The curtain falls on Muhammadu Buhari’s eight-year presidency today, as his successor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu takes over the baton of leadership. Precursory to this has been intense national debates on Buhari’s achievements or scorecard. He devoted the last two weeks in office to inaugurating projects, some of which have earned him plaudits even from his most trenchant of critics. And enamoured of these infrastructural imprints, he believes he is leaving the country better than he met it in 2015. This is hardly supported by evidence. Stark realities actually indicate the opposite, manifest in the harrowing experiences of the down-trodden, his documented lack of respect for the rule of law and numerous blunders in statecraft.
Buhari rode to power on the crest of tremendous goodwill amid the failures of his predecessor. His redemptive pledges on corruption, insecurity and economic resurgence seemingly had the animation of the famous revolutionary triad: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Unfortunately, President Buhari squandered the goodwill sooner than later, by allowing cronyism, sectionalism and lopsidedness to undermine his political appointments. This made nonsense of the, “I belong to everybody and I belong to no one” proclamation in his inaugural speech.
No doubt, insecurity was the biggest challenge he inherited. The entire North, particularly the North-Eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, including Abuja, were earlier steeped in bombings and wanton killings. Buhari’s arrival, therefore, offered a new hope, with his military and public office antecedents, and deepened instantly by his declaration that Boko Haram would not be said to have been defeated until all the Chibok school girls kidnapped in April 2014 and other victims are freed.
But what is the reality now? Over 90 of these girls are still in captivity as he leaves office. Worse still, thousands of Nigerians have suffered the same evil fate, including Leah Sharibu, abducted on 19 February 2018, over five years ago. Nevertheless, with improved aerial fighting power through the A-29 Super Tucano fighter planes, the jihadists have been suffering heavy losses since last year and normalcy is gradually returning to the North-East.
Yet, the situation today is that Nigeria has never been more insecure than it experienced under Buhari. Killings by bandits, herdsmen and other criminal gangs, particularly in the North-West, North-Central and South-East, have turned the country into a place where the sanctity of life is hollow. Impervious to change, Buhari is leaving behind an ill-equipped, inefficient and centralised policing system that has left large swathes of the national territory in the control of non-state actors. As the Nigerian Security Tracker, a project of the Council of Foreign Relations of the US, put it, 53,418 Nigerians were killed between 29 May, 2015 and 15 October, 2022, in a country that is not in a formal war. The recent mass killings in Benue and Plateau states, and Zango Kataf in Kaduna State, once more, exposed Buhari’s deficit of empathy, or inability to connect with the people in their most trying times.
Massacres and the scorched-earth method of terrorists and bandits have created thousands of orphans, widows, widowers and 3.2 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) as of April 2022, according to Chansa Kapaya, the UNHRC Country Representative in Nigeria. If this is contrasted with the Statista data of 2,096,000 IDPs in 2015 when Buhari assumed office, the picture becomes stark and sticky. Nigerians had expected a president confronted with this level of carnage to swiftly prosecute the 400 bureaux de change operators identified in March 2022 as terror financiers, following a United Arab Emirates’ tip off. Not for Buhari; he remained aloof till the end.
This notwithstanding, it will be uncharitable to deny that the administration had a few bright spots. These are evident in infrastructural renewal. Without the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) massive support to Aliko Dangote, building the 650,000 barrels per day refinery behemoth in Lagos would not have become a reality. A total of 8,852.94 kilometres of roads were constructed between 2016 and 2022, says the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; while 12 major roads spanning 896 kilometres were rehabilitated. Among them are the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Enugu-Port Harcourt and Kaduna-Kano Highways. There are also the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan 156-kilometre Standard Gauge Rail; completion of the Abuja-Kaduna 186-kilometre Standard Gauge Rail; and the 327-kilometre Itakpe-Warri Standard Gauge Rail, among others. New terminals have graced airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu.
Ironically, bandits’ prowling these transportation routes, kidnapping and killing those who dared to travel, took the shine off these projects. For instance, the last seven kidnapped victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train gunmen attack of March, 2022, paid N800 million in ransom – at N100 million each; while the foreigner among them coughed up N200 million. Early this month, bandits kidnapped 40 worshippers in a church in Kaduna. The attack on the president’s convoy in July 2022, in his home state of Katsina and the killing of some soldiers of the elite Brigade of Guards, underscored the severity of insecurity during Buhari’s tenure.
The economy limped through it all; it slipped into recession twice in 2016 and 2020 – with the latter triggered by the menace of COVID-19. However, the economy crawled out of recession, cushioned by a GDP growth of 3.3 per cent in 2022. Nigeria no longer officially imports rice, says the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, because local production has increased to between 6.5 and 8 metric tons per hectare by the Anchor Borrowers rice project, from the 1.5 metric tons it was in 2015.
What matters, however, is how the economy has impacted on people’s lives. This is where the indices are not flattering when weighed against objective conditions. Hunger is a major issue in the land. On the streets, in markets and other public places, citizens beg for money to eat and pay transport fares – no thanks to inflationary pressures, unemployment and the precipitous crash in the value of the naira. A bag of rice, a staple food in Nigeria, which sold for N5,587 in 2015 when Buhari came to power, went for between N30,000 and N50,000 in January 2023. Afraid of being killed or kidnapped, many farmers have deserted their farmlands, leading to food shortages and runaway food inflation.
Under Buhari, 133 million Nigerians were identified as being savaged by multi-dimensional poverty in the National Bureau of Statistics report of last November. With a 22.04 per cent inflation rate in March 2023, as against the annualised single digit of 9 per ce t in 2015 when Buhari assumed office, there is no way Nigerians are faring better now. CBN raised the interest rate to 18.5 per cent last week, while the dollar to naira exchange rate is currently at $1 to N750 at the parallel market. These are indices of an economy in dire-straits and a danger to lives.
For decades, Buhari will be remembered for the N77 trillion public debt his regime will leave behind with its debilitating impact on the economy. With 96 per cent of revenue locked into servicing debts in the near term, his request to the Senate to approve a fresh $800 million loan to expand the Social Safety-Net Register, with only two weeks for him to go, reeked of recklessness and financial mismanagement. In June 2015, a month after he assumed office, public debt in the books of the Debt Management Office was N12.12 trillion but has now astronomically spiked due to mindless borrowing and impunity, underpinned by the N23.7 trillion Ways and Means advances obtained from the CBN.
Details of the corruption fuelled by importation of petroleum products, rather than refining these locally, have been a subject of legislative enquiries and public curiosity. The regime paid N400 billion monthly on fuel subsidy. The NNPC Ltd uses between a volume of between 65 million and 100 million litres per day to determine subsidy charges, as against the 40 million litres in the pre-Buhari era. Interestingly, key government figures dispute the present claim. In the oil sector, the regime promised radical change but delivered too little in the enactment of the Petroleum Industry law, which is not fully operational yet.
Nigeria’s oil sector stinks, with the report of operators that $3.2 billion worth of crude was stolen between January 2021 and February 2022 alone. In October 2022, Tompolo, who has been contracted to checkmate oil theft in the country, discovered 58 illegal pipelines used in siphoning crude oil. Their existence may have predated Buhari’s regime. But it failed to buck the trend. Deployment of trackers to oil pipelines, used globally to halt such breaches or economic sabotage, would have solved the problem. Questions will continue to be asked why his regime developed cold feet in recovering $17 billion worth of stolen crude by some oil companies between 2011 and 2014, which it had identified and vowed to recover.
This did not bode well for the regime’s much-vaunted anti-corruption crusade, dismissed by many as more of sound bites than a granite campaign that is a no respecter of persons or institutions. Loss of traction in the cases of 11 ex-governors prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the presidential pardon granted to the only two convicted corrupt former governors, present, at least, anecdotal evidence of hypocrisy in the anti-graft war. Lack of political will to enforce the Treasury Single Act (TSA) drove barefaced corruption in the public service. By April 2022, 10 MDAs failed to remit N5.2 trillion to the treasury. Only N53.5 billion was recovered out of this in 18 months, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed agonisingly confirmed.
As President Buhari departs, he will be leaving behind 20 million out-of-school children, as against the 13.2 million he inherited. ASUU, which was on strike for nine months last year, will heave a sigh of relief; so would impoverished Nigerians, many of whom have gleefully been anticipating today as a Survivors Day!
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.Donate
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999