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National Tribune

Flagging The Conscience Of Truth

Analysis: President Buhari’s Legacy Defined by Kidnappings, Inflation and Debt.

ByWeb Manager

May 21, 2023

With less than 10 days to the expiration of the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration after 8 years, Nigerians are less secure, poorer and more in debt than when he came to office in 2015.

Riding a wave of optimism that change was possible, he was supported by a powerful coalition and had the reputation of being a hard-man soldier, who would get things done.

There have been gains in tackling Boko Haram and other extremist groups in the north-east, aided by improved military hardware from the US.

While the groups still carry out attacks on communities and military installations in the region, it is a big improvement from the years when they operated freely and controlled a large portion of Nigerian territory.

Buhari also utilised Chinese loans to upgrade the ailing road and rail infrastructure, building a new port in Lagos, completing a crucial bridge in the south-east, and passing important electoral and oil-sector laws.

But whatever gains have been recorded in the north-east against the Islamist militants have been eroded by the emergence of equally violent groups in other parts of the country under his watch.

Clashes between farmers and cattle herders from the Fulani ethnic group, which had simmered for years, were allowed to boil over into deadly armed confrontations with an ethnic element, as the government ran out of ideas to solve the problem of where animals could graze.

For instance, thousands of school children were abducted between December 2020 and September 2021, according to the UN’s children’s organisation, Unicef. That eclipsed the 270 girls seized from a school in Chibok who made global headlines in 2014 – a crime that was a crucial factor in Mr Buhari defeating 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 the north-western state of Kano, told the BBC.

Mr Ahmadu, originally from the president’s home state of Katsina, abandoned his land and fled to neighbouring Kano alongside thousands of others because of the activities of armed groups in the region.

Many also believe that Mr Buhari has mishandled the situation thrown up by separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu.

Mr Kanu heads the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), a group seeking secession in the south-east which is proscribed by the government.

He is a charismatic figure with a huge appetite for sensationalism which he fed devotees via his internet radio station.

IPOB was largely ignored by many Nigerians until Mr Kanu was first arrested for treason by the Buhari government in 2015. A subsequent state-sanctioned attack on his home marked the beginning of an armed confrontation that has spiraled out of control, claiming hundreds of lives in the process.

After escaping in 2017, he was abducted in unclear circumstances abroad and returned to Nigeria in 2021 to face trial. A judge has ordered his release as the process of his return was illegal but authorities continue to hold him.

These security challenges made many question Mr Buhari’s handling of a sector that was supposed to be his area of expertise.

“I am surprised at the level of embarrassment he has brought to his constituency, the military, despite all the promises he made,” said retired Colonel Hassan Stan-Labi, a security analyst.

“How can you fail in your own area of specialty?” he asked.

This lack of transparency “drained taxpayers’ monies, encouraged illicit financial flows and other corruption-enabling activities the administration preached against”, Auwal Rafsanjani, the head of Transparency International in Nigeria, told the BBC.

Mr Rafsanjani scored the administration four out of 10 in fighting corruption, and said Mr Buhari’s appointment of people with ongoing corruption cases to his cabinet and his wife’s long stays in expensive Dubai homes “contravened best practices by an administration that was fighting corruption and mismanagement”.

As he leaves, Mr Buhari’s handling of the Nigerian economy will most likely be remembered for his botched attempt earlier this year at redesigning the local currency.

An otherwise rudimentary exercise descended into chaos as scarcity of the new naira notes, which have now almost disappeared, resulted in untold hardship for millions in the country who relied on cash for basic needs.

“The small business we were doing was destroyed by that man,” said a university graduate in Abuja who made money by supplying banknotes to her customers before the cash crisis.

Last week, with the end in sight, Mr Buhari pleaded with lawmakers to hurriedly approve an $800m (£640m) loan from the World Bank. Nigeria’s public debt could pass $150bn this year – when he took over it stood at a little over $60bn.

His borrowing spree has drawn warnings from the World Bank that Africa’s largest economy was using 96% of its revenue to service debts.

But the huge debt has been defended by the administration who say it is within acceptable limits, pointing to cash payments to poor people as justification for some of the loans.

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