The Premium Times investigative report shows clearly that, contrary to the declarations of Garba Shehu and Lai Mohammed, the campaign document, “My Covenant With Nigerians,” emanated from the campaign’s research arm headed by Kayode Fayemi, that it was extensively discussed with Candidate Buhari and his party APC, that Candidate Buhari signed it, and that his campaign aggressively pushed it to media houses and underwrote its publicity.
Let’s for a moment push aside the “100 things in 100 days” document, which is of murky provenance, which the Premium Times report excluded, and which Buhari repudiated at Chatham House.
Why are Garba Shehu and Lai Mohammed disavowing the covenant document that clearly emanated from the campaign and carries Buhari’s signature? Look, we all knew that some of these promises were outlandish election gimmicks at worst and a wish list at best.
Nigerians are not fools; they understand elections to be periods of overpromising. They looked past the hifalutin promises and rhetorical flourishes because they desired change. Most people wanted Jonathan gone, even if one of the prices they had to pay was being subjected to intelligence-insulting promises like free school meals, N5000 unemployment allowance in the midst of an oil slump, and other unrealistic election time “covenants.”
Not only are Nigerians very discerning, they are also very patient. No one except the mischievous army of Buhari traducers expects Buhari to fix all that is wrong with Nigeria in four years, let alone in 100 days. Therefore, instead of further insulting the intelligence of Nigerians with these crude, shameless denials, the spokesmen of the party and the presidency should simply have asked Nigerians for patience and time for Buhari to take stock of the damage and begin the difficult task of reclamation. A savvy media person would have accompanied this plea for patience with a sober acknowledgement of what most Nigerians now know: that the rot is probably deeper than even the worst critic of the last administration suspected.
Jonathan’s posse of bitter supporters would have made the usual noise, but asking for more time and patience would have been received sympathetically by most Nigerians. As long as Buhari is seen to be going in the right direction, Nigerians would give him all the time he needs to implement his change agenda, particularly his cleansing mission.
Nigerians are more interested in slow and steady progress in the right direction than in hasty, gimmicky attempts to implement dubious campaign promises anyway. As I tell my students, it doesn’t really matter if you scored “A” on the first assignment. What counts is how much improvement you make over the course of the semester. It is the totality of your progress that will be rewarded at the end of the term, not a one-off “A” grade. As long as you are diligent and making progress toward the set goals or towards meeting my expectations, you are fine.
Nigerians are as understanding in their evaluations of their leaders as I am of my students. But the ongoing attempt at coverup, denial, and obfuscation is testing this proclivity for sympathetic understanding and patience, and aggravating Nigerians’ growing sense of disillusionment with Buhari.
The bobbing and weaving by the president’s spokespeople add to the frustration of Nigerians with what is increasingly perceived as an administration heavy on talk but light on measurable action, as an administration that is insensitively slow to act, and as an administration of curious denials and few affirmations.
The outright lies are the worst because they are convenient escapist contraptions that pretend that there is no internet or social media.
Even the matter of the “100 things in 100 days” document does not reflect well on Buhari. His most committed supporters are busy pushing his Chatham House clip on people, but quite frankly what does it say about Buhari and his candidacy that he and his handlers allowed a document like that to circulate in Nigeria in their name and with their tacit support only to go to London and disavow the same document?
It says one of two things: that Buhari respected a foreign audience more than he did the Nigerian electorate and thus told them a truth he withheld from Nigerians, or that his people deliberately crafted two messages–one for Nigerians and another for international audiences. That would be deception and duplicity, an underhanded electoral tactic that creates deniability but benefits the candidate. Either way, it does not gel with Buhari’s legendary reputation for personal integrity and truth telling, and I am surprised that his supporters are pushing it so enthusiastically on social media.
Meanwhile, September 5 is here in regard to the public asset declaration. Without the fulfillment of this elemental promise of trust and integrity, Buhari’s anticorruption campaign, the fulcrum of his presidency, will be still-birthed, dead before takeoff. There is no ifs and buts, and no amount of parsing will get him off this clear-cut promise of public asset declaration. We are waiting. So are his traducers and the bitter Jonathan supporters who are yet to come to terms with Buhari’s presidency.