Fortes and foibles of Buhari’s 2017 Independence Day speech – Jide Ojo

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    Last Sunday, October 1, 2017, Nigeria attained 57 years of independence from colonial rule.  Expectedly, a number of activities were lined up to celebrate the epochal event. In line with the somber mood of the nation, there was no rolling out of the drums or any elaborate ceremonies. Prayers were duly offered in mosques and churches and the President addressed the nation at 7am after which he travelled to Maiduguri to celebrate the day with our troops fighting Boko Haram insurgency in the North Eastern part of the country.

    In the last 72 hours, I have been busy analysing President Muhammadu Buhari’s Independence Day speech across different electronic broadcast platforms. I watched the broadcast in the studio of the Nigerian Television Authority after which I discussed it on the station’s flagship programme ‘Weekend Deal’ for some 15 minutes. I thereafter moved to Arise TV for another two-part discussions, first with a former Speaker of House of Representatives, Umar Ghali Na’abba, and later with veteran journalist, Mrs. Moji Makanjuola. Thereafter, I was on ‘O & M Show’ on the African Independent Television. The day after saw me discussing the speech on ‘Majelisa’ on Kiss 99.9 FM, and ‘Frank Talk’ on People’s Television.

    I have read the President’s aforementioned speech several times and have even re-read his 2016 Independence Day speech to find out the No. 1 citizens’ trail of thoughts. I must confess that the President needs to be commended for his articulation and elocution.  In the 2017 speech, the President made use of more statistical data than he did in 2016. However, his areas of emphasis were slightly different from that of 2016. In 2017, the President’s areas of emphasis were in three areas: Security, Economy and Anti-Corruption.  The same as last year’s, broadly speaking. However, under economy, the President did not say anything about the refineries, roads, railways, dams, and housing scheme of his administration as he did last year.

    In using data, the President reminded us of the two million deaths in the country’s 1967 – 1970 fratricidal civil war, promising not to allow what he called ‘a re-run’. He gave the breakdown of the successes recorded in the agricultural sector. According to the President, “The Federal Government’s agricultural Anchor Borrowers Programme, which I launched in November 2015, has been an outstanding success with: N43.92bn released through the CBN and 13 participating institutions, 200,000 small holder farmers from 29 states of the federation benefitting, 233,000 hectares of farmland cultivating eight commodities, namely rice, wheat, maize, cotton, soya-beans, poultry, cassava and groundnuts, in addition to fish farming.”

    On fertilizer, the President said, “Since December last year, this Administration has produced over seven million 50Kg bags of fertilizer. Eleven blending plants with a capacity of 2.1 million metric tons have been reactivated. We have saved $150m in foreign exchange and N60bn in subsidy. Fertilizer prices have dropped from N13,000 per 50Kg bag to N5,500.” He went further to say, “A new presidential initiative is starting with each state of the federation creating a minimum of 10,000 jobs for unemployed youths, again with the aid of CBN’s development finance initiatives.”

    The President was sincere and honourable to admit that power remains a huge problem. He said as of September 12, 2017, production of power reached an all-time high of 7,001 megawatts. Government is increasing its investment, clearing up the operational and financial log jam bedeviling the industry and hope to reach 10,000 megawatts by 2020. He noted that the special window created for manufacturers, investors and exporters, foreign exchange requirements has proved very effective. According to him, since April, about $7bn has come through this window alone.  PMB said the country has recorded seven consecutive months of lower inflation, Naira rate is beginning to stabilise, appreciating from N525 per $1 in February this year to N360 today.

    Still talking statistics, the president informed the public that in order to stabilise the polity, the Federal Government gave additional support to states in the form of: State Excess Crude Account loans, Budget Support Facility, Stabilisation Fund Release to state and local government as follows: N200bn  in 2015, N441bn in 2016, N1tn in 2017. Altogether totalling N1.642tn.This, he said, was done to enable states to pay outstanding salaries, pensions and small business suppliers who had been all but crippled over the years.The questions are: Have the states fulfilled their part of the bargain? Have they used the funds as directed by the Federal Government?

    From the President’s speech statistics, it is possible to have an infograph that will drive qualitative and quantitative analysis.

    Though Buhari enumerated his government’s five pillar N500bn Special Intervention Programme as consisting of  Homegrown School Feeding Programme, N-Power Job creation to provide loans to small-scale traders and artisans, Conditional Cash Transfer, Family Homes Fund and Social Housing Scheme, he however did not give a desirable breakdown of how much has been spent on each strand of the programme, successes and challenges. This is a huge gap in his otherwise laudable speech.

    In the government’s fight against corruption, the President noted his government had empowered teams of prosecutors, Assembled detailed databases, and Accelerated the recovery of stolen funds. He recounted that the Administration’s new institutional reforms include: Enforcing Treasury Single Account, Whistle-Blowers Policy, and Integrated Payroll Personnel and Information System. Again, statistics would have helped drive home the point here. I am sure Nigerians would love to know how much has been realised from the TSA, implementation of the Whistleblower policy and IPPIS payment system. How much loot has been recovered both internally and from outside the shores of the country? How many ghost workers have been detected to date? How many persons have been convicted for corruption under the administration?

    Arising from last year’s speech, Mr. President promised that our four refineries would be repaired so that Nigeria could produce most of our petroleum requirements locally, pending the coming on stream of new refineries. “That way we will save ten billion USD yearly in importing fuel.” How far with that promise? What is the status of the Water Resources Bill encompassing the National Water Resources Policy and National Irrigation and Drainage Policy to improve management of water and irrigation development in the country? How many of the 12 River Basin Authorities have been revived? Nigerians will also be delighted to know the status of the itemised 12 federal roads meant for dualisation, reconstruction or rehabilitation in last year’s speech.

    Mr. President, Sir, you said your government was initiating a pilot housing scheme of 2,838 units uniformly spread across the 36 states and FCT and that it is expected that these units would be completed within six months. Was your government able to deliver on this promise? Why is it that there was no project commissioned by your government to mark our 57thIndependence Anniversary?

    It is important for President Buhari to know that name-calling and tongue-lashing people calling for self-determination will achieve nothing. Equal rights, justice and fair play will. Negotiating with the “hot-headed” agitators is the best way out.

    Punchng

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