President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General, rode to power in 2015 on the back of three failures at the presidential election contests in 2003, 2007 and 2011. It was in his fourth attempt against former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 that fortune smiled on him.
Thus, Buhari became the first person to defeat an incumbent president in Nigeria with his ouster of Jonathan. On May 29, 2015, before the world and excited Nigerians who had apparently grown tired of the behemoth Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Buhari declared his readiness to govern Nigeria.
He had come in with much expectation, particularly because the Jonathan government, which he defeated, had been perceived to be incompetent, corrupt and unable to arrest the drift of the country with the insecurity challenge. Buhari had pegged his campaign on three main planks of anti-corruption, arrest of insecurity and the revival of the economy.
Instructively, a few days after his swearing-in, he had also added that he would have preferred to win the Presidency at a much younger age, a statement interpreted to mean that his age could limit his performance. Three years down the line, can we conveniently conclude that Buhari has delivered on his electoral promises?
The answer to that question depends on the part of the divide where the Nigerian answering the question is standing. For sure, for his All Progressives Congress (APC) members, Buhari has done well given the circumstances which he assumed power. They argue that the president inherited an empty treasury and came in at a time the price of crude oil, the mainstay of the country’s economy, was plummeting on the international stage. They would also argue that he has degraded the Boko Haram insurgents and taken Nigeria out of recession.
For them, Buhari has also moved towards diversifying the economy, with the emphasis being laid on agriculture, with the production of rice on a massive scale as a major signpost. Add that to the seeming sanity in the management of Federal Government funds, which was a major failure of the Jonathan administration. Like a presidential aide said, the three years of Buhari is better than the 16 years of the PDP. But for opposition members, Buhari’s three years has been, at best, mediocre, uninspiring and three years of unfulfilled promises.
They would argue that Boko Haram is still in existence, at least with the recent kidnap of 110 Dapchi school girls as a pointer, even though they were rescued, with about six of them still missing. They would also point at the nonrescue of the kidnapped Chibok girls, the general hunger in the country, the seeming lack of coordination in government affairs and all other signs that the president is not fully in charge of his government. They would also point at the over six months it took him to assemble his cabinet, whose most members are performing at a below average level.
By far, the most disturbing trend in the Buhari presidency, which arms his opponents, is the orgy of killings that have spread all over the country in the past one year. The killings in Enugu, Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Zamfara, Nasarawa and other states of the Federation by suspected herdsmen is perhaps the lowest point of the Buhari era. The killings are not helped by the explanations of the Presidency that they are foreign invaders from Libya. The inability of the Buhari administration to arrest the killings is a strong argument for the opposition.
So also is the issue of subsidy, which by the account of government, has hit about N1.4 trillion per annum. It becomes hard for government to defend this, considering that Buhari, before assumption of office, had argued that subsidy payment was a scam.
We insist that much as the president and his crew would argue that the price of crude oil at the international market has not been favourable to it, that is not a good excuse for the poor state of the economy. We also maintain that the president’s resort to blaming past administrations for the poor performance of his government does not in any way help his cause. Nigerians elected him because of the failures of the PDP government.
He was elected to fix the country from the failures of the past 16 years. We believe that if PDP had performed well, a president would not have been elected from another political party. After three years, Nigerians expected the Buhari presidency to come out smoking, bragging about its achievements and forget the failures of the government it was elected to correct.
The continuous blaming of past administrations for its inability to deliver on its electoral promises has not presented it as a serious government to Nigerians. Incidentally, after three years in the saddle, Buhari and the APC are facing re-election in 2019. Between now and February, government has a window to offer its own redemption. For sure, Nigerians are not satisfied with the performance of a government that promised so much and delivered little.
With the massive opposition building up against his re-election, Buhari needs to use the next nine months to give Nigerians good reasons to return him in 2019. For now, the signs are not looking very good.