On May 29, 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari expended seven years out of the eight years for which he was elected for two terms. By the same date next year, he would have completed the constitutionally-approved maximum period of two terms for anyone to serve in that exalted political position in Nigeria. In recognition of this milestone, the Presidency, on May 28, 2022, released what it termed “Fact-Sheet: Highlights of Achievements on the Seventh Anniversary of the Buhari Administration”. The 20-page document of about 5,000 words provides a long list of Buhari’s impact on Nigeria, from legislative reforms, Executive Orders, and its many infrastructure projects.
Among achievements listed by the administration are those in the transportation sector: rail, roads, airports and seaports. Others are in the areas of power, housing, digital economy, oil and gas reform, and financial investments in solid minerals and agriculture. Admittedly, there are several visible imprints of the Buhari administration in the areas highlighted in the fact sheet, and the president no doubt will leave positive legacies in these areas.
However, for many Nigerians, the content of the fact sheet is a far cry from the expectations from the Buhari administration, in view of the promises of ‘change’ made by the president in 2015. For instance, on January 1, 2015, a couple of weeks before the election, the president specifically explained what the ‘Change’ mantra would deliver to Nigerians. He had said, “I have taken time to explain this at different opportunities, but on this special day, let me remind you in five short statements. Change means: A country that you can be proud of at any time and anywhere: where corruption is tackled, where your leaders are disciplined and lead with vision and clarity, where the stories that emerge to the world from us are full of hope and progress; a Nigeria in which neither yourselves, nor your parents, families or friends will have to fear for your safety, or for theirs; a Nigeria where citizens get the basics that any country should provide: infrastructure that works, healthcare that is affordable, even free; respect for the environment and sustainable development, education that is competitive and outcome-oriented in a knowledge-economy; a country that provides jobs for its young people, reducing unemployment to the lowest of single digits and providing safety nets so that no one is left behind; a Nigeria where entrepreneurship thrives, enterprise flourishes and the government gets out of your way so that you can create value, build the economy and aggressively expand wealth.”
However, when the government reeled out its achievements last week, the fact sheet does not highlight achievements in the areas of tackling insecurity, corruption, education, unemployment, and the general state of poverty in Nigeria. It may not have been an oversight; it was because the administration had performed well below expectations or even let Nigerians down in these existential areas in the last seven years. And for these areas specifically, instead of an applause, Buhari has received severe criticisms for the downturn in the social and economic conditions of Nigeria.
It is true that within its first year, the administration took the battle to Boko Haram insurgents in the North East, reclaiming most of the territories under the insurgents’ control. Many among the Boko Haram leaders were killed or arrested. All of these have saved Nigerians, particularly those living in the northern region, the agonies of hitherto too frequent bomb blasts and horrors experienced at pointless checkpoints mounted by the previous administration. Still, the Boko Haram insurgency is far from over and in recent months appears to be gaining ground again. Even worse, the government’s efforts towards banditry and rampant kidnappings—which have taken a vicious hold on the country—have been lukewarm at best.
Moreover, even as the economy has plummeted; Nigeria’s debt profile has risen so badly that over 80 per cent of revenue goes into debt servicing. Food inflation has never been higher or gone on for longer. Youth unemployment is so alarming that its statistics is contestable; universities have scarcely opened doors to students over the past two years, the pandemic aside; and given recent revelations, the initial gains achieved in the area of anti-corruption may well have been eroded. No doubt the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and before it the collapse in oil prices during 2014-2017 have contributed to these poor performance records. Yet, a more able government would have done much better.
Luckily, this administration still has one more year to go; an opportunity to embark on remedial measures in a critical area like security. Nigerians deserve the constitutional right to life, but the spread of insurgencies of all hues, from north to south, has frustrated this right, such that the people live and travel in perpetual fear of being kidnapped, maimed, killed or dispossessed of their life’s savings. The government must reverse all these in the time it has left. President Buhari must harness all recourses available to his office, both kinetic and non-kinetic to deal a death knell to insecurity and to bequeath the country with a legacy of a secure nation. This one-point agenda can and must be done.