Today, May 29, President Muhammadu Buhari completed seven of his eight-year dual term as President of Nigeria. It is therefore not out of place to venture into an analysis of his performance in order to determine the impact of his administration on the people and to try to identify his successes and his failures.
Buhari came to power in 2015 on the crest of puritanical disposition and his confession against corruption at all levels of governance. The President, after having fought for the office of President three times and losing, defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, on the platform of the then new political party, All Progressives Congress (APC).
Generally perceived as a serious and tough retired military general, Nigerians trusted him, anticipating that he would at least be able to restore safety of life and property as well as order to the beleaguered citizens, given the his background.
In 2015, the country under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan was drifting and heading towards the precipice with Nigerians, especially those in the North East, groaning under siege from Boko Haram terrorists. The feared terrorists had begun to expand their operations south with bombings in Abuja, the seat of power occurring regularly.
Buhari’s eventual emergence as president gave hope that the country might, after all, be safe again. Seven years later, the Buhari government has managed to eclipse the influence of terrorists in the North East with reports that they are surrendering en masse. This has been possible thanks to the adoption of the carrot and stick approach by the government.
The relative success recorded against terrorists in the North-East has, however, been marred by banditry and kidnappings which are making waves in some other regions of the country, notably in the North-West and Center-North region. School children can no longer go to school in the North-West and Center-North for fear of being kidnapped for ransom.
The Southeast, hitherto known for peace and industry, is slowly becoming an ungoverned space with “unknown gunmen” terrorizing the region without restraint.
The Southwest is also not spared the scourge of ritual killers and other criminal activities. Terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and ritual killers have become brazen with reports of daily killings of innocent citizens. Non-state actors have grown bolder and dare to confront security agencies in the open.
Aware of the blight the continued insecurity situation can have on his legacy, Buhari led massive recruitments into the country’s security forces, starting with 40,000 people in the police.
He also purchased state-of-the-art equipment for the country’s air force, just as he ordered the start of community policing for local intelligence gathering. The timely deployment of the coercive power of the state with the use of all military equipment acquired by the government to combat terrorism and other criminal activities across the country will undoubtedly restore normality.
The president is also expected to consider political solutions to some of the challenges facing the country, particularly the unrest in the Southeast threatening to tear the county apart.
Apart from insecurity, the president should also address the issue of governance by ensuring inclusion. Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms against Buhari has been the lopsided perception of his nominations. He can still use this last year to redeem himself by making efforts to ensure some semblance of balance.
Apart from this, Buhari has to resolve issues with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The people, whose children have been expelled from school five times in this dispensation, have urged the government to fix the problem. The president would be doing himself a great service by accepting the reality of solving the problem as soon as possible to avoid a backlash to his party before 2023.
The Buhari administration has also fought a tough and difficult battle to stabilize the country’s economy. Due to the country’s long-term reliance on crude oil as its main source of income and the coronavirus outbreak, the country has collapsed twice in the recess. Consequently, the economy suffered great bruises and became fragile, dragging more Nigerians into extreme poverty. The instability of the economy therefore triggered rampant double-digit inflation, leading to an unprecedented rise in the unemployment rate, which made life unbearable for the population.
The continued increase in the country’s population in the face of dwindling resources has not helped matters either. In fact, many people find life unbearable, brutal and short. But over the past seven years, the government has struggled to fix the problems, though the effects of its efforts may not have had a big impact on the economy. For example, the Buhari administration has made serious attempts to move away from the country’s monolithic economy by embracing diversification.
To solve the problem of unemployment, the government initiated and implemented policies that prioritized agriculture. Sensing that agriculture remains the largest employer of labor, the government has adopted policies to encourage young men and women to take up it. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), for example, through its Borrower Anchor Scheme, has extended over N800 billion in loans to smallholder farmers, withdrawn over 4 million able-bodied of the unemployment market.
The government has also, through the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) programme, increased the fertilizer blending plants from two inherited in 2015 to 72 at present. The president went further by banning the import of food and other ancillary products to encourage patronage of local products. This initiative, of course, has helped to improve the unemployment challenge in the country.
In addition to initiating and implementing National Social Investment Programs (NSIP) focusing on poverty alleviation, the government has also launched the N2.3 trillion National Economic Sustainability Program (NSIP) to address to the imbalance caused by the reverberating negative consequences of COVID.
The NSIP, under the supervision of the Vice President, was to address 10 core issues, including a large agricultural program, mass housing, installation of solar home systems, strengthening social safety nets, survival funds and promotion of the use of domestic gas, among others. Buhari’s third goal, as summarized in his 2015 campaign promises, was to fight corruption.
Although few people are impressed with his performance in this area so far, as there are allegations that corruption is inherent in his government as some of his officials thrive in crime undetected. But the president has taken action by working with the National Assembly to strengthen anti-corruption laws, aimed at stemming the threat.
For example, Buhari signed the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Bill as well as the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill to deter would-be looters from tampering with the nation’s Commonwealth. More than 600 people have so far been convicted of corruption, with several others now on trial and more than 500 billion naira in loot recovered under Buhari’s government.
Two prominent former governors have been convicted and imprisoned on charges of corruption. Some kleptomaniac officials currently have appointments with judges for financial malfeasance.
While critics say the president is not doing enough in his fight against corruption, he may have dropped the ball when he recently granted pardons to some people jailed in questionable circumstances.
His critics also believe that the president’s anti-corruption crusade has been mainly targeted against his political enemies, particularly those in the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). They are quick to point out that those accused of corruption in the opposition are left behind as soon as they decamp to the ruling party. Nevertheless, the Buhari administration left indelible marks in the realization of infrastructure projects.
The President was able to follow his speech by ensuring the completion of some of the capital projects he inherited from his predecessors and by initiating and implementing others, now completed or under construction. The Abuja-Kaduna and Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Warri, Lagos-Ibadan railway lines are worth mentioning among the life impacts of legacy projects already completed by Buhari’s administration.
The Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Warri railway line was completed after 33 years. Those nearing completion are the Lagos-Ibadan highway, the second Niger bridge and the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano highway. Buhari also executed outstanding projects initiated by his administration in aviation and built ports across the country.