Chika Amanze-Nwachuku chronicles the political trajectory of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, his first term performance and his bid for a second term
Born on December 17, 1942 in Daura, Katsina State, Muhammadu Buhari, a retired major general was Nigeria’s head of state from December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985. As a military head of state, Buhari was regarded as an incorruptible disciplinarian, who would spare no one in his war against corruption and indiscipline.
His perceived firm stance against corruption, which dates back to his 20-month stint as a military leader, propelled him to international prominence.
Indeed, the launch of “War Against Indiscipline,” which was aimed to promote positive values in Nigerian society boosted his public image and catapulted him to sudden fame.
However, his government was overthrown by Major Gen. Ibrahim Babangida in another coup d’etat in August 1985.
His ambition to become a democratically elected President of Nigeria came to limelight in 2003, when he contested for the office of the president under the platform of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). He won only 32.2% of the total votes and was defeated by the then incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
He again contested in 2007 and 2011, under the same ANPP platform, but lost to the ruling PDP candidates, Umaru Yar’Adua (now late) and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan respectively. The good luck charm- ‘third time lucky’ did not work in his favour, yet he never gave up despite losing three elections.
In 2014, he was nominated by the All Progressives Congress (APC), as its candidate in the 2015 presidential election. A total of 14 candidates vied for the number one office, but the real contest was between PDP’s candidate, Goodluck Jonathan, who also was the incumbent president and Buhari.
In what was adjudged as the most keenly contested election ever, Buhari defeated the incumbent President Jonathan, having won by a significant margin of 2.5 million votes. This marked the first time in the history of Nigeria that an incumbent president lost to an opposition candidate in a general election. He was sworn in on May 29, 2015 as 15th President of Nigeria, and fourth President in the fourth Nigerian Republic.
Prior to his assumption of office, the Nigerian economy was already in a bad shape as the price of oil had fallen from highs of about $112 a barrel in 2014 to below $50 at the moment. Following the consistent drop in prices of crude, Nigerian economy had slowed to a crawl within his first six months in office. By March, 2015, precisely about two months before he took over the mantle of leadership, the external reserve had dropped to $31 billion as crude price had plummeted to about $48 per barrel from all-time highs of $112 a barrel in 2014. The country’s receipt from export of crude dropped to $1.3billion, while the demand for forex and the demand for import had remained high.
Besides, most macro-economic variables had worsened within Buhari’s first year in office as the country witnessed contracting GDP, rising unemployment; declining capacity utilisation, foreign exchange shortages, aside the huge budget deficit.
Also, other economic indicators were bad – the Nigerian Stock Exchange market capitalisation had plunged from a high of N11 trillion to about N8.65 trillion, with business confidence significantly eroded.
The economy eventually slipped into recession, the worst in the country’s history since 1987, barely one year after he assumed office.
The Buhari administration had blamed the economic quagmire on corruption and mismanagement of public funds by successive governments, particularly, the outgone Goodluck Jonathan regime.
However, economic analysts, who though aligned with his submission, also noted that the president’s six months delay in appointing his cabinet as well as the delay in the passage of budget contributed to worsen the already bad economic situation.
In fact, the economic downturn was further exacerbated by Buhari’s opposition to naira devaluation, a development, which resulted in a severe foreign exchange shortage.
The situation was so bad that the nation’s currency crashed to about N520 to a US dollar. Also, inflation figure rose to 18.6 in December 2016, the highest in over a decade according to the NBS records.
A few measures were then taking by the CBN to stablise the economy and in the words of Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor, to return the economy to growth part.
They included the local currency adjustments, forex restrictions on some 41 items, raising the interest rate to checkmate the inflation, as well interventions through injection of dollars into the forex market. Although these interventions have helped to lower the pressure on the naira, which has since stablised across market segments, critics argue that earlier floating of the local currency would have done the economy a lot good.
Although Nigeria exited recession in 2017, the economy under Buhari’s watch has continued to suffer setbacks, growing at a slow pace. The World Bank recently put the estimated growth rate for Nigeria’s economy in 2019 at 2.2 percent with its forecast oil price at average $67 per barrel.
However, the inflation rate is looking better. It stood at 11.37 per cent in January 2019. Similarly, the external reserve has risen to about $43 billion, while the GDP growth is currently at 2.3 per cent. Although this is commendable, analysts argue that the GDP figure is well below Nigeria’s population growth of over 180 million. They opined that the GDP should grow by over 4per cent for the country to come out of poverty.
Away from the economy, the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast part of the country, which has claimed the lives of many innocent Nigerians besides the destruction of valuable properties, has remained a major challenge to Buhari administration since inception.
As the president seeks reelection in today’s polls, analysts, who examined the string of promises he made during his campaign in 2015, have expressed divergent views on some of his administration’s policies. Whereas some analysts have commended his various programmes, including the much publicised social investment programme (SIPs), which government said, was aimed to ameliorate hardship faced by the most vulnerable, poor and unemployed Nigerians, critics believed it is yet another vote-buying strategy, which will not live beyond the 2019 election year.
The four components of the SIP- the N-Power, the Home Grown School Feeding (HGSFP), Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and Government Enterprises Entrepreneurship Programme (GEEP), which comprises the MarketMoni, the FarmerMoni and the TraderMoni are being implemented across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Also, one of the core pillars of Buhari’s campaign in 2015 was his promise to fight corruption, which is the bane of economic growth and stability. In this regard, the federal government in December 2016, through the Federal Ministry of Finance introduced the Whistleblowing Policy, which has since yielded N13.8billion from tax evaders and N7.8 billion, $378 million, £27,800 in recoveries from public officials.
Also, N8.1 trillion was discovered to have been underpaid into the federation account between 2010 and 2015 by 15 revenue-generating agencies.
In line with his avowed war against corruption, his government had instituted scores of corruption cases against some top government functionaries including high court judges. Although government lost in most of those cases as it was only able to secure a few convictions, it appeared not deterred. Only recently, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Just Walter Onnoghen was removed from office and was arraigned yesterday before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged failure to declare his asset. His removal has elicited widespread condemnations with many calling on government to follow due process in its action against the former CJN.
Although Buhari claimed he has delivered on his 2015 campaign promises, his critics think otherwise.
Critics also pointed out what they described as blatant nepotism, cronyism, and tribalism in Buhari’s administration, noting that the northern states are mostly favoured in appointments, opportunities, and provision of infrastructure.
Also, it is believed that Buhari’s acclaimed fight against corruption was targeted at political opponents and perceived enemies of his government.
The main opposition and other critics also believe the Buhari administration is losing the war against terrorism and has not done enough to checkmate activities of these insurgents, who spare no one including the Nigerian soldiers.
Despite the barrage of criticism, Buhari has rated his almost four years in office very high, insisting he has delivered on all his 2015 campaign promises.
He is therefore seeking reelection today in order to take his acclaimed achievements to the ‘next level’. But whether his re-election bid would be achieved or not, only today can tell.
Buhari, GCFR, was born on December 17, 1942 in Daura, Katsina State to a Fulani family. His father Hardo Adamu, a Fulani chief, died when he was only about four years. The twenty-third child of his father, Buhari was raised by his mother Zulaihat following the demise of his father.
He enrolled in the Nigerian Military Training College (NMTC), now the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in 1962 at the age of 19. He later proceeded to officer cadet training at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot in England 1962 to 1963.
Upon completion of his programme, Buhari was commissioned a second lieutenant and appointed PlatoonCommander of the Second Infantry Battalion in Abeokuta, Nigeria. From November 1963 to January 1964, Buhari attended the Platoon Commanders’ Course at the Nigerian Military Training College, Kaduna. In 1964, he facilitated his military training by attending the Mechanical Transport Officer’s Course at the Army Mechanical Transport School in Borden, United Kingdom.
He was appointed Governor of the North-Eastern State, from August 1, 1975 to February 3, 1976, by the late General Murtala Mohammed. He also briefly served as Governor of Borno state from 3 February 3, 1976 to March 15, 1976. In March 1976, the then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, appointed Buhari as the Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources. When the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was created in 1977, Buhari was also appointed as its Chairman, a position he held until 1978.
Following the creation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in 1977, Buhari was also appointed as its Chairman, a position he held until 1978. From 1978 to 1979, he was Military Secretary at the Army Headquarters and was a member of the Supreme Military Council from 1978 to 1979. From 1979 to 1980, at the rank of colonel, Buhari attended the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in the United States, and gained a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies. He served as the nation’s head of state from December 31,1983 to 27 August 27,1985, after taking power in a military coup d’état.
He was married to Safinatu Yusuf, whom he divorced in 1988, the same year he married Aisha. His marriage was blessed with 10 children,