Opinion: Buhari, second half is more important to win game

By Jide Ojo

The game of football has a number of striking similarities with politics. Both are team games. They have referees who ensure that team members play by the rule. In the game of politics, the referee is the election management body which conducts elections. Football teams have coaches and team captains. So do the game of politics. Party executives who organise primaries from which candidates are nominated for general elections can be likened to the technical team who are responsible for player selection in a football game. The leaders who emerge after elections such as the President, governors, local government  chairpersons, Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker and speakers of respective state Houses of Assembly could be regarded as team captains. Most importantly, there are two halves in football, likewise in politics.  In football, the second half is more important than the first because that is when games are won and lost.

In a football game, a team could be leading by a wide margin only for the losing team in the first half to rally round after the half time break, draw level and even go ahead to defeat the opponent who was leading with a wide margin in the first half. It happened in Saudi ’89 U20 World Youth Championship when Nigeria recorded what was regarded as a rare feat. According to Wikipedia, “The Miracle of Dammam also known as The Dammam Miracle was the name given to the result of a quarter-final football match between the Flying Eagles and the USSR U-20 football team at the 1989 FIFA World Youth Championship in Saudi Arabia which the Nigerian U-20 team went on to win on penalties. The match created a footballing record as Nigeria became the first team to come back from four goals down to equalise and then go on to win a FIFA World Cup match at any level.

In politics, as in football, a government may be up to a bad start. It could wobble and fumble in the first two years of a four years term and after an objective SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis; the government with sincerity of purpose can turn its weaknesses to strengths and threats to opportunities. Akin to the game of football, a second half of a government is more important than the first half.

The All Progressives Congress government of President Muhammadu Buhari clocked two years on May 29, 2017. This Friday, June 9, the Eighth National Assembly will be two years since inauguration. There have been lots of kudos and knocks since the celebration of this second anniversary of the Buhari government started. While those in government at all levels are busy congratulating themselves and awarding pass marks for their laudable achievements, a lot of Nigerians are wearing long faces, bemoaning their fate under a government that promises a clean break from the ignominious past. I have had the rare privilege of discussing the achievements and challenges of this administration in its two years in power on different media platforms particularly on television and radio.

Sincerely, if one is to use the Federal Government as a barometer to measure performance, my personal verdict will be a fair performance. However, if one is to throw all tiers of government into the mix, the scorecard will be bad or failure.  I visited the site named “Buharimeter” established by the Centre for Democracy and Development to track performance of President Buhari’s campaign promises. The CDD had collated 222 campaign promises out of which it claimed only two had been achieved while 54 were ongoing. The other 166 promises were not rated.

Perhaps, the CDD was being uncharitable to Buhari’s administration. Let’s look at what a foremost Nigeria opinion survey company, NOI Polls, published as Buhari’s scorecard in two years. According to the agency, it conducted a performance rating of the current administration in the week of May 22 across 10 indicators. The result showed that Nigerians rated the President highest in the area of security with 47 per cent followed by corruption  –  45 per cent, agriculture and food security  –  40 per cent,  power  – 28 per cent, and health care – 27 per cent. Other indicators rated were: Infrastructure – 23 per cent; education – 19 per cent; economy – 14 per cent; job creation – 13 per cent and lastly, poverty alleviation – nine per cent.  It should be noted that the administration did not score up to 50 per cent out of all the 10 areas rated. This shows that this administration has a long way to go to convince Nigerians that voting it to power in 2015 was not a mistake.

In fairness to this government, it has achieved a number of things particularly in the areas of security and anti-corruption. For instance, as enunciated in the speech of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on May 29 as well as the media chat by the Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, on the two years of his party in power, the administration has been able to reclaim all the territories previously occupied by Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East as well as secured the release of over 100 kidnapped Chibok school girls. It has also decimated the capacity of the religious extremist group. However, on the flip side, there is a spike in the cases of crime and criminality with cases of robbery, kidnapping and Fulani herdsmen and farmers’ conflicts assuming an alarming proportion.

In the aspect of anti-corruption, in the last 24 months of this administration, it has introduced a number of measures which have yielded positive results in blocking economic wastage as well as ensured recovery of looted funds. Some of the measures include the Treasury Single Account; setting up Efficiency Unit in the Federal Civil Service;  wedding out of “ghost workers” from public service; introduction of whistle-blowing policy;  arrest, investigation and prosecution of some alleged corrupt judges as well as the recent suspension of the Secretary to the Federal Government, Babachir David Lawal, and Director General of National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayodele Oke, over corruption allegations and abuse of office.

Quite unfortunately, the Federal Government has not achieved much success in the area of the economy. In 2016, the country slipped into recession and getting us out of it has been a Herculean task. There was a huge revenue fall from sale of crude oil due to low oil price in the international market as well as volatility and restiveness in the Niger Delta region; with illegal oil bunkering and pipeline vandalism being carried out with reckless abandon.  Thankfully, oil prices have picked up in the international market while some semblance of peace has been achieved through dialogue in the Niger Delta. Even the foreign exchange challenge has been largely resolved with the naira now gaining strength against the dollar and other notable international currencies. The N500bn Social Intervention Programme of this government is also on course.

In order to shore up its dwindling revenue, the administration started to enforce N50 Stamp Duty on banking transactions, brought more people to the tax net, increased pump price of premium motor spirit from N87 to N145,sold off some of the aircraft in the presidential air fleet, launched ‘Change Begins With Me’ part of which is the “Buy Made in Nigeria” products campaign. It has also launched agriculture and solid mineral road maps as well as the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.  A couple of weeks back, the Acting President also signed three Executive Orders aimed at promoting the Ease of Doing Business in the country and improving the general business climate.

All said, our warped budgeting system has been a cog in the wheel of economic progress. Imagine, the federal budget is not yet ready for implementation mid-year! Electricity supply is still very epileptic while many other critical infrastructures have yet to be fixed. Worse still is backlog of salaries being owed workers, pensioners’ as well as contractors especially at sub-national level.

My unsolicited advice to the Buhari government is to seize the opportunity of this midterm review to redouble efforts to tackle poverty, unemployment, infrastructure and security so that come 2019, Nigerian electorate can still return it to power. Otherwise, Buhari and his lieutenants should remember that the cane used to beat the senior wife is still at the rooftop to discipline the new bride. Enough said!. Punch

Follow me on Twitter: @jideojong

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