Buhari’s one year in office: Anxiety in the air
Few days to one year in office of President Mohammadu Buhari, there are more misgivings than certainty that the government is capable of delivering the change it promised, a situation that has left nearly 80 percent of Nigerians in anxiety about the future, Business Hallmark poll has revealed. With the recent hike in price of fuel, a large proportion of the populace who eagerly expected positive benefits from the government now believe otherwise.
According to the poll while Nigerians appear to be in agreement that the Buhari administration has scored some good points in the areas of fighting insecurity and corruption, they are far from agreement in the areas of economic policies and the general wellbeing of the citizenry under the administration.
Most Nigerians are of the view that fighting corruption alone cannot take the nation anywhere without a concerted effort at building the economy by way of well thought-out economic policies, an element they are yet to see in the government. The dominant stance is that Buhari’s economic policies so far have failed to justify rising cost of almost everything, acute fuel scarcity and job losses in Nigeria.
There is, however, a decreasing minority who believe that corruption has been the bane of the nation’s development and therefore must be tackled head-on for the economy to make any headway. For such people the president is on the right path.
But a recent poll conducted by the Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria showed that President Buhari’s popularity rating had dropped from 63.4% in January to 32.8%.
Nearly 30 years after being ousted from power, and after three failed attempts to return, Mr. Buhari, one of Nigeria’s oldest former army generals and dictators, who embraced democracy and politics at the break of the 21st century, was sworn into office on May 29, 2016 as the nation’s 15th leader.
By this development Mr. Buhari became the second Nigerian after Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, to lead the nation as a military officer, and later a civilian president.
He also joined the ranks of opposition leaders in Africa – Frederick Chiluba (Zambia, 1991); John Kufour (Ghana 2000); Abdoulaye Wade (Senegal, 2000); Mwai Kibaki (Kenya, 2002); Yayi Boni (Benin Republic, 2006); Ernest Bai Koroma (Sierra Leone, 2007); Alhassan Quattara (Cote d’Ivoire, 2010); and Peter Mutharika (Malawi, 2014) — who defeated incumbents in the last two decades.
At an elaborate event witnessed by several world leaders at the Eagles Square, Abuja, the nation made history, transferring power peacefully and democratically from a ruling party to an opposition – the first time it would happen in the 55 years of post-independence history of Nigeria.
Mr. Buhari emerged victorious in the March 28 presidential election defeating Dr. Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party. He polled 15,416,221 votes to Mr. Jonathan’s 12,853,162 votes in the election in which 12 other candidates participated.
For Mr. Buhari, it was a long journey back to power, which he first tasted through a coup d’état against Alhaji Shehu Shagari, on December 31, 1983. His brief martial rule, remembered for its authoritarian decrees, war against indiscipline and corruption, ended in a humiliating dismissal by his former friend and trusted colleague, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who led another coup on August 27, 1985.
No retreat, no surrender
President Buhari’s journey back to power began late 2002 when he reneged on his earlier promise not to participate in the nation’s politics. He picked the presidential ticket of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, then Nigeria’s main opposition party.
He was, however, defeated by Chief Obasanjo, the then incumbent president on the PDP platform, coming a distant second with 12, 710, 022 votes against Obasanjo’s 24, 456, 140 votes.
In the 2007 presidential election, Mr. Buhari contested again on the ticket of the same party, but was beaten by PDP’s Umaru Yar’Adua (now late) who scored 26,638,063 to his paltry 6,605,299.
Again, in the 2011 presidential poll, he was beaten to the second place by Mr. Jonathan who flew the PDP ticket. In that election, Mr. Buhari, who ran on the platform of the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), secured 12,214,853 votes against the President Jonathan’s 22,495,187.
Although the 72-year old ex army general declared after that election that he would not contest, he was soon to change his mind following the successful alliance of some opposition parties in the country into APC.
The parties were Mr. Buhari’s Congress for Progressives Change, Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party and a section of the All Progressives Grand Alliance.
In a letter to some eminent Nigerians sometime in 2014, Buhari attributed his change of mind to the need to fix Nigeria. He explained that he was concerned about the nation’s deteriorating economy and security situation hence his plan to contest again.
The former head of state went on to win the APC primaries by defeating five other contenders namely, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Governor Rabi’u Kwankwaso (now a senator), Governor Rochas Okorocha, (Imo) and publisher of Leadership Newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah.
Raising the hope
On October 15, 2014, when he formally declared his intention to run for president for the fourth time, Mr. Buhari said the last 16 years of PDP government had witnessed decline in all critical sectors of the nation’s life.
He said apart from the general insecurity in the land, power outages had taken a frightening dimension while the economy continued to deteriorate.
“Quite apart from Boko Haram, there is prevalence of armed robbery, kidnappings and killings, cattle rustling, market and farmland arson,” Mr. Buhari said at the time. “These outrages have taken a new and frightening dimension, disrupting economic and social life across whole communities.”
“The economy continues to deteriorate. While the government continues to announce fantastic growth figures but manufacturing is down, agriculture is down, commerce is down.”
Mr. Buhari said if elected president, his administration would protect lives and property, pursue economic policies for shared prosperity and immediate attention on youth employment, quality education for development, modernity and social mobility, agricultural productivity for taking millions out of poverty and ensuring food security.
He also said he would revive industry to generate employment; develop solid minerals exploitation which will substantially attract employment and revenue for government; restore honour and integrity to public service by keeping the best and attracting the best; and tackle corruption which has become blatant and widespread.
“The rest of the world looks at Nigeria as the home of corruption,” he said. “Nigeria is a country where stealing is not corruption.”
In his inaugural speech, he reiterated,
“Nigerians will not regret choosing us,” assuring, “I belongs to everyone and I belongs to no one”.
One year after, Nigerians speak
Peter Dele, Lagos:
“The common parameters to foretell the future status of the country under this administration are: security of lives and property, power (electricity), value of our Naira, initiatives that can buoy the manufacturing sector, agriculture, construction… Perhaps if the budget is approved, the picture will become clear. But for now, there is tension due to uncertainty.”
Uche Godwin, Lagos:
“There is uncertainty. We don’t know where the government is going. The way things are, except for the war against corruption we are not seeing any change in our lives.”
Most Reverend Samuel Adefila Abidoye, Spiritual Father and chairman, the Holy Order of Cherubim and Seraphim Movement Church (CSMC) Worldwide:
“At the state we are in this country presently, Nigerians are really anxious for improvement in the standard of their lives. They are hungry for new things. They want to see the realisation of the much anticipated change promised them. However, it appears Nigerians may actually be waiting for too long”.
He further lamented:
”The social equation has become so lopsided that poverty is no more an anathema in our society. Poverty has become a way of life for many Nigerians who could barely feed once in a day. However, this is not what they voted for. They voted, hopefully, for a better alternative. They want better lives for their children.”
Abam Obaseoyi, Nasarawa:
“Nigeria is in trouble, or maybe tribalism, ethnicity and religion will destroy the country one day. If not, will someone say he will still vote for Buhari after all his blunders as president? I think we need to go to the drawing board again. Age, illiteracy, religion, ethnicity, health, etc, have restricted Buhari and we still want to vote him again. It is terrible.”
Gabriel Onoja, Kaduna:
“We voted for jobs, regular power supply and a vibrant Nigerian economy but the reverse appears to be the case. What we now see is unemployment, blackout and a weak economy where investors are discouraged by bad policies. Only God knows the future of this nation if things remain this way.”
Ikechukwu Asiegbulem, Enugu :
“It is tough here in Enugu. Prices of almost everything have gone up as a result of unfavourable exchange rate. Companies are folding; many are retrenching while others are embarking on pay-cut just to remain in business. I don’t know where the country is heading to. The government should sit up.”
Idayat Hassan, Director of Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD):
“We can all as a country acknowledge the fight against corruption being witnessed as opposed to the lax attitude of the previous administration.
“Despite the positives, challenges are immense at the moment. In one year, the existing fault lines in the country have once again widened, the country is besieged with security challenges beyond Boko Haram; from renewed pastoral/ farmers clashes, Biafra separatists, Shi’ite clashes, kidnapping, armed robbery, piracy and renewed militancy as well as economic sabotage such as vandalism of oil pipelines. The fuel scarcity and power outages are yet to abate. Inflation is now in 3 digits.”
Michael Abur, Lagos:
“Anybody expecting Buhari to change Nigeria in one year that person is a thief, in fact that person is a PDP member. How can PMB change the destruction of sixteen years in one year? Is he God or a magician? It’s impossible. Bin Laden destroyed world trade center in less than one hour, it took buoyant, supper power America solid fourteen good years to put back world trade center. To fix back Nigeria it will take many years.”
Oluwatosin Omosilade Olusuyi, Ibadan:
“The future is bright. I still believe in this govt. Change is not automatic, it’s a process.”
Ibrahim Ibn Owuri, Kaduna:
“PMB’s four-point agenda: security, economy, education, corruption. Less than one year in office he has fulfilled two – security and corruption to a great extent! I think he has greatly done well, kudos to him. But the most vital now is the economy.”