made the asset declaration public. We believed that he was going to compel those that were working with him to make their assets declaration public. They didn’t do that. However, we saw that there was some level of discipline among the civil servants.”

Nepotism 
With regard to appointments, Jonathan was often accused of giving priority to the South-South and South-East, while largely ignoring the South-West.

Some of those regarded as the most powerful in Jonathan’s government were his wife (Rivers); Alison-Madueke (Rivers); a former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Delta); a former Special Adviser on Research, Documentation and Strategy, the late Oronto Douglas (Bayelsa); a former Chief Security Officer, Gordon Obua (Bayelsa); and a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. Pius Anyim (Ebonyi).

Similarly, Buhari’s appointments have been criticised for their northern slant. In 2016, a former House of Representatives member in the Second Republic, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, described Buhari’s alleged nepotism as the worst in Nigeria’s history.

“In fact, in the history of Africa, let me make bold to assert that I have never seen any level of nepotism that has equalled or surpassed this in my entire life – I am now in my 67th year,” Mohammed had said.

Buttressing the submissions of Mohammed, the CACOL director said, “When Buhari appointed members of his cabinet, there were complaints that most of them were from his ethnic group and very close to his town, if not from Daura. Those were the immediate disappointments we had.”