Buhari’s Eight Years of Political, Economic Trajectory

Buhari’s Eight Years of Political, Economic Trajectory

Iyobosa Uwugiaren

In what many people labelled as ‘self-praise’, the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari recently boasted that he never defaulted on his promise to boost the economy, ensure security and fight corruption, which were his campaign promises eight years ago.

The president had told those who cared to listen repeatedly that his campaign undertakings were based on enhancing the economy, improving security and anti-corruption fight, and claimed to have recorded huge success in the three fundamental issues. 

 “Let me remind us all that my campaign to become president in 2015 was built on the promise to improve the security; strengthen the economy and combat corruption.

 “It is with immense gratitude to God Almighty that I make a bold statement that we have delivered on the three promises. At my inauguration, the country was practically under the siege of terrorism and other forms of insecurity,’’ the president reportedly said.

Buhari further claimed that under his administration, Nigeria rose from the brackish waters of near-economic collapse to become acknowledged as the largest economy on the African continent. The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had re-echoed this message repeatedly.

But does the reality in the country tallies with the act of expressing commendation for oneself, which Buhari recently exhibited?

Taking over power on May 29, 2015 – after a controversial general election, the president rightly promised to overhaul the economy, curtail corruption and improve security in Nigeria. He also reiterated these promises, when he sought reelection in 2019. 

Though there were little successes recorded in the early years of his administration, not many security experts would disagree that the President would be leaving behind a frightening insecurity across the country.

Indeed, every part of Nigeria appears to have been turned into a killing field. 

The president had promised to grow the economy in 2015, but under his watch, the country witnessed two recessions: one in 2016 and another in 2020. Though the managers of the nation’s economy had attributed the second recession to the impact of the COVID-19, key indices currently show that the Nigerian economy is still very weak, almost two years after the global pandemic. Indeed, figures by global institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and National Bureau of Statistics indicate that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), measured quarterly and annually, are fast dropping yearly.

Under Buhari’s administration, the nation’s debts soared with a total debt stock rising from about N19.6 trillion to N91.9 trillion, from December 2015 to-date, according to Debt Management Office (DMO). And in share of global population living in extreme poverty in Nigeria 2016-2023 – recently published by a world economist, Doris Dokua Sasu, nearly 12 per cent of the world population in extreme poverty lived in Nigeria, considering the poverty threshold at 1.90 US dollars a day.

On its part, KPMG had stated that the Nigerian unemployment rate had increased to 37.7per cent in 2022 and would further rise to 40.6per cent, due to the continuing inflow of job seekers into the job market. The multinational consulting firm, in a newly released report tagged ‘KPMG Global Economy Outlook report, H1 2023,’ argued that unemployment will continue to be a challenge due to the slower-than-required economic growth, and the helplessness of the economy to absorb the 4-5 million new entrants into the Nigerian job market every year.

Still on the economy, the ease of doing business is still very low in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy. The country is currently ranked 131 out of 190 economies in the world – according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. The devastating consequence is that investors, especially (foreign) multinationals, will rationally have to consider an extensive list of countries before Nigeria.

Buhari did also not deliver in his promise to fight corruption. As of 2015, Nigeria ranked 136 among the 180 countries watched by Transparency International (TI), an anti-corruption group.

But seven years after, Nigeria ranks 150 on Corruption Perception Index – in 2022. The TI recently furnished the world with fresh evidence that in spite of the affirmation by Buhari, corruption is still buffing up strong in Nigeria. In his several speeches, the President had promised to deepen the democratic space – by ensuring credible elections. However, there is a near consensus by both foreign and local communities that Buhari failed woefully to supervise free, fair and credible 2023 general election.  Several post-election reports by many credible groups, including Chatham House, confirmed that thousands of Nigerians were disenfranchised amid violence and irregularities.

INEC was significantly less prepared than it claimed with less than half of eligible voters participating in the elections – in spite of the commission’s N305 billion budgetary allocation.

At just 25.7 per cent, the 2023 general election recorded the lowest turnout in any election since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, despite being the most lavished. 

The INEC’s unreliable utilisation of technology in the use of a Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is still being penetratingly scrutinised and criticised. The commission failed to adhere to its statements and guidelines, which derive from its Electoral Act, 2023 that election results would be uploaded to its portal, using the BVAS directly from the polling unit in real-time for the public’s viewing. Unfortunately, Buhari didn’t see anything wrong with the discredited elections.

For the past eight years, Buhari has been under fire for his perceived nepotism. The popular view is that since 1960, Nigeria has never had a leader who was more sectional, narrow, parochial, and tribalistic like the outgoing president, who went on a global stage to divide Nigeria into ‘97 per cent and five per cent.’

In particular, Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah, had insisted that Buhari’s administration was full of nepotism and corruption, saying that the situation had not augured well for the country.

Like many Nigerians, Kukah is sad that despite Buhari’s supercilious promises, he is leaving Nigerians far more vulnerable than when he came, stating that the corruption “we thought would be fought has become a leviathan and sadly, a consequence of a government marked by nepotism.’’

Indeed, Buhari is accused of putting power in the hands of people on grounds of blood relationship, as well as religious and ethnic affiliations.

Arguably, except those who aided his ‘criminal incompetence’ in the management of the affairs of the nation, the near consensus is that the eight-year of the outgoing president is a disaster. 

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