2016 was Buhari bashing year, but 2017 could be different if the President follows through on a few simple steps
His voice barely made it above the pew of lawmakers bedecked in Babarigas and admiring themselves in the humid Abuja temperatures.
Back at the Pulse Editorial room, we had to adjust the volume of the TV to its highest levels, just to make out the sentences from our President.
2016 was Buhari bashing season. And deservedly so.
You could say the President invited all the troubles he faced upon himself.
Buhari has not always looked this weak and feverish--at least in recent times.
Just before the 2015 general elections, this writer was part of a group of young Nigerians who dined with the then candidate Buhari in an upscale hotel in Ikoyi, Lagos.
It was a few hours before Christmas in 2014.
We saw the candidate who was warming up to take on the might of the PDP and Goodluck Jonathan a few months away, radiate warmth and plenty of energy. He delved into wisecracks on occasion, told us a few stories of his Presidency in military uniform back in the '80s and left everyone with quite an impression.
As the session rounded off, the APC presidential candidate posed for selfies with his young audience before making it out of the hall; with Rotimi Amaechi and Nasir El-Rufai following briskly in his footsteps.
Buhari spent most of the night hitting away at his Samsung notepad; and no, he wasn't doing it for the cameras.
Buhari was 72 at the time, but he could have passed for a man in his '50s.
Two years on, it is difficult to reconcile that Buhari with the one we saw throughout 2016.
The President put almost every foot wrong in 2016. ALMOST.
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The economy was already headed south when Buhari took over from Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, but the new President who is not new to the corridors of power, took an eternity to steady a rocking ship.
He dithered and plodded where quick decision making was required. He took forever to name his cabinet and when he finally did in November of 2015, he presented Nigerians with names he could have settled for on his first day on the job.
In 2016, we saw a President who made the same mistakes Nigerians voted out Jonathan for.
Buhari is yet to convince Nigerians that he's President for all. He still comes across as parochial and sectional and he's yet to prove that he can rescue an economy now in ruins.
But then, it could all change in 2017. On the security and anti-graft fronts, the gains are beginning to trickle in.
Christmas came early for a beleaguered Commander-In-Chief after his troops seized back the Sambisa Forest base from insurgents and sent the rag-tag, guerrilla unit on the run.
There are signs that the economy could rebound within the first few quarters of 2017, fiscal discipline is now the gospel within the corridors of power and once wasteful Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have become financially responsible thanks to the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
Ghost workers are being weeded out of the payroll systems of the federating units thanks to a Presidency that is leading by example.
The Buhari administration can be accused of many things, but wastefulness isn't one of them. With prudence gradually making a return to governance at the highest levels, Nigeria may yet turn the corner.
The price of crude oil in the international market is picking up again, government revenues are looking good again, diversification is beginning to yield little fruits in the Agriculture sector, roads are getting fixed and if the Niger Delta Avengers do not vandalise gas installations in the new year, we could well surpass that famous 5,000mw threshold in our energy grid.
It would be difficult to cheer up a Nigerian at the moment. The exchange rate is insane, the Naira has not been this worthless in a long while and inflation is now at a frightening 19 percent. Commodity prices have followed an upward trajectory.
Nigeria is in a recession--front and center. It's not even technical--it's a cold blooded, unsmiling recession. It looks like Nigerians are screwed.
However, if Buhari follows through with plans bordering on fiscal discipline, diversifying the economy, cracking down on corruption and rebuilding Nigeria's ailing infrastructure, 2017 may just be kind to him.
In another 12 months, if this President doesn't continue to be hard of hearing, if he treats folks from South East/South East/South West Nigeria the same way he'll treat folks who hail from his Northern base, if he hands over the economy to a competent team within his Presidency, if he fires persons found guilty of corruption within his team, if he delegates more, if he does away with the cabal that has almost ruined his Presidency, he'll return to the Buhari I last shared a room with in that Lagos hotel, back in the Winter of 2014--the Buhari who looked like he knew what he was doing.
This version has looked very confused and overwhelmed.