igerians have recently been subjected to self-congratulatory effusions from President Muhammadu Buhari, cabinet officials, and advisors amid economic hardship, insecurity, and mass depression. From a televised documentary to a stock-taking retreat and cabinet briefings to media appearances and advertorials, the regime is praising its “achievements,” reiterating its promises, and projecting itself as a kind caretaker who has excelled all of its predecessors. However, outside of its small circle of operators and supporters, its assertions have failed to quell popular discontent, reduce tension, or instill optimism in the traumatized population.
Given the crushing weight of misfortune that most Nigerians are facing, Buhari’s claims of exceptional service performance are wildly exaggerated. He recalled accomplishments in infrastructure provision, security, the economy, and job creation as he opened a Mid-Term Ministerial Performance Review Retreat. He has been equally optimistic in a variety of forums both at home and abroad. “No administration has done what we have done in six years to put Nigeria back on track,” he said, citing improved trains, roads, and security as examples. He blamed past governments for the country’s problems, claiming that he had stabilized the economy, guided it through the recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, and improved health care.
Ministers and other officials listed “unprecedented” highway rebuilding and railway projects, enhanced security, governance, and housing in the documentary “The Buhari Effect: Undeniable Achievements.”
Without a doubt, the government has the right to repair its soiled image, but its self-evaluation in various areas not only contradicts live reality for the majority of Nigerians but also raises fears that Buhari and his staff are estranged from objective reality. You cannot solve problems you do not recognise. Buhari must cease living in denial with less than two years left in his second and final term.
To be candid, Nigeria is in serious problems, and as one newspaper boldly said on January 24, 2018, in an editorial titled, ‘Buhari, your best is not good enough,’ when he was similarly engaged in self-praise three years into his first term, his six years in government have been disastrous. True, the regime has grappled with inherited issues, has benefited from lower oil prices, and has been afflicted by the COVID-19 epidemic, but its efforts have been insufficient, lacking in deep strategy, and frequently disorganized.
Its failure has a crippling effect on the country. The regime has not used critical thinking in any of its policies, beginning with the economy and infrastructure. It declines to seek for low-hanging fruits like privatisation and asset sales, liberalisation, and severance of the binding restraints to production and Foreign Direct Investment, despite inheriting an economy on the decline characterised by diminishing revenues. It hangs on to money-sucking refineries, depots, steel mills, airports, and ports that are not in use. It has borrowed more in six years than all previous Nigerian governments since Independence combined due to its inability to stop leaks, curb spending, and reduce bureaucracy. Public debt had risen from N12.11 trillion in June 2015 to N35.46 trillion in June 2021. Over 90% of all revenue is spent on debt payment, which is unsustainable.
On Buhari’s watch, unemployment rose from 8.2% in June 2015 to 33.3 percent in June 2016. The regime’s assertions that its numerous efforts have created millions of jobs are refuted by data from the National Bureau of Statistics, which shows plant closures and millions of employment losses. According to an NBS/UNDP report, the COVID-19 impact will result in 20% of workers losing their jobs by 2020. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, almost 13 million people are at risk of starvation. Nigeria has been the World’s Poverty Capital since 2018. Health systems are in disarray, and Nigerians seeking medical treatment overseas spend nearly $2 billion of precious foreign cash each year. In the last six years, there have been an estimated 552 days missed due to strikes by medical physicians and professors alone.
Buhari should understand that the infrastructure deficit, estimated at $100 billion per year (189.77 percent higher than the budget for 2021), cannot be solved solely by Chinese loans. It necessitates foreign direct investment, public-private partnerships, privatisation, and liberalisation. Service delivery is delayed, ineffective, and costly. While the government claims to have borrowed $2 billion to restore the Lagos-Ibadan and Kano-Kaduna-Abuja expressways, as well as construct the Second Niger Bridge, the receipt of $311 million in seized loot allocated expressly for the three has not accelerated the projects. Buhari has neither restructured the port system nor fixed the Apapa ports access roads. The power sector situation is still unsolvable, and the economy is hampered by shortages and the high cost of backup power.
The leadership must move from denial to action in the vital areas of security and corruption. Despite the government’s assurances, the country is more insecure than it has ever been. Even during the Civil War, which lasted from 1967 to 1970, fighting was limited to the now-defunct Eastern Region. Every part of Nigeria is now riddled with criminality. Terrorist insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, wanton violence, and pillage by Fulani herdsmen in the North, and insurgent terrorism stirrings in the South-east; general insecurity everywhere else. According to a survey, 25,794 Nigerians were killed in armed attacks during Buhari’s first term, with 1,525 killed in the first six weeks of 2021.
Mass kidnappings of children have become commonplace as bandits terrorize the North, taking a page from Boko Haram’s playbook. Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, bandit-terrorists, ISWAP are among the world’s five deadliest terrorist groups; Nigeria is the third most hit country by terrorism.
Buhari needs to re-energize his anti-corruption campaign, which he has failed to do. Nigeria is Africa’s second most corrupt country, ranking 149th out of 180. Estimates of annual illicit cash outflows range from $10 billion to $18 billion; corruption is said to account for 60% of government revenue.
Buhari’s most serious flaws include his awful mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity, as well as his degradation of the rule of law, basic human rights, and democracy. The trust gap has grown to the point where outright separatist activity has emerged in several sections of the country. He is, without a doubt, Nigeria’s most sectarian and nepotistic leader. Ethnic nations and religious beliefs are split into groups that are mutually hostile. As a result, according to the Fragile States Index 2021, the country is the world’s 12th most fragile country. Instead of deepening democracy, he has sought to curtail media freedom, assembly, and protest rights, and has shown contempt for judicial rulings.
Rather than celebrating mediocre accomplishments, Buhari and his administration should roll up their sleeves, run a more inclusive government, and involve economists and the private sector in policymaking. As the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic rages and revenues plummet, he must push for transparent asset sales, downsize the bureaucracy, reduce the cost of governance, plug revenue leakages, support state policing to keep the country safe and overhaul the anti-corruption war and security services. Public policy should no longer be guided by partisan, religious, or political factors.
Poverty is mostly a political issue. Poverty is generated and reproduced, according to Stanford University’s Center on Democracy. Beyond the narrow arena of free and fair elections, the long-term alleviation of poverty requires a broad backdrop of effective governance. The Buhari administration must mobilise and engage all segments of the Nigerian population, as well as support efforts to restructure the country in order to make its units more competitive and productive. The country is sinking, and everyone should be working together to save it.