IN his Christmas message last month, President Muhammadu Buhari pleaded with Nigerians of voting age to be wary of candidates who could not move Nigeria forward. Noting that the joyous season of the birth of Jesus Christ coincided with the period of campaigns that would usher in a new administration in the country, Buhari urged Nigerians to elect, in the 2023 elections, candidates with the capacity to sustain the momentum of his administration since 2015.
If this was just the ordinary ritual that leaders engage in during festive periods, it wouldn’t have bothered anybody. But the statement bordered on the Buhari administration’s performance in office, and so the claim of a worthy legacy needs to be interrogated. The president came into office promising to fight corruption, revamp the economy and address insecurity. However, while he may point to certain achievements along these lines, the overall picture that emerges is unflattering. The president apparently believes that he has saved Nigeria from ruin, yet the reality on the ground is different. In the last seven and half years plus, the Buhari administration’s performance in critical areas of Nigeria’s national life has been less than stellar. Buhari cut a picture of contrition and soberness in his reflection on his performance in office recently when he announced that he had not done as much as Nigerians expected of him. During that occasion, he also announced that he was tired of governing Nigeria and couldn’t wait to leave office for his Daura, Katsina home. Yet he now speaks of a legacy that needs to be upheld. Quite revisionist.
Although he rolled out series of policies, the president’s record in the areas of security, economy, and infrastructure is, as statistical agencies have attested time and again, below average. Under him, Nigeria became the global capital of poverty. The World Bank has spoken about the lack of GDP growth for the entire duration of the president’s tenure and the government itself has acknowledged the insufficiency of revenue to meet its debt servicing obligations. This is apart from the figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on the multidimensional poverty of over 133 million Nigerians, representing more than 60 percent of the population. If poverty has been growing and galloping under the president’s rule, how could he then suggest the continuation of such as a legacy for Nigerians?
Besides, Buhari has not exacltly covered himself in glory in the area of the rule of law. He has serially undermined the same constitution that he swore to uphold, running Nigeria like a banana republic and imposing on Nigerians the agonies of a police state. His government is on record as serially ignoring court orders, engaging in long detention of suspects without trial, invading the homes of justices of the Supreme Court in the dead of the night, and removing the Chief Justice of Nigeria in the most brazenly unconstitutional fashion. Worse still, it extended the same gesture to the legislature, invading the National Assembly twice in an alleged bid to effect leadership change. There is no need to talk about the intangible aspect of gluing Nigerians together because it has been justly criticised for making ethnically insensitive, provocative and unjustifiable appointments and promotions in key departments and agencies of the government.
Indeed, the Buhari administration’s record in office is so bad that any presidential candidate worth his salt must first repudiate it in order to avoid being linked with the failure that Nigerians have been saddled with for about eight years now. Certainly, Buhari’s plea must have come to Nigerians as the height of insensitivity and public carelessness. For how could the president be talking of upholding his legacy when the major thing Nigerians have experienced under his government is growing poverty and deteriorating living conditions? Is it that the president truly wishes that Nigerians should continue the hardship endured under him under another government? Or could it be that the report he gets to read is that Nigerians are flourishing, as opposed to the palpable, excruciating poverty and suffering by the people under his government? Is he oblivious of the present agonising living conditions of Nigerians? Is he unaware of the pervasive, unprecedentedly bad insecurity?
The truth is that Nigerians have never had it so bad. The figures are very damning and the realities and experiences are even worse. The fact that the president pretends that he has been of any positive value to Nigerians in the last eight years is benumbing. Nigerians cannot be blamed if they are keenly aware that the only viable way into the future is a swift repudiation of the Buhari ways at the next polls, if only to put a stop to the deterioration of their lives in the last eight years.