When President Muhammadu Buhari steps down next week, Nigerians will be less safe, poorer, and deeper in debt than when he took office in 2015.
The former military ruler was elected president after defeating the underperforming incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, in a historic election.
Riding a tide of optimism that change was possible, he was backed by a formidable coalition and had a reputation as a tough-guy soldier who would get things done.
After a brief term in power in the 1980s, Mr. Buhari’s return was based on promises to quell the raging Islamist insurgency in the north-east and combat pervasive corruption.
He is the last of a generation of British-trained military officers who ruled the country.
However, the 80-year-old’s two four-year tenures have disappointed many.
There has been progress in combating Boko Haram and other extremist groups in the north-east, thanks to upgraded military weaponry from the United States.
While the organizations continue to carry out attacks on communities and military posts in the region, they have made significant progress since the years when they functioned freely and controlled a major chunk of Nigerian land.
Mr. Buhari also used Chinese funds to modernize the country’s deteriorating road and rail infrastructure, construct a new port in Lagos, complete a critical bridge in the south-east, and pass critical election and oil-sector legislation.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (2-L) waves to fans after his inauguration on May 29, 2015, in Abuja, Nigeria.
When President Buhari was inaugurated, he remarked, “We can fix our problems.”
However, whatever victories were made against Islamist terrorists in the north-east have been erased by the development of equally vicious organizations in other parts of the nation under his watch.
Clashes between farmers and cattle herders from the Fulani ethnic group, which had been simmering for years, were permitted to erupt into lethal armed clashes with an ethnic element when the administration ran out of ideas to tackle the problem of where animals might graze.
Mr. Buhari, a Fulani from northern Nigeria, was accused of bias in the war, and his proposal of grazing areas for herders was rejected by powerful southern state governors, who saw it as a land grab.
Some of the armed groups formed as a result of the farmer-herder conflict have since evolved into vicious motorcycle-riding bandits preying on towns in the northwestern and central states. These organizations have aided in the growth of a profitable kidnap-for-ransom enterprise into a national giant.
It began in the first decade of the twentieth century with the kidnapping of oil workers in the Niger Delta and flourished under Mr. Buhari’s leadership as the targets shifted.
According to Unicef, the UN’s children’s organization, thousands of schoolchildren were stolen between December 2020 and September 2021. That surpassed the 270 girls kidnapped from a Chibok school in 2014, which garnered global news—a crime that helped Mr. Buhari defeat Mr. Jonathan.
“I thought that as a former military ruler, he would have the solution to Nigeria’s security challenges,” Musa Ahmadu, a farmer now living in Kano in Nigeria’s northwestern state, told the BBC.
Mr. Ahmadu, who was born in the president’s home state of Katsina, migrated to neighboring Kano with thousands of others due to the operations of armed groups in the region.
Ondo State governor Rotimi Akeredolu (3rd L) points to blood on the floor following a gunman attack on St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo town, south-west Nigeria, on June 5.
Last year’s attack on a church in Ondo State, which murdered scores of worshippers, was only one of many deadly occurrences.
Many people believe that President Buhari bungled the crisis created by separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu.
Mr. Kanu is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), a government-sanctioned organization seeking secession in the south-east.
He is a charming figure with a voracious demand for sensationalism, which he satisfied with his online radio program.
Many Nigerians overlooked Ipob until Mr. Kanu was jailed for treason by the Buhari administration in 2015. A state-sanctioned attack on his home followed, marking the start of an armed conflict that has since spiraled out of control, claiming hundreds of lives.
After fleeing in 2017, he was kidnapped in an unknown location abroad and returned to Nigeria in 2021 to face trial. Although a judge ordered his release because the process of his repatriation was unconstitutional, authorities continue to detain him.
Many questioned Mr. Buhari’s handling of a sector that was supposed to be his area of competence as a result of the security concerns.
“I am surprised at the level of embarrassment he has brought to his constituency, the military, despite all of the promises he made,” retired Colonel Hassan Stan-Labi, a security expert, said.
“How can you fail in your own field?” he wondered.
Under Mr. Buhari, the countrywide insecurity has largely subsided in the oil-rich Niger Delta, where oil militants and sea pirates formerly ruled.
However, that quiet appears to have coincided with a period of widespread oil theft, with the government accused of turning a blind eye as various organizations in the region stole fuel from pipelines. As a result, Nigeria’s output would fall to a 30-year low in 2022.
Members of Nigeria’s Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASAN) protest crude oil theft.
The theft of crude oil has contributed to declining production levels.
The alarming discovery of a kilometer-long pipeline used to steal oil last October was regarded by analysts as “nearly impossible” without the assistance of officials.
Thieves created their own 4-kilometer-long pipeline through strongly guarded creeks to the Atlantic Ocean at one site. There, barges and tankers openly loaded stolen oil from a seven-meter-high rig visible for kilometers on the open seas.
That such a large-scale theft occurred directly under Mr. Buhari, who also served as Nigeria’s petroleum minister, contradicted his claim to be battling graft, according to Salaudeen Hashim of the anti-corruption NGO Cleen Foundation.
Mr. Buhari’s credibility was also called into question by his numerous medical journeys to the United Kingdom, despite spending considerable sums to renovate a facility in the presidential house.
According to Auwal Rafsanjani, the president of Openness International in Nigeria, the lack of openness “drained taxpayers’ monies, encouraged illicit financial flows, and enabled other corruption-enabling activities the administration preached against.”
Mr. Rafsanjani gave the administration a four out of ten for fighting corruption, saying Mr. Buhari’s appointment of people with ongoing corruption cases to his cabinet, as well as his wife’s long stays in expensive Dubai homes, “contravened best practices by an administration that was fighting corruption and mismanagement.”
Mr. Buhari’s handling of the Nigerian economy will most certainly be remembered for his disastrous attempt to restructure the local currency earlier this year.
The scarcity of the new naira notes, which have now almost disappeared, has resulted in immense suffering for millions of people in the country who rely on cash for basic requirements.
“That man destroyed the small business we were doing,” said a university graduate in Abuja who made money by delivering banknotes to her customers before the cash crisis.
Her rage was fueled by a typical problem in Nigeria: a dearth of employment opportunities for educated young people.
People line up to withdraw cash from an automated teller machine (ATM) at a bank in Zamfara, Nigeria, ahead of the presidential elections. The 8th of February
Reuter’s Image Source
Caption for an image,
Queues erupted outside banks in February as customers rushed to obtain cash.
Currently, one in every three Nigerians who wish to work cannot find jobs. Prior to Mr. Buhari’s presidency, that figure was less than one in ten.
The government has blamed a sharp reduction in oil prices in its early days, the COVID epidemic, and Russia’s war in Ukraine for the crisis.
However, several of its policies, including currency restrictions and closing land borders to stimulate domestic production, have contributed to record inflation, making millions poorer and depleting the once-thriving Nigerian middle class.
With the end in sight, Mr. Buhari begged MPs last week to accept a $800 million (£640 million) loan from the World Bank as soon as possible. Nigeria’s state debt might reach $150 billion this year, up from a little over $60 billion when he took control.
His borrowing spree has prompted the World Bank to warn that Africa’s largest economy is consuming 96% of its revenue to cover loans.
However, the administration has justified the massive debt, claiming that it is within permissible bounds and citing cash handouts to the needy as justification for part of the loans.
“These humanitarian interventions provide a window into the president’s kind soul, a man some have not bothered to discern, dissect, and decipher,” presidential spokesman Femi Adesina tweeted last week.
Many in the administration, like him, believe the administration has had a successful eight-year tenure. Although both he and his wife have apologized for failing to keep their pledges, Mr. Buhari has stated that he did his best.
“I want [Nigerians] to analyze how things were when we came in and how they are now,” he said last year when questioned about his legacy.
Nigerians were safer, better off, and less in debt before Mr. Buhari came into office, and many will remember him for presiding over the most difficult eight years they have ever faced.