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Five gains, failures of the Buhari eight years

President Muhammadu Buhari is about to hand over power, the same way he took over eight years ago from President Jonathan. It is obvious that…

President Muhammadu Buhari is about to hand over power, the same way he took over eight years ago from President Jonathan. It is obvious that May 29th 2023 cannot come any sooner for the President. He is (and could not have emphasized this enough) by all means exhausted and eager to hand-over to his elected successor, Ahmed Bola Tinubu.

I bet that right now, he may not be having any nostalgia about the transition phase that has probably started, more than he is worried about the challenges he met, the promises he made, the tangible results he achieved and the legacy he is leaving behind. One thing is for sure though, President Buhari is human after all, if the results of his eight-year rule are anything to go by.

In this piece, just like in all my previously published opinions about the president, I am not out to particularly praise or condemn his performance or actions, but we can be sure his performance played a major role in putting Nigeria and Nigerians where they are today. What I will try to do, as objectively as possible, is to juxtapose his promises in 2015 to their achievement, now that he is about to leave office.

Apart from the APC manifesto (and the ridiculously far-fetched promises on the APC sponsored billboards prior to the 2015 general elections for instance), President Buhari consistently bordered his promises on strengthening the country’s economy, fighting insecurity and tackling corruption. You cannot doubt a person’s intention since it is a matter of the heart. Therefore, one cannot say that the president did not mean what he said (or promised). As we have seen, attempts have been made to fulfill these promises.

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But have they provided the desired outcome? I have outlined my top 5 gains and failures of the Buhari presidency, to better highlight my arguments. In no particular order of achievement (or failure), his presidency has been made and marred by an audacious national infrastructure revival drive, the costly indecision on nationally pressing issues, degrading of Boko Haram in the North-Eastern part of the country and the metamorphosis of farmer-herder clashes and cattle rustling into banditry and kidnapping in the North-West, and not forgetting the violent rise of secessionist agitators in the South-East. Further to these is the failure to tackle the subsidy regime, end fuel scarcity, and the rise of the country’s debt to a record N70 trillion. A very important positive highlight of this administration will no doubt be the signing of the Electoral Reform Act in 2022. The increase in the contribution of agriculture to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is not unconnected to the president’s palpable efforts to empower farmers for increased food production.

I had intentionally mixed the highs and the lows of the administration so as to depict how he has succeeded in taking five steps forward, and five steps back!

For instance, the irony of the management of the subsidy regime in Nigeria is that President Buhari has been the Minister of Petroleum all through his two tenures as president. For several chunks of the eight years, Nigerians have bought subsidized products at higher prices than the government approved prices. What is more frustrating being the seeming inability of the government to stabilize the supply of petroleum products, thereby subjecting Nigerians to long hours on queues just to buy petrol? Finding a permanent and lasting solution in the sector has proved to be more complex than solving a Rubik’s cube for the president and his team.

However, there has arguably never been a more concerted effort at reviving and upgrading the country’s transportation infrastructure since independence, than that of the President Buhari administration. Simultaneous projects are being executed and completed in the road, rail and air transport sectors, albeit at the cost of huge debt that will be serviced (and probably rolled over) for decades. The question is whether these debts have been and are being judiciously used for purposes of their collection. The signing of the electoral law in 2022 introduced the voter accreditation technology, BVAS as a game changer and ensured that voter fraud is drastically reduced. This meant that although the total registered voters in the country had increased more than ever before, the total votes cast have been significantly lower than previous election cycles. Even as there is always room for improvement, the election of 2023 has been the most credible in Nigeria’s 4th Republic, at least. President Buhari deserves his flowers for this.

To draw the curtain, and as if to further highlight the several indecisions of the Buhari administration is the implementation of the naira redesign policy. The back and forth in the policy dissemination, coupled with the redesigned naira supply gaps, and the eventual Supreme Court ruling compelling the federal government and the Central Bank of Nigeria to revert to status quo has brought nothing but hardship and avoidable inconveniences to the masses. It is evident that a comprehensive cost and benefit analysis was not carried out before the presidential approval to implement the policy.

President-elect Tinubu and his team have their work cut out for them. It will not be easy and it never was meant to be. Securing and uniting the country, tackling corruption, revenue generation, debt management and strengthening of institutions are immediate concerns for the president-elect, because, as a matter of fact, the challenges met by the president in 2015 still remain. Whether he has put the nation on a pedestal for growth and development still remains to be seen, not until a historical appraisal is made in the future, at least.

Sulaiman wrote from Katsina, Katsina State

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