Nigerians await fulfilment of Buhari’s many campaign promises

Muhammadu Buhari

Today, Sunday, May 29, 2022, makes exactly seven years since the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has been in power. With just one year to the end of his regime, OLADIMEJI RAMON, FEMI MORGAN and LEKE BAIYEWU write that Nigerians are still waiting to see the fulfilment of many of the promises he made to the nation in 2015

The political and socio-economic climate between 2011 and 2015 was perfect for a major change at the Aso Rock. Nigerians were dissatisfied with the of the then President Goodluck Jonathan because of the perceived high level of corruption, the depressing economy, and the s inability to fight the Boko Haram insurgents, who were terrorising the North-East and holding the nation by the jugular.

Despite humongous investment in the power sector, Nigeria was in gross blackout; the roads were in deplorable states across the country and the rail services remained moribund. Despite earning good revenue from the sale of crude oil, which is the nation’s economic mainstay, there was almost nothing to show for it.

Many Nigerians wanted Jonathan out. So, the mood of the nation was perfect for the opposition political parties waiting in the fringes to displace Jonathan and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party.

The opposition parties knew it was not going to be an easy job to do individually, so they decided to team up and the alliance gave birth to another political party – the All Progressives Congress. In the APC mix were political parties such as the Action Congress of Nigeria, Congress for Progressive Change and the All Nigerian Peoples Party, as well as factions of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and the Peoples Democratic Party known as the ‘New PDP.’

Riding on the mood of the nation, the then newly-formed APC constantly criticised Jonathan’s and told Nigerians to sack him and bring in his place the APC presidential candidate, Buhari, a former military dictator.

As an alternative to Jonathan, who was tagged grossly inept and “clueless,” the APC presented to Nigerians Buhari, whom it trumpeted as an incorruptible, disciplined, sincere and capable leader, who would easily bring solutions to the myriad of problems bedevilling the country under Jonathan’s watch.

Buhari was not unknown to Nigerians, having been a military dictator between 1983 and 1985. Most enduring of the memories of Buhari’s years as a military dictator was the regime’s propensity for human rights violations and disregard for the rule of law in its fight against indiscipline and corruption.

As pushback against APC’s campaign for Nigerians to replace Jonathan with Buhari in 2015, the PDP was quick to remind Nigerians of Buhari’s antecedents. But countering that, the APC told the nation that Buhari had converted to a true democrat and had purged himself of all dictatorial tendencies.

Perhaps to further reassure Nigerians, the APC put forward as Buhari’s running mate, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, a foremost lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, a university law lecturer, former Attorney General of Lagos State and a pastor. With Osinbajo beside Buhari in the Presidency, Nigerians were assured that there would be respect for the rule of law and the fear that the Buhari’s regime would cross the lines between legitimacy and tyranny was allayed. Not just that, the APC said with Osinbajo in the equation, the nation was in for economic buoyancy, as it was noted that Osinbajo as the Attorney General of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007 played a major role in how Lagos State’s economy was transformed by the then Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, who had become a national leader of the APC in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.

Furthermore, in trying to sell Buhari to the electorate as economically-savvy and accountable, the APC told Nigerians about his stint as the Chairman, Petroleum Trust Fund in 1994, saying Buhari would revamp the nation’s petroleum sector, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, thus ushering in prosperity for all. As opposed to Jonathan, whose the opposition said was deeply corrupt, Buhari was presented as an incorruptible and disciplined alternative.

The widely-held view was that Nigeria needed a firm hand in controlling the levers of power at the centre and the answer was none other than Buhari. These Buhari’s unique selling points were summed up in the APC slogan: Change.

On the campaign podiums across the country, Buhari himself summed up his assignment under three headings. He said he would rid the country of corruption, end the reign of terror or insurgency in the North-East and revamp the economy.

Speaking in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital in January 2015, Buhari said, “The fundamental issue facing this country is insecurity and the problem of the economy, which was being made worse by corruption.

“I assure you that we are going to finally assemble a competent team of Nigerians to efficiently manage the country.

“I am appealing to you, the damage done to this country is great. The level of unemployment, level of insecurity is intolerable. The journey has begun. It will take time, it will take patience; it will take support from you to make sure that we succeed.”

Buhari’s acclaimed distaste for corruption was, perhaps, best captured in his declaration that, “If we don’t kill corruption, this corruption will kill us. If you make a mistake of voting for the PDP, I assure you, you will regret it.”

Capitalising on the nation’s poor economic outlook under Jonathan, Buhari declared that if elected as President to replace Jonathan, he would make Nigeria “one of the fastest-growing economies in the world,” promising that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product growth index would improve by 10 to 12 per cent every year.

Berating Jonathan for poor handling of the economy, with naira’s value in decline, Buhari lamented: “It is sad that the value of naira has dropped to more than N230 to a dollar; this does not speak well for the nation’s economy.”

As part of the steps to right the wrongs of the Jonathan years, Buhari said he would provide five million new jobs, fund Small and Medium Scale Enterprises and invest in infrastructure, agriculture, information technology, entertainment, and manufacturing in the six geopolitical zones.

Other promises he made included the provision of four million homes through a flexible mortgage plan, affordable food supply through an agriculture programme, uninterrupted electricity supply through the deployment of renewable energy, and the improvement of the educational sector for primary, secondary, and tertiary, and children with special needs.

Based on these juicy promises, many Nigerians queued behind Buhari in the 2015 general elections and he defeated Jonathan. Buhari polled a total of 15,424,921 votes to defeat Jonathan, who got 12,853,162 votes.

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The announcement of Buhari as the winner of the election was greeted by wild jubilations across the country. In his inaugural speech, after taking the oath of office on May 29, 2015, Buhari hailed Nigerians for making his dream of becoming President come to reality and promised to reciprocate the gesture with the fulfillment of his campaign promises.

He said, “At home, we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head-on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us.”

Buhari’s scorecard

Today, Sunday, May 29, 2022, makes exactly seven years since Buhari has been in the saddle as the President.

Contrary to the high hope that greeted Buhari’s coming in 2015, many Nigerians have lamented that their hope had been dashed.

A chieftain of the ruling APC, Prof Olusola Adeyeye, could not but admit that Buhari’s promises to Nigerians remain largely unfulfilled seven years after.

Asked by Sunday PUNCH to appraise the performance of the APC of Buhari, of which he is a ranking chieftain, Adeyeye said Buhari could have done better. He said even APC members were not impressed with the President’s performance, even though the President met an empty treasury.

Adeyeye said, “Yes, I do subscribe to it that Nigerians have been disappointed with the performance of the APC and of Buhari.”

According to him, Buhari was a victim of multiple circumstances, including ill health, which limited his performance.

When asked why the APC gave him a second term ticket if it was not satisfied with his performance in his first term, Adeyeye said, “In the first term, he spent considerable time attending to matters of his health. As we were approaching the second term, I met with him personally, and he looked better in good health, so people have expectations that things have turned around.

“But having said that, if you want to say the party didn’t turn him down, again, the party nominated him, but the citizens elected him. So, let’s not pound the head of the party too much. All we have to say now is that hopefully, we will get it right this time. That’s my prayer.”

Electricity supply

Provision of stable power supply was a major component of Buhari’s promise of economic prosperity.

In his inaugural speech, Buhari had said it was unjustified that Nigeria would be in gross blackout. He therefore vowed to change the narrative.

Buhari said, “No single cause can be identified to explain Nigeria’s poor economic performance over the years other than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million generates only 4,000MW, and distributes even less.

“Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution and close to $20bn expended since 1999 have only brought darkness, frustration, misery and resignation among Nigerians. We will not allow this to go on. Careful studies are underway during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians.”

Seven years after, Buhari’s promise of stable power supply remains to be seen.

As of Friday, May 27, 2022, according to the National Electricity System Operator, Nigeria’s electricity generation stood at only 3,522.80MW, even lower than 4,000MW that Buhari decried in 2015.

Naira’s exchange rate

Buhari had berated Jonathan over the declining value of naira.

As of when Buhari took over in 2015, the exchange rate was N196 to $1. Today, seven years after, it is an average of N445 to $1 in the I&E window. In the parallel market, however, the dollar is about N600.

Unemployment rate

A major component of Buhari’s promises in 2015 was to tackle unemployment.

In his 2015 inaugural speech, the President affirmed that, “Unemployment, notably youth unemployment, features strongly in our party’s manifesto. We intend to attack the problem frontally through revival of agriculture, solid minerals, mining as well as credits to small and medium size businesses to kick–start these enterprises. We shall quickly examine the best way to revive major industries and accelerate the revival and development of our railways, roads and general infrastructure.”

Today, the unemployment rate in the country has seriously worsened.

According to Statistica, Nigeria’s unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2015 when Buhari took over from Jonathan was 8.19 per cent. At the moment, the country is faced with a frightening unemployment rate, which has in turn fuelled the crime rate.

The Nigeria Bureau of Statistics revealed that the unemployment rate increased from 10.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of the year 2015 to 14.2 in the fourth quarter of 2016. It also showed that unemployment rose unabatedly between 20.4 per (Q4 2017) and 33.3 per cent (Q4 2020).

This clearly explains that the Federal Government headed by Buhari failed to provide ample job opportunities for the teeming youth population while its MSME programmes failed to achieve the much-needed impact in creating jobs and fostering economic prosperity.

Prices of commodities have hit the roof with skyrocketing inflation rate. The NBS disclosed that inflation rose from 9.5 per cent in 2015 to 13.8 per cent in 2019 and 22.7 per cent in 2021. The Central Bank of Nigeria indicated on its website that as of April 2022, inflation rate was 16.82 per cent.

Indeed, under Buhari, many more Nigerians slipped into extreme poverty, with the World Poverty Clock designating Nigeria as the World Poverty Capital in 2018. It means Nigeria had 87 million people living in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. Meanwhile, India has a population of 1.38 billion people as of 2020.

The President’s promise of food affordability failed woefully over the years. The World Bank stated that Nigeria’s GDP plunged from 2.7 per cent in 2015 to 2.2 per cent in 2019 and 1.9 per cent in 2020. The promise made that Nigeria’s GDP would grow from 10 to 12 per cent annually was dashed annually. Nigeria’s per-capita growth did not receive the expected boost as it nosedived from 3.5 in 2015 to -4.2 per cent in 2016 and -4.6 per cent in 2020.

Statistics from the Federal Ministry of Finance also indicated that under the Buhari regime, 55 per cent of Nigeria’s revenue was used to service debt in 2018, growing to 87 per cent in 2020. The promise by the to bring fiscal confidence into the economy and restore the naira into a competitive position has clearly hit the rocks, given the naira’s free fall.

Reviewing Buhari regime’s performance in terms of the economy, a Professor of Economics at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, Usman Muttaka, said the last seven years had been “a mixed grill.”

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Speaking on the exchange rate, the economics lecturer noted, “The naira loses its value of about 70 per cent from their inception to date.”

He added, “The most difficult thing that the economy suffered within this period is the politicisation of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s operations. That alone destroyed most of the achievements that had been achieved within the economic sphere.

“The Governor of the Central Bank (Godwin Emefiele) is involved in politics and, therefore, it becomes obvious that any decision that the Central Bank takes is not based on professionalism but political patronage or interest.”

Similarly, a professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at the Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State, Ade-Turton Dayo, lamented that given the current socioeconomic realities in the country, all the economic programmes of the President had fallen flat on its face.

Ade-Turton said, “I won’t give him (Buhari) a fair rating; I won’t say poor, but not fair. I have not seen any change in the country. I think I will rate him as the poorest President (in terms of performance) that has ever been produced or been elected. Take a look at the happenings in the country, no jobs, nothing. Everywhere is ‘dry’; Buhari doesn’t deserve any good rating.

“There is a saying that politicians campaign in poetry and deliver in prose, which means they promise so much and deliver so little. I think Buhari shouldn’t have contested for the President of Nigeria (in the first place).”

Anti-corruption

Incorruptibility and integrity were presented to Nigeria as Buhari’s most prominent selling points.

Truly, the inception of his regime ushered in widespread prosecution, touching many areas hitherto considered untouchable.

Those put on trial for corruption included military chiefs, judges, senior lawyers, as well as politicians.

However, Buhari’s anti-corruption fight became smeared with obvious selectivity along the line. Seven years after, many Nigerians have described the anti-corruption fight as unsatisfactory and more of a witch-hunt as several corrupt persons affiliated with the were seemingly untouchable.

The Buhari regime on a number of occasions traded corruption trial for political favours, as exemplified when the regime in 2019 withdrew charges against a former governor of Gombe State, Danjuma Goje, who was on trial for alleged N5bn fraud, after the latter dropped his ambition to become the Senate President in concession for the APC’s arrangement to have Ahmad Lawan as the Senate President.

Lately, the Buhari regime also took the nation by surprise when it granted presidential pardon to former governors of Plateau and Tarabe states, Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame, respectively, who had been convicted and sentenced to prison for embezzlement of public funds to the tune of N1.16bn and N1.6bn, respectively.

When Buhari took over from Jonathan in 2015, Nigeria occupied number 136 spot on the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, which captured 174 most corrupt countries.

Despite Buhari’s acclaimed incorruptibility, Nigeria, as of last year, ranked 154 out of 180 countries assessed by TI on its Corruption Perception Index.

The Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, said, “We have not reached the Eldorado and the Buhari administration has not been able to achieve its anti-corruption objectives. But we are no longer at the same place we were before he came. These are preventive measures and prevention is better than cure. We also need to remember that corruption has become endemic within Nigerian society. When Buhari was coming in and he made all the promises on anti-corruption, security and economy, people dismissed them as wishful thinking.”

Adeniran said the pardon granted to Dariye and Nyame was a major blow to Buhari’s anti-graft war.

“It is the cataclysm that has befallen the fight against corruption in Nigeria because those two persons were the cynosure and examples of the efforts by the administration to fight corruption,” he remarked.

Education

The education sector has not experienced the expected boost under Buhari.

Analysts say he has yet to fulfil his promise that “we will see significant focus, resources and, where necessary reform, in tertiary and technical education to reposition Nigeria’s workforce for the modern technological age.”

A development consultant, Jide Ojo, said despite the promises to fund and improve the education sector, the budgetary allocation for the sector continues to hover between six and seven per cent.

He also lamented that the country continues to top the list of countries with the most out-of-school children globally, above war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Congo DR.

Ojo described the various disruptions of the academic calendar by the Academic Staff Union of Universities which could have culminated in more than one year as unfortunate and an indication of Buhari’s unfulfilled promises to the sector.

“Unfortunately we are not anywhere close to attaining SDG Goal four, which talks about quality education. It is so sad because, in 16 years of the PDP, it was a of continuity, so everything was lackluster. When the Buhari came in 2015, he reeled out what the administration was committed to, and now people are asking, is it Next Level of the shutdown of academic activities, or that of mass abductions of schoolchildren and students that voted for him?”

Uniting Nigeria, fighting insecurity

Buhari also promised to use his military background to quickly end Boko Haram’s reign of terror in the South-East.

He also pledged to mend the fault lines in the nation and bring more unity.

Speaking about unity, Buhari in his inaugural speech had declared that, “Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians.

“I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.”

But his regime remained dogged by allegations of nepotism, which has bred more suspicion and mistrust among the different groups in the region.

Many people argued that Buhari’s alleged nepotism outlook encouraged the springing up of the (now proscribed) Indigenous People of Biafra, which is today agitating for the breakaway of the South-East from the nation, while there are also champions of Oduduwa Republic or Yoruba Nation, clamouring for the breakaway of the South-West from Nigeria. The IPOB agitation in the South-East has created widespread unrest in the region and hundreds of lives have been lost on that account.

The emergence of Oduduwa Republic campaigner, Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho, has its root in the worsening killing of southwesterners by itinerant Fulani herdsmen, with the Federal Government unable to bring the killings and other atrocities of the herdsmen under check.

Though the Buhari regime helped push Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East into the forests, it failed to find a permanent solution to insurgency. Rather, a new variant of terrorists, tagged bandits, surfaced in the North-West, killing and abducting Nigerians in droves.

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Asked to assess Buhari’s regime, Ijaw national leader and First Republic Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, said, “As far as I am concerned, we do not have a functional as far as Nigerians are concerned, President Muhammadu Buhari is not functioning; we don’t know of his existence in Nigeria as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. So, when you asked me how the is fairing, I said I don’t know.

”One could forgive him for the period he was not well, when he was on sick leave in the United Kingdom and we all sympathised with him, we all prayed for his quick recovery. But since he came back, nothing has happened in this country.”

According to Clark, Buhari has failed to arrest the insecurity in the country.

He said, “If a man like Major General Jeremiah Useni, who used to be the FCT minister and who used to be one of the senior military officers, can write a letter to me a few months ago complaining about the Fulani invasion of his area by herdsmen and that PANDEF should come to their aid, you can understand. I have a copy of the letter and I held a press conference on it.

“If the genocide taking place in Southern Kaduna continues, Boko Haram killing of non-Kanuri in particular, there is more trouble ahead. We have been told that Chibok has been invaded again. I received a delegation of Chibok people last month in my house.

“There was a man who had eight children, five of them were kidnapped by these people; a woman had her 15-year-old daughter kidnapped; she would have been 20 now and nobody reached out to them. The President has not visited Chibok and you are asking me what I think of Buhari’s What did he go to do in Ebonyi?

“Must the governor declare for the APC before he goes there? Are Ebonyi and Imo states the only states in the South-East? Please, some of us are old enough to speak our minds.”

One year to go, APC failed woefully – Ex-PDP spokesman

The immediate past National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, also scored the APC low on all fronts, saying the ruling party did not have the moral right to seek votes from the electorate in the 2023 general elections.

Ologbondiyan said, “Honestly, I don’t think there is anything to write home about in the Buhari administration. The Buhari administration came with three main promises of improving the nation’s economy, ending insecurity and fighting corruption.

“But even on the promises made to Nigerians, he has failed woefully. The economy has become so distressed and it has affected the life of the ordinary Nigerian. The purchasing power has become ridiculously low. The economy is in a mess, whether it is fiscal or monetary, things have nosedived.

“Talking of insecurity, when President Muhammadu Buhari came into office in 2015, the issue of insecurity in our country was around the North-East. But today, every facet of our national life has become insecure.

“Nigerians cannot travel from one point to the other out of fear. As for corruption, I’m sure you are aware, the Accountant-General (of the Federation) has been alleged to have stolen N80bn. It is rather unfortunate.

“Like we have consistently said, President Muhammadu Buhari has taken us back. So, the seven years of President Muhammadu Buhari is a colossal waste.”

Buhari has performed well based on available resources, current realities – APC chieftain

But a chieftain of the APC, Osita Okechukwu, said Buhari had done extremely well, given the material conditions on the ground.

He added, “He paid attention to infrastructure and agrarian revolution. He started from day one, continuity of ongoing projects. He never changed the contractors but the little money he met on the ground, he started paying them.

“But the enemy he has up till today is succeeding a regime whose order was ‘share the money’. He is not sharing people’s money but has devoted the little he met.”

Okechukwu, who was National Publicity Secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change, Buhari’s former party and one of the legacy parties that formed the APC, said a barrel of crude oil dropped to below $30 when Buhari came into power, which he said made it difficult for Buhari to fulfil his promises.

He added that despite that, the President resolved to improve the state of infrastructure that he met on the ground.

Okechukwu, who is now Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, also noted that Buhari had invested in agriculture more than any administration in the country, adding that abandoned road, rail and water projects and other infrastructure that could aid the development of the country had been facilitated.

He further recalled that as of 2015, several governors owed state workers salaries and pensions, with some as much as 27 months, totalling over N1bn, which the President helped them to pay off with bailout.

The VON DG added, “He did not introduce the TSA but he had the political will to implement it, and it contributed to his anti-graft war. The IPPIS, he did not initiate it, but he had the political will to implement it, which has helped in no small measure to limit the number of ghost workers.

“We cannot forget as well that against all persuasions, he validated the Electoral Act 2022 that has returned power to the voters.

“Today, power is back to the voters at the polling units. The voters today will be electronically accredited and the results of votes will be electronically transmitted. So, those who are waiting to pad the results will not have any means for padding.”

Okechukwu also noted that the regime had given more force to Section 121 of the constitution for local to enjoy fiscal autonomy as well as state legislature and judiciary, though the effort was being frustrated by some governors. According to him, these would be part of the legacies of Buhari.

Also rising in Buhari’s defence, Senator Adeyeye said the President deserves credit in the area of infrastructure.

He said, “The President, against all odds, has done some things well. When we had plenty of money, billions of naira was voted for road construction, like the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which could have been done in those years. They never did it, but this man came and did it. He did the railway, airports, roads and a lot of things.”

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