The administration has been largely ineffectual
After eight years in office, President Muhammadu Buhari’s stewardship ends tomorrow. Whatever may be his shortcomings as a leader, no one will deny that his administration has invested heavily in transport infrastructure with concrete achievements. In quick succession, the strategic rail link between Abuja and Kaduna and that between Lagos and Ibadan were completed and pressed into service. Soon afterwards, the long abandoned Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Warri line was put into service. The travelling public heaved a sigh of immense relief. The Second Niger Bridge that had been under construction for four decades was also completed by the outgoing administration.
In a few other sectors, Buhari has also left indelible marks. The Petroleum Industry (PIB) Bill that had stalled in the National Assembly for more than a decade was passed and signed into law by Buhari. The response of his administration to the Covid-19 pandemic which claimed millions of people across the world was commendable. However, Nigerians are being ushered into a new administration with a flood of worries. The prevalent public disillusionment has been heightened by the outcomes of the 2023 general election. Despite investment in technology by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the elections were fought almost like wars–riddled with tensions, violence, and intimidation in a polity obsessed with ethnicity, religion, and regions. But regardless of whatever flaws in the elections, that leaders can be peacefully replaced, which Buhari’s exit tomorrow symbolises, strengthens the argument for democracy.
Meanwhile, Buhari came to office in 2015 with a promise to revive the economy, fight corruption, and tackle the general insecurity in the country. Eight years after, the security challenge is being capped by the fact that the authorities are fast losing the dominance of the machinery of violence to non-state actors. So treacherous is the national security situation today that kidnapping, armed robbery, herdsmen-farmers conflicts, cultism, and banditry now constitute additional instability to a country that is still fighting insurgency and separatist crimes. Many of these challenges predate the Buhari administration but he will be held accountable for not tackling them seriously.
The challenge on the economic front has reached a desperate point. Nigeria’s rising debt profile is increasingly raising serious concerns. The World Bank revealed last month that the country used 96.3 per cent of its revenue generated in 2022 to service debt. Such is the level of borrowings by the Buhari administration that the director-general of the budget office of the federation, Ben Akabueze recently had to sound warning of impending danger. “Once a country’s debt service ratio exceeds 30 per cent, that country is in trouble, and we are pushing towards 100 per cent and that tells you how much trouble we are in,” said Akabueze who laid bare the economic challenges that the next administration would have to grapple with. On the so-called fight against corruption, the less said the better. Without any information about offices, routes, personnel or the financials, a hurriedly painted aircraft that took off from Addis Ababa and landed in Abuja has been presented as the launch of a national carrier, ‘Nigeria Air’!
Overall, while 24 years of unbroken democracy is a positive development, especially for offering some windows to freedom of expression and other civil liberties, the idea that people would be better governed and more prosperous has remained a mirage. Many basic services such as education, health and infrastructure are decrepit while a demographic crisis is looming large on the horizon. The past eight years under Buhari have witnessed several strikes, especially by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The unemployment rate, going by recent figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), is not only frightening but breeds the risk of social, economic and security turbulence.
One important lesson about tenure legacies is that they are often determined long after the principal has departed. What seems peculiar about the Buhari tenure is that the nation did not have to wait till his departure to testify to his ineffectuality. As he therefore bows out tomorrow, we can only wish President Buhari the best in his future endeavour.