It was like the journey of the Israelites to Canaan. Long. Tortuous. And bloody. It took Nigerians 14 years of unbreakable years to get to the Promised Land.
Within this period, the country passed its days in nervous blur. Hell was let loose. Blood flowed, both of the high and the low. People were incapacitated. Properties were destroyed. Many people fled for fear of being held captive or outrightly killed. While the country was on tenterhooks, soldiers of fortune had a field day. And Nigeria became a pariah that no other nation wanted to touch even with the longest pole.
But the Nigerian masses were resolute. The pro-democracy groups; the human rights activists; Nigerian students; the irrepressible media and few bold, courageous politicians were undaunted. They stuck to their guns, demanding an end to the rule of gun and restoration of democracy.
Indeed, many Nigerians paid the supreme price. Kudirat Abiola. Alfred Rewane. Sheu Musa Yar’Adua. Ken Saro Wiwa. Bagadu Kaito. And of course, the symbol of the June 12 struggle, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. The incarcerated civilians: Late Gani Fewehinmi, late Beko Ransome-Kuti, late Tai Solarin, Frank Kokori, the irrepressible section of the media, and some Generals: Olusegun Obasanjo, Oladipupo Diya, Tajudeen Olanrewaju and late Abdulkareem Adisa also had bitter stories to tell.
At last, however, the will of the people prevailed over the wish of the military cabal and their civilian apologists. Thus, the Fourth Republic was born and the military careerists pushed back to the barracks.
With Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a former Head of State, taking the oath of allegiance as elected president, the democratic dispensation kicked off in earnest, on May 29, 1999.
It is exactly 18 years, today, that Nigeria received the laurel of democracy which the Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalam-led military dictatorship presented, arguably unwillingly, to the country. The question that will obviously agitate many minds is, how well has Nigeria fared in the last 18 years?
Obviously, there can be no straight answer to this question. The assessment swings between two polar opposites. To the political pundits and beneficiaries of the last 18 years, Nigeria has fared better, at least from where the military left it in 1999. But to ordinary Nigerians who eke out a living, nothing much has changed.
The two positions may have their points. The last 18 years have, indeed, offered the country the opportunity to breathe the air of freedom, unlike in the era of jackal when Nigerians lived in fear. Besides, Nigerians can now sit in the comfort of their homes to call their relatives and friends in far places or even transact business without being physically present; courtesy of the privatisation of the telecommunication industry by Obasanjo’s administration.
There are many more opportunities the civil rule has offered the country in the last 18 years, notwithstanding that the country is still being held down by social infrastructural decay, epileptic power supply, unemployment, high level of illiteracy, poor health care, insecurity and recently, economic recession.
Perhaps, a critical look into the scorecard of each administration in the last 18 years will enable us have a full grasp of how far and how well Nigeria has fared under the current democratic dispensation.
Between May 29, 1999 when the military left power, the civil rule has produced four presidents to wit: Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, late Alhaji Umar Yar’Adua, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
Obasanjo Regime (1999-2007)
Obasanjo’s administration inherited a country that was suffering from economic stagnation, infrastructural decay, dysfunctional bureaucracy and deterioration of most of the nation’s institutions. But given Obasanjo’s experience as a former Head of State, he was able to confront some of the problems headlong. By the time he completed his two terms of eight years, his government succeeded in putting the nation’s economy on a better footing.
Besides securing debt relief for the country, Obasanjo’s administration recovered some millions of dollars that were starched away in foreign accounts by officials of previous governments. His government also left behind $67 billion in the nation’s reserve in 2007.
Meanwhile, his regime broke the jinx of government’s monopoly of the telecommunication industry, thus creating wealth and job opportunities for the county till date.
The two anti-corruption agencies: the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), which the present administration in the country is using to fight against graft and corruption, were established by Obasanjo’s government.
His regime also initiated the minimum wage. It raised the salary of Nigerian workers to N7,500 as the minimum wage, with a five year upward review agreement with the labour.
Meanwhile, Obasanjo’s government initiated some projects such as roads construction in some parts of the country.
Notwithstanding some of the Obasanjo achievements, his regime was characterised by executive -legislative imbroglio over major appropriations and other legislations. There was also an unprecedented friction between some States and the Federal Government over resource allocations.
His government also supervised two of the worst national elections in the country, first in 2003 and the other in 2007, such that his successor and beneficiary of the 2007 presidential election, Late President Umar Yar’Adua decried the 2007 election that brought him to office.
Obasanjo’s worst record, arguably though, was the marginalization of the Niger Delta region, leading to increased agitation and resurgence of militancy in the region. The leveling of Odi Community in Bayelsa State by soldiers, who killed scores of civilians in retaliation of the murder of 12 policemen by a local gang, in 2011 is, till date, a dark spot in Obasanjo’s regime.
Umar Yar’Adua’s Government (2007-2010)
Alhaji Umar Yar’Adua’s government that succeeded Obasanjo’s, though short-lived due to the President’s sudden death, left some indelible marks in the minds of many Nigerians.
His government recorded some successes in the area of electoral reforms, independence of the legislature, judiciary and even the media; respect for the rule of law and amnesty programme in the Niger Delta.
Unlike the Obasanjo administration which
Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration (2010-2015)
After the demise of President Yar’Adua, his deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan became the third civilian President in the current dispensation.
Plucked by fate from grass to grace, Jonathan remains the luckiest man to have presided over the affairs of Nigeria, having risen in quick succession, within 11 years of his political career, to become the nation’s President; first from a deputy governor to governor, then vice president to president.
Jonathan initially appeared green-hornish for the job due to the sudden death of his principal, and therefore, could not do much within the period he completed Yar’Adua’s tenure.
However, shortly after he got re-elected in May, 2011, Jonathan drew up a five-year development plan (from 2011-2015) which he tagged “Transformation Agenda”. The agenda, according to Jonathan, was necessitated by the need to right the socio-economic wrongs of he past.
During his five year tenure as President, Jonathan made some humble achievements, especially in the area of roads infrastructure, agriculture, power supply, transportation and almajiri education in the northern parts of the country.
Besides rehabilitation, reconstruction and expansion of major arterial highways, his administration completed over 50 road projects across the country, with many others near completion before he left office.
Jonathan’s government also broke the jinx of government’s monopoly of the power sector. The prviatisation of the sector, according to Jonathan was informed by the epileptic power supply in the country and his government’s desire to give Nigerians 24 hours uninterrupted electricity by 2015.
Sadly, the “Roadmap to Power Sector Reforms” launched by Jonathan’s government on August 22, 2010, could not yield the desired results.
However, there was an appreciable improvement in the sector, from the 2,800 megawatts his administration inherited in 2010 to over 4,000 megawatts.
His regime also launched a National Action Plan on Empowerment Creation (NAPEC) which was targeted at creating five million jobs annually within four years. Agriculture, manufacturing and oil and gas are three seasons targeted at creating job opportunities.
Apart from agriculture which was able to absorb some of the unemployed, mainly from the Northern part of the country, due to the administration’s Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) which made fertilizer available to the real farmers, the other two sectors -manufacturing and oil and gas could not produce much results.
For instance, as at May 2015 when Jonathan’s administration wound up, the National Bureau of Statistics said, at least 23.9 per cent of Nigerians (about 40 million) were unemployed. This was a far cry from the five million jobs the government promised Nigerians in 2011.
The recruitment tragedy that claimed the lives of 16 job seekers during the recruitment exercise by the Nigerian Immigration Service, on March 15,2014 was a confirmation of a country groaning under the yoke of unemployment. Over 6.5 million job seekers in all the 36 states including the Federal capital Territory (FCT), Abuja participated in the botched recruitment exercise that was meant for only 4,000 Nigerians.
However, the Jonathan administration appears to have scored above average in the area of education. Apart from the Itinerant (Almajiri) education in the North which gave rise to over 400 Almajiri schools and gulped over N45 billion, Jonathan’s government also raised the bar of tertiary education in the country with the establishment of more universities.
Meanwhile, his government revived the railway in the country, as well as approved the current N18,000 minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
Needless to say that the Transformation Agenda of the Jonathan administration was plagued by a plethora of challenges. These include high level corruption, oil theft and pipeline vandalisation and above all, insecurity and Boko Haram insurgency in the North-Eastern part of the country which claimed thousands of lives, including military men, and kidnapping of over 200 Chibok school girls.
Muhammadu Buhari (May 29, 2015 Till Date)
With the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2015, the hope of many Nigerians rose above the notch. Having been let down by previous administrations, and given the mouth-watering promises made by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the austere life of its leader, Nigerians were in a hurry for better days. But how has the administration fared so far?
Buhari’s administration, from the onset, anchored its regime on three major programmes, namely; fight against corruption, fight against insecurity and economic revival of the country.
Although the administration has succeeded in fighting Boko Haram insurgency to a standstill in the North-East of Nigeria, and has secured the release of 108 Chibok School girls, in addition to the 57 who had earlier escaped; there are cases of kidnapping, armed robbery and killings in some parts of the country. The menace of Fulani herdsmen across the country which has led to the killings of many innocent Nigerians in states like Benue, Enugu, Imo and Kaduna etc leaves much to be desired.
Meanwhile, the Buhari government has recorded some successes in the area of fighting corruption in the country. Besides prosecuting some of the looters of the nation’s treasury, the administration has recovered billions of looted funds in the past two years. While that signals good omen for the economy and the country’s sanity there are allegations by many Nigerians that the Buhari anti-corruption agenda was targeted at the opposition, particularly the Jonathan administration.
Meanwhile, the present ruling government at the centre is struggling to diversify the economy through agriculture and solid minerals. Already, states like Lagos, Ebonyi, Enugu are waxing strong in rice production for both local consumption and export market.
Although noting extra-ordinary has been achieved in the area of infrastructure, works are ongoing on the dualisation of the Lagos-Ibadan road which was neglected for several years. Ditto for transportation sector where the government has embarked on rehabilitation and re-modelling of all international airports in the country.
The N-Power scheme for unemployed graduates, the launching of free school meals for pupils and students across the country and the commencement of N5,000 monthly payment to the unemployed are an icing on the cake of Buhari achievements to reduce unemployment and cushion poverty in the country.
The economy, however, remains the albatross of the Buhari administration. With the crash in oil prices internationally, the fall of the naira which is now N350 to a dollar, and the attendant high prices of food items, the cost of living has gone beyond the reach of the common man. Nigeria is currently undergoing economic recession.
Worst, the civil service which is the engine room of government is equally affected by the recession. At the moment, 27 out of the 36 states in the Federation are unable to pay their workers, despite the bailout given them, last year, by the Federal Government and the recent Paris Club Refund secured and released to the states by the Buhari administration.
Although it is not yet Uhuru for Nigeria, as the country is still being stagnated by official corruption, high rate of unemployment, epileptic power supply, dysfunctional infrastructure, poor health services, high illiteracy level, and poor economic planning and policy somersaults, it is expected that by the time the Buhari administration winds up in 2019, Nigeria ought to have regained consciousness.