Two years of Buhari: The gains, the pains
By WILLY EYA
ON Monday, May 29, 2015, the All Progressives Congress (APC) government led by President Muhammadu Buhari will be exactly two years in office. It would be halfway through the first four-year mandate of the President. And as expected, it is time for stocktaking and sober reflection by Nigerians who voted him into power.
At a moment like this, the questions among others that come to mind are: How has the Buhari-led administration fared since its inauguration on May 29, 2015? Are the lives of Nigerians better today or worse since the relatively new government took over the ship of state?
Naturally, the people appraise the journey so far with mixed feelings depending on which side of the divide one belongs. For some, the administration is the type that Nigerians have been waiting and praying for after the failure of successive governments to positively impact their lives. But to others, the APC government is literally a bad dream, which should end quickly. People in this school of thought cannot connect between what the public expected of the government and what they are seeing two years after. Realistically, the pedestal upon which one is standing defines the tone in one’s appraisal of the administration. So, the Buhari administration is like the proverbial seven blind men and the elephant.
In its election manifesto, the APC had made a number of promises, all of which could be classified under three key areas: improving Nigeria’s security environment; tackling corruption; and economic reform. It is on those planks that many are wont to appraise the achievements or failure of the government.
On the positives coming out from the administration, even Buhari’s critics believe that one area he has recorded success is in changing the mindset of the people. Since the president assumed duty, some things hitherto impossible in Nigeria have been happening. Many believe that following the president’s body language and his leadership style, the nation’s governance architecture has changed and there is a paradigm shift in the thinking and socio-economic and political culture of the people.
For instance, between the critical public of Buhari’s supporters and those against him, there is an agreement that the government is addressing the cancer of corruption, which over the years has remained the greatest problem facing the nation. The effort of the government has brought about discipline in the way Nigerians live and the flamboyant lifestyle of the corrupt ones is being curtailed on a daily basis.
Despite the anti-graft war being criticised in some quarters as being selective, many agree that Buhari has allowed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to be active in pursuing alleged perpetrators of graft. The EFCC under the new leadership has made high-profile arrests, uncovered and recovered several allegedly embezzled funds and currently prosecuting many suspects involved in corruption in the country. However, the burden of the anti-graft agency is that two years into Buhari’s tenure, it has yet to secure a single high profile conviction in the courts, it has instead lost some of its celebrated cases under strict judicial scrutiny.
Not a few also agree that a major area where the government has shown strength is in tackling insecurity particularly insurgency which has ravaged the North East part of the country. The belief is that thanks to his military background, Buhari has successfully tackled and degraded Boko Haram insurgency, which hitherto was a threat to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Nigeria. Available evidence shows that the insurgents have lost their capacity to carry out the kind of spectacular attacks they perpetrated under the administration of Buhari’s predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan. The development in the perception of many is predicated on the courageous leadership by Buhari, who started off by ordering the relocation of the command and control centre of the battle against insurgency from Abuja to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital. He also rallied regional and global support for Nigeria’s efforts and boosted the morale and fighting capability of armed troops.
One of the major expectations from the APC government was the safe release of the abducted Chibok girls, who had been in the Boko Haram’s captivity since April 14, 2014. And courtesy of the administration, in October 2016, no fewer than 21 girls were released and seven months later, another batch of 82 girls regained their freedom. Those freed were apart from a handful of the kidnapped Chibok girls, who had previously escaped from their abductors. Thousands of other abductees have been rescued by the Nigerian military within the period in question also.
On his promise in the area of security especially with regards to Boko Haram, many would agree that despite the challenges, the government has scored a pass mark. But the success here is fast diminishing following activities of herdsmen, which have become the new face of terror in the country. Some are tempted to think that the Boko Haram sect has changed their modus operandi and transformed into herdsmen.
Apart from the foregoing, another critical area to measure the administration in the last two years is the economy. During the campaigns preceding his election, he assured that the APC administration would stimulate the economy for job creation, diversify from dependence on oil among others.
Many believe that there is a big question mark on how far the Buhari administration has managed the economy since he assumed office as the value of the Naira has witnessed a free fall among other negative economic indices. Arguably, the consensus by the majority of Nigerians is that under him, the nation’s economy has gone from bad to worse in virtually all the sectors. People in this school of thought insist that the life of the ordinary Nigerian has not improved but has indeed gone down comparatively to what it used to be before May 29, 2015.
However, Buhari’s supporters argue that the pipeline vandalisation and sabotage of government oil facilities by Niger Delta militants contributed to the crash in the production and sale of crude oil, the mainstay of the economy. They support their position with the slump in global oil prices.
The calculation is that if the administration was proactive and had a viable economic plan, independent of the oil industry, the nation probably would not have found herself in the mess she is in today. Among people who hold this view, the consensus is that government’s inconsistency in policy-making, especially the Central Bank of Nigeria’s fiscal and monetary policy somersault, is one of the major factors that plunged the country into the present economic recession.
Apart from the three major areas above, the electoral process under Buhari also agitates the minds of not a few. Many are not likely to score Buhari high in his administration’s management of elections since he came on board. Under the same period, the administration has recorded the highest number of inconclusive elections since 1999 when the current democratic process started.
But in all, two years is just halftime of the four years which Nigerians voted the APC government.