On failed promises: President Buhari needs to stop choosing between accountability and competence

The Centre for Democracy and Governance released its fourth Buharimeter report, a report that keeps track of the performance of the Nigerian president and also monitors the execution of promises he made during his election campaign. According to the report, out of the 222 promises he made during his campaign, only one has been fulfilled- Buhari’s vow to declare his assets and liabilities upon resumption in office. However, the promise has only been partially fulfilled because he also stated that all of his appointed cabinet members would be encouraged to declare their assets. Till now, none of his ministers have tendered their assets and liabilities to the Code of Conduct Bureau. 235 days into his tenure, 27 of his promises are ongoing while the remaining 194 have yet to start. However, it looks like Buhari is looking to his “lost but found” budget to save him.

Buhari's failed promises
Credit: www.buharimeter.ng

Buhari's failed promises

The subject of the missing budget, which gripped the Nigerian populace sometime last week came to a head when Senate President, Bukola Saraki, announced two days after the budget was supposedly stolen, that the Budget was not stolen. Instead, he said, the confusion originated from the office of the Presidency who had submitted two copies of the budget to the Nigerian senate. Bukola Saraki alleged that President Buhari submitted one copy of the budget to him, while Buhari’s Spokesperson Ita Enang submitted a completely different 2016 budget to him. He however said the Nigerian Senate would “only accept the one presented by the Nigerian president.”

It is unclear whether those claims are true, but what seems rather glaring is the sheer disorganization from either the office of the president or the Nigerian senate. This became even more grounded when days later, President Buhari ordered a recall of the 2016 Nigerian Budget; seemingly to make some changes to due to the recent fall in global oil prices as the budget was passed last year December. However, the signs were very clear even then, that the global oil price would drop well below the $37 benchmark for the 2016 budget by the office of the President. This has caused many to question the competence of his advisers. This seemingly confused aura around the budget might see a delay in its implementation, a luxury Nigeria does not have.

Buhari’s “Budget of change” would seemingly address all of Nigeria’s problems, including corruption. His readily available answer to every claim of corruption in his administration is to talk about his own accountability. When asked why the National Assembly had plans to buy over 400 new vehicles valued at over 4.7 billion Naira during a presidential media chat late last year, he replied “…if he could turn down a 400 million bill for cars in the presidency why couldn’t the Nigerian Senate do that?” His reply was dumbfounding to many, because it suggested that the Buhari was unaware of what was actually happening at the Senate. Notably, a similar mistake former President Goodluck Jonathan made- assuming that everyone was willing and able to act in line. Jonathan supporters maintain that he was effective in office, and that his failures had more to do with the people in his administration.

President Buhari recalled the budget few days ago, to revise it based on the new realities besetting the Naira. His revision of the budget now seems to question his previous seemingly self-righteous statement about the cars for the presidency. Originally, 8.09 billion Naira was budgeted for the purchase of various brands of vehicles for State house operations in 2016; a lot of money considering the issues facing Nigeria presently. However, President Buhari’s revision sees it reduce to 1.34 billion Naira which suggests that he didn’t really know what was in his budget. Similar to his budget speech, Buhari’s replies in his first media chat also raise questions about what he really knows.

When asked about the devaluation of the Naira in his media chat, President Buhari implied that our import culture was solely responsible for the fall of the Naira. He was adamant that the Naira would not be devalued. He also seemed clueless about Nigeria’s foreign exchange policy, and later admitted that he would ask the Central Bank of Nigeria for clarifications. However, in the past one week, Nigeria’s naira has had no choice than to devalue itself, after the CBN lifted restrictions on Foreign exchange, a move that analysts knew was a long time in coming. For the President of the nation to come on national T.V and be unable to speak on his country’s currency convincingly (not extensively because we all know he is no finance analyst) suggests that maybe his special advisers enjoy keeping him in the dark.

Looking back on Bukola Saraki’s claim that two different copies of the Nigerian budget found their way to the National Assembly, a few more questions come to mind. Had the budget been tampered with to reflect changes that President would not know about? President Buhari’s absolute ignorance about the Nigerian Senate’s plan to buy cars while most of the Nigerian populace knew begs the question- why isn’t the president clued in? This also questions his competence as a leader.

For a man who rode into Aso rock on the chariot of his promises, 222 of them, he surely heightened expectations. However, 235 days into office and just one campaign promise fulfilled, the conversation is shifting to his ability to lead. While his reputation from his first stint as Military General has suggested that he’s been accountable as a leader before, his competence matters most at this stage of Nigeria’s growth. Is President Buhari’s administration competent enough to lead us from Egypt to the Promise Land?

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