By Philip Agbese
Nostradamus is famed globally as a man who saw tomorrow. He was a great seer, whom God endowed with unbeatable clairvoyance. He could predict the future events with amazing precision. He was venerated world-wide because his prophetic prowess and projections hardly missed the targets.
President Muhammadu Buhari can be likened to the great Nostradamus. He is imbued with such telepathy. He met Nigeria in a terribly shape. It was a country wholly dependent on other nations for survival. Buhari perceptively saw tomorrow. He had a sound vision about tomorrow and the future, which told him repositioning Nigeria on the path of self-reliance was the only worthwhile step of redemption of the country.
As democratic President of the country, he knew salvaging actions towards self-reliance were necessary to fortify the future. Thus, his administration initiated policies and programmes that would pull back Nigeria from the claws of dependence to self-sufficiency.
The Buhari Presidency preached, initiated and implemented policies on diversification of the economy. He knew a mono-economy as operated by Nigeria which depended solely on crude oil proceeds for national revenues was preposterous in the event of a global crisis. In the last few years, his administration has pumped trillions of naira to boost agricultural production, promote small scale enterprises and the manufacturing sector.
God Himself, through His divine knowledge and wisdom gave President Buhari the foresight of what was to come in the nearest future. And the President’s actions were tailored in the direction of boosting domestic food production, achieving food security and scaling up activities in the manufacturing sector. And just in four years, Nigeria has pleasantly achieved self-sufficiency in food production & many essential products for her 200 million people!
But initially, the opposition in the country, criticized President Buhari’s policies and actions. He was condemned as a leader groping in the dark. The President was unjustly lampooned for his genuine efforts in transforming Nigeria.
However, the reality has only dawned on Nigerians on the wisdom of President Buhari, with the global pandemic, Coronavirus (Covid-19) currently ravaging the world. Buhari saw today’s reality years back and prepared Nigeria for it. There is now imposition of movements and restrictions on business transactions world-wide.
The price of crude oil in the international market has also slumped unimaginably. But the manageable stabilization Nigeria has achieved, in the face of this global threat fueled by Covid-19 pandemic is attributed to its impressive self-reliance status ennobled by the Buhari Presidency. Nigeria would have been in deep mess had President Buhari sustained the culture of Nigeria’s 100 percent dependence on foreign countries.
When President Buhari closed land borders, his critics and opponents filled the space with resenting voices. But the reality of Covid-19 has exposed the wisdom in that decision. It is the strength of a leader who has foresight. Even Buhari’s most ardent critics, now acknowledge him in their reflective moments, except that the usual pride of Nigerians has restrained some of them from confessing it publicly.
But in more diverse and salient ways, President Buhari’s leadership has shuddered Nigeria protectively and impactfully. The deliberate multiplication of crises, violence and conflicts in Nigeria orchestrated by state actors with its attendant humanitarian problems hinted Mr. President of the necessity to manage the fallouts more frontally and coordinatively. And Mr. President observed that mass poverty in Nigeria among the majority poor was also a problem which needed to be confronted and solved by the federal government in an organized manner.
And it is his divine wisdom and knowledge of anticipation of the unexpected that informed President Buhari to establish the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management & Social Development on August 21, 2019. As usual, the unknowledgeable opposition in Nigeria and critics slammed him variously, accusing his government of ‘duplicitousness’. But Mr. President saw tomorrow and was unperturbed and undaunted.
And after establishing the Ministry, President Buhari proceeded to appoint a humanist, trusted administrator and competent disaster management expert, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq to pilot the affairs of the ministry.
With Covid-19 gradually simmering into the nooks and crannies of Nigeria and government’s proactive steps to halt the spread of the disease, a total lockdown of the country has been ordered. The importance of the creation of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development has once again come to the fore.
Through the effective coordination and supervision of agencies under the Ministry, the Minister is providing palliatives to vulnerable Nigerians to save lives and alleviate the suffering of people locked down in their homes as a result of Covid-19 pandemic.
It has adopted a multi-faceted approach in dishing out palliatives to the poor and vulnerable, IDPs, the elderly, persons with disabilities, refugees, trafficked persons, and petty traders among others, as part of Presidential interventions to cushion the effect of the Covid-19 lockdown of the country. The palliatives have manifested in form of cash and food supplies to vulnerable groups in the country.
Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq has established the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development’s COVID-19 Response Committee, comprising all agencies under the purview of the Ministry which are speedily delivering diverse reliefs to vulnerable segments of the country. Agencies under the Ministry have been repositioned and are working seamlessly with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and delivering succor to Nigerians susceptible to extreme hardships as a consequence of the Covid-19 lockdown of the country.
The minister has started dishing out palliative interventions to over 11.4 million households, and to vulnerable Nigerians already captured by the social investment/welfare programs register, covering 35 states and 453 LGAS across the country.
The minister is also exploring the possibility of expanding the register of beneficiaries, as she is in discussion with the US Social Protection Donor Group to add an additional 1 million households to the scheme for the intervention.
And it was divine wisdom and foresight that propelled President Buhari to appoint Engr. Mustapha Maihaja in 2017 as Director- General, National Emergency Management Agency (DG NEMA). NEMA under the leadership of Engr. Maihaja is leading other agencies in providing relief services and palliatives to vulnerable groups throughout the country as well as responding to other disaster situations.
Nigerians are experiencing less hardships during the Covid-19 shut down of the country because NEMA is in perfect working synergy with agencies like North East Development Commission (NEDC), National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP ) and all the components of the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIPs) in reaching out to vulnerable Nigerians. Nigerians have started receiving food items, conditional cash transfers, and protective items such as face masks, soaps and sanitizers.
Furthermore, the impact of Covid-19 in Nigeria would have been devastating had the Presidency failed to engage experts ab initio in disease detection and management in the country. It was a divine foresight that informed President Buhari to appoint Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, a world class epidemiologist and public health physician of international repute as the Chief Executive Officer, (CEO) Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) since August 15, 2016.
From the first index case of Coronavirus in Nigeria, reportedly imported into the country by an Italian, Ihekweazu has taken proactive measures to secure the country. In alliance with relevant MDAs, the NCDC boss has established Isolation Centers as well as Covid-19 Testing Centers in states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). It promptly acts on specimen of persons suspected of the virus and give necessary advice to safeguard public health. The proactive handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the success story and the near zero casualty figure in Nigeria is as a result of the ingenuity of the NCDC’s CEO.
Likewise, it is only divine intervention that has insulated President Buhari from contracting the deadly coronavirus disease, even though he mingled with his closest aides and some governors that have already tested Covid-19 positive. These persons are receiving treatments in isolation centres. President Buhari is indeed divinely inspired and empowered to protect Nigeria from unexpected emergencies or disasters.
*Agbese is a human rights laws researcher writing from the United Kingdom.