One Hundred Days Towards A Great Future -By Akeem Soboyede

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Akeem Soboyede

Akeem Soboyede

 

President Muhammadu Buhari’s first 100 days in office may not go down in history for this laudable feat of legislative and executive collaboration. There will be many instances of that in the months and years ahead, to be sure. Still, there is a lot to celebrate – 100 days and counting – in an administration whose very emergence restored the hope of millions in their country’s democracy and its institutions.

The “First 100-day” anniversary celebrated by many governments the world over has an origin steeped in misery.

At the time he came into office as President of the United States in 1933, the economy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR)’s America was coming apart at its seams. Deep economic malaise had struck in 1929, bringing more than a decade of unbridled prosperity to a screeching halt. The “Roaring 20s” had become the “Great Depression”. Herbert Hoover, the man on whose watch the downturn occurred, lurched from one ill-conceived policy to the other, pouring the proverbial “fire” on the raging economic conflagration consuming his people.

Then came the general elections of November 1932 and the emergence of FDR as President. The man took office on March 9, 1933; by the end of the first 100 days of his administration, in mid-June of that year, he had pushed through about 15 major pieces of legislation in the US Congress. These ultimately laid the foundation for that country’s remarkable economic recovery and stability.

What is known as the “First 100 days” of any government today, with its origins in FDR’s administration, is actually a celebration of what can happen when the legislative arm of a democracy buys into the vision of a hard-charging head of the country’s executive branch.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s first 100 days in office may not go down in history for this laudable feat of legislative and executive collaboration. There will be many instances of that in the months and years ahead, to be sure. Still, there is a lot to celebrate – 100 days and counting – in an administration whose very emergence restored the hope of millions in their country’s democracy and its institutions.

Critics of the Buhari government have sniped that it appears to be content with just “emerging”; that is, from the ruins of the crumbled edifice that was the Peoples Democratic Party-led government, which held sway over Nigeria these past 16 years, with less than sterling results. Many have placed the “Baba-Go-Slow” toga on the president’s head, signposting their preference that he races through governance like a hare, instead of carefully making his way through the known and unknown minefields.

The preference for a new government that hits the ground running very fast is quite understandable. The PDP government from 1999 till this past May hardly restored the hope of Nigerians in meaningful governance that delivers the proverbial “dividends of democracy”. In the PDP scheme of things, there were almost no dividends delivered to citizen-shareholders in the Nigerian enterprise, especially during the last five years that Goodluck Jonathan held sway. Meanwhile, chief executives of the corporation, like the president and members of his party, more than did well for themselves. So well that we are now told many of them became billionaires through shady deals in the all-important oil sector, among similar shenanigans.

This is exactly why the tone of governance set during Buhari’s First 100 days becomes significant and worthy of note – without the acts of raucous “celebration” and self-congratulations that have been the hallmarks of that anniversary for past governments in this country.

The truth is that the first 100 days of any administration is hardly worth celebrating for its own sake; the same was true of FDR and all those laws he managed to ram through the US Congress in about three months. It took many more months, years and even decades for Americans to feel the impact of those laws and the policies that came in their wake, especially with the enduring structures thus created, like the American Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Securities and Exchange Commission, not to mention the Social Security administration.

Sure, the general may not have constituted a cabinet within his first 100 days in office; even less flattering, his party frittered away a great amount of goodwill when its members and leadership were locked in a well-publicised battle of wits over allocation of plum positions in the National Assembly. Worse, the insidious insurgency in the country’s North-East continues, with Boko Haram appearing to make a murderous comeback just when it appeared it was being administered its last rites.

But amid the doubts, stoked in large part by the disgraced PDP opposition now revelling in its phoenix-like role as a vocal opposition, who in his or her right mind doubts that the tone of governance has changed for the better in Nigeria, at least at the centre? Who actually believes that the culture of ministerial impunity, where members of the federal cabinet engage in oil bunkering as – it is alleged against certain ministers of the past Jonathan government – will ever rear its ugly head in Nigeria again? Who doubts that when the president finally announces members of his cabinet, those whose names are lucky to be unveiled will realise there is a big difference between the day they heard their names called, and May 28, 2015?

The truth is that the first 100 days of any administration is hardly worth celebrating for its own sake; the same was true of FDR and all those laws he managed to ram through the US Congress in about three months. It took many more months, years and even decades for Americans to feel the impact of those laws and the policies that came in their wake, especially with the enduring structures thus created, like the American Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Securities and Exchange Commission, not to mention the Social Security administration.

The same tone of a visionary government set to create enduring, positive attitudes and structures is true of the Buhari government, just as it was for FDR.

The same tone of a visionary government set to create enduring, positive attitudes and structures is true of the Buhari government, just as it was for FDR. Thus, for Buhari and many other purposeful leaders before him, like America’s FDR, it is not and should not be just a matter of “celebrating” or “marking” 100 days.

Instead, the mantra should be “100 Days…and counting”.

The all-pervasive message that corruption will no longer be tolerated, especially in the highest echelons of government, is the most enduring legacy or “structure” any government can “build” in Nigeria today. If maintained, it will become the pedestal upon which this government can and will record the goals it has set out to achieve.

Such goals will surely include routing the Boko Haram insurgency (with resources alloted for the task deployed to their proper ends and not siphoned); closing loopholes in revenue generation and accounting, through which trillions in public funds have been lost over several decades; and instituting other fiscal, economic and social policies that enjoy the confidence of Nigerians, foreign countries, partners and institutions that will be necessary for such reforms, programmes and policies to succeed.

If these and other goals can be achieved by the Buhari government after the end of its tenure, in the next four or eight years, it will surely be said that it is this change of attitude in governance – most significantly an intolerance of corruption – that have made it possible.

Which will certainly make Buhari’s First 100 Days worthy of remembering, even decades into the future.

Soboyede is a journalist and US-trained lawyer.

 

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