By Bashir Ahmad
…Supported them with bailout funds, only for them to betray him.
There is no doubt that the present administration, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, came into power at a time when the country was bedevilled with a lot of crisis, including economic hardships, security threats of Boko Haram insurgents and other challenges obstructing the smooth running of the country. That’s to the extent that, at the time, many recognized National and International agencies predicted that if not for President Buhari, Nigeria would have plunged into a serious crisis.
The situation had put the elites and the masses of the majority states of the country, if not all, into serious economic backwardness, with some giving up on paying salaries. Many state governors resorted to borrowing money despite the federal allocations to pay salaries and run other governmental responsibilities.
To some extent, some state governors resorted to hiding behind the hardships as reasons to abscond from running contracts, infrastructural development, and capital expenditures, among many other developmental activities. They indeed lost hope in providing assistance to the masses and their states.
However, with the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari, as a true democrat, who always put the masses first, the president introduced many interventions to the state governors, irrespective of their parties or region, mainly to bail them out and rescue them from collapsing. As such, several states are now afloat because of the financial reliefs the Buhari administration provided for them.
The Bailout Funds
From the start, N477 billion in bailout funds were released at the instance of the President through which most states sustained themselves. Additionally, no fewer than 24 states, across party lines, had demanded and received refunds from the federal government for works done on federal roads and bridges, and records show that the refunds were to the tune of about N500 billion. Those claims certainly were not based on works done during the Buhari administration only, but also in previous administrations. This is a little of what the federal government has done between 2015 and today to ensure that states stay afloat. Honestly, without the federal government bailout, most states would have gone under.
Apart from these refunds that were made, when President Buhari came in, 27 states could not pay salaries, and the federal government had to bail those 27 states out. Not only did he give them money to pay salaries, but he also gave them a bailout to pay arrears.
The Paris Club Funds
Consequently, upon seeing the reality and the fact that the states were in difficulties and could not start any new projects, in terms of infrastructure, the federal government also gave each of them N10 billion. When the price of oil again, collapsed, and states were in trouble, the federal government gave out a bailout of a billion naira per month to each state for eight months and N800 million per month, per state, for over eight months.
Nigerians can also recall that when the states complained that they did not benefit from the Paris debt refund, the federal government gave the states their own share of the Paris Fund. I know of a northern state, where the governor, if not for Buhari will not go anywhere, received N40 billion of this Paris Club Refund.
Again, when states complained to the federal government for deducting what they owed the federal government, Mr. President also said they should be refunded because times were hard even though there were so many corruption allegations against the governors, as to whether they used the money judiciously or were diverted for something else.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, which affected the economy of the whole world, particularly developing countries, President Buhari supported the governors with a series of interventions targeted at saving them from doing nothing while the masses were suffering.
Although some states could not appropriately use the intervention as some of them diverted them to their personal gains, the gesture cut across the country and made a significant impact. Some governors were alleged to have kept them to use during campaign periods. The availability of the Covid-19 interventions is to the extent that some states failed to utilize them and carelessly dumped them where they were affected by rain and other adverse weather conditions.
The political angle
Apart from saving the governors through such interventions, I believe Nigerians will remember how almost all the governors, especially under the platform of APC, benefitted from the popularity, patriotism, trust, and respect Nigerians have for President Buhari to win elections in their various states.
Many of them are ignorant of the fact that without him, by now, they would have been in prison. He was there for them when the masses doubted trusting them. He encouraged the masses and urged them to vote for them with the assurance that they also were like him and only wanted to get to the position to serve them. In 2019 he had to visit all the 36 states, some twice to encourage people to vote for some of these governors.
Recall that President Buhari went around the states in previous campaigns raising hands of these same APC governors, encouraging people to vote for them. A lot of them wouldn’t have been elected without that support from the president.
It is shocking, to say the least, that these people whom president Buhari helped are now turning their back against him because of a government policy whose aim is to address issues of corruption, insecurity as well as improve the economy. What we expect of them is to rally around the president, educating the people to bear with the unintended pains for bigger gains.
What Nigerians should know:
The new Naira redesign policy is not intended to cause hardship to any Nigerian. Government has taken every step to address and alleviate any unintended hardship associated with the policy. The cashless policy of the CBN is in line with global best practices for sustainability and economic prosperity.
I want Nigerians to know that President Buhari means well for all us. He does not take the trust Nigerians gave him lightly. He will continue to uphold the constitution and adhere to the oath of office he took. No government policy is without hitches in implementation. These hitches are temporary and are being addressed. Nigerians will certainly celebrate the numerous gains and benefits of these policies.
Why is it that a selected group of politicians is suddenly allergic to this policy? Why is the loudest noice against the policy coming from this quota? What happened to their voices when policies that affected the masses were being implemented? Are they really for the masses or for their political goals? I wonder!
Bashir Ahmad, is the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Digital Communications