Nigeria @ 60: Buhari and the Odyssey worth celebrating

The lowering of the Union Jack and hoisting of the Nigerian flag, Green White Green, by a young Nigerian Army Officer, Lt Col David Ejoor marked the attainment of self-rule by Nigeria on October 1, 1960. Like many countries of the world, Nigeria has had its fair share of highs and lows, including the 1967 to 1970 Civil War, which caused devastation to the Nigerian socio-political and economic fabrics.

The first military coup in Nigeria in 1966 just six years after gaining independence cast shadows on the possibility of Nigeria being able to manage itself. Coups, counter coups and abortive coups followed until a brief democratic stint from 1979 to 1983. Another rounds of coups followed until 1999 when the country returned to civilian rule. Significantly, May 29 was declared as democracy day and since then, the country has been able to sustain uninterrupted democratic rule.

Even with significant successes recorded in the entrenchment of democracy, all was still not well with the country. June 12 remained a symbolic day in Nigeria the day in 1993 the country had a presidential election that was adjudged one of the fairest elections in the country. The result of the election was however annulled by the then military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Chief MKO Abiola was considered the winner of the election but an interim president, Chief Ernest Shonekan was appointed. That democratic debacle remained with us, just as the ghost of June 12 kept hunting us until President Buhari came and changed the political tide.

President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018 declared June 12 the new Democracy Day. He said his decision was stemmed out of the views of Nigerians as shared by his administration that ‘‘June 12, 1993, was far more symbolic of democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29 or even October 1.

 Accordingly, he said after due consultations, the federal government decided that June 12 will be celebrated as Democracy Day.

 Buhari further awarded posthumously the highest honour of the land, GCFR, to the late Chief M.K.O Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 cancelled elections. His running mate as vice president, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, was also invested with a GCON. Furthermore, the late legal luminaryn and human rights activist who fought for the actualisation of the June 12 elections and indeed for democracy in general, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi was awarded the GCON.

Declaring June 12 as the new Democracy Day to the surprise of critics and foes, Buhari further signed the Public Holiday Amendment bill into law, recognizing June 12 as Democracy Day and a public holiday, while outlawing May 29 as a public holiday.

 Also, on June 12 , 2018 at the Special National Honours Investiture and award presentation to heroes of June 12, 1993 poll, President Buhari offered unreserved apology on behalf of the federal government to the family of MKO Abiola over the annulment of the elections. He said the decision to hold the event was not to open old wounds but to bury negative sides of June 12 and its ill-feelings, hatred, frustrations and agony. Accordingly, he called on all Nigerians across national divides to accept the annulment of the June 12, 1993 poll in good faith.

Despite attempts by his critics to input perceived political undertone to President Buhari’s action, it received wild commendations from socio-cultural groups across the country. Ultimately, it achieved the main purpose of putting to an end the long clamour for the recognition of what is considered one of the greatest political robberies in the history of elections.

But some cynics believe that there is nothing to celebrate about 60 years of Nigeria’s journey of nationhood. However, optimists are of the view that Nigeria has attained giant strides in its journey of nationhood. Many countries have disintegrated in the last 60 years, including the mighty Yugoslavia and Sudan. But Nigeria has remained one indivisible entity. To them, it is no mean achievement as every other question can be addressed through national dialogue. 

One administration that has taken giant steps towards repositioning Nigeria is the Buhari-led federal government. It has continued to demonstrate its unflinching commitment to democratic governance. This is the longest episode of our democracy in our post-independence history. Nigeria has had a number of episodes of democracy in our long years of military rule, over 20 years unbroken is the longest that we have experienced and that is a major achievement.

Due to concatenation of factors, Nigeria had been faced with dire security challenges which led to the abduction of Chibok School Girls in 2014. This was the point many Nigerians were losing faith in their country. But with the inauguration of President Buhari in 2015, things began to change for the better. To boost the morale of the fighting force in the North East, the Buhari-led government purchased 12 Super-Tucano aircrafts worth $600 million to aid the Nigerian military’s current operations in the North East. And the resultant effect of this rapid fire approach to the war against terror yielded tremendous results.

Recovering 14 local governments and territories previously under Boko Haram control in the North East, rebuilding lives of citizens there, about one million displaced persons in the North East returning to their communities within two years of Buhari’s administration was the first sign that the current administration was on the path of wriggling the country out of the political, social and economic morass it was hitherto enmeshed in.

Most profound was the release of 106 of the Chibok school girls and over 16,000 people in Boko Haram captivity. Not only has the North East become stable; a dedicated Commission has been created towards the development of the area. 

The Niger Delta that was the harbinger of tension has now known peace. The federal government has been ensuring continued peace in the Niger Delta through consistent funding of the FG amnesty programme for ex-militants.

With the concerted efforts of this administration, Child mortality rate are lower than it has ever been in Nigeria’s history. In the late 90’s, we had about 100 infant deaths per 1,000 live births but now the number has gone down to 71.20 deaths per 1,000 live births. Although, malaria remains the leading cause of death in Nigeria, the number of deaths caused by the scourge fell from 227,645 in 1990 to 192,284 in 2015 and its now down to 120,150 in 2020. 

The Buhari’s government is not leaving anything to chance in its bid to ensure healthcare is accessible to all. With the president’s concerted efforts in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, polio has been eradicated from the country.

On the economic front, the implementation of the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to aid economic recovery took the country out of her worst recession in 29 years, despite fall in oil prices. The simple strategies adopted by the Buhari administration are the effective implementation of the Treasury Single Account and increasing government revenue by over N3trillion as well as entrenchment transparency and accountability.

Signing of Executive Order 001 by President Buhari was one of the steps to promote transparency and efficiency in the business environment to ensure that public servants offer prompt service in a predictable and transparent manner, and sanction undue delays.

The President Buhari SIP is the largest and most ambitious social safety net programme in the history of Nigeria, with 12 million direct beneficiaries so far: 500,000 N-Power beneficiaries currently enrolled and have been deployed and are receiving N30,000 in monthly stipends. Additional 40,000 are at various stages of enrolment.

Almost six years after he came on board, there is no gainsaying that considerable success has been recorded under the Buhari administration through various initiatives and policies. The president has also undertaken massive infrastructure projects across the country as the perennial second Niger Bridge will finally become a reality in no distant future.

In the education sector, since the reappointment of Prof Suleiman Elias Bogoro on the April 21, 2019 by President Buhari, the good works of the TETFund in the area of research has been redoubled to the ‘Next Level’. TEfund today is celebrating the impact and improved ranking of Nigerian higher institutions internationally because of four years of intensive interventionist approach in the nation’s tertiary institutions.

These and many more are the major goals scored by President Buhari which has set the country on a pedestal its citizens can beat their chest any day any time and say there is a lot to celebrate at 60.

– Ibrahim is director of communication and strategic planning of the Presidential Support Committee (PSC). 

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