Mid-term review of Buhari’s administration
It has been a slow start, but finally things seem to be up and running, according to NAI head of research Victor Adetula, who thinks the newly elected government underestimated how bad the situation was when it took office.
Despite already low expectations, the people of Nigeria have yet not witnessed substantial progress on the election campaign’s promises.
“Nigerians have little confidence in politicians. This is mainly due to the malfunctioning administration under previous president Goodluck Jonathan. However, the Buhari government had high expectations of themselves, thinking things would improve fast and easily. They didn’t understand the magnitude of the state failure in Nigeria”, Adetula points out.
Muhammadu Buhari was elected to office essentially with three items on his to-do list: get the economy back on track, end corruption and fight Boko Haram. In order to turn the economy around, the government has launched programmes focusing on the energy sector, food production and infrastructure. However, the president publicly admitted that there is no quick fix and a full recovery of Nigeria’s economy is still a long way off.
Widespread corruption dogs Nigeria and has done for decades. There is little doubt that President Buhari means business in the campaign to end public as well as private sector corruption. However, he seems to lack a clear strategy, according to Adetula, who points out that the small number of successful convictions, despite many indictments, shows that juridical adjustments may be necessary. Nevertheless, the government’s recent approach to encourage whistleblowing has proved successful. Large sums of money have been recovered.
“It is a way to engage citizens in fighting corruption. People on the ground are normally very well aware of who in the community is embezzling money”, Adetula observes.
A task the Buhari administration has carried out successfully is the military defeat of Boko Haram. When Buhari took over two years ago, Boko Haram controlled large areas of territory in northern Nigeria. Today, government troops have regained all these areas. However, Adetula fears, more terror attacks may occur as some people still sympathise with Boko Haram.
“The government admits it can never defeat Boko Haram by military means alone. A current study is investigating what went wrong in Nigeria and what is needed to prevent people from turning to terrorist movements. In addition, programmes to reintegrate Boko Haram defectors back into society are already in place”, Adetula says.
Issues with the federation
He points out that although the nation’s security has improved, there are other security-related issues to deal with. These need delicacy as they involve the structure of the federation. Separatist agitation in Biafra as well as in the Niger Delta, and Islamic fundamentalism in the regions of Kano and Kaduna, raise questions about the unity of Nigeria.
Yet another thing that unsettles the country is President Buhari’s health condition. His current status is unclear, but if it deteriorates, Adetula warns, a constitutional crisis may be at hand.
“People say he is incorruptible and he is therefore much respected, but political opponents are trying to defame him in various campaigns on social media. In particular, individuals from the elite who have lost privileges and impunity attack him vigorously. The only way to combat these fake stories is total transparency of the government’s actions and policies. Nigerians need to hear and see for themselves what is going on”, Adetula concludes.
TEXT: Johan Sävström
Suggestions from the library
Muhammadu Buhari : the challenges of leadership in Nigeria/John N. Paden (2016)