By May 29 2023 Nigerians will be heaving a heavy sigh of relief as the eight year-tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari comes to an end. First elected in 2015 for a four year term after three previously unsuccessful attempts, President Buhari who was also re-elected for another term of four years in 2019 would go down in history as the worst leader Nigeria ever had since its independence in 1960.
As President Buhari hands over to Ahmed Bola Tinubu his successor in less than a week, he will be handing over to him a deeply divided, traumatized, pauperized and terrorized Nigerian country of 130 million multi-dimensionally poor people that are barely existing and not living. In addition, President Buhari will be leaving behind a desperately corrupt Nigeria whose national income has been swallowed by its excessively huge burden of debt.
Tired of the not so good, bad and ugly sixteen years of the People’s Democratic Party rule in Nigeria since the advent of 4th republic in 1999, the Nigerian people defied the power of incumbency and heavy monetary inducements to vote out the incumbent government of Goodluck Jonathan and vote in the opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress in 2015 as president of Nigeria. In a feat that was described as the first democratic revolution of Nigeria’s 4th republic, Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army general and former military head of state who had a rock solid reputation for discipline and incorrugibility was propelled to power mainly on the will-power of the Nigerian people who identified him as meeting the leadership need of Nigeria that was ravaged by the twin evils of corruption and insecurity.
By 2015, then ruling PDP had reached its apogee of leadership incompetence, which left the country reeling from an incurable form of endemic corruption, heightened insecurity arising from the Boko Haram insurgency and a shrinking socio-economic space that excludes the overwhelming majority of the Nigerian people while serving the self-interests of a privileged few thus setting the stage for a democratic revolution.
Added to this was a power struggle within the political establishment of Nigeria over the issue of the violation of the power rotation between the north and south of the country by the PDP, which fielded Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner as its presidential candidate going into the 2015 presidential election at a time it was generally believed to be the turn of the north. To defeat the incumbent PDP in the 2015 presidential election, a competent northerner, who has the capability to defeat insecurity and cure Nigeria of endemic problem of corruption was required. And no one was a better fit for this purpose than Muhammadu Buhari, an incorruptible retired army general with a cumulative leadership experience as a former military head of state, military governor of the defunct north eastern state, petroleum minister and civil war veteran.
In taking up this challenge, President Buhari promised to bring ‘’change’’ to Nigeria by containing insecurity, taming corruption and fixing the economy. His three pronged pledge to do the afore- mentioned earned him enormous support as his long standing reputation, leadership antecedents and experience earned him the trust of the Nigerian people as the right man for the top job of a country in distress. Unfortunately, President Buhari will not only fail to fulfil his key campaign promises of containing insecurity, taming corruption and fixing the economy but through his actions and inactions will make worse a bad situation he inherited.
In addition to the still raging Boko Haram insurgency in the north east of the country, President Buhari will be leaving behind the scourge of killer herdsmen, which has turned sedentary communities across Nigeria into the largest human slaughter slabs in Africa. The murderous activities of killer herdsmen have also created a thriving rogue economy of mass abduction of Nigerians by armed groups for huge ransom payments in both local and foreign currency.
According to a report by Vanguard Newspapers of 22nd May 2023, out of the 98,000 insecurity related deaths recorded in Nigeria between 2011 and 2023, a staggering 68,000 happened between 2015 and 2023 under the watch of President Buhari.
On the economy, President Buhari will be leaving an economy of 440 billion dollars in GDP down from the 500 billion dollars he inherited in 2015. And by 2022 Nigeria overtook India as the poverty capital of the world as about half of its 200 million people are said to be experiencing ‘’serious’’ hunger. According to the World Bank, every minute of the day more than six Nigerians are plunged into extreme poverty as a result of double digit inflation, increasing unemployment and persistent underemployment, rising cost of living amidst stagnant wages that have been reduced in value by a free falling national currency against major world currencies among many other factors. The Buhari administration inherited an exchange rate of 190 naira to one dollar but will be leaving behind an exchange rate of 750 naira.
With a dwindling revenue arising from Nigeria’s inability to maximise its crude oil exports as a result of oil theft in most the oil producing communities, the unproductive government of President Muhammadu Buhari resorted to endless borrowings that saw Nigeria’s external debt rising from 10 billion dollars in 2015 to 40 billion dollars in 2022 just its domestic debt doubled from 8.8 trillion naira in 2015 to 16 trillion by 2021. By 2023 Nigeria’s public debt stock had reached 46.25 trillion naira and if the 27 trillion naira ‘’ways and means’’ advances from the Central Bank of Nigeria is added then President Buhari will be leaving behind a debt burden of over 70 trillion naira behind as he prepares to leave office in a matter of days.
In his eight year rule, President Buhari did not only betray the ‘’change’’ democratic revolution that brought him to power in 2015 but left Nigeria worse than he met it. Numerous reasons and excuses have been advanced for for his phenomenal failure in power by pundits, supporters and critics of the Buhari administration. However, the most fundamental reason for President Buhari’s acute failure of leadership was his aggravated sectionalism, which he elevated to a near state policy. President Buhari’s sectional tendencies, which saw him prioritising his sectional Muslim northern and Fulani ethnic interests above national interest in the discharge of his duties as president and commander in chief of the armed forces was his greatest undoing.
President Buhari’s sectionalism promoted nepotism, favouritism, tribalism, religious bigotry, cronyism and all other elements of corrupt practices, which eventually resulted in economic and financial crimes. While President Buhari maintained his posturing as a man of integrity who was incorruptible, his sectional tendencies did the right opposite, which resulted into unprecedented high levels of corruption, state capture and treasury heist under his watch as president of Nigeria. And because sectionalism promotes mediocrity over competence, President Buhari mostly ran his administration with square pegs in round holes, which were mostly picked from his Muslim northern section of the country, resulting into severe underperformance of the simplest of tasks in his government.
Apart from deeply dividing Nigerians along ethnic and religious lines, nowhere was the adverse effect of President Buhari’s sectionalism felt more than in his inability to contain insecurity. At a time that Nigeria was confronted by the menace of killer herdsmen of mainly Fulani ethnic stock, Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president and commander-in-chief could not rise above the primordial sentiments of his Fulani ethnicity in overriding interest of national security to deal decisively with one of the world’s most deadly armed groups that turned a country under his watch into a killing field.
Rather than deal with these mass killers as the terrorists they are, the Buhari administration designated their murderous activities as farmers/clashes as though Nigeria was fighting a cow war where it is legitimate to mow down human beings to make way for cattle to graze. President Buhari’s response to grieving communities from the mass slaughter of the loved ones under the fire power of killer herdsmen was to learn to live in peace with their ‘’neighbours’’. When it mattered most President Buhari chose his Fulani ethnicity over his Nigerian citizenship and this error of decision rendered the apparatus of state ineffective in the face of continuous killings by the marauding Fulani killer herdsmen across the country and this failure of leadership drove Nigeria down the road to Sudan.
As his tenure drags to an end, President Buhari has been demystified as an incompetent leader whose famous integrity is at best dishonest and at worst dubious. It can be said of President Buhari that he was the tragic hero of Nigerian democracy who came, saw but was conquered by Nigeria’s problems of insecurity, economic woes and corruption.