Assessing Buhari’s five years in office – Perspectives by Michael Jegede

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Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army general turned politician, was sworn in on May 29, 2015, as an elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for a first term of four years. A former military Head of State and member of All Progressives Congress (APC), he secured re-election and was inaugurated for his second and last term of another four years on May 29, 2019.   

Five years in the saddle, Buhari’s supporters are of the notion that he has greatly promoted good governance and demonstrated an unflinching courage in leadership. His allies believe he has worked assiduously to actualize his three-point change agenda of fighting corruption, checkmating insecurity/insurgency and improving the economy.

However, the President’s critics see his five-year outing as unimpressive, maintaining that so far nothing remarkable has been achieved under him.       

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a holistic assessment of the Buhari administration, averred that the President has provided bold and courageous leadership, while noting that the country was marching surely and steadily to join the comity of great nations of the world.

At a press conference in Abuja, Mohammed remarked: “We thank Nigerians for their support and perseverance, and hereby reassure them of the administration’s unrelenting commitment to making life more meaningful for the citizenry. President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 on the strength of his promise of change. Nigerians, who are satisfied with his performance, especially in the cardinal areas of fighting corruption, tackling insecurity and revamping the economy, overwhelmingly re-elected the President in 2019.”

Insisting that the President was working hard to take Nigeria to the next level of irreversible change for the better, the minister said: “The days of unbridled massive importation of food are coming to an end, as Nigeria moves to become self-sufficient in major staples, especially rice. Thanks to the provision of many platforms and improved welfare, the Nigerian military is living up to the billing in tackling insurgency. The unprecedented approval by the Buhari administration to inject $1.2 billion in-kind loan into the agriculture sector through the government-to-government bilateral loan from Brazil, with support from Deutsche Bank and the Islamic Corporation for Insurance of Export Credit of the Islamic Development Bank, will revolutionize our agriculture at scale.”

The stage, according to the federal government’s spokesman, was set for the perennial power problem to become a thing of the past, following an agreement with German company Siemens in July 2019 to boost power supply, which apparently is the most formidable stumbling block to Nigeria’s economic development.

The FG’s mouthpiece added that in the past five years the administration had carried out a massive infrastructural renewal, the type that had never been witnessed since the country returned to the practice of democracy in 1999.  He cited the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano Expressway, the Owerri interchange and Port Harcourt-Enugu Expressway, and the initiation of road repairs in ninety-two locations across twenty-four states by FERMA (Federal Roads Maintenance Agency) as instances of Buhari’s efforts in infrastructure development.

A former lawmaker, Senator Abu Ibrahim from Katsina South Senatorial District, in an interview, held the view that Buhari has not disappointed Nigerians in his five years as the country’s number-one citizen.

Ibrahim said: “It is so easy to pinpoint and list the achievements of the President Buhari-led administration in the last five years; they are novel and unique. There are certain ways of life we were almost accepting as normal until the president came in 2015. We suddenly are no more seeing fuel scarcity and attendant black marketing that was for a long time a basic characteristic of yuletide seasons in Nigeria. There were those days when it was common place for states to owe workers months of salaries, but it disappeared as soon as the president gave bailout and insisted workers must be paid. Those days when pensioners lined up on the streets of Abuja for weeks to remind the government they needed to be paid has disappeared.

“In agriculture, we see for the first time a policy that phased out completely importation of foreign rice. Today, we are self-sufficient in rice cultivation and processing and we are looking forward to commencing exportation of the product in the nearest future. The country saves $5m daily from the total ban on rice and wheat importation. Only in 2019, agriculture contributed 22.12 per cent of the country’s GDP; a feat that is unprecedented… The country may not have become totally free of insecurity, but we are no longer where we were in those days.”

An oil and gas consultant, Jephthah Balogun, agrees with the Information Minister and Senator Ibrahim that Buhari, as a result of his sterling leadership style and approach to governance, has impacted significantly on the country’s growth and development in five years against all odds.    

Balogun, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Jephbolly Nigeria Limited, said Buhari came on board at a time the country was already in a deep mess, occasioned by the maladministration, misrule and recklessness of the previous governments in this current democratic dispensation which was entrenched in 1999.

His words: “We must not forget that on May 29, 2015 when Buhari mounted the leadership saddle Nigeria was on the brink of collapse. Corruption had eaten deep into the fabrics of our system and that dealt a heavy blow on our economy. The economy was flaccid and it slipped into recession in 2016 after the price of oil fell from highs of about $112 per barrel in 2014 to below $50. Through a coordinated approach by the fiscal and monetary authorities under Buhari’s watch the nation’s economy started bouncing back in 2017 and a full recovery was achieved in the first quarter of 2018. The recovery from recession was largely driven by improved non-oil activities particularly in the agriculture sector, which expanded consistently reflecting federal government efforts at diversification of the economy.

“This Buhari government has no doubt done excellently well in the fight against corruption. It has taken steps to block the different channels through which public funds were being siphoned. Stolen funds/assets are being recovered and high-profile corruption cases are being recorded. Technological tools such as Treasury Single Account (TSA), Bank Verification Number, BVN and Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information Systems, IPPIS, were all initiated by the previous government. But the political will to implement them was never there, until Buhari widely believed to be a man of integrity with zero tolerance for corruption came on board. Today, the full implementation of the TSA, BVN and IPPIS is saving the country about twenty-five billion naira (N25b) monthly. Between 2017 and 2018, N206b in salaries of federal civil servants was said to have been saved by government from the application of IPPIS. Through the use of BVN and IPPIS illicit funds were being tracked and ghost workers discovered.    

“In spite of the recession and sharp drop in oil price which had negatively affected the country’s oil revenue, Buhari made strong impact on the nation’s infrastructural development. Do you want to talk about the railway revolution across Nigeria or the massive road construction works completed and ongoing? Look at the Second Niger Bridge in the Southeast – a very important project that has been used by past administrations to campaign for votes yet left undone. Under Buhari work on the Second Niger Bridge is making considerably impressive progress. The Nigeria’s social investment programmes introduced by the Buhari government are improving the lives of the citizens, especially the poor and vulnerable. The programmes include N-Power Programme, Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP), the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) and the Conditional Cash Transfer.”

But the leading opposition party in Nigeria, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), lamented that the five years of Buhari-led APC administration took the country 60 years backward leaving Nigerians disconsolate and downhearted. The PDP insisted that “Under President Buhari, May 29 has become a day of grieving for Nigerians; a day for commemoration of failed promises, reversal of gains achieved by past leaders and retrogression in our body polity as a nation. This administration has failed woefully in its three major governance planks of provision of security, economic recovery and fight against corruption.”

The party that governed the country for 16 years before APC took over in 2015 maintained that Buhari has turned the once prosperous Nigeria into the poverty capital of the world, while accumulating huge debts for the present and future generation.

Deputy General Secretary, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ismail Bello, argued that Buhari’s presidency has not substantially differed from what obtained in the last administration. Bello said under Buhari no dramatic change has taken place, adding that the government did not take the needed measures to address the high rate of unemployment and poverty in Nigeria.

The country’s minister of labour for state, Festus Keyamo, disagreed that the Buhari government did nothing to tackle unemployment and ensure job creation. 

Keyamo asserted on a TV programme that “The Buhari administration has performed well in its job creation promise. The basic thrust of this government in job creation is to ‘skill up’ people so they can be self-employed and create jobs. What makes the efforts of the government unnoticed is because Nigeria’s population grows faster than the rate of jobs. The population grows faster than the rate of job creation. On job creation, we have done creditably well.”

In the area of education, the President of Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, COEASU, Comrade Nuhu Ogirima, opined that Buhari’s performance has been very low.

Speaking on Buhari’s five years in office, Ogirima, said the President failed to make significant effort at tackling the myriad of problems bedeviling the education sector since he came into power in 2015.

According to the academic union leader, “The present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has in the last five years done nothing meaningful to address the various issues that have hampered the advancement of the country’s education sector. Virtually all the problems he met upon assumption of office five years ago in the area of education have remained unresolved. Look at the needs assessment report for Colleges of Education. It is yet to be implemented. Other agreements and promises made have not been fulfilled. It is really sad that matters concerning education have not got the kind of attention they deserve from this government.”

Michael Jegede, a media professional writes from Abuja

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