Thursday, July 7, 2022

One Year To Go: Nigerians Await Fulfilment Of Buhari’s Many Campaign Promises

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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 government of the then President Goodluck Jonathan because of the perceived high level of corruption, the depressing economy, and the government’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 government 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 government 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.

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 government 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 government 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.”

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.

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