In barely 108 days from now, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration would have run its full course of two terms of eight years. Given the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended, Buhari would be heading home on May 29 this year signalling the end of his tenure.
To underscore the fact that he is not nursing a tenure elongation and his preparedness to conduct a free and fair election for a seamless transition, Buhari has already inaugurated a transition committee headed by the Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF) Boss Mustapher to prepare for May 29. hand over
But as the administration begins its winding down process, the question on the lips of concerned Nigerians is: what are the President’s legacies? People would want to know how much of Buhari’s campaign promises did he fulfil; what sort of leader was he? Empathetic or ruthless? Was he a visionary leader whose policies transformed the country? Was he a good communicator, did he have a listening ear? Was he a unifier or divisive? How far did his policies impact on the mass of Nigerians wallowing in poverty?
Apart from the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo whose ambition to lead the country could not material after two attempts in 1979 and 1983, Buhari stands out as one candidate whose three earlier attempts in 2003, 2007 and 2011 all ended in failure. However, bowing to pressure after resigning to fate, he again joined the race in 2015 when his CPC entered an alliance with Senator Bola Tinubu’s ACN to form the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In 2015, goaded by the popular propaganda that then President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration were roundly corrupt, the opposing APC then pushed for a PDP ouster on the grounds that Buhari would clean the augean stables. At that time, Buhari’s handlers packaged him as a democrat, a statesman with a listening ear and above all a messiah who had the magic wand to wave the country’s problems away. His major selling points were that he was not corrupt and highly disciplined combined with his military background, Buhari was the favourite to rid Nigeria of corruption as well as stopping and ending the terror reign of Boko Haram who abhor western education.
So there were great expectations on Buhari from the people. To some who saw Buhari in Awolowo’s mould, Awolowo’s lost opportunity would be reclaimed by a Buhari administration. He was expected to literarily move mountains by uprooting age old bureaucracy that has stymied the country’s growth. He was expected to breathe fresh hope and optimism to a people who had long suffered years of neglect from the crooked ways of politicians who cared only after their votes in every election cycle.
Now what are Buhari’s legacies as he prepares to exit government? Without a doubt, Buhari perhaps had good intentions and hoped to transform the country to the best of his ability. However, two major factors set the pace for the result recorded after eight years on the saddle. The first was age and ailment. In 2015, Buhari was reportedly 73 years and was beginning to exhibit signs of dementia and forgetfulness. He was slow to action and showed signs of ailment which would later impact heavily on his ability to effectively carry out his job as President. In addition, events that unfolded immediately after Buhari was declared winner suggested that he never believed he would win and so was largely unprepared and had no plan to hit the ground running.
Shortly after taking office, the expectations at the time were that Buhari would immediately walk the talk. The first sign of trouble was his inability to immediately inaugurate a cabinet. It took him about six months to choose and inaugurate his ministers. By this time, governance was already suffering, critical policy decisions expected to be taken at the federal executive council meetings were delayed with attendant consequences on the economy. It was not surprising that not long after, the country slid into recession, the first of its kind in 25 years.
So how do you rate Buhari’s legacy? It’ll depend on who you are talking with because there would certainly be mixed reactions. But like a Lizard nodding its head in self praise after jumping from the highest elevation of a baobab tree without applause from bystanders, Buhari is his own greatest fan and praise singer. He believes he’s the best thing that has happened to Nigeria and perhaps the father of modern day Nigeria. His aides are fond of mouthing that Nigerians would weep when Buhari leaves the stage. Buhari believes he has accomplished so much but wondered why his aides have refused to amplify his accomplishments.
Even with the shaky start, the Buhari administration recorded some accomplishments that are worthy of commendation. His social investment schemes like N-Power continued from the Jonathan administration, school feeding, conditional cash transfer and Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme have all touched the lives of millions of Nigeria mostly in the north than the south. In agriculture, more fertilizer blending plants and rice mills have been established buoyed by the central bank’s anchor borrowers’ scheme. The intervention has led to incremental growth in rice and some other food production.
The administration has invested in infrastructure including the building of the Kano to Maradi railway line; Lagos to Abeokuta and also the reactivation of the Abuja Itakpe rail line. It has also completed the second Niger bridge in Anambra state as well as commenced the Abuja Kaduna, Kano gas pipeline which would eventually be the gateway to gas export to Europe. Buhari has succeeded in passing into law the lingering Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) which has provided a framework for the unbundling of loss reporting government owned company the NNPC now NNPLC.
To begin with, the President needs to know that good deeds are not hidden, they need no one including presidential apparatchiks to sell them, they virtually sell themselves. How is that possible? It is possible through the building of very strong institutions that would outlive the builder. As the President prepares to leave the stage, it would soon dawn on him that he has failed woefully by building institutions that would form the bedrock of his legacies.
If the President expects to be praise for the cosmetic work he has done, it can only be interpreted that the President is living an entirely different reality from what millions Nigerians are currently living. As you read this piece, Nigerians have suffered several weeks of debilitating fuel scarcity even as an oil producing country. When Buhari came in on the throes of fuel scarcity, he promised to build additional refineries and turnaround the four existing ones to end fuel scarcity. It is a huge shame that the President did not only fail to turn the sod for any new refinery, the four old refineries have remained in the same comatosed condition he inherited in 2015. So where is the change?
How have these impacted on the people and what is the realities across the country? The situation across the country is so bad that people are barely waiting to wish away the President and his bad policies. On the economy, the President did not perform. His promise of making a naira to equal a dollar remains a pipe dream. The most devastating story about the economy is that the naira which in 2015 changed at N160 to $ now changes for N840, it is worse with the pound and Euro and other currencies. Nigeria’s currency has suffered huge devaluation that it is now ranked the least in the basket of currencies in the ECOWAS region.
What about the cost of food and basic amenities? With a stagnant national minimum wage of N30,000 per month, most families go to bed without food. A crate of eggs which sold for N800/1100 in 2015 is now N2200, chicken is now N5000 from N2500, a bag of rice from N8000 to N36000 and a litre of petrol from N135 in 2015 N172 official and now with the scarcity, petrol sells for N450 outskirt of Lagos and more per litre while diesel moved from N300 in 2015 to N1000 per litre.Kerosene and aviation fuel are priced out of reach from the common man and airline operators.
All these have their multiplier effect on the economy, people have to contend with higher transport cost, higher rents, even electricity tariffs have been increased without consultation. The most scandalised policy is the current controversy surrounding the deadline for the new naira swap. It appears this government wants to end its punitive trend against the people with this policy. For all the supposed good intentions of government, how long would it take government to know that has brought untold hardship rather on the people as the intended targets have once again manoeuvred their way out of the trap leaving poor people to groan in pains.
Left with just few months to go, it is too late in the day for the President to make amends and he has himself to blame for the verdict. Nigerians placed huge expectations on Buhari and compassionately gave him their mandate in 2015. After eight patient years and realising that the change he promised was that of largely unfulfilled promises, they are moving on to February 25 to make their votes count.The President missed a huge chance to change the way we have been financing infrastructure through borrowing instead of embracing Private Public Sector Participation (PPP); creating a private sector economy reduce the cost of government and limit government to play solely regulatory roles in business, stop Nigeria from petroleum products imports by making Nigeria a net exporter of refined petroleum products, solve Nigeria’s energy needs by injecting new investment and expertise with genuine and reputable power sector players and make Nigeria attractive to foreign direct investment not demarketing the country with unsavoury remarks and policies inimical to investments.
As Buhari exits in May 29, Nigeria would remember him as a man on whose shoulders they saddled with great expectations but the change on which he campaign and promised Nigerians became antithetical to the promises. So he came he saw but failed to deliver.