Buhari's ascendancy to power has been attributed to many factors, one of which was the social media propelled re-branding of his candidacy. One other factor has been the integrity of the President Buhari himself. A former military head of state, Buhari, has cut the stern personality of being incorruptible, a man who keeps his words and does not allow the trappings of power to cloud his judgement.
However, the ‘magic’ is undergoing its toughest test as an integrity crisis on President's Buhari's election promises unfolds. In anticipation of the traditional 100 days in office, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu wrote an op-ed that stated that “Buhari's government cannot be judged in 100 days”. However, the aspect of Shehu's article that caused ripples was his refuting of some electoral promises made by his boss, claiming they appeared in unauthorized election materials:
In the course of electioneering,
the presidential campaign had so many centers of public communication which, for whatever reason were on the loose. There is a certain document tagged “One Hundred Things Buhari Will Do in 100 Days” and the other, “My Covenant With Nigerians.” Both pamphlets bore the authorized party logo but as the Director of Media and Communications in that campaign, I did not fund or authorize any of those. I can equally bet my last Kobo [Nigeria's currency] that Candidate Buhari did not see or authorize those publications. As a consequence of these publications, expectations have been raised unreasonably, that as President, Muhammadu Buhari will wave his hand and all the problems that the country faces- insecurity, corruption, unemployment, poor infrastructure would go away.
Shehu's assertion that the so-called “One Hundred Things Buhari Will Do in 100 Days” or “My Covenant With Nigerians” were contraptions was also echoed by the spokesperson of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Lai Mohammed:
Buhari never promised to do anything in 100 days, that's the honest truth. You see, when you are running a campaign, all kinds of literature will emerge from all sorts of groups but I came here and I said there are only just two documents that you can judge a party with. That is the constitution of the party and the manifesto of the party. Those are the only two documents that are registered with [the Independent National Electoral Commission] you can go to court on or hold a party accountable for.
However, Nigerians are not taken by the stance of both spokesmen. Nicholas Ibekwe, a journalist and public commentator, thinks that Garba Shehu is “insulting the collective reasoning of Nigerians“:
Does Mr Shehu even realise what he is saying? Does he realise that his denial of the documents which he, as the media manager of the Buhari campaign, helped to propagate is an indictment of the president’s performance in office in his first hundred days? We do not expect President Buhari to fulfill his entire campaign promises. This is impossible. No politician can do that. Governance is not maths. Politicians are allowed to modify or even completely discard some of their campaign promises if they do not fit with situations on ground after assuming office. But insanity is to completely disown your entire campaign promises. It is akin to setting a house on fire to kill a rat.
On Twitter, Kayode Ogundamisi described the denial as ‘fraudulent':
— Kayode Ogundamisi (@ogundamisi) August 31, 2015
@JoyceOdukoya insisted that both documents were indeed written by Buhari's party:
In a report, Nigerian newspaper the PUNCH alleged to have also received the said elections promises from the president's media team:
A member of the APC Situation Room, Gbenga Olorunpomi, who was one of those in charge of issuing press statements and other Internet materials on behalf of the party, had in March, sent emails to news rooms, including The PUNCH. One of the emails had the document titled ‘My Covenant with Nigerians’. Efforts to reach Olorunpomi, who also live tweeted APC’s activities during electioneering, on Monday failed as his phone was switched off.
Nigerian lawyer and Twitter user Ayokunle Odekunle said he also received the email as stated in the story from the PUNCH:
— AYOKUNLE Odekunle (@Oddy4real) September 1, 2015
Premium Times alleged that President Buhari and his party were “likely being dishonest and deceitful”:
Party insiders said the document, which harmonized promises contained in the party’s manifesto and various campaign speeches by Mr. Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, was produced after rigorous and extensive deliberation with top campaign officials and the president himself. After the president signed off on the final version of the covenant, insiders say, the document was emailed to journalists at the time by well-known campaign staff charged with circulating publicity materials for the organization during the period. For instance, Egghead Odewale, who worked at the headquarters of the presidential campaign in Abuja, sent a PDF version of the document to PREMIUM TIMES on March 12. Apparently concerned that the document was not getting enough publicity, another campaign official emailed a word version to reporters on March 16.
The Centre of Democracy and Development said “it's too late” for the president to repudiate his election promises:
To be clear, President Buhari now says that campaign commitments made by his party were not made by him and campaign commitments issued by his organisation are not binding on him. Taken together, the effect of these statements is to repudiate any commitments that President Buhari as candidate made. They also amount to an assertion that Nigerians have no bases to hold the administration of President Buhari to account. The deliberate effort by the official spokespersons of the President to distance him from both his party and his campaign commitments coincides with the landmark of the first 100 days of the administration. For a President elected on a platform of integrity, this is duplicitous. It is equally unacceptable.
Since Nigeria's independence in 1960, “never has there been such a groundswell of optimism in our collective ability to resurrect the ‘crippled and sleeping giant’ of a nation and begin to position it to achieve its manifest destiny of being the voice of and leading Africa and the black world,” read a recent editorial by Nigeria's Business Day about the country's euphoria following Buhari's election.
But now, his integrity hangs precariously in a balance. If the president of Africa's most populous country and his party are now lying about a document that heralded their entrance into power, how sure are Nigerians that they will be the ‘change’ they hoped for?