ASSESSING PMB's FIRST 100 DAYS IN OFFICE
President Muhammadu Bahuari (PMB) was elected and inaugurated as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 29 May, 2019. By 7 September, 2015, he had clocked the milestone of one hundred days in office. All over the world, the first one hundred days has become landmark date for preliminary celebration of achievements and assessment. The first one hundred days celebration was began by former American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.
Political leaders are voted into office on a platform based on programmes and promises made during the campaign and that is normally the beginning of assessment. But the emergence of PMB in Nigeria took place under some context which must be taken into consideration. Hitherto, Nigeria has been ruled by the People's Democratic Party (PDP) from 1999 to 2015. The party had promised to rule for at least sixty years. Meanwhile, it is very difficult to defeat a ruling party in Africa although there has been few examples recently in Ghana, Zambia, Senegal, Cote D'Voire etc. During the campaigns, PMB and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) produced a manifesto and made a lot of promises to the Nigerian people. Given the above context, it is necessary to assess PMB first one hundred days in office from three dimensions: the process of taking over of government; the process of instituting change agenda which is the main campaign mantra of the party and the implementation of the party's manifesto and campaign promises.
The process of transition from one government to another is very important and can affect positively or negatively the take-off of the new administration. The handover process can affect the quality and effectiveness of the new government especially in the first few months. Some countries take transition issues very seriously to the extent that it is regulated by law such as in Pueto Rico. Studies have shown that for opposition parties, the longer they are out of power, the harder it is to prepare for office. The handover takes place at different levels-Federal, State, Ministries, Departments and Agencies. At all the levels, it is necessary to focus on policies; plans (strategic and operating plans); approved budgets; statement of accounts (including bank details); people (Political Appointees, Statutory Positions and Public Servants); list of assets and list of liabilities. In our view, the PMB administration handled the process of transition in a methodical process. Although the report is not yet made public, the fact that all the appointed officials of the previous regime were not removed from the beginning is a good strategic move.
The APC and PMB campaigned on a change agenda. The change mantra has resonated with citizens especially the poor and excluded because of growing poverty and inequality. The past five decades have witnessed monumental changes in the economic sphere. Global economic wealth has increased sevenfold and average incomes have tripled. Yet, poverty has increased to record high levels. The major problem is that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few people while majority of the people live in abject poverty. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its 1998 report documented that the three richest people in the world have assets that exceed the combined Gross Domestic Product of the 48 least developed countries. In 2014, eighty five richest people in the world had the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent (3.4 billion people). By 2015, only 80 richest people have the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent. In Nigeria, in the 1980s, the percentage of people living in poverty was a mere 20 percent but today it is about 70 percent. It is therefore not surprising that the change agenda resonated with Nigerians.
However, it must be recognised that to bring about change in any country is a process that must be meticulously thought out and implemented. It should start with accessing the need for change. This assessment should affect all aspects of life of the country including structure, culture, strategies, human resources, organisational processes and leadership. It is on the basis of this assessment that the government can decide on the change to make. While deciding on the change to make, cognisance should be given to possible resistance. There are many reasons why people resist change. Some people are establishment or status-quo prone and will resist change. Others resist change because of self-interest or misunderstanding of the content or nature of change. Studies have shown that globally, about 70 percent of all change efforts have failed. The challenge before the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is to put in place a strategy for change and a model for managing resistance to change. A strategy for change should recognise the three basic stages of unfreezing, moving and refreezing in the change process. Unfreezing is the stage where you conduct a diagnosis and then unfreeze the old organisational culture. This involves clear communication on the negative consequences of old ways while developing new modes of operation. Moving is when you produce a new strategy and initiate new ways of doing things to effect structural, cultural and individual change through effective leadership. Refreezing is a systematic way of strengthening new behaviours that support change and reinforcing the new behaviour continuously.
In the first one hundred days, we saw a lot of assessment of what went wrong with the previous administration. But we have not seen a clear strategy to bring about the required change and mobilise citizens to support the change process. Indeed, the lopsided nature of the first few appointments is a distraction because it is capable of making citizens who would have otherwise support the change process to join the resistance to change. It must be emphasized that for change to succeed in any country need the support of the people. Although the argument that there are still many other positions is valid, appointments must be strategically sequenced to carry all sections of the country along.
The Centre for Democracy and Development has done a comprehensive assessment of delivering on campaign promises in the first one hundred days. It showed that out of the 222 promises made during the campaigns, the government has achieved one promise, made noticeable progress in achieving 24 while 197 promises are yet to be rated. In our view, the greatest achievement of the PMB administration in the first one hundred days in office is setting the tone at the top. The posture, body language, statements and action of the President has shown clearly that corruption will not be tolerated and appointments will be based on character, competence and professionalism. This is very important in a country where corruption is endemic and suffering from resource curse- a lot of resources that has not translated to a better standard of living for the people.
The greater challenge facing the PMB administration is not what it has done in the first one hundred days but what it will do in the next one hundred days. The President has promised to constitute the cabinet before the end of September, 2015. The kind of people that the President will appoint will determine whether it will be able to deliver on its campaign promises. This is going to be a tough decision for the President as the citizens have formed opinion already on some kind of people. Whether the change agenda will continue to get the support of Nigerians will depend on the kind of people and the perception of Nigerians about them.
Secondly, Nigerians are looking forward to crafting of the change agenda into a strategic plan. It is expected that the new administration will formulate a strategic plan to replace the vision 20:2020 of the previous administration. The strategic plan of a country is a comprehensive policy document that identifies the priority areas of the country, the resources available and how to harness the resources to bring about improvement in the life of the citizens. It contains clear priorities, targets, programmes and strategies. The strategic plan will draw inspiration from the manifesto of the governing party and the campaign promises made during before and during the election.
Finally, Nigerians want to see the immediate reform that the administration will put in place to govern and not rule. In this regard, public administration reform will be key. In the next few months, the administration will be preparing its first budget and laying it before the National Assembly. Citizens want to see the change in the process of plans, policy and budget. Moreover, citizens want to see integrity plans to promote transparency and accountability in the public service. The tone set at the top that appears to have improved services will wear away unless it is backed with comprehensive reform in the public service that will address the issues of cost of governance, effective budgeting, policy making architecture, public finance management and civil service reform. Also of crucial importance is the building of capacity of elected and appointed officials; party officials and public servants on the philosophy and programmes of the administration.
We are looking forward to the next one hundred days.
***Dr. Otive Igbuzor is a Pharmacist, Human Rights Activist, Policy Analyst, Development Expert and Strategist. He holds a doctorate degree in Public Administration. Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD).