Measurements of Buhari


Sonala Olumhense  

It may not look that way now, but one day, President Muhammadu Buhari will be out of power.

It seems that assessing his legacy from within has already begun.  Last week, spokesman Femi Adesina fired one of those early salvos in a piece he called, “I Hate Trains. I Hate Bridges. I Hate Rice. I Hate Tallest Building East Of The Niger.”

His thesis: “A lot of people can no longer deny the many achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari, particularly in the area of infrastructure, building a new Nigeria, and so, they have decided to hate it (sic).”

Adesina called into evidence the Lagos-Ibadan rail project, “with brand new coaches that will begin commercial operation before the end of the year.”

He cited “brand new airports.”

He cited “bridges being built…”

He cited the LUTH Cancer Centre in Lagos, and two other diagnostic centres in Kano and Umuahia completed by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).

He cited the “biggest ever container vessel” in the country, the MaersklineStadelhorn, berthing at Onne.

And the 17-story Nigerian Content Tower, Headquarters of Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), in Yenagoa.

Buhari has also kicked off a rewarding rice revolution.

The problem is one of history, not of haphazard “achievements,” some of them merely culminating during his rule.  That history concerns where Buhari came in.  And the first mistake of his inner circle is that they forget who he is and how he came to office.

Buhari did not come to office simply to build streetlights or complete projects initiated by his predecessor: he came to change the prevailing values and the way things are done so that Nigeria can get more done and make her a modern state.  As a result, no consideration of him should commence with revisionist history.

Buhari campaigned on change, and the first element in it was his 2015 “Covenant With Nigerians.”

The first of his pledges involved transparency: “I pledge to: Publicly declare my assets and liabilities and encourage my political appointees to also publicly declare their assets and liabilities.”

In other words, he was going to lead by personal example towards compelling government chieftains and officials to commit to service over self.

And then there are those fundamental promises of his and the APC’s which they now imagine that nobody remembers.

It is nice that NSIA has built diagnostic centres, although it should perhaps have started with General Hospitals, particularly as ordinary Nigerians cannot afford the services of those centres.

But where, in a country where the youth have no jobs, are the three million new jobs a year Buhari came to deliver?  He gets his healthcare abroad, as does his family, but where are the healthcare for all and guaranteed free education he promised?

Where is the “properly trained and equipped Federal Anti-Terrorism Multi-Agency Task Force” he was going to use to end Boko Haram and any other insurgencies?

Of Adesina’s claims, the truth is that Nigeria has no “brand-new” airport built by anyone anywhere; the refurbishments and terminals in reference were begun by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012.

And if we are to celebrate projects-in-process such as the Second Niger Bridge (SNB), it was Jonathan who commenced work on it in March 2014 with the aim of completing it in 2018.

Buhari took over in 2015, and in January 2017 announced a “preliminary works” contract award of N14.4bn to Julius Berger.  One month later, the NSIA announced an investment of $760 million in the project.

In October, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo announced that the Sovereign Wealth Fund had paid ₦2bn to Julius Berger.

In May 2018, Buhari listed the SNB as one of the projects to be financed under his new Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), to be managed by the NSIA.  Seed funding of $650m was immediately authorised by the National Economic Council.

On July 4, the government approved another contract of N206bn to Julius Berger, announced by Information Minister Lai Mohammed; in November, yet another contract award, for the “main work,” was announced by Works Minister Babatunde Fashola for N206bn

More money came in for the SNB earlier this year in a fresh tranche of Abacha loot of $321m as the government contracted to spend a part of the money on it.

But note that contrary to what Mr. Fashola affirmed in 2018—that the work would be completed in 2021, and despite the avalanche of funds—it is now being pushed to 2022.  Of course.

And Nigerians are being criticised for not dancing for Buhari over the Nigerian Content Tower?

Really?   In South Africa alone, there are 51 buildings that are taller than 17 stories.  In Sandton, Johannesburg, they completed the 55-floor “The Leonardo” building in three years, between 2015 and 2018, with a remarkable nine of the 11 architects being women!

And in Nairobi, Kenya, construction of the 70-floor “The Pinnacle” has taken just two years, at a cost of $194m!

By contrast, we began the Lagos-Ibadan rail project in March 2017, VP Osinbajo saying at the event that the project would be completed in 2018.

That never happened. And yet, from 2018 to 2020, the government kept announcing new completion dates, each of them false because there was evidence that CCECC would deliver only in 2020: in February 2019 in China, it sub-contracted for locomotives and coaches for the Nigeria project “for opening in 2020.”

The trouble with trying to make Buhari look like Superman is that you have to confront so many contradictions and wind up presenting tokenism as a trip to space.  Questions asked are either never heard or regarded as insolence.

Buhari said he would fight corruption and the insurgency but has by acts of omission, commission, and incompetence, made both worse.  He said he would combat poverty but has deepened poverty and inequality.  Little wonder that the PDP are laughing at the man who was laughing at it.

The irony is that were Buhari serious, he could have conquered many hearts and enemies.  Among others, he could have fixed the State House Medical Centre rather than having to patronise foreign medical institutions.

He could have taken over and rehabilitated the Turai Yar’Adua International Cancer Centre in Abuja, which, despite the help of the International Atomic Energy Agency and an army of donors, is rotting away. A little distance nearby towards Lokoja, he could have re-ignited the National Science and Technology Complex.  There are hundreds of similar key projects nationwide, many in Abuja, each of them calling not for mountains of cash but for vision and leadership.

He could have made credible speeches, as well as honoured the law and demonstrated transparency by publishing a record of the recovered loot the courts ordered: recoveries confirmed by a recent Daily Trust investigation to be $4.6bn dollars.  Why does Buhari not want to know what happened to $4.6bn?

Buhari appears to think that Nigerians are docile, forgetful, and foolish.  Show them a project which may be completed in years to come and they will sing your praise.

One day, Buhari’s 10 years of ruling Nigeria will be evaluated.  By people who do not eat from his table.


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