CHARACTERISTIC of the mixed feelings that define the response of citizens to the end-of-tenure of their leaders, as Muhammadu Buhari bows out today after eight years in the saddle, Nigerians would remember him for his actions and inactions. When Buhari defeated the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, in 2015, there were great expectations from the government that promised to; tackle insecurity, fight corruption and emplace infrastructure. Within the constitutional period of eight years the government was in charge, agents of the government have scored it very high in performance, while most people outside the government returned a damning verdict of abysmal performance for the Buhari-led regime. However, for us, as Tony Blair observed, we are of the opinion that leading a country like Nigeria, with complex diversity, is a difficult task.
THE notable landmark achievements of the Buhari-government were in the area of power generation, infrastructural provisions, fight against insecurity, taming of corruption and opening up of the economy for private sector participation. To this end, major roads totalling 8,352.94kms as at October, 2022, were constructed across the country, central to which were the second Niger Bridge and Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano highway, with tax waver and loans from Sukuk used to fund some of the critical roads that were hitherto in despair. The government complemented the construction of roads with the building of rails to connect major cities, states and regions, like the Abuja-Kaduna and Lagos-Ogun-Ibadan railways. The Mambilla Power Project was instituted to improve power generation and catalyse industrial revolution. This is not to mention the procurement of hardware and armament to drive sustained offensives against terrorists that conveniently in the past held local government areas under their firm control.
TO end the perennial unproductive NNPC, the government transformed it to a limited liability company, with equitable shares secured for the country. Another major boost recorded by the government in the oil sector was the recently commissioned privately-owned Dangote Refinery, which is expected to create thousands of jobs, and guarantee availability of petroleum products in the country. Under Buhari’s watch, notable Nigerians were tried and convicted for corruption, including former governors, ministers and party chiefs like Jonah Jang, Hamza Ishaq Orji Kalu, Jolly Nyame, Olisa Metuh, Sambo Dasuki, Joshua Dariye, even though the menace remains an intractable problem. For us also, more troubling was the fact that two of these jailed corrupt politicians, Dariye and Nyame, also enjoyed prerogative of mercy from Buhari.
BUHARI similarly demonstrated sufficient democratic credentials, and commitment to the rule of law and transparent dealings between the different tiers of government by supporting, canvassing for, and signing into Laws Constitutional amendment bills relating to various democratic principles, including the financial autonomy of state assembly commissions and the judiciary as well as repositioning some items of the 1999 Constitution from exclusive list to concurrent list, like those allowing states to generate power, own Correctional Centres and build rails. He similarly issued many Executive Orders to strengthen government institutions, operations and governance.
THE 2022 Amended Electoral Act sufficiently helped to improve the conduct of the 2023 general elections. Buhari acted like a loyal party member and avoided imposing leaders on his ruling APC. Unlike the characteristic turbulence that was witnessed in the National Assembly under Obasanjo, Buhari resisted the pressure of imposing leaders on the two institutions, resulting in the bumptious relationship between his government and Bukola Saraki-led Senate and Dogara-led House of Representatives during the first term.
THE government of Buhari also unbundled the power sector to ensure efficiency, and introduced a National Carrier on the eve of its departure. Even though some critics of the government alleged people within the Buhari enclave of corruption, Buhari lived a spartan lifestyle, and was above board in his dealings. He left no one in doubt that he was eager to return to his herds of cattle in Daura.
NOTWITHSTANDING the various efforts made by Buhari to leave Nigeria better than he met it, his government was bogged down by many contradictions and clear ineffectiveness. For instance, The Hope noted, with huge concern, the personal lamentation by Buhari that old age was burdensome and limiting for him, as he could not function with the speed he wanted. At different occasions, the absence of Buhari when he had to travel to the United Kingdom for medical attention raised anxieties among citizens, and his absence was considered by some to have negatively impacted his administration, given the rancour between members of the kitchen cabinet and the Vice President that held the forth.
BUHARI was nepotistic in his appointments of security chiefs and handlers of critical economic sectors, which were skewed to meet his ethno-religious biases. Curiously, open revulsions from other ethnic and religious groups outside to his about these self-serving and favourable political behaviours of his were simply ignored. Typifying unfair distribution of dividends of democracy, the Buhari administration was also guilty of over-concentration of projects in his home-state and village, one of which was the University of Transportation. We also noted with dissatisfaction the large-scale insecurity that was prevalent under the regime, in spite of the acclaimed degrading of terrorists which was taunted comparatively and relatively against the effective occupations of some Local Government Areas in the Northwest by Boko Haram, pre-2015.
THE viciousness of banditry, pervasive kidnapping, systematic extermination of farmers by killer herders across the country, especially in Benue State, which Buhari was believed to have openly supported through his ‘body language’, rationalisation and mere blame-game and desperate insistence on satisfying the yearnings of herders through the establishment of grazing routes/reserves and RUGA, unmitigated southern Kaduna pogrom, attacks on Abuja-Kaduna railway, Kuje Correctional Centre invasion, and abductions of different sets of pupils, as well as the killings of clerics, were representative of the sad commentary of the Buhari regime.
ON the economic front, the Buhari administration performed woefully, with the country suffering the woes of recession at two different times. The poor handling of the economy led to the devaluation of the naira, as the purchasing power of Nigerians got depleted. Under his watch, Nigeria was termed the poverty capital of the world, with the report of Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) declaring 133million Nigerians as multidimensionally poor. Public universities were shut for eight months under his leadership, due to ASUU strike, even as fuel and naira scarcity dimmed the shine that the nation had shortly before the general elections. Fuel subsidy payment and humongous funds deployed in printing the new naira notes that are no longer available represent some of the drains in national economy.
GOING forward, we are of the opinion that even though Buhari exited the seat of power conveniently with the Biblical cliché of having run a good race and finished his course, President Tinubu who received the baton from him, and other future Nigeria leaders, should learn from the successes and pitfalls of Buhari, in order to succeed in their onerous responsibility of effectively leading a complex nation like Nigeria to prosperity. We must not justify the view of Georg Hegel that “the only thing that we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history”.