Is Buhari the Change Nigerians Wanted?

In 2007, the US economy entered a recession. The economy contracted and the unemployment rate was rising. The insolvency of Bear Stearns in March of 2008 prompted the Federal Reserve of New York to infuse $25 billion into the bank to provide life support pending a merger or purchase. While this slowed the imminent crisis lurking around the corner,  it did not mitigate the economic Armageddon on the horizon. The collapse of Lehman Brothers in September of 2008 moved the country from a recession to what economists like Paul Krugman aptly call “The Great Recession.” Between December of 2007 when the recession started and November of 2008 when the US voted Senator Barack Obama as the new president, the country had lost over 1.8 million jobs. In November alone, the job losses stood at 533,000. The credit crunch exacerbated the crisis, and many mortgages entered default.  Many years of bad economic policies created this crisis.

This brief history about the US economy on the eve of President Obama’s election is important as we try to draw parallels with what is happening in Nigeria today. Nigeria’s economy has been sick for many years. The leaders of the country do not possess any coherent vision and plan on how to take Nigeria to a prosperous future. They have been comfortable running the country as a rentier state. As long as oil revenues continue to flow, the politicians distributed money and state resources to their patrons. There is no jobs program for thousands of young people who graduate each year from the nation’s colleges and universities. Infrastructure is falling apart and electricity is rationed. The global slump in oil prices that began last year has dampened Nigeria’s economic outlook.

The poor economic prospects and the insecurity in the country prompted Nigerians to call for a change in government. Since this new democratic dispensation sixteen years ago, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been in power. The party’s notoriety for corruption couple with the inept leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan caused them to be thrown out of office in the March, 2015 elections. In this election, PDP lost control of the Presidency, the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives), and most governorships. Nigerians cry for change was so loud that they will give power to a former military dictator whose human rights records should confine him to life imprisonment.

If Nigerians believe Buhari to be the change they were looking for to transform their economy, they are already having buyers remorse. This is evident in the comments sections of most Nigerian dailies. These comments which in the months leading to the election sang gloriously Buhari’s praise are now peppered with negativity and despair. Buhari’s party,  the All Progressives Congress (APC) spent more time planning on how to wrestle power from the PDP with no plan on how to govern the country. The party is today marred in crisis as the different factions jostle for control.

It has been over 90 days since Buhari’s election and about 33 days since he took his oath of office. He has not appointed his cabinet. News emanating from the Presidency are that these appointments are coming in September. The party has offered two excuses for this delay: the political crisis in the party and the voluminous handover notes received from the Jonathan’s transition team. These are bad excuses and are originating from a party not yet ready for prime time. Nigerians should not be suffering because of APC’s inability to put its house in order.

Buhari and the APC ran on two things: Economy and Security. In these two, there is yet to be a plan or direction for the country. In the last 30 days, all they are doing is to blame the Jonathan’s administration for the problems. Nigerians know the problems of the previous administration and they need no reminders. The failure of PDP is the reason for APC’s election. Buhari like Obama inherited a sick economy. Less than three weeks after Obama’s election (not sworn in), he unveiled his economic team. Obama announced most of his cabinet members in December of 2008 and January of 2009 and most of them received confirmation  and assumption of office a day after the inauguration. This showed his readiness to be president on day one. If Buhari and the APC were ready to govern, they should have had their cabinet nominees ready for confirmation on the first business day after the swearing in.

If Buhari’s government does not put its houses in order immediately and give Nigerians the positive change they voted for and deserve, their administration may be a one term proposition.

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