The first task of a statesman is to break campaign promises and disappoint supporters.
– Fiorello La Guardia History beckons again today as General Muhammadu Buhari mounts the saddle to begin his second tenure as Nigeria’s President and Commander -in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
Expectedly, the popular Eagle Square, located in the heart of the nation’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, will be suffused with pomp, pageantry, and manifold emotions as some band of cheer leaders and praise mangers coalesce with the motley crowd of Buhari’s supporters in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to witness his inaugural in what is yet another bumpy ride with the 76-year old retired General to the next level of hardship and poverty amid a litany of unkept campaign promises. And unless perhaps the Elections Petitions Tribunal decides otherwise in the petition filed by the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, many who have accused the Buhari presidency of soporific redundancy believe that it is going to be another four years of despair and disenchantment.
During his electioneering campaign that culminated in his election and subsequent assumption of office four years ago today, Buhari told anxious Nigerians both home and in the diaspora that his government would fix a dwindling economy, ensure security of lives and properties, especially as it affects the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, and wage serious war against corruption and corrupt practices.
Elected on APC’s ‘change’ mantra, Buhari had also given a roadmap of his governance as being an all-inclusive one that would target Nigeria’s development collectively. Said he: “Having just a few moments ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as president to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”.
In promising change, Buhari, at the inaugural, said: “Today marks a triumph for Nigerians and an occasion to celebrate her freedom and cherish her democracy. Nigerians have shown their commitment to democracy and are determined to entrench its culture. Our journey has not been easy but thanks to the determination of our people and strong support from friends abroad, we have today a truly democratically elected government in place”.
The world listened, heard and clapped, just as Nigerians welcomed him with open hearts and hands. Given his much-orchestrated puritanical – but now, mythical – antecedents, countrymen and women believed him. newspaper headlines read: Sai Buhari (Buhari is the man) to herald his election on the crest wave of unprecedented public optimism in the world’s most populous black nation. Even the talakawas (poor folks) rejoiced the most: One man walked from Lagos to Abuja, another from Yola to Abuja in celebration. Buhari was thus expected to hit the ground running by speedily addressing himself to identifying the nation’s key problems which he promised to confront, by assessing their magnitudes, analyzing them with clear-minded, clear-headed objectivity , and tackling them without continually blaming the past leadership.
But Alas! Four years after, Nigerians are beginning to scrutinize an apparently and soporifically boring Buhari presidency as they have been condemned to do, as a symptom of something fundamentally troubling and inexplicably flawed with the prevailing debilitating conditions of the nation and indeed, its leadership. The reason is not far-fetched. Four years of an administration in an unbroken 20-year democratic journey of a fledgling democracy as Nigeria’s many insist, are enough for it to prove to its beleaguered citizenry whether it will compound their misery or ameliorate their anguish. For this, observers say, Buhari has stretched the patience of Nigerians, most of whom are even saying Babu Buhari (no to Buhari), reversing the phrase (Buhari is the man), even long before the 2019 general elections that resulted to his controversial victory.
Although there have been jubilations among the president’s supporters who argue that his tenure was renewed because he had fulfilled his previous campaign pledges, many Nigerians have continued to question his record in government and his ability and sincerity to deliver on fresh promises of taking Nigeria to the next level. They insist that Buhari cannot be trusted for demonstrating lack of commitment to all the policies his government enunciated for the nation. This has also prompted many who are dissatisfied with his dismal performance to modify the next level slogan to ‘Next level of poverty’ in apparent reference to the harsh economic times Nigerians have gone through under his administration such that the country now wears the undignifying apparel of the poverty capital of the world.
As Buhari assumes the mantle of leadership for his second and last tenure as president he is aware of the fact that not a few Nigerians believe that there is a lot of carryover of challenges from his first tenure which he needs to redouble his efforts in addressing if he must write his name in gold as president.
Surely, he would reel out the score sheet of what his APC-led government perceives as achievement today. But analysts believe that he would only end up receiving more knocks than praises given his reputation for jaded homilies, empty promises, false claims and denials.
Even though the Boko Haram insurgency appears to have been significantly degraded and confined to the North-East, the attacks have continued unabated. This has created humanitarian crisis with rising cases of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North –East region.
Worse still, the rising spates of kidnapping and armed banditry remain serious security challenge which has not been properly addressed. The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu recently said about 685 persons were kidnapped across the country, adding that crime-related incident claimed some 1,071 lives from January to April this year.
The anti-corruption war which the Buhari government claims some success has been perceived by many as lopsided and aimed at inflicting pains on perceived enemies and political opposition. For instance, while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) claimed it secured a total of 139 convictions which included two ex-governors, Jolly Nyame (Taraba) and Joshua Dariye (Plateau) between January and June 2018, scandals and corruption cases involving former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, former Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayodele Oke, APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi, and Kano State Governor, Abdulahi Ganduje – who was shown in a video that has gone viral receiving bribe in dollars – have either been glossed over or filed away. Curiously, the EFCC has never relented in its bid to investigate the finances of the Peoples Democratic Party – controlled Rivers and Akwa Ibom State governments. Small wonder then that even with all the hoopla about Buhari’s anti-graft war, Transparency International, TI, in its latest corruption perception index indicated that Nigeria only moved from 148th position in 2017 to 144th in 2018.
The economic scene is yet another area that the Buhari government has failed to acquit itself creditably. Apart from its inability to provide power and three million jobs yearly as promised, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria says 50 of the 272 firms closed down due to the government’s adverse operational conditions and incoherent economic policy. And according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), by December 2018, unemployment rate had risen to 23.1 percent with no fewer than 20.9 million Nigerians, especially young people living without jobs.
It was revealed in June 2018 by the Washington-based Brookings Institution that Nigeria had overtaken India as a nation with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty across the world, with an estimated 86.9 million people measured to be living on less than $1.25 (N381.25) a day.
Four years after, the Buhari government has shown that it lacks sound economic expertise to open up the economy for Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) and job creation. Instead, public debt, according to data released from the Debt Management Office (DMO) rose by N7.1 trillion in his first two years in office. And the debt is still rising as government resorts to borrowing for infrastructure funding and recurrent expenditure. With the country’s debt currently estimated at about 80 billion, the Buhari administration has been receiving knocks for borrowing within three years, more than what the leaching opposition party borrowed in 16 years while in power.
Other promises made by the Buhari government about poverty alleviation, education, social welfare, health, etc, have turned out to be farce. Last year the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Bill Gates alerted that Nigeria was one of the most dangerous places to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal rate in the world, ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central Africa Republic, and Chad. Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari had also within the same period dismissed the country’s healthcare delivery system much the same way she recently picked hole in the implementation of the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programme (SIP) which includes the N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfers, National Home-Grown School Feeding and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP). Even the ‘Trader Moni scheme launched few months to the 2019 elections had also been severely criticized as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo moved from market to market doling out N10,000 to traders in selected parts of the country in what many see as vote buying by other means rather than a poverty alleviation programme.
Added to that is the contentious fuel subsidy regime which has become something of a scam involving top officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, gulping over a N1.4trillion annually. Critics wonder why the Buhari administration spends so huge an amount of money without appropriation compared with the Jonathan government that made adequate budgetary provision for subsidy payment.
Even at that the Buhari government is yet to heed the recent advice of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that Nigeria and other countries still subsidizing fuel for domestic consumption should stop to do so to help boost revenue and improve on local infrastructure development.
More worrisome is the fact that Buhari has never kept his words as president to all Nigerians. Nepotism, sectionalism, tribalism, religious bigotry, witch-hunting, Clannishness, fulanisation (apologies to Obasanjo) and any imaginable vice, many insist, have eroded his brand and whatever was remaining of his integrity. Nothing really evinces this more than his unwavering support for Miyetti Allah and the Fulani herdsmen.
Buhari had also further made nonsense of his inauguration day promise that, “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody” when in an interview with CNN in the early days of his administration, he declared that he was not going to give equal attention to those that gave him “97 per cent” vote with those that gave him “5 per cent” Aside fencing up his presidency with relatives, acolytes and appointees from his native North-West, he, in flagrant and arrogant disregard for Nigeria’s ethnic and sectarian diversity, has ensured that only Northerners fill-up juicy positions in the top hierarchy of the nation’s security agencies as well as vacancies in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
With this posturing and several unkept promises, many analysts believe that Nigerians will have embarked on another bumpy ride with Buhari who now faces tougher tenure as president.