Buhari won the just held elections, a reflection of the confidence of the electorate in his last term. The hanging question though is what are the key takeaways and considerations that dominated his first term in office. Do these point to a hit or miss for the Nigerian electorate?
Late last year, the President was quoted as saying, “We campaigned on three fundamental issues: security, reviving the economy, and fight against corruption. It’s the reason we got elected, and we can’t afford to let our people down.” So how has fared on these fundamentals? It is only fair to do the evaluation of his tenure based on these fundamentals.
1. The fight on Corruption that never was.
It seems like the norm to expect nothing but rhetoric from politicians. When Buhari took over power in 2015 there were a number of high-profile prosecutions that took place. However, public confidence in the leading promise of the 2015 campaign has been hampered by slow court cases that have dragged. Observers have questioned the transparency of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the body charged with prosecuting the corruption cases. In doubt as well as the lack of evidence to successfully prosecute the cases as well as the transparency of the judicial system.
Buhari’s critics, both within his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP, claim that he is using anti-corruption efforts to target political opponents. For example, the EFCC in July declared that it had “dusted off” a fraud case against outgoing Ekiti Governor Ayo Fayose of the PDP soon after he lost an election subsequently lost his political immunity.
Questions have been raised about the number of resources that have been allocated to the EFCC. It is not a story alien to Nigeria only. Looking at Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rhetoric on corruption, the two leaders seem to share the same script. The script starts with a hyped up persecution of those who have fallen from political grace, and it ends with no proper prosecution and conviction of those involved.
2. Baba Go-Slow and a Staggering Economic
Christened “Baba Go Slow” because it took Muhammadu Buhari 6 months to appoint a cabinet, critics have further accused him of being sluggish in implementing crucial policies. At the same time, the economy was going through a decline. From its peak GDP of US$560 billion in 2014, the Nigerian economy has shed over 33% of its size to US$375 billion in 2017. At least you would expect some sense of urgency under such circumstances.
To an extent, the blame cannot be totally put on Buhari, the fall of oil prices early into his term can be the main cause of the fall of the Nigerian economy. It still points out to an economy still heavily reliant on an unstable commodity. On his part, not much has been done to alleviate the problem. The critics of Buhari have pointed out to his failure to deal with the economic crisis at home when the currency crashed. At one point in time, Nigerian media outlets were reporting of multiple exchange rates, an official exchange rate, a second rate at which banks were lending to each other and another rate that was being used by international money lending companies, and the most dominant one, the black-market rate. The duplication of the exchange rate was a result of dollar shortages as oil prices continued to plummet.
Increasing public debt which is sitting at 25% of the GDP, which has doubled from the time that Buhari entered office show an economy under distress.
3. The elusive security dream and resilient militants.
Early into his tenure, Buhari was hailed for creating some stability in a nation that had suffered from the torture of extreme Muslims, mainly the Boko Haram. In a recorded interview broadcast in early January on Arise TV, the incumbent conceded that troops had come under pressure from the Islamists' guerrilla warfare. The Boko Haram has launched fresh attacks in Nigeria’s North East. Morale was reported as low as the troops complained of lack of rotation within the barracks.
The attacks from the Islamists have taken 27,000 lives to date and leaving about 1,8 million more people homeless. The nation is cracking with divisions across religious and political lines. In a document that was issued by the Boko Haram in 2014 before the election in 2015, the Islamists named Buhari as one of the people they would consider to lead a mediator with the government. The general refused, instead choosing to take the harder stance. The question that remains hanging is whether he will be able to recover from the losses of the ground of the past few months.
Can Nigerians afford to take any more promises from Buhari? The bigger question is how he convinced the electorate to give him another term when the results from his own promises show otherwise. What the results from Nigeria may show us is a deeper problem within the electorate to recycle old tired politicians when we need deeper changes on the continent. Is the reelection of Buhari based on the merit of sound policy and performance or rather it reflects a problem of political patronage reflected by liberation movements and the old guard that has set themselves at the top for a long time.
Header image credit - Pulse Nigeria