President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn into office on May 29, 2015 carrying a huge weight on his shoulders. Expectations were high when voters hoisted him to the post in a show of strength against the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan. A member of the opposition has never won in Nigeria before.
The expectations were actually so high for Buhari that he was destined to disappoint but he promised in his inauguration speech that he was going to take on the big issues: terrorism, corruption and power cuts were soon to be a thing of the past.
Boko Haram: Down but not out
The first thing Buhari did was to clean up the military, changed its leadership and rid the branch of its rampant corruption. The army drove Boko Haram out of almost all of its strongholds within a few months and freed hundreds of prisoners of the terror group. Refugees who fled the violence are heading back home. However, the group continues to deploy suicide bombers in towns and cities. Only one of the world-famous Chibok girls has been recovered while the rest are still missing. Even at that, controversies surround the release of the abducted girl. While Buhari has made many advances in the fight against terrorism, the battle is not yet won.
Human rights still under threat
Buhari promised that the hated state security forces under his control would respect the human rights of all Nigerians. Proof of any balance here has been scant. There have been fewer reports of indiscriminant anti-terror arrests. Human rights groups are finding that criticism of the government is no longer being treated as an affront to the state. Then in December 2015, over 300 minority Shiite Muslims were massacred by government soldiers. Also countless people who have been freed from the clutches of Boko Haram have disappeared into military prisons. There is still much work to be done by the president.
A falling economy
The situation does not look much better when it comes to Nigeria’s economy. The country’s main source of income remains oil and gas. But because of the fall in the price for these commodities, very little foreign exchange is flowing into the country. This means that Africa’s largest oil producer cannot afford to import refined gasoline into the country as the country’s own refineries have not been functioning for years.
The value of the local currency, the naira, has crashed in value at local currency exchanges. The Buhari government has persistently refused to address the issue which has worsened the foreign exchange crisis. Inflation is increasing and rebels are continuing their attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta. Oil production is now at an all-time low. The new head of the national oil company is trying to get past the times of uncontrolled plundering of the country’s oil revenue.
Steps against corruption
Next to the success against Boko Haram, the country’s headway against corruption is Buhari’s greatest success in his first year as president. Both big and small fish have been captured in the nets of the anti-corruption agency the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The agency that was kept on a short leash under former President Jonathan is now authorized to pursue prosecutions.
This move against corruption is one of the reasons that Nigeria’s image is rising in the international community. The US is now even considering restarting arms sales to the country, something they had halted under Jonathan.
The shadow of the Biafra War
One of the government’s strategies that is still unclear is how the country plans to deal with the Republic of Biafra, a secessionist state in the southeast of the country which is seeking independence since the elections last year. Their rhetoric though is unappetizingly chauvinistic and the only answer to these moves from the state has been repression. The state of things is not optimistic. The question remains whether or not this will lead to another civil war. During Buhari’s time in the Nigerian army he took part in the last civil war involving the Biafra people.
Belief in Buhari
The fight over the rising price of gasoline in Nigeria shows that the support Buhari still boasts from many Nigerians is far from exhausted. A recent general strike led by union members was barely supported by other Nigerians. But the grumblings about the falling economy and the daily struggles of most people in the country is getting louder. Buhari should keep his ears open as he starts his second year in office.
Civil society organisations and political parties have assessed Buhari’s performance so far.
Idayat Hassan, the director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), said that history was made with the opposition seizing power from the incumbent PDP-led government. However, she added that lots of things have happened since then, both negative and positive.
“We can all as a country acknowledge the fight against corruption being witnessed as opposed to the lax attitude of the previous administration. Despite the positives, challenges are immense at the moment.
In one year, the existing fault lines in the country have once again widened, the country is besieged with security challenges beyond Boko Haram; from renewed pastoral/ farmers clashes, Biafra separatists, Shi’ite clashes, kidnapping, armed robbery, piracy and renewed militancy as well as economic sabotage such as vandalism of oil pipelines. The fuel scarcity and power outages are yet to abate. Inflation is now in 3 digits,” she said.
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, the executive director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), said that Nigerians should be grateful to the president for his efforts to win the war against corruption and save the nation’s image.
“We must commend President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade, which has so far helped to save the nation’s image in the international community, as well as reduced persistent infiltration by insurgency through system strengthening and the emerging border security,” he said.
Ibrahim Zikirullahi, the chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), recalled that security, corruption and job creation were three main issues on which Buhari promised Nigerians during his campaign. However, he noted that the president has scored 100% on security.
Rafiu Salau, a former presidential candidate of the Alliance for Democracy, commended Buhari for “deepening democracy in the country”. He added that the president should be given the opportunity and time “to stop the effect of the past administration.”
Chief Sam Eke, the national chairman and presidential candidate of Citizens Popular Party in the 2015 general elections, noted that the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki is a clear demonstration that Buhari is serious about the anti-corruption war.
Meanwhile, the Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria has recently carried out a poll which showed that Buhari’s popularity rating had dropped from 63.4% in January to 32.8% in February.
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State is unsurprised over reports of Buhari’s dwindling public image. The governor, who is a member of the Federal Executive Council, has been hypercritical of the current administration, and understandably so. Fayose went as far as describing the president’s one year in office as “a colossal waste”.
In a statement titled, “Petrol Price Increment as Buhari’s 1st Year Anniversary Gift to Nigerians” which Fayose personally signed, the governor said the Federal Government was indirectly collecting N58.50 naira tax from suffering Nigerians on each litre of petrol they buy.
“Increasing petrol pump price by N58.50 when the federal government claimed it was subsidising the product at N12.62 per litre is clear wickedness on the part of President Buhari. In the history of Nigeria, increase in price of petrol has never been as high as it was done by Buhari, putting Nigerians in severe hardship as the product affects every sector of the economy,” he said.
Many Nigerians have scored Buhari low on jobs, economy, and power. Nigerians admonish the President to stop blaming the previous government for all of the nations’ problems.
Credit: Deutsche Welle, Daily Trust, Premium Times