The misrepresentations concerning the Buhari administration are egregious. They are embarrassing. And, what these ignore is most startling. They ignore the infrastructural developments across the country that have created such wonderful things like the railway and airport improvements, the things that are needed for economic productivity. They ignore unprecedented legislative redesign that has gone across the country, with laws that cover the things that are needed the most…
The impressive legacy and foundation for a new Nigeria, the Nigeria of the 21st century, was laid by the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Sadly, the achievement seems to have missed a large number of people, especially those who pride themselves in being objective or discerning observers, commentators and arbiters. These are often the most influential people with large platforms to amplify their prejudices. The shocking disdain for facts in the assessment of the Buhari administration by the international and local media cannot be ignored. Whatever people feel, facts should be treated as, at least, an objective indicator of the direction of things, especially when the full impact of the administration is yet to fully emerge. What deepens sadness is that whatever the prejudiced conclusions of the influential, millions of truly dedicated Nigerians have contributed to the incredible work of and partnered with the Buhari administration, delivering systemic impact. And that positive impacts have, so far, been blithely denied and denigrated with minimum consideration of the credible contradictory evidence.
There has been a consistent and amplified effort by both the local and foreign media to represent the last administration as a failure and this is a view shared by a number of Nigerians. This effort goes beyond the inevitable rational disagreement on policies and their impact to total misinformation and absolute acts to perpetuate such adulteration as fact. Well, Nigeria is not in crisis. Neither is it a failed state in any way. It is not tottering on the brink of anything other than the inevitable journey and challenges of development and emergence.
BBC, CNN, Aljazeera join Bloomberg, The Economist and Financial Times in the kind of journalism that misrepresents the facts and creates an echo chamber with the colonial economics and thoughts of their local acolytes, who write and front their misrepresenting articles. They use these local representatives as a defence, never checking that the opinion of their pseudo-journalists are replacing objective, publicly available information. For example, they perpetuate a narrative of the so-called ‘insecurity’, a term never used to discuss regular US gun violence or the epidemic of knife attacks in the UK or even the crime explosions in the holiday destinations of Jamaica and South Africa. This they do in the face of the obvious transformation in the successful military operations in Nigeria’s North-East and the visible and documented drop in the numbers of the dead and wounded that is clearly captured by even jaundiced international benchmarks. On the contrary, they report worsening insecurity and an upsurge in violence.
They also give negative information on the economy. Whereas the Nigerian economy is growing, projected to grow at about 3.5% this year, which is far better than many countries post-COVID, and something of an outlier. Then, they misrepresent the debt situation in Nigeria. Yes, Nigeria has recorded a lot of debts that have been used in building its infrastructure, as well as for a broader development agenda. The Buhari administration delivered, for the first time in Nigeria’s history, a clear focus for the country to create an enabling environment for economic development, including targeted rail, roads, ports and airports, to name a few. None of the much-celebrated governments in the West have had such ambitious systemic investment; not Clinton’s, Blair’s, or Obama’s, to name a few. Nigeria’s debt-to-GDP ratio is within the plan of government and the higher proportion of the debt are local, with almost all concessional terms. The criticism of the Buhari administration also shows no understanding of debt at sub-national levels, which takes up a large part of the increase in the burden.
The media also ignores the fact that the last government, in shifting away from middlemen and extractive economies towards a more diverse and productive economy, disrupted the gravy train in ways that created pain, not just for the economic actors but also for large parts of the Nigerian population. For example, Buhari’s policies in many ways opened new possibilities for rural players to become more competitive economic players.
I suppose all of this is quite convenient since Buhari reduced middlemen and the rent-seeking culture that not only local influence peddlers depended on. He also cut off many intermediary brokers of foreign interests. Of course, part of what was done was to reduce import reliance by shutting the borders. So, even if the debt burden, at less than 40% of debt-to-GDP ratio, is limited, naysayers choose the debt-to-government revenue, which is not great. What they ignore is the unprecedented increase in government revenue under the Buhari administration. The former president provided positive proof that even that adverse data had begun to change, despite income tax collection still being less than 10% of the GDP and one of the lowest in the world.
The misrepresentations concerning the Buhari administration are egregious. They are embarrassing. And, what these ignore is most startling. They ignore the infrastructural developments across the country that have created such wonderful things like the railway and airport improvements, the things that are needed for economic productivity. They ignore unprecedented legislative redesign that has gone across the country, with laws that cover the things that are needed the most, including digital startups and the total repositioning of corporate laws, as well as enablement of sub-national independence.
They ignore the institutional rebuilding, from the prisons to the army to the navy to the police. They ignore economic diversification that has taken us from being totally dependent on crude oil to other sources of income, including exporting fertiliser products internationally. And they ignore systemic change at incredible levels that has built a new set of immigration rules, repositioned agriculture and processing, expanded social safety nets, the digitalisation of the voting system and the transformation of banking.
It isappalling that a government that has literarily brought our society more fully into the 21st century is painted as a failure, across the media. The effort of the Nigerian elite at falsifying reality has been a boost for the type of young people whose need for instant gratification has confused their understanding of the kinds of systemic challenges, long-term positions, that need to shift. Worse, such young people are a loud minority, a sectional one whose positions are mostly urban and southern. Such younger people have been captured by the competition between the three most prominent ethnic groups.
The media also ignores the fact that the last government, in shifting away from middlemen and extractive economies towards a more diverse and productive economy, disrupted the gravy train in ways that created pain, not just for the economic actors but also for large parts of the Nigerian population. For example, Buhari’s policies in many ways opened new possibilities for rural players to become more competitive economic players. But the complexity lay in the fact that their economic progress also made them more vulnerable to bandits and other dangerous players, especially because of limited government presence rurally, because of severe neglect by state governments.
As for Muhammadu Buhari, he has served with humility and dignity; he passed his two terms with an integrity that is unprecedented, even when these same forces reduced his father’s ethnicity as the largest pastoralists in the world – the Fulani – to a byword for terrorists and vermin, in tropes that benchmark institutionalised prejudice and tar an entire ethnicity.
Nigerian ethnic competition often hides the struggle that is needed to build the country into a nation. Inevitably, these conflicts are exacerbated by foreign media and distorted by their intervention to make it look like the country is about to break up. It is not about too. It has over 380 different ethnic groups and if one or two are unhappy from time to time, that is inevitable in the journey that we have ahead.
Even worse is that these media pundits refuse to educate themselves about the complexity of Nigeria. They take sides in the battle of brothers and sisters without understanding that these are shifting positions and roles that will happen throughout the life of our country. Eventually, they get to a point where they are embarrassed by the results because it never led to where they want, which is the breakup and failure of the country.
Nigeria’s progress leads to another phase and another stage in another struggle and the continuing evolution of the country. We saw this when they started publishing their opinion polls about the 2023 election, and they were so sure of how it was going to play out. They are now trying to make the election look like it was a failure. They are trying to misrepresent the fact that going to court in Nigeria is part of the electoral process, so they see this as some kind of major conflict.
Anyway, what is certain is that they will be embarrassed again. We will evolve. We will move forward, and they will be left holding the bag. We are going to forever be Nigeria, a country that always grows through adversity. As for Muhammadu Buhari, he has served with humility and dignity; he passed his two terms with an integrity that is unprecedented, even when these same forces reduced his father’s ethnicity as the largest pastoralists in the world – the Fulani – to a byword for terrorists and vermin, in tropes that benchmark institutionalised prejudice and tar an entire ethnicity. He not only gave his best, he has exceeded any Nigerian head of government and posterity will applaud him, even if quite a few today disdain his contributions.
Adewale Ajadi, a lawyer, creative consultant and leadership expert, is author of Omoluwabi 2.0: A Code of Transformation in 21st Century Nigeria.
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