Buhari's 100 Days: Punch Writer Advises Garba Shehu & Adesina

Spin doctors, the ones renowned for their skills in advancing government propaganda know the wisdom of subtlety and skilful persuasion instead of unhandily and shiftily passing off barefaced lies as truth. Proselytising – even for a government with mounds of goodwill like that of President Muhammadu Buhari – requires some expertise that the administration needs to urgently learn.
The newspeak by the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to Buhari, Garba Shehu, heralding 100 days of the administration is beyond woeful. It is full of contradictions, needless self-salutations and puerile lies. Coming from a government that is 97 days old today, one wonders what dramatic flourish they will not envision for their 365 and 1461 days.

[b]Shehu’s piece gives the impression that his boss does not have a blueprint of what to do with victory and they are currently winging out governance. After spending years rhapsodising what they – the opposition – will do differently if they snatch power from the Peoples Democratic Party, they are fast becoming what they criticised. Their unending obsession with the PDP, the unrestrained and now boring commentary on PDP’s faults, and the constant appeal for patience now seems like a riveting distraction; to keep the public busy so they will not have to own up for their current lack of ideas and ideological offerings.

The SSA can disown ‘One hundred things Buhari will do in 100 days’ and ‘My covenant with Nigerians’ but he cannot deny that the contents of those documents were extrapolated from APC’s manifesto put out during electioneering. The wordings might not be exactly the same but the scale of promises was just as ambitious, declarative and far reaching. If we distance Buhari from his campaign promises, he at least cannot deny the promises stated in thisisbuhari.com, a document circulated in December 2014.

As the ‘ghostwriter’ of ‘My covenant with Nigerians’ noted, the document is an abridged version of the party manifesto. If ‘My covenant with Nigerians’ was not Buhari’s thoughts as is being intoned presently, why were there no debunks before now? Why wait until your 100 days report card is due? Whether Buhari’s media team authorised the documents or not matters less as to whether they are on track of fulfilling the promises they made. Shehu says he can bet his last kobo that Buhari neither saw nor authorised these documents. Sophistry has a new name and it is resident in Aso Rock.

The question is, the one he saw and authorised – the party manifesto – how far has he laid the groundwork for its realisation? How far has Buhari gone with the promise to, for instance, “initiate action to amend the Nigerian constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties, and responsibilities to states in order to entrench true federalism and the federal spirit” as stated? He does not seem to be talking of restructuring the nation to make administration less unwieldy anymore, what happened? What of the promises he made in the sectors of education, infrastructure, security, economy and yes, foreign policy? How is he driving the reforms he stated in his manifesto? By his body language or through a clear and defined vision? Does Shehu realise that after the 100 days assessment, we would soon be assessing Buhari’s one year in office? His promises remain the yardstick by which we shall measure his effectiveness.

Furthermore, Shehu should stop insulting us by telling us ‘Buhari has given the job his best shot and the whole country is saying that we never had it so good.’ Such hyberbolic statements are disrespectful to both Nigerians who voted Buhari and those who voted against him for good reasons. Where was the poll carried out where Nigerians spoke in unison and agreed that their lives are perfect now since Buhari became President? If what has been seen so far is Buhari’s best, then Nigeria is in for a long and difficult ride. And no, Buhari’s endorsement by both the US President, Barack Obama, and UN President, Ban Ki-Moon, count for nothing. Those men are politicians who say what they are supposed to say even when it is either irrelevant or banal. Obama once praised former President Goodluck Jonathan such that the man questioned – in his infamous spiel, “I am not a General, Goliath, Pharaoh or a King” why Nigerians refused to see any good in him despite those high profile commendations.

Buhari was sold to us as the man with a magic wand capable of solving Nigeria’s recurrent corruption problems. By the time I got to the part of the document that states, ‘President Buhari is being praised at home and abroad for his ongoing fight against corruption….’ I had to wonder what the ‘‘ongoing fight against corruption’’ was all about and where it was taking place. What we have had so far is propaganda and lots of noise about who and who stole what.

There is practically no ruler in Nigeria – military or democratic – that has not paid the obligatory lip service to fighting corruption. The collapse of the First Republic via the coup in 1966 happened partly because some soldiers were disgusted by the depth of the corruption in government.

There is no point asking Shehu how the documents being denied presently came into existence; we were alive when the Third Term Agenda was blamed on the printer’s devil. What Shehu owes us now is to explain what Mr. President plans to do to tackle corruption beyond the simplistic and unrealistic mantra borrowed from Narendra Modi, ‘I won’t steal and I’ll not allow others to do it!’

How does the President monitor and prevent people from stealing in a country as large and as complicated as Nigeria? If an anti-corruption agenda can work simply by whom the President permits to steal, a President like Olusegun Obasanjo would have solved the problem long ago! That was one man who hounded those who stole without permission.

Shehu, in that same press release says that ‘Buhari will turn out to be a leader in the tradition of Lee Kuan-Yu and India’s current reform-minded Prime Minister Modi… He may however differ with (sic) them by not micro-managing things.’ A President whose anti-corruption plans is about who is allowed to steal is already a micro-manager.

Shehu cannot convince us this government is serious about fighting corruption until we see their action plan. How do they plan to take the anti-corruption agenda to wards and local government levels? Is their strategy bottom-up or top-down approach?

My advice to Shehu is to take a deep breath and stop talking for a while so they can put their house in order. This administration has talked so much like a tape on repeat. The energy deployed on talking could be useful for other ventures. Nigeria is not a stranger to empty rhetoric. This government talks too much for people who are supposed to be rebuilding a vandalised country. That emphasis on talks without requisite action makes them look unserious. The APC should spend some time poring over their manifesto and reminding themselves of their promises to Nigerians. That, hopefully, might put a spring in their steps.