As President Muhammadu Buhari begins the last lap of his two-term tenure, LAWRENCE OLAOYE takes a cursory look at his achievements and short coming of his administration
At the twilight of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, not a few had lost confidence in his capacity to fix the nation’s economy which experts described as uninspiring.
Official corruption was becoming a norm while the challenge of insecurity, especially in the northern-east, was threatening to tear the country apart. No place was safe as the daring Boko Haram insurgents were detonating bombs at will, threatening to overrun the nation’s capital.
Having contested thrice and failed, President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military Head of State, eventually made history when he defeated the incumbent to become the new Nigerian leader in 2015. Great were the expectations. With his military background and reputation for integrity, Nigerians had a sigh of relieve believing that things would begin to fall into proper shape.
Buhari and his newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC), having read the prevailing political barometer, campaigned on three distinct premises of fighting insecurity, fixing economy and eradicating corruption. His ascension inspired hope of a leader ready to hit the ground running.
Six years on, it’s a mixed bag of hope and frustration. The President was confronted with harsh global economic realities with the price of crude oil, the mainstay of the nation’s economic, crashing at the international market.
With an economy depending largely on the export of crude for her earnings and its price continuously looking south, the stage for a tempestuous take-off for a new government was set.
Having realised the futility of relying solely on earnings from oil, Buhari begun to diversify the economy by encouraging people to engage in agriculture. Several programs, including Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP), Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI), Youth Farm Lab, Presidential Economic Diversification Initiative (PEDI) and the Food Security Council were introduced.
These were initiated to ensure increased food production and self-sufficiency so as to free foreign exchange hitherto deployed for importation of food items. With the slogan of ‘grow what you eat and eat what you grow’, the President announced ban on importation of rice and other food items into the country. But these seem to have scratched the problem on the surface as the realities on ground indicated increased hunger and poverty.
Prices of food items have skyrocketed and currently beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians. Poverty has blossomed uncontrollably, especially among the youths, fueling despondency and insecurity. The unemployment rate in the country currently today stands at 32.5 per cent. This is scary by all standards. The dangers of leaving large number of active youths without decent means of livelihood became apparent with the #EndSARS protests organised against police brutality last year in the country. The protests nearly mutated into a revolt against the system before it was brutally put out. In April, 2019, the President yielded to public clamour for better working condition by signing the National Minimum Wage Bill which recommended N30,000 for workers into law. But the euphoria was ephemeral as it was immediately followed with hikes in fuel price, electricity tariffs and spiral inflation.
The exchange rate between the Dollar and Naira made life unbearable as prices of goods and commodities continue to soar beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians. As at today, the government is considering another hike in fuel price and electricity tariffs even when it is evident that purchasing power of the masses have been considerably emasculated.
The outbreak of the global Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) further conspired to make life more difficult for the people especially with the attendant lockdown of the economy to curb its spread. Many, especially in the private sector, were pushed further into the poverty circle. The economy itself slided into unavoidable recession from which the nation has yet to recover.
Though several initiatives, including the Social Investments Program and a N2.3 trillion National Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP), a stimulus package to support the economic in the face of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, have been adopted by the government, not much impact has been felt by the teeming masses who are daily enduring hunger and deprivations. The President must devise means of evolving more poverty ameliorating programs for him to be able to deliver on his promise of lifting 100 million people out of extreme poverty by 2029.
However, Buhari has made indelible marks in the area of infrastructure, particularly rail projects in the last six years. Projects abandoned or left uncompleted by his predecessors, including Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and rail lines, Abuja-Kano Expressway, Abuja- Kaduna Railway, Second Niger Bridge, several water irrigation projects across the country are either being completed or getting required attention.
He had also made impacts with projects in the nation’s seaports and airports. There have also been several reports of national grid collapse thereby making majority of the populace to grope in darkness with its attendant negative impact on small and medium enterprises.
This is notwithstanding several billions of Naira sunk into the sector. Critics and admirers of Buhari’s government are however unanimous in their commendation of his resolve to ensure the completion of inherited projects. This is a deviation from the practice in the past when ongoing projects inherited by successive governments are being abandoned for political reasons.
But, Buhari administration has been pilloried by his critics for allegedly discountenancing the the principle of federal character in his appointments. This has made his administration to loose public confidence particularly from certain section of the country.
The perception is that some government agencies considered juicy were being given to individuals close to the President. This has caused a lot of bad blood as Nigerians are being divided along religious and ethnic lines like never before. The perceived nepotism in Buhari’s administration gave rise to calls for restructuring with some extremists calling for secession.
The President should address the perceived exclusion of certain parts of the country min his administration by adhering strictly to the provisions of the Federal Character in his appointments in order to prevent unsavory consequences. It is obvious that insecurity is fast becoming the Archile’s heel of the Buhari’s administration.
While the Nigeria Army has been able to recover territories cornered by the insurgents in the north-east and pushed them to the fringes of an ungoverned space in the Sambisa Forest, the dissidents have continued to evolve new strategies to cause maximum harm by targeting soft targets.
Enormous resources, running into trillions of Naira, have been deployed by the military to combat the terrorists in the difficult asymmetric war but observers hold that most of the equipment ordered by the government to prosecute the war have yet to be delivered. In order to address the devastation in the North-East, the government created the North-East Development Commission (NEDC) currently rehabilitating damaged infrastructure in the region.
With the considerable success of the military in the battle against terrorism in the north-east comes a new challenge of banditry and kidnapping. Even though farmers/ herders rivalry has been around for so long, the challenge took a murderous dimension in recent years. Herders graze their cattle into farmlands leading to bitter clashes with scores losing their lives in the process across the country.
Worried by the incessant killings, the President has recently ordered the establishment of ranches following the ban on open grazing by the 17 governors of the southern region. In addition to this, Buhari ordered the revitalization of all grazing reserves across the country.
Kidnapping for ransom has become an industry in the last few years under the watch of the President whose responsibility is to protect lives and properties of the citizens.
Movement from one place to the other can no longer be guaranteed. Kidnappers have become so daring that they now move from house to house to abduct their victims. They have become so emboldened that they raid schools, abducting students in their hundreds for ransom. This obviously is an indictment on the nation’s intelligence officers.
The President has the onerous task of looking inwards by ensuring that the nation’s intelligence officials respond accordingly otherwise their ineptitude would continue to be an indelible blight on his efforts. Buhari’s order on shot at sight on any non-state actor found wielding dangerous weapon like AK 47 should be enforced to the letter.
On the fight against corruption, some high profile individuals, including former governors, have been investigated, arrested and prosecuted. Some are already cooling their heels in jail.
Top government officials hitherto considered sacred cows have been dismissed on allegation of sleaze. However, the President go further by arresting and prosecuting culprits so as to clear the allegations that his government only deals with the opposition in its fight against corruption.
To consolidate the war against corruption, the President has in the last six years strengthened the nation’s anti-corruption agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission ((ICPC) and others. He institutionalized the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) to strengthen controls over government finances through a continuous internal audit process across all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), particularly in respect of payroll; deployed the Bank Verification Number (BVN) for payroll and pension audits implemented the Treasury Single Account policy amongst others.
Notwithstanding Buhari’s achievements in his war against corruption, he needs to be more transparent in the conduct of government businesses and ensure equity and justice in the treatment of anyone found culpable regardless of party affiliations. It’s only his sincerity and forthrightness that would justify his innocence from the allegation of selectivity in his anti-corruption crusade.