“The first hundred days is going to be important, but it’s probably going to be the first thousand days that makes the difference.” – Barack Obama, April 29, 2009
Today, Muhammadu Buhari will be sworn in as the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, swept into office in a tidal wave of mass popularity engendered by millions of Nigerians who perceive him to be the much awaited agent of positive change and national advancement. Buhari is not new to power nor to governing a nation as diverse as Nigeria, having been a military dictator in the 80’s, head of a regime whose tenure is hailed and criticized in almost equal degree; respected for its supposed intolerance for corruption and indiscipline, Buhari’s earlier venture in national governance has also been vilified for its ruthlessness and repressiveness. Today, Buhari stands at the junction of history, straddling the thresholds of both the past and the future, and while the former is riddled with the remnants of an unsavoury litany, the latter is buffered with a huge capital of trust invested by a citizenry desperate for a sudden and favorable twist in their fortunes. The expectation, as Buhari himself has admitted, is high.
Buffeted by deep-rooted corruption, insecurity, unemployment, energy shortages and fuel scarcity, Nigeria has drifted dangerously to the edge; only a genuinely mischievous person would disagree that this is not the best of times to assume the leadership of a country, which in recent times, has seen the worst kind of leadership and economic mismanagement. But I am certain that Buhari already had an idea of what he was getting into when he first obtained his presidential nomination forms. It was never going to be easy; whether at this time, or at any other time. It would be convenient to shirk and hide under the excuse that the expectations are unreasonably high and that the task ahead of his administration is formidable, but Buhari must realize that the longer he takes in dawdling with the buttons of governance, the quicker the goodwill he enjoys amongst the populace ebbs. There is no time to ‘come to terms’; within minutes of taking his Oath, the nation will constantly gauge the tone and direction of his leadership from every statement issued by him, every communique made available by his aides, his ministerial appointments, the flavor of his economic policies and even the posturing of his political party.
While it may appear unfair that due to no fault of his, Buhari’s first hundred days would definitely be subject to micro-monitoring, criticisms (albeit harshly by the losing PDP, which leadership has not yet accepted the reality of being the official opposition), and constant analysis, he should draw comfort from the fact that this would not be a first. While the underlying forces that ensured the landslide victory of Barack Obama in the 2008 United States elections are somewhat different, the wave of expectations that befell the first African-American occupant of the White House was just as tidal. Having brandished “Change” as his campaign mantra enroute to the presidency, millions of Americans and a skeptical Republican opposition subjected Obama’s first few months to intense scrutiny. What is equally instructive was the inauspicious time he assumed office; America was in recession, caught up in the global economic downturn at the time, with a rash of corporate collapses in the financial and mortgage sectors, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had slumped to 7,949.09, the lowest inaugural performance for the Dow since its creation. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq took similar hits, dropping 5.3 and 5.8 percent, respectively, and unemployment rate was 7.8%. Buhari finds himself in significantly the same muddle; what awaits him? high unemployment, corruption ingrained into the fabric of statecraft, nation-wide insecurity and terrorism in the north-east, a disorientated populace, high domestic and international debts and sliding global prices of the country’s mainstay; oil. Daunting.
Rebuilding a nation that has been pillaged like Nigeria is not a task for the faint-hearted. Buhari must have already developed an initial strategic game-plan to address the myriad of problems that we face. He has promised he will be focusing on these areas: corruption, insecurity, unemployment and power generation. These four are not in isolation of the other complex problems plaguing the country. However, tackling them will have a roborant impact on the efforts in rebuilding of our other failed institutions. It is a good place to begin.
Today, as Buhari takes his Oath of Office, what should be paramount on his mind is that for the millions of Nigerians that voted him in, the promise of hope and change, ethereal concepts that were embraced with euphoria, are expected to crystallize soonest into tangible and visible dividends
dividends with the potential to lift them out of the mire and poverty they have been long subjected to.
This is the destiny that has been thrust upon him. One that I sincerely pray he fulfills.