It's one and a half months since President Muhammad Buhari sent a letter to the National Assembly conveying his decision to proceed on leave.
He also transferred power to his Vice President Prof Yemi Osibanjo as is required by the Constitution.
The President has now extended his leave to an indefinite period on the advice of his UK doctors.
Since taking over, the acting President has embarked on measures which have effectively set the country on the path of positive change.
- In an effort to reunite a dangerously polarized nation since the APC took power at the centre, he has paid visits to the Niger Delta region and parts of the southeast. These are two zones of the country which feel genuinely alienated by the federal government's discriminatory doctrine of favouring those who gave President Buhari over 95% of their votes over those who gave him less than 5% of theirs.
- The implementation of this policy in the initial political appointments including those of the military service chiefs had the negative effect of spawning a more determined Niger Delta militancy. That in turn, succeeded in crippling most of the nation's oil and gas assets.
- As we all know, this country depends for over 90% of its foreign exchange earnings and an equally huge proportion of governments' revenue on the oil resources in that region. Even more, it exacerbated the agitation for an independent state of Biafra.
- The acting President's initiative appeared to have convinced the belligerents to engage in meaningful dialogue. This has led to the suspension of acts of sabotage and in raising our crude oil output to the optimum level of over two million barrels per day; as per our OPEC quota. Power generation has also gone up substantially, thanks to the reduction in gas pipeline vandalism.
- He has been proactive in attending to state affairs. He has so far signed seven bills while rejecting four, offering cogent reasons for rejecting the others.
- Much to the relief of the nation, the acting President forwarded the name of the acting Chief Justice Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation as substantive CJN just before the expiry of his 90-day acting status. This has averted what could have been a major political crisis in a fragile federation as we have.
- The acting President has been chairing very lengthy and regular weekly Federal Executive Council meetings at which memos are dispassionately debated after which far reaching decisions are taken.
- He has prevailed on the CBN to adopt new and more transparent Foreign Exchange Management procedures which have yielded the desired result of reducing forex market volatility. The Naira is making tremendous gain against the US dollar and other currencies, much to the delight of the masses.
- He met at the state house with senior members of the NLC and other demonstrators who are protesting the current economic hardship in the nation. This is a departure from a situation where such demonstrators were forcefully dispersed by security forces and refused access to senior government officials.
- Even members of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group, a recognized ally of this administration, were prevented from meeting with the President. The acting President has also demonstrated an unalloyed loyalty to his principal by continuing to attribute his successes to the President's inspiration.
- He has also debunked any criticism of the Buhari Administration in his absence. In contrast, the governor of Imo state, Mr. Rochas Okorocha, treacherously criticized the Buhari administration for allegedly marginalizing the Ibos. He complained that even under a President they supported, they had nothing to show for it. “In Imo state for instance”, he insisted, “all we have is a minister of state for all our efforts and extreme sacrifices to ensure that the APC had a good outing in the last elections. I know you are acting President and have the ears of the President so there is no better person to tell our painful story than you".The Governor went on and on in indicting the Buhari administration which he had hitherto praised for its wonderful achievements.
- In a show of loyalty to his principal and his administration by the evident disloyalty of a governor who had pretended servile obeisance to the President, the acting President responded with a rebuke: “If there is any Governor in this country that has the ear of the President, I will say that it is Governor Okorocha. As such, it cannot be said that the state is marginalized by the APC-led federal government”.
This definitely was intended to discourage traitors and effectively shut down the door to would-be turncoats.
Credit for the acting President’s trailblazing actions and high performance must surely be attributed to President Muhammad Buhari who selected a running mate with tremendous intellectual capacity and character where most Presidential candidates would go for docile, inefficient and greedy ones; a person whose blind loyalty is to his principal as to himself.
President Buhari's choice of a running mate might well have been informed by his prescient consideration of the need to select a competent, patriotic and loyal person in appreciation of the challenges of his advanced age and the enormity of the task of reclaiming the country.
The President also deserves praise for his prompt transfer of power and continued support to his deputy as required by law. This will undoubtedly enhance and sustain our nascent democracy.
All people of goodwill must condemn those who are making ill-thought-out comments that portray the acting President as a puppet and who needs continuous prompting from his principal to function. This is likely to cause ill will and disaffection between them.
The acting President must continue, undeterred with the good actions he has already started. He must maintain the zeal and tempo of his good performance which will do justice to the patriotic wish and desire of his convalescing principal. He cannot afford to succumb to blackmail and selfish machinations of his critics.
Nigeria is a nation in need of rescue. We must all come together to rescue it.
The acting President needs all the support to steer the ship of state. As Deng Xiaoping rightly observed: "It doesn't matter whether the cat is white or black as long as it catches mice". We cannot allow the forces of division to prevail at this point.
We also have to caution all those who are regaling us with stories of their daily phone contacts with Mr. President as this can only misrepresent him as belonging to a few and therefore not to everybody as he initially declared.
We are optimistic that the President will speak to the nation as soon as he can and return as soon as he is able.
Meanwhile all well-meaning Nigerians and their foreign friends are silently praying for the quick recovery and good health of President Muhammad Buhari, just as they are praying for the success of the acting President.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Col Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (rtd)
Chairman, Movement for Unity & Progress