By Editorial Board, The Guardian
For all it is worth, President Muhammadu Buhari’s second stint at the helm of affairs has proven to be a disaster of incalculable proportion.
All social malaise erstwhile alien to the old general – terrorism, banditry, kidnappings, daylight robbery, infiltrations and sabotage of security agencies, oil thieving cartels, corruption, economic free-fall, widespread inefficiency, administrative ineptitude – are riding roughshod over Buhari’s government.
Not only is he seemingly incompetent to fix the challenges, but he appears also to have given up trying. It is therefore a no-brainer that a group of lawmakers did call for his impeachment. In reality, the pushback is roundly justified.
Globally, modern governments have twin primary responsibilities – security and welfare of the citizenry. No administration that fails in these constitutional remits can be adjudged credible, deserving of the peoples’ mandate or another day in office. It is based on that standard that Muhammadu Buhari was elected into office in 2015 as a rebuke for the failings of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) promised so much in the areas of security, economy and anti-corruption in pre-2015 electioneering campaigns. Yet, it delivered so little in the last seven years of gross incompetency, nepotism and culpable negligence.
Across the board, the wreckage piles to the high heaven, especially in the area of security, economy and anti-corruption fight that Buhari curiously scored his administration higher than the actual realities.
As a General in the Nigerian Army and a former Head of State, the choice of Buhari for a country ravaged by insecurity in the pre-2015 elections was only logical. He was expected to revamp and rally the troops as an experienced commander turned Commander-in-Chief and to end the crises forthwith.
Rather than stem the tide, insecurity blew out of proportion dovetailing into banditry, ISWAP-led terrorism, kidnappings and killings by ragtag criminals that Buhari’s administration for so long refused to pronounce terrorists. Today, they are nationwide, masterminding jail breaks, high-profile kidnappings and threatening to hold Mr President hostage someday!
Clearly, the very embarrassing situation is not for lack of funding for the war against insecurity. In fact, since he came onboard in May 2015, security has routinely raked in a huge chunk of the yearly appropriation budget.
In the first six cycle budgets, security and defence gulped a total of N12 trillion, in addition to N2.41 trillion proposed for 2022. The end result is terrorists declaring war on the country and controlling a swath of territories. Nigerians became unsafe at home, schools, roads, rail and worship centres.
The security agencies, for whom the humongous votes were routinely made, are not only demoralised, their ranks have been invaded by saboteurs as the superior firepower of the terrorists gains a foothold nationwide.
Data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) shows that Nigeria recorded a total of 80, 000 insecurity-related deaths from 1999 to 2022. More than half (41, 903) was credited with Buhari’s seven-year woeful reign.
Mr President could not just be bothered with accountability for security allocation. Most unforgiving is his cavalier disposition to the consistent call for reforms of the security architecture, especially state police to stop gruesome killings.
The economy is also at its wobbly best under Mr. Buhari. Contrary to the June 2022 claim to Bloomberg that Nigeria was “in a far better place than he found it,” the lives of average Nigerians are far bleaker under Buhari and for obvious reasons. Between 2015 and June 2022, the economy slumped into recession twice. Prices of staple food and basic services have spiked astronomically and beyond the reach of most families.
Indeed, Buhari’s economic scorecard cannot claim to be healthy where a 50kg bag of rice of N10, 000 in 2015 now sells for N35,000! The Nigerian Living Standard Survey conducted in 2018-2019 showed that 40 per cent of the population or a whopping 83 million people live below the poverty line of N137,340 ($381.75) per year.
Amid incessant naira devaluation and seemingly intractable foreign exchange liquidity crisis, multiple industries have closed down over the surging cost of energy and operations.
The consequence is about 37 per cent of Nigerians are out of job according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Not done, the country is falling in revenue earning and literally borrowing to meet critical obligations.
In seven years, Nigeria’s total debt profile has climbed from N12.12 trillion to N41.60 trillion as of Q1 2022. In the first three months alone, the government borrowed N2.04 trillion to augment its spending! This year, the debt-servicing to revenue ratio hit an abysmal 100 per cent and in a country where 80 per cent of pumped crude oil is stolen!
The future is apprehensively bleak. Coincidentally, Buhari’s appointees have no workable solution to slow the steady decline into catastrophe and Mr President is all too content with the government without governance, and leading a country without an iota of leadership. Nigerians are daily asking: where is Mr President?
To cap the absentee leadership and its failings, the current administration has one of the worst anti-corruption regimes ever staged in the last 23 years of civil rule. On one hand, the administration dissipated a feeble effort to recover the loot and bring some scapegoats to justice.
On the other hand, it breeds a new clique of kleptomaniacs and lets convicted criminals off the hook! In 2021, the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Nigeria the lowest ever just as the U.S. Department of State on March 20, 2021, described the scale of corruption in Nigeria under Buhari’s administration as “massive, widespread and pervasive.”
And the verdict is not farfetched. It is under this administration that a serving Accountant-General of the Federation allegedly stole N109.5 billion and is currently seeking a plea bargain.
The government in its opacity was so reluctant to name and shame looters estimated to have stolen over N900 billion, just like it never arrested or prosecuted Boko Haram sponsors. The same administration freed convicted governors that are serving jail terms to go and enjoy the loot despite public outcry. Indeed, Buhari’s government didn’t fight corruption, it only glamorised it.
To be fair, the task of governing a country as vastly deprived as Nigeria is herculean. More so, he came in when the challenges were most biting. His administration faced devastating pandemic and unanticipated social-economic crises. However, they are all no excuses for his ineffective response and fiendish aloofness to people in pain.
As a matter of fact, crises are not a distraction to the business of governance; they are the real business of governance and the reason Mr Buhari was elected twice in seven years. It is a betrayal of trust to have failed in compassionate responses – either to solve the problem or be seen trying and ameliorating the fallouts. On both grounds, Buhari and his appointees are conspicuously missing. It smirks at the inefficiency and gross insensitivity. On all fronts, Buhari failed woefully.
In January 2022 when he spoke of being tired of working for five or six-hour daily and looked forward to retirement, he literally gave up on fixing the broken country – made stricken by his failings.
Nonetheless, he is rarely tired of junketing the globe either on insignificant visits or routine medical trips. Even when universities have been shut down for six months, he religiously never fails to take care of himself overseas.
In good conscience, he should have resigned or been impeached several months before the recent call by the opposition party. But better be late than never. The task of rescuing a country that is on a free-fall is demanding of a concerted effort. Unacceptable is an opportunist president that is merely buying time in office.
Ideally, where the National Assembly is not a rubber stamp or complicit, there should be neither parliamentary breaks nor weekends for the peoples’ representatives until the country averts the current darkness.
The onus is on the two chambers of the House to salvage the country and seek practical solutions with timelines to a myriad of problems ravaging the country. Nigeria is on the edge, it needs an urgent rescue mission. It has to survive first to see the next election. Since Buhari appears disinterested, he should leave.