Why Buhari’s integrity will earn him re-election

President Muhammadu Buhari’s electoral victory in 2015 was not just a resounding endorsement of his platform and incomparable integrity. More importantly, it was also an indictment of the politics that preceded him. This fact is at the heart of the surprising miscalculations many are making when they compare his hard-won reputation of honesty and integrity to former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s who is also the presidential candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. 

Although President Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, assumed power at an extremely difficult period in the nation’s history, amidst global geo-political turbulence to boot, the sheer weight of his integrity, patriotism, focus and genuine sincerity has, undeniably, positively impacted the narrative. With Buhari, the recurring theme is integrity, integrity, integrity. Not without good reason.

It is against the backdrop of Buhari’s unquestionable integrity that considerable outrage was provoked when Atiku Abubakar recently told Nigerians he would grant amnesty to looters if elected. Here, the dodgy fog that has come to define Atiku’s trajectory and persona in public service was clearly, inescapably mirrored in the Adamawa-born politician’s (mis)calculations.

What kind of signal will a president be sending to his constituency if he assures them they won’t be sternly prosecuted if caught in corrupt acts including stealing of public funds? This will only popularise criminal behaviour which no serious, progressive nation tolerates. There could simply be no better way to degrade and ground society than that.

But good a thing, Buhari will have none of that. The world over, the best form of deterrence against corruption or theft, is prosecution. This also implies some time in prison. If citizens know that there is no punishment for a crime besides some token restitution, they will simply keep committing the crime. That Buhari favours stern prosecution of criminals and looters, however highly placed, has made him even more popular with ordinary Nigerians.

Clearly, Atiku’s ‘amnesty-for-looters’ anticipatory policy template is a dangerous, slippery slope to further institutionalisation of corruption in the country and rubbishing Nigeria’s transformation. The emerging consensus amongst Nigerians is that this footing will represent a destiny-killing option.

Significantly, Atiku also labours with a self-inflicted reputation for corrupt enrichment since he served as the Comptroller General of Customs in the ‘70s. His ritual response to explain away this moral quandary remains that he has never been indicted. This cuts little ice with discerning Nigerians and considerably diminishes his stature as a potential leader Africa can trust.

Certainly, pretty few personalities in the nation’s recent history can be compared with Buhari’s Spartan leadership that feeds his revulsion for corruption and unconscionable acquisition of wealth through plundering and pillaging of public treasury. Management of the nation’s resources is fundamentally the main purpose of governance – to manage the nation’s resources for the wellbeing of the citizens in the sphere of provision of infrastructure and other facilities.

With such widely acknowledged moral credential which resonates with the majority of Nigerians and also translates to critical electoral capital, even his closest challenger in the midst of many can never hope to beat the Daura-born ex-General and unassuming nationalist in Saturday’s presidential election. There is more.

Buhari came to power on the back of three key electoral promises to change the nation’s sad governance story. These include caging insecurity, especially the Boko Haram insurgency, prosecuting a stern anti-corruption war and restoring a vibrant economy. Notwithstanding the tough challenges flowing from catastrophic mismanagement of the these key governance arenas by the previous administrations under the PDP, Buhari can proudly beat his chest on account of the impressive grounds he covered in less than four years in the saddle. 

It’s worth recalling that after the recession of 2016-17, the Nigerian economy is back and is on the path of growth after under the firm, sincere guidance of Buhari. The administration’s priority sectors of agriculture and solid minerals maintained consistent growth throughout the recession.

Other economic achievements include the revitalisation of 14 moribund blending plants under the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, and the tripling of revenue to the Federation Account from solid minerals. Revenue tripled from N700 million in 2015 to N2 billion in 2016, and again rose to N3.5 billion in 2017.

The administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which was launched by Buhari in April 2017, has stabilised the macroeconomic environment; achieved agricultural and food  security and has also ensured energy efficiency especially in power and petroleum products. The ERGP has improved transportation infrastructure and industrialization primarily through the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The Buhari administration also extended more than N2 trillion to state governments, to enable them meet their salary and pension obligations, especially in the face of dwindling oil revenues over the last two years.

The support came in the form of Budget Support Facility (Total of N606.55 billion extended to the states as of May 2018; in exchange for reforms in budgeting, IGR, debt management, overheads, etc.) Others are Paris Club refunds, infrastructure loans as well as loan restructuring for facilities with commercial banks.

Other economic related achievements which cannot be exhausted here include the Anchor Borrowers Scheme of the Central Bank of Nigeria which has substantially raised local production of rice. 

The administration has demonstrated a “single-minded commitment: to upgrading and developing Nigeria’s transport, power and health infrastructure.”

In May 2018, the federal government launched the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), under the management of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority. The PIDF is kicking off with seed funding of $650 million.

The Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) in March 2018 invested $10 million to establish a “world-class” cancer treatment centre at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), and $5 million each in the Aminu Kano University Teaching Hospital and the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, to establish modern diagnostic centres.

By the end of 2018, in the Power sector, the government added more than 2,000MW of additional power generation capacity. Some were via publicly owned plants (Afam Fast Power, 240MW) while others are through private sector investment supported by the federal government (Azura, 450MW). The government also launched a N701 billion Payment Assurance Programme designed to resolve the liquidity challenges in the power sector by guaranteeing payments to generating companies and gas suppliers. It also undertook transmission expansion and rehabilitation programme which has resulted in a 50 per cent expansion in grid capacity since 2015, from 5,000MW to 7,125MW as at December 2017.

On the investment in people front, the Buhari administration flagged off all four components of the Social Investment Programme (SIP). The SIP is the largest and most ambitious social safety net programme in the history of Nigeria, with N140 billion released and more than 9 million direct beneficiaries so far. Under the SIP, 200,000 N-Power beneficiaries are currently participating and receiving N30,000 in monthly stipends. Another 300,000 new enrolments are being processed, to take the number to 500,000 as at the end of 2018. 

On the crucial security front, the administration has recovered all territories the terrorist insurgents had seized under the previous administration and restored sanity, notwithstanding some subsisting pockets resistance. In all, all the electoral parameters and polls point to the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari will be reelected on Saturday by a wide margin.

Gaya, Deputy President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, writes from Abuja

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