President Muhammadu Buhari is 80 today. He is the first Nigerian leader to attain such a milestone as a serving president. A man described as penny-pinching in nature who hates corruption, his rise to power was hinged on the confidence of the people in his integrity to turn around the darkness of corruption and enthrone a transparent government capable of treating all in a just and equitable manner.
Having contested the presidential poll in 2003, 2007 and 2011, the Daura-born General would later weep over the poverty stricken conditions of the Nigerian masses. He lamented his failed attempts to be elected as president and kissed goodbye to politics as he categorically declared he was done with politics. But things would later change as the hand of fate railroaded him back to political trenches.
With the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under President Goodluck Jonathan still unsure over how to tackle the insecurity situation, a coalition of opposition elements facilitated the coming together of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), led by Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), then led by General Buhari, with other parties, to provide a platform for Buhari’s electoral victory in 2015.
He was less than 72 years when he returned to the job he was sacked in August 1985. His election was seen as a symbol of a new dawn anchored on the vision of a renewed hope devoid of corruption. The nation was bleeding from the barbarities of hideous murderous gangs whose pastime was decimating communities and throwing bombs in crowded places. The North-east geo-political zone was worst hit as militant Boko Haram members turned the area into a flowing stream of blood. Buhari promised to teach the militants a bitter lesson they won’t forget in a hurry. The credibility of Buhari teaching Boko Haram a lesson was not in doubt as they recalled how he chased the Maitatsine group from Kano to Cameroon before he was ordered to return from the pursuit by then President Shehu Shagari to avoid a diplomatic row.
Contractors who had abandoned contract jobs awarded to them when he served as the Chairman of the then Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) quickly returned without persuasion to continue from where they stopped. Even before he was sworn in as president on May 29, 2015, the atmosphere was already charged with expectations. It was obvious that things were bound to happen and the country was set to experience a new dawn.
Six months after assuming power, citizens’ hopes gradually turned into weariness. The non-appointment of cabinet members within six months caused consternation among electorates as they began to express their anxiety over the Buhari-led government’s ability to hit the ground running. Those convinced of the worthiness of the president’s cautious stance in appointing his cabinet were quick to remind Nigerians that it was better Buhari took time in order to avoid appointing people that won’t add any value. When finally the names of the ministers were released, not many were convinced that the nominees were worth the long wait.
Less than six months to the expiration of the Buhari presidency, there are discordant tunes on whether the Daura-born General has realised for Nigerians what he promised them. Assessing Buhari’s promise to tackle insecurity, corruption and revamp the economy, not much has been achieved. While the Buhari-led government has been able to stop Boko Haram’s bombs from exploding, the destruction and displacements of Nigerian communities by murderous herdsmen and other criminal groups remain a recurring apprehension.
Though insecurity caused by the group founded by late Mohammed Yusuf had turned the North-east zone into a flourishing killing field before the emergence of Buhari as president, the monsters of insecurity have spread their bedlam wings to some states of the North-west and North-central geo-political zones. Perhaps, faced by incessant superior firepower, members of the Boko Haram have transformed into bandits and criminal gangs, with security forces incapable of reining in their reign of terror.
The bombing of the Abuja-Kaduna train on March 28 and the harrowing experience of the abducted left a sour taste in the month. Even when demand of the terrorists for the release of their comrades in exchange of the abducted was turned down by persons negotiating with the bandits, the daredevils stormed the Kuje Prison and set free their commanders and members. It is not to state that Buhari has completely failed to rein in monsters of insecurity, but citizens expected the elimination of these criminals who have made lives miserable for Nigerians living in many Nigerian communities.
As I pen this article yesterday, my ancestral home is still under siege from criminals. On Tuesday, these criminals stormed my village, Shinge, in Ikulu Chiefdom of Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna where they killed two of my relatives. Not satisfied with their exploits, they proceeded to Kamuru Ikulu on Wednesday where they killed two other people and kidnapped a lady. They only released the abducted after receiving ransom.
Not even the visit of the Local Government Chairman, Hon Sani Francis, on Thursday to the area has changed the situation. The criminals have sent a message to the villagers to either contribute money and settle them or risk another attack. From information reaching me, neither the police nor the army personnel have arrived in the area to protect the people. Any government that looks the other way and allows brigands to unleash bloodshed on citizens cannot be a government for the people. It becomes inscrutable when the government, by their action or inaction, frowns at any attempt by citizens to embrace self-defence, while allowing brigands to wield guns and terrorise innocent citizens.
Buhari’s record in tackling corruption has not been inspiring. Many citizens had thought that by now, politicians accused of corruption would have been thrown into jail houses. Sadly, nothing has happened. For now, the monster of corruption is now stronger than ever before, knowing that the corrupt will always exploit the weakness inherent in the system to escape from the long arm of the law.
On the economy, Nigeria under Buhari has not fared better. Less than a year after his emergence, the country’s GDP shrank by 1.6% in 2016. The decrease in oil revenue due to falling prices experienced in his first term has been replaced with oil theft during his second term. More worrisome, is the non-diversification of the economy that has only been mouthed by the administration. The debt profile is mounting and returned the country to the Debtors’ Club amidst the new designation of Nigeria as the global headquarters of poverty. Though the promise to improve on power is still largely a dream, provision of infrastructure is in huge deficits. The unemployment rate remains alarming, with incessant recourse to global financial institutions for aids, loans in a bid to survive the hard times.
The Buhari-led administration may have scored a point in the development of agriculture; the blight of insecurity has discouraged farmers from accessing farmlands. As it is now, the prices of foodstuff are heading to the roofs, while poor farmers are now prey to middlemen who now cart these products for hoarding. No matter what happens, Buhari’s road to resolving corruption in Nigeria is still paved with crippling complexity.
For sure, Buhari was not expected to resolve all the issues plaguing Nigeria. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has rightly said that the president has done his best, but Nigeria must move forward. Less than half a year to the expiration of his presidency, the problems that trouble us as a people are yet to be tackled. In Buhari, Nigerians have come to appreciate the fact that changing our nation for the better does not need a superman; what we need is a collective outrage by citizens to change the system. The present system can only be attained if the current government provides a platform to ensure a free and fair election. Democracy only works when people are allowed to elect their leaders devoid of any form of corruption by the power cabal. President Buhari was a victim of a flawed democrat.
What Nigerians need from Buhari as he bows out on 29th May, 2023 is for him to ensure the choice of the electorate is upheld. This is wishing President Buhari a happy birthday and good health in the years to come.