On Buhari’s legacies as his administration winds down
With six days from the scheduled February 25, 2023 presidential election and three months from May 29, when he will complete his second term in office, will President Muhammadu Buhari pull out all the stops to finish strong or will he be content with the massive discontent of Nigerians with his administration on a number of fronts.
The lingering fuel and currency scarcity, which his administration is battling with in the twilight of its term, could have immense damages to the reputations of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
As a matter of fact, campaigning has not been easy for APC since the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced the new naira redesign policy, especially as Nigerians have continued to groan as a result of the hardship.
Recall that in 1984, the military regime of General Buhari had also introduced new currency, which left many Nigerians in severe hardship in spite of the perceived merits of the policy at the time. The decision was part of what led to the overthrow of his military regime by General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) in August 1985.
However, since Buhari returned to power as a democratic president on May 29, 2015 on the platform of APC, observers say many Nigerians have been full of criticisms for his administration and leadership style.
First is his perceived ingratitude to those who helped him to realise his presidential ambition after having tried repeatedly but failed. Second is how his style of leadership seems to have sharply divided the country along religious and ethnic lines, such that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, one of those who endorsed President Buhari to succeed former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, did not only sharply criticise his (Buhari) administration but also made a damaging accusation of him trying to Islamise and Fulanise the country.
Despite the promises to improve the economy, the electorate, after almost eight years, live in regrets due to the failed promises of the present administration. One of the regrets is the realities of the campaigns in 2015 and 2019, which were based on two mantras; ‘Change’ and ‘Next Level’, through which APC reeled out promises most of which have not been fulfilled barely three months to the expiration of this administration.
The Director of Mandate Protection Vanguard (MPV), Celestine Eronmosele, recently listed 62 failed promises of Buhari and the APC, ranging from ban on government officials from going abroad for medical treatment, to state police, public declaration of assets and liabilities, National Gender Policy and offer of 35 percent appointment to women, creation of three million jobs per year and others.
Besides the failed promises, the incumbent administration may not have a good story to tell about itself as it has continued to promise an end to the insecurity that has ravaged the country under its watch.
Buhari has often had security meetings where he threatened fire and brimstone in dealing with those behind insecurity, yet the level of insecurity continues to grow worse. His administration has also severally threatened to name the sponsors of terrorism in the country without action.
In February 2022, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed told the world that the government had uncovered 96 financiers of terrorist groups, Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). He claimed that about 123 companies and 33 Bureau de change were linked to terrorists, in addition to 26 suspected bandits/kidnappers and seven co-conspirators he said were identified. According to him, “Analysis has resulted in the arrest of 45 suspects who will soon face prosecution and seizure of assets.” But words have not been matched with action.
It is not enough to say that the Buhari’s administration has failed in terms of revamping the economy of the country, the leader of Yoruba socio-political organisation, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, while asked to assess the economic performance of the incumbent president compared with that of Jonathan, said. “Go to the market and find out the prices of necessary food items like rice, bread and pepper, even cost of transportation compared to what it used to be before 2015 and what it is now.”
The nonagenarian said, “But we warned Nigerians, especially those who packaged Buhari into power then. Today, we haven’t been proven wrong.”
To say the least, the average Nigerian believes that the nation’s economy is in tatters, and has been so since Buhari took over in 2015.
President, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, Akin Malaolu said it is only members of the ruling class of APC that are not seeing the reality of the excruciating pain Nigerians are going through on all fronts.
He decried the level of poverty, which the current administration is going to leave behind for average Nigerians, just as he said that the government has not really done much to address the challenges of corruption, which it promised Nigerians.
A greater burden Buhari’s successor will face is the humongous government borrowing, which has assumed an alarming proportion. The unrelenting borrowing of the incumbent administration since 2015 has made the cost of foodstuffs skyrocket, while the unemployment rate is alarming.
Food inflation accelerated to 22.02 in July, according to data from Nigeria’s Bureau of Statistics. Before this administration came to power in 2015, the price of a bag of rice was N8,567, now the price is N27,000. A bag of beans sold for N23,000, now it sells for between N40,000 to N50,000.
When asked recently during an interaction with selected journalists, a minister in the cabinet under Buhari, said, “I cannot say I am proud of what the country is today in terms of economy, politics and security.”
Other sectors in the country are in chaos under the leadership of President Buhari. For over seven months, universities in Nigeria were shut due to strikes embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Universities were also closed for nearly one year in 2020 due to strike by ASUU.
Putting it succinctly, there is a general assumption among Nigerians, that there is no hope, and that there would be no changes in the next few months before President Buhari’s tenure elapses.
Positioning Fulani Above Other Nationalities
MEANWHILE, one greater danger that Buhari’s style of leadership is definitely going to leave is the perception that the Fulani ethnic nationality, which he belongs to, is superior to other nationalities in the country.
Although the sentiment has always been there since the country attained independence in 1960 and the British colonial masters have continually been blamed for it, it appeared to have been more pronounced under the leadership of President Buhari in the nearly eight years of his presidency. It is a glaring fact that his Fulani kinsmen dominate almost all the key government sectors and parastatals, and even where other ethnic nationalities are appointed into leadership positions, strategic positions around such offices are manned by Mr. President’s kinsmen. Former President Obasanjo once said openly that he could not continue to live in a country where his kinsmen would serve as slaves to any particular ethnic group.
Legacies Buhari May Leave Behind As President
The incumbent president may leave not one but many questionable legacies that will colour his administration after May 29. One is the fact that it was under his government that Nigeria became more divided, and ethnic and religious-conscious than ever before.
The new cashless policies, for whatever he aimed to achieve with it, is going to leave him as one of Nigeria’s former presidents with the penchant to disregard Supreme Court judgments. Recall that the apex court has ruled twice that the old notes should continue to be used with the new naira notes to ease the sufferings of Nigerians, but the government has remained adamant.
For the first time in the history of the electioneering process, the country is witnessing fuel and naira shortages sumptuously less than a week to a general election.
There is also the perception that Buhari may leave office as the first Nigeria president, who will make campaigning not only difficult for the presidential candidate of his party, but was also forced by his party to campaign for his party’s flag bearer.
There is uneasy calm among members of APC, that the new monetary policy of the CBN and the lingering fuel crisis are capable of jeopardising the chances of the party’s Presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and other candidates of the party in the general elections that are close by.
Some members of the ruling party believe that the CBN’s withdrawal policy and change of currency notes at this election period might be antithetical to the party’s victory at the poll.
Part of the fears expressed before now is that the style of President Buhari is nothing to bank on if the party must retain power. To them, if at all, Mr. President would approve such withdrawal policies, it ought to have come long before now or at least be delayed till after the elections.
Even the presidential candidate of New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP), Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso decried the new naira redesign policy during his rally in Ibadan and urged Nigerians to endure the hardship, saying, “If elected president, his government would address it.”
Long before now, especially before the APC Presidential primary in June 2022, many members of the ruling party, especially those from the southern part believed that Mr. President and some northern cabal in the APC did not want Tinubu’s candidacy judging from how the former governor of Lagos had been treated since the ruling party took power in 2015.
Recall that for over three years after President Buhari assumed office on May 29 2015, the former Military Head of State did not visit Lagos just as he allegedly distanced himself from Tinubu.
The situation got worsened such that Tinubu’s wife, Remi, had to cry out at a time on how his husband, whom she believed sacrificed so much for the incumbent president, was being vilified within the corridors of power and also sidelined.
To buttress Remi’s outcry, the wife of Mr. President, Aisha at a point also alleged that strangers, who did not participate in the APC’s struggle to take power or contributed as Tinubu did, had taken control of the presidency.