Nigeria, after Eight Years of Buhari’s Misrule

By Prisca O. Ihekwoaba

“Without initiative, leaders are simply workers in leadership positions,” – Bo Bennett.

Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, born in Daura in present-day Katsina State, driven by a lust for power and subjugation, imposed himself on Nigerians by overthrowing the democratically-elected government of then-President Shehu Shagari. He ruled Nigeria as a military dictator between 1984 and 1985. He was bereft of vision and initiative to move the country forward and   suffered an ignoble end as his ilk brought his dictatorial reign to an abrupt end.

His lust for power continued to flicker with the return to democratic rule in 1999.  From 2003, Gen. Buhari made several unsuccessful attempts to reinvent himself, saying severally that he had become a democrat.  Eventually, he found a political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) which is an amalgam of opposition parties – to relaunch his ambition in 2014. By 2015, with the help of shrewd politicians and propaganda gurus, he was finally considered a lesser evil compared to the then-incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. On the platform of APC, he defeated Jonathan.

The retired general became the first opposition leader to win a presidential election in Nigeria. In a whirlwind of campaign promises, he stoutly promised Nigerians security, a death knell to corruption and a buoyant economy. That was the tripod of his campaign. Almost seven years down the line, those cardinal promises appear a mirage.

Under Buhari,  Boko Haram has metamorphosed into a more dangerous terrorist group, and we now have the ISWAP. The marauding bandits that took over where killer herdsmen left off are more fiendish. They kill. They steal. They destroy. They kidnap. They collect ransoms. They hold the nation hostage, attacking security forces at will, while orchestrating mass abductions of schoolchildren. The bandits are implacable, irreligious and cold-blooded. Government’s pleas to them often fall on deaf ears. They reign supreme in the North.

In the South, first, it was a moment of murderous ritualists and kidnappers in the South-West, while the separatist group, IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu has taken over the South-east.  Seeing that the government was on the ropes, a sophisticated group of “unknown gunmen” emerged from the Hades, wreaking havoc on government facilities, personnel, and security forces. Bloodletting and destruction have become unprecedented on the president’s watch. The nation’s defence spending, though huge, remains shrouded in ambiguity.

Post-Buhari, we need to maintain a more robust intelligence so that we can be proactive, not reactive, to every unfavourable security situation. The police force, which is the base for securing the society, must be revamped and well-equipped. We also need to rebuild and re-establish trust amongst all ethnic groups and run a government of inclusion, which will douse misgivings and suspicions. There is also a need to rejig the national orientation agency to be more in tune with current realities, so that it can function well in re-establishing    trust that has broken down amongst the various ethnic groups in Nigeria under Buhari. Our people also need to be energised to key into government programmes and policies geared towards uplifting our nation-state.

Appointments must strictly follow federal character and competence, with prompt job evaluation to reorganise all the weak links.

With  economic indexes of GDP growth of 4.03 per cent, inflation of 16.82 per cent as of April 2022, a foreign reserve of $39.9 billion and an exchange rate of N415 naira/$1, the economy needs very urgent and expert attention. Though the Buhari government has made some efforts with the conditional cash transfer to lift people out of poverty, it needs to be institutionalised and expanded.  Also, the infrastructural revamp across the nation, including the completion of the long-abandoned Kano-Maiduguri superhighway, Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Lagos-Ibadan railway, completion of the MMIA new terminal, the Second Niger Bridge, amongst others, is a step in the right direction but there are many more areas begging for attention like Lagos-Badagry Expressway which the incoming government would need to undertake.

Moving forward, the incoming government should insulate our monetary policies from politics. This will boost   investor confidence in the economy. The exchange rate is determined by productivity; therefore, diversifying our revenue sources is key. Incentives for production for exports should be made available to small and medium-scale enterprises. Efforts should be made to reduce arbitrage opportunities. There should be no discrimination based on religion and ethnicity. Transparency should be the next government’s watchword with no opaqueness. We also need to provide an enabling environment for job creation. Venture capital funds in trillions of naira on the condition that the beneficiaries must undergo skill training with proper supervision. The funds should be disbursed only on satisfactory qualification of the applicants. This must be fully private sector-driven. We must vigorously pursue entrepreneurial capitalism with a touch of welfare for the elderly. The government should declare a state of emergency in the power sector. That way, every trapped, captive power can be released into the national power grid.

Successive governments have made several efforts to curb and tame the monster called corruption. The Buhari regime tried implementing the single-treasury account, but this has yielded very few results. The next government must show the will and commitment to have an open-budgeting, and easily trackable budgeting process such that when projects are approved and releases made, the funds can   easily be tracked.  Contracts and the accompanying payments should be made open so that the public can raise queries once there are discrepancies. Payments for government services should be only through approval portals. The government must make the legal system functional such that those who are suspected of corruption must be made to understand that it is an act of war against the state and must be taken to court accordingly. The loss of revenue arising from corruption staves municipal services like schools, roads, hospitals, etc. of funds.

Post-Buhari, we need a pragmatic, unifying and an egalitarian leader that can accomplish all of this.

Prisca O. Ihekwoaba

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