The Unfortunate Magic of the First 100 Days in Office

100 Days

The first 100 days in office is essentially a “confidence report” or “reassurance of commitment” to the electorate by a politician has been elected into executive office after three months. Although a fancy “report card”, it is a trifling thing with some media-circus ceremonial importance. It is unfortunate for a polity to rely on it as a genuine measure of political success.

In Nigeria’s case, the first 100 days is far less than 1% (i.e. 0.07%) of the four-year tenure of an elected executive. It is an infinitesimally small fraction of the time a president, governor or chairman spends in office and usually meaningless. At the end of a president’s or governor’s tenure no one remembers the first 100 days since there is a whole legacy of four years to judge. So why has it become of paramount and magical importance in recent years in Nigerian politics?

First of all there is usually nothing of genuine political, social or economic significance to show for a hundred days. That is understandable based on the arithmetic. What has been routinely touted in the first 100 days by all administrations since the return to democracy in 1999 is stuff like the refineries have improved production, electricity supplies are ‘more constant’, the police are performing much better, commitments to the payment of workers’ salaries have been strengthened, excellent technocrats with Midas touches have been appointed to serve and the fight against corruption is on course to a decisive victory.

Not surprisingly, at the end of four years it will almost invariably be the report card of the executive that fuel scarcity is rife, people are very thankful for sporadic supplies of electricity, the police are setting up road blocks to collect bribes at every 300 meters on a highway, workers are owed 8 months salaries, “world class” technocrats turn out to be big thieves or incompetent or both, and corruption is worse than ever before in living memory. The main excuse is that the executive is a “good man surrounded by bad people”. Then the cycle begins all over again.

The second point is that executive office at all levels (federal, state and local government) have purely ceremonial functions that are actually orchestrated completely by “patrons and “godfathers”. The ceremoniality of executive office is simply the case of putting a visible face to the office; the man sitting in the office is at best a puppet with a brain. Many try to free themselves from the clutches of the patrons and godfathers but mostly, at least in the medium run, suffer irreparable crushing political career defeats.

Executive office was created or evolved to be of instrumental function that enables executives to actively and concretely “fix” what is wrong or maintain what right within their jurisdictions depending of the legitimacy and resources available to them. Executive office as an instrument of good governance is a rarity in Nigeria and is often constituted of mainly completed “white elephant” projects that enrich the executive themselves. Even some the best of the few instrumental executives and their cabinets turn out to be of ostensible success.

The last point is that first hundred days is quite a good political mask, a mask that hides the transitional failures and secret compromises of the “man of the hour”. It also hides the suffering of the people by fixing stuff that strictly less than 1% of the population benefit from. Is that not magic?

In the first 100 days for at least 95% of Nigerians, unemployment does not shrink, health services do not improve, poverty does not reduce, standards of living do not increase, cost of living does not become more affordable, savings do not get bigger, education does not become more available, despair remains constant. Yet, these are the things that affect the electorate the most and what they are truly concerned about but are never included in the first 100 days “report card”. Such is the “concern” politicians have for the electorate’s needs.

In a nutshell, the first 100 days is glorified bullshit to the electorate in Nigeria; four years of good governance is what the people really want and that is what really counts. 2019 is a long way away.

Grimot Nane

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