Monday, 21 March 2016

Change That Beggars Belief

The new new Nigerian government was elected on a promise to change the corrupt and self serving government of the past regimes. It was going to sweep out corruption and misadminstration, and clean up the corrupt mess left by the previous government. That promise has proven to be an empty boast. It now appears that the faith placed in the new government by the people of Nigeria was misplaced. There was a delay in appointing ministers. It was hoped that this was to be ensure that the right people were appointed to take forward an agenda for change. It turns out that the delay was just another function of the government's inertia and lack of ideas. The appointees have proven less than impressive. 

The economy that has been left to drift. The ministry of finance tussling with the central bank for control of fiscal policy. This has led to economic stagnation with the foreign exchange market practically imploding. The stock exchange has crashed and then fallen even further. No tangible domestic economic strategy has been outlined. Even corporate taxation hasn't yet been radically reformed. The government presented a disastrous budget to the senate that had to be withdrawn. It so clearly didn't address the economic issues at hand or properly allocate funds to areas of greatest need. The government has been focused on obtaining bridging loans rather than securing investment. Little has been done to diversify the economy and move it from a predominantly services base to a more manufacturing one. 

The minister for services rushed into the breach with a strategy document but failed to do his due diligence or any impact assessments. Lofty ambitions of managing power and developing infrastructure have rapidly been overwhelmed by the need to just keep things running. As it turns out operational continuity has lost out to poor planning and incompetence. Almost every month of this new government has seen fuel shortages. Electricity supply has fallen to new lows. Something that is almost unimaginable given how usually poor it is. 

Law and order in the country seem to be breaking down in a lot of states. Elections in Rivers state recently provoked calls for the imposition of a state of emergency. Fulani herdsmen seem to be rampaging unchecked, laying waste to villages and murdering women and children on a regular basis. Certain elements have started a campaign for a so called 'Biafra state'. This agitation has been tackled in a heavy handed manner. A radio show host arrested, detained and arraigned in court on charges of treason and sedition. More time has been spent briefing about how Boko Haram has been defeated than on actually tackling the terrorist menace itself. 

The government has become increasingly associated with misinformation and spin. Campaign promises have been watered down or at times denied outright. A campaign pledge to offer an allowance to the unemployed was first scorned by the president in a webchat in December and is now being said to have never been made at all. It appears that contrary to President Buhari's declaration that his experience of democracy has changed him from a military dictator; he appears to be increasingly leaning towards a militaristic totalitarian approach to governing. 

A lot of work has gone into probing the huge amount of corruption linked to the previous government. However, this appears to be an excuse for the government's inaction on a whole raft of other areas of public service. To date it appears that tackling corruption is the only policy that government is actually pursuing.

There is no doubt that the previous government left services and the infrastructure of government in a sorry state. However, this was always the task at hand when President Buhari campaigned for election and when he assumed office. Continuously pointing it out has worn thin on the citizenry and shows an element of cluelessness in a government that promised so much and claimed to have the answer to the country's problems. President Buhari is at the helm of an administration that is presiding over an unprecedented level of social and personal difficulties for Nigerians. His credibility, like his approval ratings is at an all time low. He needs to take a step back and come up with a more considered action plan to address all that is currently going wrong in the country. More importantly though, it needs to embody real change and act to reverse the poor performance and perception of the administration.