EDITORIAL: Next Level: Beyond Paper Promises

President Muhammadu Buhari

Every politician knows that the key to winning elections is to make great promises. Exploiting the minds of Nigerians in desperate need of salvation, the All Progressive Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari has also eagerly promised every fantasy of developmental luxuries imaginable, starting with a pledge to make Nigeria the first developing country to have a magical transformation; promising to focus on infrastructure, corruption, investment, unemployment and boost the nation’s economy.

Both President Buhari and his party the APC campaigners promised to end the Boko Haram insurgency within six month. He also pledged to frown at public officials who sort foreign medical trips, emphasizing that it will demoralized domestic doctors and Nigerians will lose faith in the medicine profession.

When President Buhari visited Lagos to campaign in 2015 general election, he says if elected, he will bring about vast improvements in education, health, employment, infrastructures, and the economy. There seems to be no limit to the amount of promises politicians will put in their manifestoes.

Political parties will hire political consultants so they can suggest as many promises as they can ever be imagined, and promises will be made according to what is believed to be what the people want to hear, not according to what can be achieved from a pragmatic and practical point of view.

In any tight race, politicians will always attempt to extract a few additional votes by promising to provide a solution to a specific problem that an interest group cares about. This is why some groups will always feel it is strategic to start making demands during election seasons. It is believed an incumbent government is always at its negotiating weakest points in the run-up to a watershed election.

Needless to detail here the many broken campaign promises that have accumulated throughout history. There is always a huge difference between campaign audacity and implementation timidity.

Political analyst view is that there is no logical reason to believe a party that has failed over the years to tackle the issue of insecurity in Northeast can turn around overnight and promise the country world-class security with the recent emergence of banditry, and incessant kidnappings in the country.

Whether or not this is a fair characterisation, the point is that no politician is immune from either not living up to pre-election hype or being accused of failing to do so. President Buhari promised to create three million jobs per year, and naturally questions have been asked on what happened to the job creation promise.

Instead of creating three million jobs per year which could have culminated in a total of 12 million jobs in four years, the unemployment rate under the Buhari administration has risen from 18.8 per cent in Q3 2017 to 23.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2018 according to a recent report by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS). According to the Bureau’s Labour Force Statistics – Volume I released on December 19, 2018, the total number of people classified as unemployed- which means they did nothing at all or worked for a few hours (under 20 hours a week) rose from 17.6 million in Q4 2017 to 20.9 million in Q3 2018.

As of December 2014, the total installed capacity of the country’s power plants was 7, 445 MW, available capacity was 4,949 MW and the average generation was about 3,900 MW. However, during campaigns, then Lagos Governor now Power, Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fashola, had boasted on Channels TV, “Power generation isn’t rocket science. It’s just a generator. So just remember that your ‘I better pass your neighbour’ in one million times in capacity but in one place.”

However, on August 3, 2018, while addressing a retreat for top officials of his ministry he said the generation capacity is 7000 MW while the distribution capacity stood at 5,222 megawatts, a situation that shows no improvement and far off the 4000 megawatts promised to be delivered yearly by the administration.

The naira had spiralled downward from N199 on May 29, 2015, when President Buhari took over office and was later ranked as one of the worst performing in 2016. At a point, it exchanged for N500 per $1 but now stand at N365 per $1 at the parallel market despite billions of dollars pumped out by the CBN to stabilise it.

While he initially denied many forex to pay for their treatments abroad, President Buhari as of May 2018, had gone to the United Kingdom five times for the treatment of an undisclosed ailment. Apart from treating himself in the London hospital against the promise he made to end medical tourism by improving the quality of healthcare delivery in the country, his son, Yusuf was flown in an air ambulance to Germany for treatment of injuries he sustained in a power bike crash in Abuja. After his treatment, he was flown back to the country in a chartered aircraft; a situation which triggered a public outcry.

The All Progressive Congress party’s campaign in 2015 was based on the catchword “CHANGE” and was implemented in a most spiteful, abrasive and propagandistic forcefulness that crowded out every message of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its President, Goodluck Jonathan.

In 2019, President Buhari changes his campaign slogan from CHANGE to NEXT LEVEL knowing fully that he did not change the lives of Nigerians as expected, and despite his party’s unending propaganda. He also has no one to blame for failing to live up to his 2015 campaign promises.

Many Nigerians wondered why the President fails to give inaugural speech, after all, he has accomplished so many things according to his campaign team. The questions that is consuming many hard working Nigerians are: does President Buhari has a plan for next level? Is he still going to focus on fulfulling the unfulfilled 2015 campaign promises? Or something is wrong and Nigerians are not aware? This is the first time a President refused to tell his people what he plans for them.

Delivering a speech at his inauguration will put millions of mind at ease knowing that their president has plan to address their needs, and this will give them hope to keep fighting.

Nonethless, In many ways, voters are the eternal optimists who can’t learn from experience. They always want to believe that politicians will improve their lives. They believe sweet nothings without putting any of the said promises to scrutiny. But when post-election reality hits, they forget how unrealistic they are in believing that somehow “this time,” the outcome would be different.