President Buhari: Halfway to 100 days
ON the 4th of March, 1933, faced with the near-insurmountable odds of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) assumed office as the 32 President of the United States of America.
At the time, the economic forecasts of the United States seemed bleak with a 25 per cent unemployment rate; a more than 60 per cent drop in agricultural produce prices and over 11,000 banks closing their doors. Retrospectively, as the Roosevelt Institute now describes those dark days, America, “appeared to be falling into an economic abyss” that would have probably led to “the total breakdown of order.”
Based on the situation at hand, FDR had two choices: Cave in to the floods of problems on all sides, or make difficult decisions that would stem the tide, alleviate the fears of his countrymen by restoring their confidence, and make effective policies that would set meaningful precedents for his country. Needless to say, FDR followed the latter route – pushing 15 major social, economic and job-creation bills through Congress in just over 100 days, and trying out experimental economic strategies – if something failed, he would immediately try something else. Because of this, today, based on this body of work that led to the end of the Great Depression (especially at the beginning of his administration) FDR’s administration is celebrated as the yardstick for executive government effectiveness during the first 100 days.
Fast-forward more than 80 years from the time of FDR, Nigeria today, under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), is gone past the middle of its own first 100 days during a crisis period. The inherited predicaments of this government include the Boko Haram insurgency that has been ravaging the North; the high levels of unemployment that have rendered many of our able-bodied young people unproductive; depleted domestic reserves from lack of financial accountability and an increasing external debt profile.
To be frank, based on the virtual silence (except for the few announcements about presidential appointments) exhibited by this administration, the media analysis more than 60 days into Buhari’s tenure has ranged from careful optimism, namely: “We are still waiting to see what he does” on the one hand, to outright pessimism based on “perceived” inaction on the other.
Although it is often said that a few hours in Nigerian politics is like a few years in real life, we must come to understand that creating a problem takes seconds, minutes, hours and perhaps days. It takes a lot of time and planning to: (1) identify and define the root cause of any problem; (2) specify the appropriate way to solve the problem; (3) initiate and/or execute the appropriate procedure to solve the problem and (4) gauge or measure the effectiveness of the steps taken to solve the problem at hand.
What this means is that, although the clock is ticking, and PMB – like FDR – will eventually be graded in the public arena on his first 100 days, we must understand that in a country as deeply impaired as Nigeria is today, with self-inflicted wounds from past administrations, if we expect PMB to move in the superhuman speed that FDR adopted in 1933, then we are expecting to experience a period of experimental policy-making and problem-solving techniques, as opposed to the current deliberate efforts to critically pinpoint, then eradicate these problems once and for all.
As it stands, although we all want to see the dividends of the democracy that we purchased with our votes at the ballot box, we must wrap our heads around the idea that there are no supernatural forces that can fix the gradual rot that we have acquired as a nation over the past 16 years, in 50, or even 100 days. However, what we can and should expect – and even demand – is that we must be carried along in the process of fixing Nigeria. We must be made to understand what the real origins (not just the media speculated versions) of problems like fuel scarcity, power shortages, unemployment and the insurgency are.
Unlike many people that I have spoken to about PMB’s administration, I do not believe that it is fair to already render any sort of judgment – whether positive or negative – on this government. I also do not believe that the 100-day gauge will be holistic enough to properly see the effects that many of Buhari’s actions thus far will have on our nation. However, as a citizen of this country, I strongly believe that no Nigerian deserves to be left in the dark concerning the issues that affect us all.
Hence, it is one thing for this administration to say that it is working towards solving Nigeria’s problems, while it is another thing entirely to let the Nigerians know what exactly it is doing to solve these problems. In this regard, the only action that Buhari must adopt from Roosevelt’s first 100 days playbook is the act of ensuring that his countrymen and women know exactly where he intends on steering them. Doing this will eliminate all the speculation and non-performance dialogue that has flooded the media in recent times.
• Onemola writes from Abuja. He tweets @Olu1NE –