By Hassan Gimba
“The measurement of a man is what he does with power.” – Plato
Today marks the end of the two-term tenure of a man who came with tremendous goodwill, the kind never before witnessed in Nigeria’s chequered political history. One can still remember some young Nigerians trekking from one end of Nigeria to another in high hopes of the new president. However, unlike Caesar, it is doubtful if he can thump his chest and declare “Veni, vidi, vici”—I came; I saw; I conquered.
General Muhammadu Buhari was the first to beat an incumbent president in a free and fair election in 2015.
Buhari had the backing of four major opposition parties that merged into a mega party and was seen as a no-nonsense, stern figure with a low tolerance for indiscipline and corruption, two vile practices that knock out public governance in the country.
Nigeria was struggling with Boko Haram and allegations of corruption, impunity, and piling up debt against Jonathan’s administration. Buhari criticized the administration for wanting to borrow $1 billion to fight Boko Haram, which he dismissed with a wave of the hand, saying they “fought the civil war without borrowing.”
Though he had relative success in taming the insurgents, however, in a case of winning the battle but losing the war, the recruitment base of the insurgents and other violent crimes like kidnapping and banditry expanded through the loss of jobs as many small and medium-scale enterprises fell under the biting onslaught of inflation. The national unemployment rate has jumped from ten to thirty-three percent. This was caused by the government’s closure of borders purportedly to boost local production, as well as an ever-mounting debt profile.
Nigeria’s debt in June 2015, a month after he became president, was ₦12.12 trillion, but he is now leaving it at over ₦80 trillion – the highest in our nation’s history. As of last week, he still wanted the National Assembly to approve another loan of $800 million from the World Bank. They want to use it “to share ₦5,000 per month to 10.2 million poor and low-income households for six months.” In what he called the National Social Safety Net Programme (NASSP), he planned to share it to these poor chaps “through digital transfers directly to beneficiaries’ accounts and mobile wallets.”
One may well ask the pertinent question: how many people who need ₦5,000 monthly to survive would have bank accounts? A court last week asked the government to account for a loan of $460 million taken from China in the name of providing CCTV cameras in the nation’s capital, Abuja.
In his speech after being sworn in, the outgoing president assured the nation that “we can fix our problems.” Everyone – well, almost everyone, took him by his words. Boko Haram insurgency plagued Jonathan’s tenure, and he brought in South African mercenaries to help. As we said, under Buhari’s regime, the fight in the North East recorded significant progress, although other security issues arose due to economic challenges. Kidnapping and banditry in the North and separatism in the South are the new frontiers, taking their toll on our collective security and well-being.
We have found ourselves in an unfortunate situation we never knew before, where people negotiate with bandits and kidnappers and offer them what they request to release loved ones, or else they till the land and harvest the crops for the marauders. It has reached the extent where even a former commander-in-chief of the Nigerian armed forces had no option but to acquiesce to the brigands’ demands before schoolgirls who had been in kidnappers’ custody for about two years were released along with their children born while in captivity. Never before in our history have non-state actors run narratives and set national agendas as effectively as during the last eight years.
Contradictory responses to crimes were also seen when hundreds of Shiites were killed in Zaria “for touching a General’s chest”, according to the president, while those who killed and cannibalized General Alkali in Jos are roaming about freely.
Those that saw Buhari’s coming in 2015 as a new dawn in our country’s history thought they would be seeing the end of clueless governance, and that he would arrest the galloping cost of governance and wanton corruption that bedeviled the administration of his predecessor.
Our democracy is copied from the American presidential system, but unfortunately, we did not adopt the Americans’ seeming desire for prudence, transparency, and accountability in the management of resources.
A vexatious aspect of the waste and unnecessary cost of governance is that whereas US presidents are not fed by the state, Nigerian presidents get more than enough in annual budgets to eat a whole elephant every day.
His altruism and prudence were called into question when he closed the border to the importation of food items, yet the Villa fed on foreign rice, for instance. Instead of closing the border on materials we could manufacture or cause to be assembled here, like vehicles, the Nigerian government spent about ₦100 billion in eight years importing foreign-made vehicles, thereby encouraging capital flight and keeping foreign companies afloat and their nationals employed, to our nation’s detriment.
Many people started to have second thoughts when it took the General six months to produce his first cabinet. Many thought he was sifting through the populace to select ‘saintly’ Nigerians to present a stellar cast to the Senate, but we ended up seeing a cabinet lopsided by the weight of dregs in all ramifications. Many square pegs were placed in round holes as confessed to last week by Malam Adamu Adamu, Buhari’s minister of education for eight years, who said he knew nothing about education but he became Nigeria’s longest-serving minister of education.
Another controversial act was when his nephew, who was a call card seller before 2015, but is now a multi-billionaire in any currency, was given a directorate cadre position at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and relocated to London with no security knowledge, training, or background! People have been asking whether the boy is just a front and, if so, to which powerful force(s).
At a point, his wife, who knew where history placed him would affect her and her children, came out lamenting how her husband’s government was being derailed. Nigerians, who venerated her husband, came down hard on her, and she withdrew to her comfort zone, letting things be.
I was with a sage last week who told us, “Within the eight years Buhari held sway in Nigeria, a lot of people have been born, gone through their full cycle, and returned to their creator. In other words, their life cycle has passed.”
Some still support President Muhammadu Buhari, but many feel the illusion is gone and time has shown his true nature.
But like everything else in life, including his tenure, that too shall pass.
Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.