By Garba Shehu
This week, President Muhammadu Buhari clocked 100 days away from office after completing two terms of four years each as President of Nigeria.
He chose to stay in Daura to be far away from Abuja in order not to distract the new APC administration and in the hope also that the distance would make it possible for him to have a good rest and to care for his farm which had not received as much attention as it needed while he was away.
He goes to the farm four days a week and is upbeat about how well the crops and his animals are now doing. He gets a good measure of rest, but the visits have not abated. To manage the numbers, he has a weekly program drawn for him as they did while he was in the Villa.
Visitors are scheduled on the program but there are so many people who just start their motor bikes and cars to head out to Daura to him in the belief that he has the time to receive all visitors.
Among his many “special guests” are party faithful, grassroots groups, farmers, artisans, artists, praise singers, nurses and doctors, religious leaders, community leaders, and several other professionals. Not left out are those who benefited from the administration, in one way or another.
The other day, he was musing the decision to remove fuel subsidy by the Tinubu administration, saying he had hoped that it would lessen the pressure on him by constraining the large number of people who pick up their transport and head to Daura to see him from all parts of the country, but that he had noted that instead of they coming one by one, his friends, including the poor and the marginalized now group themselves, share costs to hire buses to come to see and talk to him.
So, while it is the case that some in the country were happy that he was no longer in office, there are some, even more that continue to cherish and admire him.
In the eight years he led the country, Muhammadu Buhari had taken many decisions and as is human, one or two may have been wrong. But no one, not even critics, can question his intentions when those decisions were taken.
There has not been a single area that has not been touched by the Buhari government, with massive, positive changes in the eight years he held fort.
In the normative functions of our governments, an administration takes four to five major decisions in four years and they rush to the public square to celebrate themselves. Looking at the records he left, the Buhari government has taken hundreds of major decisions in the eight years it was in office, and yet you hear nothing but criticism upon criticism.
The promise of tackling corruption and establishing a strong democracy was a prime factor in the rise to power by Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress party in 2015.
On coming to office, the administration directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to close their accounts with deposit money banks to fully operationalize the Treasury Single Account. TSA was launched in 2012 but left on the drawing boards. More than 17,000 bank accounts were closed and an average of four billion Naira in monthly bank charges was saved. Government revenue, it was found out, was being banked in personal accounts and signatories were, in some instances, big men and women who had retired from service.
This was closely followed by the institution of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPS) to cover all MDAs despite great opposition from the armed forces and the universities. More than 50,000 ghost workers were flushed out and savings in hundreds of billions made.
The last administration established “Project Lighthouse,” a financial data integration engine that helped to identify unpaid debts put at more than five trillion Naira, out of which a good part has been recovered. It subscribed to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2016, instituted the Whistleblower mechanism which has been legislated into law, fast-tracked Identity Management, taking registered entries to well above 100 million from just about 20-25 in 2015, boosted assets recovery at home and abroad with enhanced laws that ensured transparency in the management of the funds and generally increased the latitude of power and authority of anti-corruption agencies and the office of the Auditor General of the Federation.
Throughout these eight years, no bribery allegations against the person of Muhammadu Buhari were ever made.
One of the greatest achievements of the Buhari government has been that it diversified the economy. The administration achieved self-sufficiency in rice and financed millions of smallholder farmers of 23 different commodities, an effort that helped to boost the export of agricultural commodities.
In addition to programs such as the Anchor Borrower Scheme, the Buhari government launched the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, following the success of which Nigeria has become a net exporter of certain variants of fertilizer; it set up Special-Agro Processing Zones, resurrected the National Agricultural Land Development Authority, NALDA, set up the National Young Farmers Scheme, Agriculture for Food and Jobs Program and the National Livestock Transformation Program, NLTP among others.
The NLTP was the administration’s effective response to herder-farmer clashes which spiked a few years back, that have substantially been curbed.
The Buhari government launched programs to streamline 46 million vulnerable people into the country’s development process, men and women who were otherwise deprived of it as the nation progressed and, in a way, helped to increase their faith in democracy. Two million poor and vulnerable households received N10,000 bimonthly stipend per month; 10 million school children received a meal a day which has boosted school enrollment and following presidential approvals, so many schemes – Nigeria’s Micro Pension Scheme, Survival Fund, National Youth Investment Fund, National Special Public Works Program, COVID-19 Targeted Credit Facility, Survival Fund, Nigeria Investment and Growth Fund, the Development Bank (created in 2017) and the enhancement of the Bank of Industry just to cite a few have all come into play to make life better for the citizens as part of the massive changes in the economy.
The COVID-19 pandemic was brought under control due to the relentless leadership of President Buhari. In fact, the country was among the top few that came out with strong economic activities after the pandemic. It has happened due to the farsightedness of the President and the effective leadership efforts of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.
Today Boko Haram terrorism has almost been quashed. There has been a massive improvement in health infrastructure, a significant and new education policy has been framed, and even a policy against open defecation has been formulated and is taking hold in many states.
No one should be angry at some revisionist characters whose only focus is the delegitimization of significant Buhari legacies. They refuse to acknowledge that bomb explosions, suicide bomb incidents, and all that stopped when President Buhari stepped in. The National Security Office was ruthless in denying End User Certificates (EUCs) to those bringing in Urea fertilizer. They impounded shipments of fertilizer for over five years to freeze the bomb-making industry controlled by terrorists thereby helping to bring these atrocities to a standstill. The so-called critics don’t want to acknowledge the great job done by the nation’s intelligence agencies in diminishing the IPOB, its affiliates, and other secessionist movements. The National Intelligence Agency (NIA), single-handedly worked with our neighbors, especially Niger Republic in bringing down illegal small arms and light weapons importation into Nigerian territory by 78%. This agency carried out extensive work on the blocking of the insurgent Cameroonian Ambazonian network’s infiltration into Nigeria. Our security and intelligence operatives were virtually awake 24/7 and the President was well aware at all times of the evolving situations.
Buhari’s critics don’t want to acknowledge how General Marwa’s arrival on the scene completely paralyzed the activities of big-time drug syndicates. What General Marwa did in just one year has not been achieved in our National history. Even the Senator Hadi Sirika that they want to smear has improved aviation security beyond any of his predecessors. His efforts are acknowledged by international organisations including the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and by many other countries. Where were they when he was keeping awake at night to ensure that the Abuja runway was repaired in record time? Or working to fully execute the modernization of terminal buildings in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Enugu (plus runway) and Port Harcourt?
It’s no mean achievement that the Nigerian aviation sector made the world’s second-fastest recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
The critics don’t want to acknowledge that maritime security experienced such a turnaround when Admiral Gambo came on board. In less than one year, the International Maritime Bureau was singing the Nigerian Navy’s praises for normalizing the dire security situation in the Gulf of Guinea, GoG. Their reports clearly stated that for the first time in 27 years, the GoG had become the safest maritime environment.
There has not been a single area that had not been touched by the Buhari government. We have seen massive positive changes in the last eight years but as they say, the one who is pretending to be asleep is harder to wake up than the one who is sleeping.
Bullies who attacked the governments and “something dropped” will continue to antagonize Buhari borne of anger from lost opportunities. A certain Buhari “critic” who served a Military Governor in one of the Northern States, even his underwear was bought from government coffers. When they came in, they freed thieves, robbers, and receivers of stolen goods and even gave them a working capital!
Within a few weeks, crime returned to Kaduna, and yes, the other places and he has the effrontery to speak as he did. This society has no use for such squalid nonsense!!
How many of these people do you think were happy when President Buhari said, “NBuha more free money”?
Buhari said money in National Security Agencies is for security. Lazy men and women who can’t work cannot just walk in and walk out of that place with bags stuffed with money in a free-for-all. These ones have nothing to teach anyone. President Tinubu, a wise politician will equally see through their masquerade.
Muhammadu Buhari has done his part and left. History will judge him, and fairly, I think.
Garba Shehu, former Presidential Spokesman to Buhari