The 100 days assessment period may not matter to the APC party stalwarts, but it certainly matters to us Nigerians. It is important to clarify this point as we move towards September 5 and the unofficial expiration of President Buhari’s “honeymoon period”.
It is also important to clarify this because of the recent media debacle between the APC and the Presidency that has, in short, attempted to interpret the “100 Days” assessment phenomenon as a matter for the president’s discretion.
This is quite wrong.
But this is not just because the document containing the “100 Days Covenant”, purportedly made by Buhari, has been disproved as “fraudulent”—although the people eagerly rushing to distance Buhari from the document were the same who eagerly rushed to circulate it on behalf of Buhari during the campaign.
This is not even just because the denial of the document came up only at a “question and answer” session in London, and not in Nigeria where the ambitious literature was circulated on streets and rallies—although this also raises the interesting question of how the President’s media team would have responded to Nigerians today if that “question and answer” session hadn’t been even taken place at all.
This is also not just because the APC, by their “body language” (or otherwise) encouraged the idea that Buhari’s first 100 days would be decisive indicators of the administration—although their denial now gives us, Nigerians, an insight into the quality of the party’s touted sense of integrity.
Frankly, the importance of the 100 days “reporting stage” has little or nothing to do with the APC’s promises and insinuations or Buhari’s knowledge (or otherwise) of these facts.
Instead, as Wikipedia explains it, the 100 days marker is “used to measure the successes and accomplishments of a president during the time that their power and influence is at its greatest”.
And so, the popularity of the 100 days phenomenon is because of its convenience as a suitable benchmark for the measurement of the president’s progress, particularly in constitutional democracies.
This is particularly significant when you consider the current “change” seemingly infused across the country’s federal bodies. This, of course, isn’t an inherent transformation. We have simply been experiencing the “cautious respect” that bureaucracies naturally give to a new government. We may confuse this with change but, really, the administrative machinery is simply waiting for the government to “firm-up”.
This is the period when the bureaucracy gauges the new president and decides whether to continue with old administrative practices (and any accompanying inefficiencies) or reinvent themselves along the—hopefully—clearly established image and goals of the new leader.
This is the primary importance of the first 100 days of a new government.
Hence, the potential danger of this unfortunate strangulation of the 100 days progress report by the APC and the presidency: by their hurried denials, they have—intentionally or not—lowered the bar that was set up for President Buhari during the campaign period.
More importantly, once the bureaucracy gets the impression that President Buhari is not going to be as energetic as expected—and feared—then it would be easier for them to slide back into the usual administrative lethargy or even consolidate their defences. After all, if the president would be taking his time, then four years is too short for any ministry to run around in fear, trying to effect permanent changes in character.
Yet, administrative effectiveness is not achieved or demonstrated by President Buhari just doing a thousand things in a hundred days, or doing a hundred things in a thousand days—but about President Buhari clearly outlining his policy goals—with decisive and measurable indicators—and tasking the bureaucracy with the responsibility of carrying it out within a set time.
And doing this as early as possible.
But now, with the much-touted denial of the much-touted campaign document by the much-touted party, not only do Nigerians have nothing to look forward to in the first hundred days, but we might as well start relaxing our general expectations for the entire term of the presidency.
It is, therefore, somewhat unfortunate that the party and the presidency came out in force to wave aside expectations when a presentation or “media chat” on the “100th day”—with appropriate qualifiers—would suffice.
In any case, I suppose that, with this reversal by the APC, all the planned “One Hundred Days” celebratory jollof rice contracts will have to be cancelled across the country.
And this would be a shame because, you see, this may not matter much to APC, but it still matters to a lot of fellow Nigerians living below the poverty line.