Some prominent Nigerians and groups on Wednesday assessed the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)’s, New Year speech and said it was uninspiring.
The Committee for Defence of Human Rights, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr Obadiah Mailafia; an elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, and the Peoples Democratic Party, said they were not moved by the President’s speech.
But the All Progressives Congress and the Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani, lauded Buhari.
Buhari had, in his New Year message early on Wednesday, said he would not seek a third term in office.
“I will be standing down in 2023 and will not be available in any future elections,” he said.
Buhari, whose regime was accused of lawlessness in 2019, also said his actions “at all times will be governed by the rule of law.”
He added, “The revolution in agriculture is already a reality in all corners of the country. New agreements with Morocco, Russia and others will help us access, on attractive terms, the inputs we need to accelerate the transformation in farming that is taking place.”
Buhari said the regime would use the change in technology to harness the potential in the youth “and tame some of the wilder elements.”
He said the regime’s investments in infrastructure such as the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Abuja-Kano highway were yielding positive results.
The President, had on January 1, 2019 sent a similar New Year message to the nation, where he promised to ensure that last year’s general elections would be free and fair.
But the local and international groups had after the polls said there were many cases of violence and intimidation during the elections.
For instance, the European Union Election Observation Mission in its report stated that the elections were “overshadowed by systemic failings” and demonstrated “the need for an inclusive national discussion on electoral reform.
“The environment for this election has been difficult with cases of violence and intimidation,” the mission had said.
Also, there were violence and killings during the November 16 governorship polls in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
No fewer than five persons, including a Peoples Democratic Party women leader, Mrs Salome Abuh, were killed during and after the Kogi governorship election.
Buhari’s case is hopeless, he won’t change – Yakasai
Commenting on the President’s speech, an elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, in an interview with The PUNCH, said he expected nothing positive from the regime of Buhari.
He said he would not take promises made by the retired Major General in his letter to Nigerians seriously.
Yakasai said, “I don’t expect him to successfully fight corruption. Coup-making is treasonable; it is the highest crime in the land. They did it and they are getting away with it.
“He (the President) is asking for patience, only those who still believe that he can change will believe him. As for me, the case is hopeless. I see nothing changing, not this year or the year after.”
Message to Nigerians not convincing – Mailafia
Also, a former Deputy Governor of the CBN, Mailafia, said the New Year message by the President was not convincing.
Mailafia told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview on Wednesday that the message lacked a clear strategy on how the issues of poverty and unemployment would be addressed by the Buhari regime.
He said, “The President has gone into details in telling us what the administration wants to achieve. Without security, you can’t have growth and development. He has spoken about lifting 100 million people out of poverty and he has also painted the picture of projects that will be coming on stream in the course of the year.
“All of which is good but my problem is that he has not shown how he is going to achieve all these things. There is no major discussion on unemployment particularly youth unemployment. Youth unemployment is almost getting to 70 per cent. Most youths are wandering the streets without jobs.
“Nothing (was said) about civil service reforms. You can be the best economist in the world or be the leader in the world with the best ideas but you need the civil service to implement these ideas. If you don’t reform it well, they (civil servants) will become the elephants that are sitting on the road blocking progress.”
Match your promises with actions, ex-CDHR boss tells Buhari
However, a former President of the Committee for Defence of Human Rights, Mr Malachy Ugwummadu, said Buhari must match his promises with actions in order to dispel hopelessness, anxiety and disappointment of Nigerians.
He said, “It was an effort by the President to sustain the hope of the Nigerian people in spite of all the odds. But I think what is far more important is matching those promises with actions in a way that dispels the kind of hopelessness, anxiety and disappointment ravaging the land.”
Buhari seems incapable of feeling the pulse of Nigerians – CSO
But the Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said it seemed the President and his speech writers were either incapable of feeling the pulse of Nigerians or did not really care about the pains of the people.
“The letter had no word of empathy for the nation and most especially, families of Nigerians who were gruesomely murdered by ISWAP and Boko Haram. They have yet missed another opportunity to lift the souls of Nigerians and connect with the people who are daily sinking into poverty,” Atoye said in an interview with The PUNCH.
Obey rule of law this year, NBA tells Buhari
In its reaction, the Nigerian Bar Association urged Buhari to respect the rule of law as he promised in his speech.
The NBA National Publicity Secretary, Kunle Edun, in a series of text messages to one of our correspondents, said Buhari should exhibit democratic leadership in the New Year.
He said, “There are many challenges confronting our nation. 2019 had a lot of hiccups and we hope that 2020 will be better. The government has to accept the fact that, without the rule of law, democracy cannot grow.”
The NBA spokesman decried the alleged rise of corrupt practices within government establishments, while calling on the National Assembly to live up to its constitutional responsibilities by acting as a check on the executive.
He stated, “I look forward to a 2020 where General Buhari will remember his promise to Nigerians and fulfil them. He does not have much time. There is too much poverty in Nigeria.”
Message offers no hope – PDP
But the Peoples Democratic Party said the New Year speech was completely “uninspiring, tasteless, repetitive, vacuous and did not galvanise any form of hope for Nigeria.”
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, urged Buhari to have the courage to issue a fresh New Year message to show remorse for the alleged corruption, incompetence and misrule of his regime.
Ologbondiyan said, “Buhari should withdraw his unnecessary remark in his New Year message about standing down in 2023, as he and his party, the APC, would have no other option but to exit office at the end of this tenure.
“Indeed, President Buhari should stop presenting a picture as if he had the option to continue in office beyond 2023.
“The PDP holds, in total submission to the letter and spirit of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), that it is not an issue of ‘standing down’ or not being ‘available’ for future elections, but a decided and inevitable position as contained in our constitution that he must quit office after two terms which will end in 2023.
“Mr President, therefore, does not have any other choice before the law. Whether President Buhari likes it or not, he and his APC will exit the arena at the end of this tenure. History is replete with lessons from those who sought to stretch our nation beyond her limits.”
According to him, Buhari should also order the immediate prosecution of his party leaders who allegedly perpetrated violence in the 2019 general elections as well as the governorship elections in Ekiti, Osun, Bayelsa and Kogi states.
On its part, the Young Progressive Party said Nigerians had experienced several challenges in the last decade most of which, it said, could be attributed to leadership failure and made worse by the ‘visionless APC government.’
The YPP spokesman, Egbeola Martin, in a statement on Wednesday, said the APC regime had succeeded in bringing more hardship to Nigerians through several obnoxious anti-masses policies thereby catapulting Nigeria to the pinnacle of poverty ladder and making the nation the poverty capital of the world.
Buhari doesn’t keep promises – Afenifere
Commenting on the speech, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, said Buhari had shown that he could not keep his promises.
The group’s spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, listed several pledges made by the Buhari regime which it failed to keep, noting that the President had been running an exclusive regime despite promising to run an inclusive one.
Odumakin stated, “He said he would not have the office of the First Lady, we have the First Lady’s office today. He promised to run an inclusive government, he has been running an exclusive government. Those promises would mean nothing to us unless he does something differently, but his promises hold no water.
“Based on his antecedents, there is nothing to hold on to. Buhari earlier said he would scrap fuel subsidy because it was fraudulent, but he has been paying subsidies for the past five years and he said he would sustain it till 2023, yet he said he is fighting corruption.”
Reform oil sector, LCCI advises Buhari
However, the Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Muda Yusuf, commended the Federal Government on the progress made in agriculture and other sectors.
He, however, noted that there was more to be done to put the entire economy in shape during the New Year.
He advised the government to invest in agricultural technology and the mechanisation of the sector, saying that without mechanisation, agriculture would not yield much revenue.
Farmers, according to him, are handicapped by the insufficient supply of modern farm equipment like tractors and others.
Yusuf said there was the need to carry out reforms in the oil and gas sector of the economy to “unlock the huge potential in jobs, investment, revenue and foreign exchange earnings.”
He said the reform would also reduce the corruption and leakages in the sector.
The DG said, “The government should fix the problems at the nation’s ports in the area of port infrastructure and equipment, as well as the seemingly intractable problem of inefficient cargo processes at the ports, put in place urgent measures to attract private capital into infrastructure financing to address the huge deficit problem in infrastructure.”
APC hails President’s speech
But the APC said it remained on the same page with the retired Major General on the issues of national development and respect for the rule of law.
In an interview with one of our correspondents, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, said, “It is our speech. We also issued a statement which reinforces some of these things contained in the President’s letter.”
The APC, had in a statement on Tuesday, said “The President Muhammadu Buhari government is vigorously tackling and solving the social, economic and security challenges our country faces one after the other.”
Ignore Buhari’s critics, BMO tells Nigerians
Also the Chairman of the Buhari Media Organisation, Niyi Akinsiju, asked Nigerians to ignore those criticising the speech, saying Buhari was passionate about developing the country.
He said, “Some people are only inspired by being verbose or semantics. The President is not given to frivolities. He is business-minded. His intention is to create a bond with Nigerians. From the first alphabet he communicated his vision, commitment and passion.
“It (the speech) was also a report of his government achievements and setting a timeline for delivery of some of his targets for the New Year. He put them in black and white so that people can take him up on his promises. We have gone beyond sloganeering.”
ACF secretary lauds Buhari
On his part, the Secretary General of the ACF, Sani, said Buhari’s New Year letter to Nigerians marked a change of style and expectations in 2020.
Specifically, the ACF’s secretary noted that the fact that Buhari said he was not contesting any election in 2023 meant that he would be less partisan.