Democratic Accountability and Shehu Garba’s Unjustified Attack on the Buharimeter

Idayat Hassan

Director, Centre for Democracy and Development

 

The attention of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has been drawn to an acerbic reaction from the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu to our recently released fourth Buharimeter Report. For the avoidance of doubt, the Buharimeter Report, which the Presidential spokesman tried to impugn in his statement, is a globally recognized governance-tracking tool that works to hold governments to account for the electoral compact which ruling parties have proposed to the electorate during the campaign. It is a methodology that is used to hold political parties in power accountable on the issues they themselves have proposed to the people.

 

Similar initiatives have been used to interrogate and assess the fulfilment of electoral promises in countries such as the United States, France, Senegal, Iran, and Afghanistan. It is non-partisan and innovative tool for effective citizens participation in the governance of their country. The methodology of Buharimeter is to meticulously track promises made by politicians, while seeking the votes of the people and objectively monitor the performance of the government against those promises.

 

It is therefore shocking that Mallam Garba would choose to take a cheap pot shot at the balanced and well-researched findings in the recent Buharimeter Report. CDD takes exception to the unfounded characterization of our work by Mallam Garba as “partisan and mischievous.” CDD’s record as a non-partisan watchdog of the democratic and governance processes spans over eighteen years. A Presidential spokesman who has chosen not to do his investigation of our work before speaking cannot dent our record as objective analysts of democracy and development. His statement clearly suggests he has not even read our report but is clearly responding to certain headlines that sensationalized our report.

 

Had Garba Shehu read the report, he would have seen that we devoted considerable attention to the first milestone achievement of the Buhari Administration, which is the tremendous progress recorded by the Government towards defeating the insurgency in the North East. We quote fromparagraph three of the Fourth Buharimeter Report: “Since the inauguration of PMB on May 29, 2015, the Nigerian military has made progress in curtailing the Boko Haram insurgency in North East Nigeria. President Buhari rejigged Nigeria’s counterterrorism architecture, forged regional alliances, appointed new security chiefs and gave orders for the insurgency to be defeated by December2015.” We therefore gave credit where it was due. The report also acknowledged the robust efforts currently being made by the Government to recover looted funds and bring to justice, those indicted for corruption.

 

The Centre for Democracy and Development is a democracy watchdog and not a praise singer so we also drew attention to promises made that have not been fulfilled. The Buharimeter Report went on to highlight far-reaching challenges, which have clearly not been addressed by the government across critical sectors. We stand firm in the conviction that addressing these issues raised in the report would be important milestones on the path of consolidating Nigeria’s democracy. What we are doing is providing constructive feedback to the government. Mallam Garba Shehu would have served his principal better by drawing the attention of Government to concerns and gaps pointed out by citizens and civil society.

 

It was disingenuous for Garba Shehu to attempt to imply that CDD fabricated the 222 promises we identified as commitments made by the Buhari Campaign to Nigerians. We developed a comprehensive methodology that tracked and identified promises made by the Buhari Campaign in the manifesto, in campaign rallies, in the media and in various campaign documents published by the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the electioneering period. Moreover, it is important to note that the manifesto of the APC constitutes 87 percent of the 222 promises. The remaining 13 percent come from media reports of promises made by the then APC Presidential candidate.

 

Mallam Garba should recall that during presidential party primaries of the APC, all presidential aspirants of the party, including the President, were made to commit to implementing the party’s manifesto, if elected. He should also recall that that the leadership of the party has consistently called on the elected officials of the party, including the President, to ensure that their programmes and policies align with the manifesto of the party. We are therefore worried by the several unpopular attempts by President’s media aides to dissociate the President from the manifesto of the APC.

 

While we refute the allegations that the Fourth Buharimeter Report blamed the Buhari administration for the cash crunch induced by falling oil prices, the report proffers far-reaching recommendations to revamp the economy. It is our considered view that aides like Garba Shehu would serve the cause of the nation and his principal better by taking a much more dispassionate approach to accept feed back from citizen groups. Finally, we call on Garba Shehu to retract from the path of taking exception to the right of citizens and civil society to assess the Government on the basis of campaign promises they freely made to Nigerians. Political accountability has become a political virtue that citizens have placed on the table and it’s the path to improved governance.





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