A New Sheriff Is In Town By Femi Adesina
Some call it the Buhari bounce. Others describe it as the Buhari effect. Yet some others say it is the Buhari aura. One thing is, however, crystal clear. Things have not been the same in the past 100 days in Nigeria, since Muhammadu Buhari assumed the presidency. A new sheriff has truly come to town.
Exactly 100 days ago, he climbed the podium at Eagle Square in Abuja and got inaugurated as president, 30 years after he had been toppled from power as military head of state. He promised to belong to nobody, and to belong to everybody. It is a pledge that still resonates loudly today, and will surely echo for a long time to come.
On a day like this, you would expect a presidential spokesman to chronicle the achievements of his principal in office. He has turned stone to bread, slain the dragon, and climbed Mount Olympus in ten seconds. But that is not what I want to do. There are some intangible, almost imperceptible achievements, but which run very deep, and are quite fundamental. Those are the ones I’ll rather talk of, while we leave the tangibles till some other day.
Oh, he’s escaping. There are no concrete achievements, some wailing wailers would cry. True? Not true. I could have decided to focus on the bloody nose being given to Boko Haram in the North-East, which would see the country rid of insurgency soon, the rallying of leaders of other neighboring countries to deploy a Joint Multinational Task Force, the openness displayed about government finances and the welfare package instituted for states that couldn’t pay salaries, the Treasury Single Account, which would promote transparency and accountability in governance, the disappeared fuel queues, fast-tracking of the cleanup of Ogoni land, reduction in the cost of governance, and many others. But I will not focus on all those. The day cometh!
When a new sheriff comes into town, disorder gives way to order. Chaos flees. Impunity is swept away. Laxity gives way to diligence, and people change their old, unedifying ways. When you have a Wild, Wild West situation prevailing, the new sheriff comes, and stamps his authority. Old things then pass away, behold, everything becomes new.
Nigeria had always needed attitudinal change. That was why the Buhari regime launched the War Against Indiscipline in the 1980s. And the war was succeeding, till a spanner was thrown in the works through regime change. Buhari was called all sorts of names then: despot, tyrant, iron-fist ruler, etc. But the discerning knew. They understood that it was a change we needed. And that change was postponed for 30 years.
But what is bred in the bones never goes out through the flesh. Immediately after Buhari returned on May 29, Nigerians knew that discipline was back. The bird of the homestead told the ones in the bush, and they all sat up. No unnecessary chirping. Stealing is now corruption, they whispered to themselves. God help you if you get caught.
Now, consider the situation with electricity and with our refineries. Electricity has climbed to about 5,000 Megawatts. Some refineries, which had not produced a drop of fuel for years, have cracked into life. Even the perennial queues in our petrol stations have disappeared, vanished. Is it because Buhari threw billions of dollars at the problems? No. Those things simply responded to the presence of the new sheriff in town. Those who manned those schedules could afford to be laid back in the past. But not anymore! The music has changed, and the dance steps must follow suit. And would Buhari take credit for the newfound zeal and efficiency? Not the plain and honest man from Daura. The broadcaster Omotayo Omotoso had come to the presidential villa to interview him sometime in July. And she had asked what the magic wand he waved was, that refineries, long comatose, had sprang back to life. The President responded that it would be dishonest of him to have claimed he did anything. He had not touched refineries at all. But unknown to the President, he did something. He had swept into town with his reputation for efficiency, and for achieving results. And the refineries, fuel supply, electricity supply, responded to the new sheriff. May things continue to get better till the change becomes enduring and irreversible. Amen somebody!
Another imperceptible but momentous achievement is the faith that Nigerians now have in their leader. Yes, the opposition numbers in millions, and naturally so. A political party had held power at the centre for 16 years, and its loyalists would not simply disappear, or get converted overnight. About 12 million Nigerians had voted for the presidential candidate of that party in the March 2015 general elections. Would they just cross over to the winning side? It often takes awhile. But despite all that, a great deal of Nigerians, a vast majority, believe in the new sheriff. And that is great achievement. A big deal. When the citizenry believe in their leader, and almost can swear by him, it is no mean feat. The NOI polls, in a survey in July, revealed that over 70% of Nigerians were happy with the Buhari administration. And I can bet that the percentage would rise, as the months and years roll by. Faith in leadership is something that does not come cheap.
And this one! Even our foreign reserve knows that a new sheriff is in town, and has responded appropriately. In June, just one month into office, and with the plugging of some leakages and loopholes, foreign reserve surged from $29 billion to $31.89. Holy Moses! Just in one month. Well, that is what a new sheriff can do. He brings sanity, confidence and probity to the system. And you would agree that Nigeria needs such shot in the arm, if we consider recent past experiences, when our treasury was like a bag filled with holes.
An evidence of the believability of the new sheriff, and the confidence reposed in him, is the disclosure that came this week from Ambassador Godknows Igali, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power. He said since Buhari came to office, not a single sabotage of the power infrastructure has been recorded, and it is one of the reasons that electricity supply keeps improving. But did Buhari line up soldiers across the power infrastructure? Did he hire a combination of OPC, Egbesu, MASSOB, MEND and Arewa youths to keep vigil? No. Just believability. Those who are so angry with the country, and would go to any extent to sabotage development, have decided to give the sheriff a chance. They have heard of his reputation. A man that believes in fairness and justice. He would do right to all parts of the country.
Can you imagine the respect our sheriff commands on the international scene, and how it redounds to the glory of the average Nigerian? American President Barack Obama said Buhari came onto his job with reputation of integrity and a clearcut agenda. Ambassador Johnny Carson, also during the U.S trip in July, said the Nigerian President was a man of honour and integrity. Everywhere he goes, the Nigerian President is lauded and garlanded for his virtues. And the image of the country is burnished and repositioned in the process. Surely, greater days are ahead.
Some people say the sheriff did not hit the ground running, as he is yet to constitute his cabinet in 100 days. And I usually ask such people: when you hit the ground, and you land in mud, how do you begin to run immediately? You can only sink deeper, if you attempt to run. The thing to do is to first clear the mud, till you get to terra firma, and then you can begin to run.
President Buhari has spent time trying to clean the Augean stable he inherited. And he is succeeding. Sheriffs can either come in with guns blazing, shooting malefactors to kingdom come, or simply stamp their authority on the situation by sheer force of personality and presence. The Nigerian sheriff seems to have opted for the second option for now. But we should never forget that sheriffs are licensed to shoot. And those shots can be lethal for lawbreakers. In a matter of months, you can ask those who had bled our treasury to the point of death. They’ll have stories to tell.
Femi Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari