…however much we disagree with the details, the basic facts remain that the almost three years later, the Buhari presidency is functioning below the expectations of many Nigerians. The disappointments are too many; and to pick up the government on any of these regrets in exhaustive terms is quite a daunting exercise.
I can argue that the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as Nigeria’s president was the most calamitous episode in modern Nigerian history. The former President Jonathan was so effectively inept in the execution of his job that an elder stateman and Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed — who was Jonathan’s boss when they both worked at the Oil and Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) — declared that even if Jonathan’s father were tasked with the evaluation of his son’s stewardship of the nation Nigeria, the judgement would come back as disastrous. The failures of Jonathan were so obvious even from the perspective of a benevolent spectator; and it is safe to say that he failed in almost all sectors of the economy and left the country in a more horrid state than he met it. To make sense of Jonathan’s failures is to even remember that he had at least two advantages: that, first, his predecessors themselves, at least since 1999, had not recorded any significant achievements enough to make him — as a successor — feel uncomfortable in a big man’s shoes. And, second, that Nigerians, very many of whom were accustomed to bad governance, could hardly recognise outstanding leadership, talk more of demanding for it. But despite these, Jonathan was sent packing from power by the same people on whose backs he enjoyed a very popular support that got him to power, plus a public goodwill which he enjoyed in his early years.
At the time he presented himself for re-election, Jonathan’s failures could not distemper him from perceiving Nigerians, as it was already too late for any amends to be made. Together with the fact that the then presidential aspirant, Muhammadu Buhari, was a well-liked personality, especially in mainstream northern Nigeria, he was easily the candidate to defeat Jonathan, with fair certainty. And Buhari did just that and won the election, through a conspicuous triumph. Given Nigeria’s massive internal bleeding from the deep-seated corruption that was entrenched by the Jonathan administration, Buhari’s widely acclaimed and supposed personal integrity that bespoke honesty, truthfulness, reliability and uprightness were the key qualities which endeared him to Nigerians, in which they saw a new government that would make a departure from Jonathan’s approach. But, however much we disagree with the details, the basic facts remain that the almost three years later, the Buhari presidency is functioning below the expectations of many Nigerians. The disappointments are too many; and to pick up the government on any of these regrets in exhaustive terms is quite a daunting exercise.
Take, for instance, President Buhari’s ministerial list, which is hardly impressive judging from the personalities that populate it. It is not difficult to see that a better list could have been put together even by Jonathan, who was supposedly clueless. This is not to forget that it took the president six months to come up with such a colourless cabinet. President Buhari’s ministers — according to associate professor of Communication and Emerging Media at Kennesaw State University, Farooq Kperogi — are the most questionable and underwhelming cast of characters to ever be in the Federal Executive Council. Kperogi says that, “among them is a minister of budget who doesn’t know Nigeria’s debt profile; a minister of agriculture (who, tellingly, is a former PDP chairman) who thinks the cost of rice is high because Nigerians consume too much rice; a minister of science and technology whose technological vision for the country is to start local pencil manufacturing in two years; a comically loud- and foul-mouthed minister of information who says dressing and undressing masquerades is a strategy of job creation; a minister of youth and sports who is so clueless he makes you want to cry; a backward, prehistoric minister of communication who wants to tax Nigerians for calls they make and texts they send; a minister of Niger Delta Affairs who was indicted for fraud by a government commission in the 1990s but still keeps his job even in the wake of this revelation; a minister of finance who hides her incompetence behind a Cockney accent.”
Nigerian citizens across the country are not safer today than they were during the Jonathan administration. Both the land and coastal borders are still poorly guarded, allowing for the high influx of arms. Armed robberies, killings and kidnappings still happen in broad day light, with the Abuja-Kaduna axis being notoriously known for these.
But the underwhelming nature of President Buhari’s ministerial cabinet is not the only shocker you will get from him. The disappointments are too many and hardly exhaustive. But it will not be out of place to hold Buhari to account for his campaign promises when he was seeking election to office. President Buhari campaigned with a mandate to deliver, essentially, on three-pronged promises: on the security of lives and property; on fighting corruption by halting economic pillage by corrupt public officials; and on employment creation by providing opportunities for the youth.
About the security of lives and property, it is important to highlight that although the Buhari administration has recorded a significant landmark in the fight against the dreadful Boko Haram insurgency that terrorised the North-Eastern part of Nigeria, the general state of security in the country has not changed considerably in average terms. Nigerian citizens across the country are not safer today than they were during the Jonathan administration. Both the land and coastal borders are still poorly guarded, allowing for the high influx of arms. Armed robberies, killings and kidnappings still happen in broad day light, with the Abuja-Kaduna axis being notoriously known for these. The Shiite crisis in Nigeria is still a fresh wound that has not healed since the aftermath of the Zaria massacre carried out by the Nigerian Army. The herdsmen-farmers clashes over land have intensified, especially in Benue, Taraba and Kaduna States, leaving hundreds of persons dead. With all these happenings, there is yet to be a thorough analysis of the issues to minimise the security challenges facing the nation.
The Buhari administration has claimed that looted funds have been recovered by the country’s anti-corruption agency, yet the supposed looters would neither be prosecuted nor jailed. In fact, a new evidentiary proof of Buhari’s insouciance and patronage of corruption is perceptible in the way corrupt government officials in his administration enjoy matchless impunity.
On the fight against corruption, Nigeria’s position has only worsened — in the almost three years since Buhari came to power — if data from the 2017 Corruption Perception Index of the Transparency International is any indication of that reality. Corrupt Nigerian politicians are still a major impediment for international investors. The Buhari administration has claimed that looted funds have been recovered by the country’s anti-corruption agency, yet the supposed looters would neither be prosecuted nor jailed. In fact, a new evidentiary proof of Buhari’s insouciance and patronage of corruption is perceptible in the way corrupt government officials in his administration enjoy matchless impunity. The former secretary to the government of the federation, Babachir David Lawal, was a case in point. Lawal was so corrupt that he was said to have made N270 million from a “grass-cutting” contract for internally displaced Boko Haram victims. Nicknamed “cash and carry” in government circles, the man had publicly bragged, without the feeling of shame, about receiving monetary gifts from the governor of Ebonyi State. But as far as Buhari was concerned, Lawal was fit to continue in office despite the entangling facts of corruption around him, until cries from both anti-corruption groups and the press pressured the president to remove him. Lawal has not yet been prosecuted or jailed; he was simply allowed to go and sin no more.
Despite claims by the Nigerian minister of labour and productivity, Chris Ngige, that the Buhari administration has created up to seven million jobs as at November 2017, the soaring unemployment figures are contrary to that claim. In line with data from Trading Economics, the unemployment figures in Nigeria have increased continuously from January 2015 to the present; and they are projected to go up even higher in 2018. In the wake of a piercing insecurity and an unrestrained corruption in Nigeria under the Buhari administration, it is hardly possible for any of the job creating sectors such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, education, health, defense, utilities, etc., to flourish. It is high time Nigerians looked beyond Buhari.
Mohammed Dahiru Aminu (email@example.com), writes from Cranfield, England.