There is a popular saying, that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. This especially holds true for the current administration that will soon end. As President Buhari’s tenure ends on May 29, it is worth noting that during his eight years tenure as Nigeria’s president, he frequently made claims about his administration’s achievements and performance, particularly in areas like education, security, the economy, and other national issues. However, the real judges should be us, ordinary citizens who have felt every triumph, every pinch and weathered every storm in the past eight years.
Its 2015 and I am sitting on the couch with my mother, eyes glued to the TV screen as votes are being counted. We wait with bated breath as one-by-one, results are collated and Buhari is confirmed the winner. We hug ourselves, dance around the living room and reward ourselves with snacks. Even the children are excited. A new Nigeria is possible.
Ya Allah, forgive us our foolishness.
The President, in his response to Bloomberg’s questions published on June 21, 2022, said that his administration would be leaving Nigeria “in a far better place” than he found it. No doubt the President has done quite well in the area of legislative reform and infrastructural development, however, I don’t think leaving Nigeria “in a much better place” is one of them.
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Do you remember all the promises this administration made during their campaigns?
I remember because I was sitting down with a piece of paper writing it down.
Let us start with some of Baba’s achievements. The good before the bad, abi? The advantages before the disadvantages. The virtues before the criticisms-is it not?
Under President Buhari, Nigeria has seen the most ambitious legislative programme in its history. Several landmark Bills have been passed or amended in the last seven years, including 16 Constitution Amendment Bills (March 2023), Electoral Act (Amendment) Act, 2022, National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) Act, 2022 and the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) Act, 2022 among others.
As with legislative reform, Baba also pioneered the biggest and most ambitious federal infrastructure programme since Nigeria’s Independence. This includes the Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria (Infra Corp) which was established in February 2021, with initial seed Capital of N1 Trillion, provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).
In addition to the 1 trillion Naira equity seed capital, Infra Corp is expected to mobilise up to an additional 14 trillion Naira of debt capital.
Additionally, on March 30, 2023, President Buhari assented to a Bill establishing the Federal University of Transportation, Daura, Katsina State, for education & research in railway engineering & technology, and other transportation sciences. The University is a US$50m Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) donation to Nigeria by CCECC. The Federal Executive Council had earlier approved the establishment of the University in 2018.
Other infrastructural development projects include the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail, completion of new terminals for international Airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt, Lekki Deep Sea Port – the first new Sea Port in Nigeria in decades, completed in the last quarter of 2022, and commissioned in January 2023 and now the shiniest, newest, toy in town- the Dangote refinery.
Impressive, right? But these are not the only promises that were made.
Do you remember the promise to “generate, transmit and distribute from current 5,000 – 6,000 MW to at least 20,000 MW of electricity within four years and increasing to 50,000 MW?”
Currently, power generation is still in the region of 5,000 MW or even lower and the collapse of the National Grid and has become so frequent under the Buhari administration, that doctors had to go on strike multiple times from the sheer pressure and burn out associated with resuscitating the country’s electricity.
Another promise was to “make our economy one of the fastest growing emerging economies in the world with a real GDP growth averaging 10% annually”. This has been a total failure. Under Baba’s watch, the Nigerian economy entered two recessions.
The first recession in 2016, which was the second in the country’s history, took place over two decades after the first one of 1984, which incidentally took place under the watch of yours sincerely. In 2016, the economy contracted by 1.6 % due to negative oil prices and oil production shocks, which spilt over to the non-oil sectors.
The recovery from the recession was not due to any brilliance by the administration but due to positive developments in the oil sector with some relief from increasing global oil prices. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the 2016 economic recession was a full-year recession and the worst in the country’s history since 1987.
The second recession under Baba took place in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. To be fair, a lot of wealthy countries went into recession at that time, however, in Nigeria, the management of the economy displayed so much fiscal indiscipline with poorly managed social inclusion programmes that recovery from the recession took longer than expected. Have you forgotten the massive looting of provisions from government warehouses? Food items sent to people to alleviate the suffering of the people due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown was instead of being distributed, hoarded in various states rotting away in warehouses? Was there anybody who was held accountable for the hoarding of these food items? Have we forgotten the many videos of youth running away with cartons of spaghetti on their backs while being chased by police?
What about education?
The plan of Baba’s administration to attain up to 15% of the annual budget for this critical sector as well as make substantial investments in training quality teachers at all levels of the educational system was not realised. The proportion of the budget that went to education under the Baba’s rule hovered between 5% and 7%. This is the same Baba that criticised the Goodluck Jonathan administration in the handling of the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). I still have the tweet on my phone. The internet does not forget.
In writing this piece, I tried to count the number of strikes by ASUU, doctors and other trade unions, but you know what? Ladies and gentlemen, I failed. The cumulation of warning and indefinite strikes are too numerous to mention.
For much of 2020 and 2022, public universities were shut and students from poor and middle-class backgrounds were left to their fate while officials of the administration sent their children and wards abroad.
The health sector is no better, as doctors young and old, are leaving the shores of Nigeria daily, in search of greener pastures. Meanwhile, as at the last count, Baba had made ten medical trips to London, and 237 days of either treating or checking undisclosed ailments abroad in the last eight years. Estimates showed that the trips already cost between N1.1 billion to N5.4 billion in sundry operational costs, including fuel, landing and parking charges.
Financially, under Baba, the fiscal authorities have resorted to unrestrained borrowing from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in breach of the CBN Act (2007) through the Ways and Means advances above the 5% limit of the previous tenure’s revenue. These advances have skyrocketed to about N20 trillion as of mid-2022, which is an addition to the public debt.
As for security, I have no words. According to the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Nigeria has actually experienced more insecurity-related attacks and deaths under Buhari’s administration.
Another major gaffe of this administration was the new naira notes and the accompanying cash scarcity we suffered. But that is a story for another day. Or perhaps, for my grandchildren.
It is therefore quite understandable that Baba’s administration in the twilight of its days in office would resort to some form of image laundering but that would amount to nothing as the views of the average Nigerian is already obvious in this regard.
May we never experience such hardship in our lives again.
Au revoir Baba. May God be with you!