A year ago, Muhammadu Buhari won the presidential election to lead Nigeria, which is home to Africa’s biggest economy and highest population. He was declared the winner on April 1, 2015 riding on the crest of change and anti-corruption. Of course, Nigerians were fed up with the status quo and wanted “change” at all cost. Therefore, except in some states and local communities, the All Progressives Congress (APC) – the country’s ruling party, which is more or less is a conglomeration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) arch-enemies – swept the polls in a manner never seen in the history of the country. The result of the election overwhelmingly defied predictions and resulted in defeat of the incumbent-divine.
Meanwhile, the political campaign, lobbying and fireworks that brought President Buhari to power were arguably one of the hottest and most expensive in the country’s modern history. The PDP, now the opposition, used all means possible including name-calling, media warfare and use of security agents to intimidate and cow opposition. In a particular case, President Buhari’s secondary school certificate was questioned and indeed, was said not to be in any records whatsoever – not even in his personal file in the Nigerian Army. (This is laughable as nothing has been said on this since he became the president.)
The APC didn’t fold their arms. They campaigned vigorously as if there was no tomorrow. They matched the PDP in every facet. However, in a briefing titled “Why Goodluck Jonathan Lost the Nigerian Presidential Election of 2015” published by African Affairs (2015), Zainab and Olly submitted that:
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“the fragmentation of the ruling PDP as the main platform for elite coordination; the government’s dismal record in economic management, addressing human development challenges, tackling corruption and securing lives and property; divergent election campaign tactics employed by both parties; and better preparation by the electoral commission, in particular in its use of biometric voter cards were decisive in the eventual defeat of President Jonathan in the 2015 elections.”
The rest, they say, is history.
During the campaigns all over the country, some of which I was able to watch and listen to, President Buhari and his cohorts’ campaign promises were not only glamorous but also what the electorates wanted to hear at that time, namely, a total war against corruption, war against Boko Haram and insurgency, establishment of a diversified economy, social security promises including the popular N5000 naira promise to the unemployed or poor/vulnerable as they are now termed, creation of job opportunities and so on. Some analysts raised concerns that these promises were not premised on the economic reality on the ground and that most of the details were not properly marshaled. They likened his promises to building castles in the air.
How true were they? Even if President Buhari honestly intended to fulfill these promises, why was it difficult for his team to tell the electorates how they would be achieved in specific terms and using what strategies? The whole scenario looked like they had not done their homework properly. And for sure, they were not thinking about the plummeting prices of oil.
A year later, the sufferings of the Nigerian people are the same, if not worse. Now, let’s be cautious here. Not all people are suffering in Nigeria. The political class certainly is not. The top business moguls and oil marauders, bunkers or merchants are definitely not. From the energy crisis currently bedeviling the nation whereby you spend several hours at the filling stations to get fuel and at exorbitant prices, depending on where you buy; to the astronomical increase in food and drink prices, including “sachet water”; rising electricity bills without adequate provision, persistence of insecurity, poor road and rail network, economic depression and burgeoning of naira exchange rate to dollar, a worsening unemployment crisis, kidnappings and oil bunkering, bastardisation of education – oh my God, the list is endless. The cost to buy any imported products including the ink for my printer is absolutely outrageous. To make it worse, the weather is extremely harsh these days as if to compel the government to listen to the downtrodden.
President Buhari and his cohorts’ campaign promises were not only glamorous but also what the electorates wanted to hear at that time, namely, a total war against corruption, war against Boko Haram and insurgency, establishment of a diversified economy, social security promises including the popular N5000 naira promise to the unemployed or poor/vulnerable as they are now termed, creation of job opportunities and so on.
But the blame is not entirely at the current government’s doorstep. And to be factual, some of the achievements recorded by the present administration are noticeable. No matter how you look at it, President Buhari’s sagacity as a military strategist and leader is gradually paying off in the war against insurgency. “One day, one explosion” is now fading away. As a matter of fact, the war against insurgency is encouraging. What is discouraging is that the Chibok girls are yet to be found and the humanitarian crises and the ruins of the war cannot be quantified. Furthermore, the killings of farmers and their relatives in their hundreds by herdsmen is gradually replacing the insurgency debacle.
In the anti-corruption war, a lot of revelations had been made and several billions supposedly recovered. For one thing, the president is impeccable and honest, which is one of the reasons why people voted for him. From day one, the President has not shied away from the war on corruption. He has literally won the war against corruption with the establishment of the single treasury account, declaration of his assets and the arrest of high profile citizens of the Republic. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the arm charged with the arrest of offenders has made several arrests although nobody has been jailed or sentenced yet.
The president spent months before he could name his ministers and advisers. He has traveled for more than 40 days outside Nigeria in ten months to meet with various world leaders and stakeholders for solutions and collaborations. It is amazing. It seems he’s trying his best, but a close look at the whole cabinet is giving one the feeling that they are still looking for that major clue to run the economy in the right direction.
A lot of people are still with President Buhari because they trusted him. But so many are also afraid of what will be their fate if he doesn’t get it right. In fair assessment, President Buhari has yet to fulfill any of his campaign promises but he looks like working on some and neglecting other vital areas. To be able to achieve anything, he needs the people’s support. This must be noted. But to get the people support requires that you delight them and give them a hope. The people, however, need a quick fix. Presently, that is absent, so the cries and criticism are gathering like it did just before the Occupy Nigeria scenario.
From the energy crisis currently bedeviling the nation whereby you spend several hours at the filling stations to get fuel and at exorbitant prices, depending on where you buy; to the astronomical increase in food and drink prices, including “sachet water”; rising electricity bills without adequate provision, persistence of insecurity, poor road and rail network, economic depression and burgeoning of naira exchange rate to dollar, a worsening unemployment crisis, kidnappings and oil bunkering, bastardisation of education – oh my God, the list is endless.
GOtv, the popular pay TV service offered in Africa by Multichoice even used the Nigerian situation to encourage its subscribers to sign up for the Easter holiday. The message reads “No allow the country situation put you for corner. Sharply pay for your GOtv to enjoy Nigeria vs. Egypt.” Leadership intent may be right, but expression is far from real.
It is certainly depressing when you hear the Minister of State for Petroleum or Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation saying that Nigerians should expect tougher times ahead because the queues at filling stations would continue till May, while the President organizes an economic retreat during his tenth month in office due to confusion on how to make the economy work. As some of them are already saying, they didn’t prepare for this or they didn’t know that Nigeria’s problems are so daunting. This shows the attitude and manners of leaders in charge of African nations today – leaders who simply do not know the fecundity of the issues at stake, the way to address them and what price to pay – accidental leaders who are more interested in the position but lacking knowledge of the problems or how to solve them.
As the saying goes, “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Everyone can claim to know the problem of the country, but not everyone is knowledgeable enough – in the 21st century sense – to tackle the hydra-headed problems plaguing Africa and her dear prodigal son, Nigeria. Until we have proactive, forward thinking leaders who have calculated, researched, count the cost, and gathered an excellent team, until we have leaders who dare and are more passionate about the poor than the posh car they ride or the beautiful hotels where they reside, Africa and Nigeria’s destiny will remain in the doldrums.