By Abubakar Suleiman
In a few days, President Muhammadu Buhari will be vacating the coveted seat of the president and will retire to his hometown Daura or Kaduna state. William Shakespeare reminded us in one of his sonnets that “like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, so do our minutes hasten to their end.” It was like yesterday; Buhari defeated the then-incumbent president, Mr Goodluck Jonathan.
The sending of Jonathan back to his hometown, Otuoke, after his defeat in the March 2015 presidential elections was greeted with happiness, unbridled hope and unmatched optimism. Even lives were lost, and limbs were severed in the cause of celebrating the emergence of a ‘Messiah’ with the name President Muhammadu Buhari.
People were tired of ‘common stealing is not corruption,’ insecurity, the roadblocks by security forces and many other socioeconomic issues. However, the demeanour of President Buhari started manifesting after taking some months to form his cabinet. The long time taken to form the cabinet did not match the citizens’ expectations as the list was not majorly peopled by experienced and competent technocrats. And this signalled that the country is probably far from being an Eldorado.
However, the masses gave President Buhari the benefit of the doubt that he would rally the cabinet towards building a more secure, economically sustainable, prosperous country.
One of the pressing issues in 2015 was Boko Haram, which he faced headlong. Virtually all the local governments under their control were retrieved, and the insurgents became less organised, with cracks emerging among its ranks. ‘Tactical manoeuvres’ by Nigerian soldiers became a thing of the past, indicating that they have been more motivated with incentives and new armoury than what was obtainable under former President Jonathan. Checkpoints on many major roads disappeared, and there was seemingly no more stop-and-search at religious centres or places of worship.
When we are trying to have a deep sigh of relief, another type of insecurity – kidnapping and banditry – surfaced or upsurged in northern Nigeria. The insecurity reached a crescendo that a soldier was kidnapped within the perimeters of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna state, and banditry became pervasive in Katsina, Zamfara and Niger states. The kidnapping of secondary school students also resurfaced. Travelling by road for socioeconomic activities became a life-threatening matter.
Furthermore, parts of Southwest and North Central states are not excluded from this kidnapping menace. Southeast also became a haven for a terrorist group – the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Just as many people deserted the Abuja-Kaduna road for the safety of their dear lives and to enjoy the goodies of the railway infrastructure, the big boys in town, the Boko Haramites, once again reminded us that they are still much around. They halted a moving train with a bomb; exchanged fire with the police officers onboard the train; killed many passengers, and shepherded dozens of persons into a thick forest.
True to his leadership style, President Buhari never deemed it necessary to address the nation on television. At best, his media foot soldiers only regurgitate or rehash previous press releases to console the masses and ‘assure’ them of Mr President’s commitment to solving the menace. Public perception of optics was never given a damn in most parts of his administration. He understands the power of silence amidst rancour or agitations, but sometimes this silence is not golden.
If one is to carry out a comparative assessment and scientifically conduct analysis of data, taking into consideration variables like the number of people killed resulting from insecurity, number of people kidnapped, number of people injured and number of people displaced from their homes and living in camps, it will be difficult to conclude that President Buhari is leaving a safer and more united country than he met it.
Furthermore, the major reasons for these drawbacks are the lack of taking the country’s diversity into consideration during appointments and the lack of synergy among the service chiefs and the officers in charge of other security apparatus.
A fair-minded person on infrastructure will give President Buhari a pass mark because he invested heavily in critical infrastructure. He continued projects he inherited and initiated spectacularly new ones. He built new railway networks and world-class airports, and dualised and expanded major roads.
In addition, bridges were built strategically to ease the movement of goods and services. The Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano natural gas pipeline was also a unique and futuristic project the administration initiated. There is indeed no diversification without investments in infrastructure. Plus, the Dangote refinery has also been strategically commissioned.
The administration recorded significant Executive Orders and signed many Bills into Act, especially the nagging Petroleum Industry Bill. It also gave local governments, states judiciary and legislature financial autonomy except for the greediness and arm-twisting of the Nigerian Governors.
Unfortunately, we did not get the “Nigeria Air” promised by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika. Agriculture was also given good attention and interventions from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other financial institutions, thereby increasing rice production locally and making many farmers smile at the bank. But insecurity suppressed these achievements at some intervals.
Without making excuses for President Buhari, he inherited a not-so-impressive economy. Former president Jonathan’s subordinates literally stole and squandered monies meant for procuring arms; the insecurity necessitated by the Boko Haram insurgency is already biting the country’s meagre resources, displacing people and their economic activities, then oil prices in the global market nosedived from above $100 per barrel to as low as $38 per barrel. With oil being the primary source of forex, that was a big blow, and recession became imminent.
The country was trying to recover from these economic shocks, but the COVID-19 pandemic rare its ugly head and the global supply chain was distorted. Honestly, even the best team of sincere and brilliant economists will find it difficult to recover this economy amidst corrupt and weak institutions like ours.
However, Buhari missed some opportunities. He failed to deregulate the oil sector when the oil in the international markets was low. And a country recovering from economic shocks ought not to have closed its borders, no matter how noble the intention is. Local rice factories and production increased, but inflation took plates of food off people’s tables and crippled many legitimate businesses.
President Muhammadu Buhari gave Emefiele unfettered power in currency crisis management, but Emefiele enabled round-tripping between Naira and Dollar. And the conservative nature of the CBN’s fiscal and monetary policies was thrown into the gutters. There was no economic adviser to advise Mr President, as he doesn’t easily sack incompetent subordinates. Ultimately, he gave us a parting but bile gift – a cashless policy and cash crunch. This singular ill-thought-out and insensitive policy perished many small and medium enterprises and rendered many people poor.
The President enjoyed goodwill and was not painted with the corruption brush by his political friends and transducers. Still, it would be difficult if corruption charges were not placed at the doorsteps of some of his cabinet members, aides, and probably his family members post-May 29. After May 29, when Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) begins knocking and revealing the corruption under his watch, Mr President will realise how he must have been scammed or manipulated. Many aides would have taken to their heels due to corruption charges, while the clever thieves would be enjoying the spoils of the wars.
The incoming administration has much to learn from the successes and, most significantly, the failures of President Buhari’s administration. The Renewed Hope by President-elect Tinubu must hit the ground running by May 29th because hope is the only thing most Nigerians are holding onto, just like a drowning man clutching a straw.
Abubakar Suleiman writes from Kaduna and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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