- PUNCH SHOULD STOP LIVING IN DENIAL
The latest in a series of some partisan editorials by some of this country’s newspapers seeking to rewrite recent history was published by the Punch newspaper paper this weekend, painting a bleak, pessimistic and frequently inaccurate picture of the state of our nation and outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership.
In this post-election period of heightened tension and disinformation, we see it fit to set the record straight.
First let’s start with the one thing the editorial gets right: that President Buhari inherited an economy in disarray. Corruption ran rampant, oil-prices were nose-diving and – astoundingly – an international terror cell, the Boko Haram controlled territory the size of Belgium within our country’s borders.
That so-called country, the Caliphate is unrecognizable from today’s Nigeria.
Today, corruption is thrust out in the open by Buhari’s landmark whistleblowing policy, empowering Nigerians to report it without fear and seeing the repatriation of hundreds of millions of dollars stolen by corrupt politicians and stashed in banks abroad.
Terrorists no longer hold any territory in Nigeria whatsoever, and their leaders have been neutralised by our security forces.
Economy has witnessed growth. External reserves have maintained a healthy growth throughout these eight years.
Within two years of the Buhari administration, exports more than doubled from the 2015 records. Agriculture exports grew 180.7% by 2017 above the value in 2015.
Raw material exports grew 154.2% in the same period; solid minerals grew 565% and exports of manufactured goods 26.8%.
The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), the Federal Government’s medium-term Economic Plan, launched by President Buhari in April 2017, successfully ushered in a macroeconomic environment and helped the country to achieve food security.
The editorial begrudgingly credits President Buhari for the “massive success” of pushing through the Petroleum Industry Bill – a staggering achievement attempted but failed by myriad previous administrations – as well as the vast improvements to national infrastructure that have set our country on course for sustainable and equitable growth.
The reality of President Buhari and his legacy is a far cry indeed from what the editorial describes as a leader who “failed to demonstrate any real grasp of modern economic ideas, and lacked the presence of mind or leadership acumen required to turn the ailing economy around”. Goodness!
Which economic miracle worker in Punch newspaper can turn round an economy which suffers from collapse of oil prices, COVID-19 lockdown and associated supply chain crisis and the Russia-Ukraine war?
Look around the world and see how practically every country struggles from these disasters.
But President Buhari is not a North Korean dictator. He would be scornful of any world leader who claimed a perfect record and would be the last person to make such claims for himself.
He had his strengths and his weaknesses, and applied the former and mitigated against the latter to achieve his overarching goal: to leave Nigeria a better place than he found it. In that he succeeded.
He presided over the most turbulent period in modern Nigerian history, helping our nation navigate through global shocks such as volatile oil prices, the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the global cost of living crisis.
He kept the ship steady, and paved the way for his successor, President-elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to take the reins at the end of this month and build upon what he has already achieved.
The editorial states that Buhari will not be missed. We shall see. But, countless Nigerians whose futures he has improved, will fondly remember him for good.
Among these, to take just one aspect or two- the two million poor and vulnerable Nigerian households that are currently benefiting from the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, which pays a bimonthly stipend of N10,000 per household; the 355,000 vulnerable persons have received a special one-off grant of N20,000 each in the 36 states and the FCT; the beneficiaries of Nigeria’s Micro-Pension Scheme which allows self-employed persons and persons working in organisations with less than 3 employees to save for the provision of pension at retirement or incapacitation.
Punch possibly doesn’t have a record of the government’s Survival Fund, the National Youth Investment Fund, and National Special Public Works Program (774,000 beneficiaries across 774 LGAs nationwide), and the Central Bank’s COVID-19 N300 billion Targeted Credit Facility (TCF) to support millions of small businesses, households, and young people, with federal grants, loans, and stipends.
This Survival Fund has provided grants (Payroll Support, Artisan and Transport Sector grants, and General MSME grants) to more than 1.2 million beneficiaries, since the last quarter of 2020. It has also provided free business registration to 250,000 MSMEs across the country.
Nor will he be forgotten by the owners of the new 40 plus fertilizer companies and the thousands of people they employ, producing locally to service the more than 12 million new rice growers who in turn provide six million tons of paddy processed by more 100 new rice mills with Kano alone having 62, and others spreading far and wide to Ebonyi, Lagos, Ekiti, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Katsina and others.
No, Punch should stop living in denial. These ones and their kith and kin making up the 200 million plus citizens of our country, the teachers whose backlog of unpaid salaries were paid and the pensioners from years yore, denied payment and treated with contempt now smiling their way to the banks will remember positively that Muhammadu Buhari came, saw and he conquered.
Garba Shehu is the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity)