The Eight Months Of Change ; The Many Sins Of Pmb
The hypocrisy of man stinks to high heavens! How best can one describe the deafening silence in many quarters that have accompanied the revelations of the several ludicrous allocations in the 2016 budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari? Many government “critics” have either gone silent or voiced out their discontent half-heartedly. For a moment, imagine this were a GEJ budget in such a hard timetable!
For Buhari, it's gradually becoming one failing too many! Buhari didn't win the elections because he was the best man for the job; he simply won because the GEJ's administration was so piss poor, functioning at an all time low! Nigerians were more than willing to try any alternative! Buhari only came out as the best alternative while riding on the goodwill of his past administration largely characterised by his frugality in spendings and low tolerance for corruption.
The Buhari administration has scored below average in many regards. The lowest scorecard must be reserved for Buhari's PR team. Many times it comes across as if Buhari believes he is doing Nigerians a favour by presiding over their affairs! This is far from the truth. In fact the opposite is closer to being true. Nigerians did him a favour by entrusting their country, in need of huge scale revamping to an ex-dictactor; a man who contributed to truncating its democracy in 1983!
An integral part of democracy and governance is constant engagement with the populace by public office holders on topical and current issues plaguing the country. From the prolonged fuel scarcity crisis, to the army confrontation with the Shiite sect that left many dead and more still claimed to be missing, to the controversy surrounding the “missing budget” ; Buhari has apparently shown in each case that he doesn't 'give a damn' about public perception and accountability!
The 2016 budget ; A classical oxymoron
Buhari's campaign to Presidency rode on the perceived cluelessness of the GEJ administration. It rode on frustration as regards the then status quo. It rode on high hopes ; hopes that he would be a president in charge, a disciplinarian; one who wouldn't condone cluelessness ; one that would be meticulous ; one who understands the plight of Nigerians and would assiduously push for a change in the status quo!
However, what do we have? A budget that completely dashes all these hopes!
Oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two opposite ideas are joined to create an effect , e.g. “cruel kindness”.
However, if one needs a perfect example of an oxymoron, one needs not search further. The 2016 budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari a few weeks ago is a classical example!
A couple of months ago, Buhari declared/admitted that Nigeria is broke in a widely reported intervew with NTA and Channels Television. Many lauded him for his honesty while many understandably lambasted him urging him to stop giving excuses!
Like many other Nigerians, we expected to see a budget laced with austerity measures as a reflection of Nigeria's “broke-ness”. This was what Nigerians thought was the case when watching the presentation of the budget by the president to the National Assembly. The presentation was hope-lifting; a masterful one that came across like the president perfectly understood Nigeria's problems and was ready to tackle it dutifully; the budget being the proof.
However, going through the budget, one remarkably wonders how a 'broke' country can afford to spend so much on frivolous expenditure items? If one begins to highlight all these ridiculous estimates, a book would perhaps be required to aptly capture it all! A few mentions would do :
1.The Senate President residence would gulp a whopping N6.74B!
- N1B was allocated to purchase tables and chairs for the Ministry of Communications Headquarters! (This money can establish a world-class furniture factory)
- N1.2B to be spent on office furniture for the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing Headquarters.
- N1.6B for the construction of a new ministerial duplex for the minister's quarters (Ministry of Works, Power and Housing)
- N89.1M to spent on kitchen equipment for the state house ( What happened to the ones bought last year with N237M)
- N85.5M will be spent on construction of a block of three classrooms!
- N3.8B to be spent in the state house clinic meant to serve less than 0.0001% of our population while N3.5B earmarked to serve over 50% of our population the same purpose.
These are just examples. In each case the allocated amount is either heavily inflated or unnecessary (or both)!
The more annoying aspect to all these is that the zero based budgeting system was employed in preparing the budget. In contrast to the traditional budgeting method (incremental budgeting) where each line item on the budget is marginally increased on an annual basis, the zero based budgeting requires that each budget line item be justified. The question is how on earth were these exorbitant and frivolous estimates justified?
The 2016 budget is meant to be a signature statement ; a bold imprint to establish that the new administration is truly ready to live its change mantra. Sadly the budget leaves many questions rather than answers. It leaves a sour taste on the lips of every Nigerian who had hopes in the new administration ; hope that the Buhari-led administration can put Nigeria on a recovery path.
How can there be so little difference between the budget of the “yam-eating” government and the 'yam-recovers' ?!
DECEPTION OR TEMPTATION?
The “spartan lifestyle” of PMB was one of those things that made most believe him to be perfect fit for the biting economic situation. However, its either we've been successfully fooled or the temptation of luxury was too great for the President to resist!
How on earth do we explain the fact that the much criticised presidential air fleet during GEJ's administration is still being maintained by this current administration that's meant to be a model of government frugality?
The whole media was agog last year when it was reported that the Presidency had spent a whooping amount of N6B on the Presidential Air Fleet. The Presidency was however quick to debunk the report while saying that only N2.3B had been expended on the fleet. Going by that rate, it can only mean about N5B will be required to maintain this same fleet per annum!
Yet we are a broke nation!
It's not all gloomy
For our criticisms to be meaningful, our commendation must be as sharp as our condemnation.
It is on this premise that we must all commend PMB for handing over to PYO for health reasons albeit for a short period. We will appreciate this better when we look back to 2011 and remember what a similar case almost cost us then. President Yar'adua's health was far worse and he was apparently incapacitated to direct our affairs, yet, he (or his proxies) practically resisted every move to hand over to the then VP. It was not until it became a massive national issue before the due process was followed.
Yet, here we are with the President voluntarily handing over to his VP in order to attend to his health. This indeed is a step in the right direction.
Having said all these, the Buhari administration needs to get its acts together soonest. PMB must always remember that the same goodwill of the masses he enjoyed in 2015 to oust an incumbent President can also be a purgative for him or his party in 2019 if a competent and capable Nigerian emerges as a candidate.
To die hard Buharists, this should come in handy:
As citizens of Nigeria, we owe the government our constructive criticisms. We need to always keep Buhari on his toes; stop hero-worshipping him and mindlessly defending every of his actions. In the end, Nigeria has to work. We have to make it work by not just voting at elections but by closely monitoring government activities at all levels.
(All budget figures were gotten through @budgITng)
Written by Saheed Animashaun and Faruq Musodiq (FMT)