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‘Splendid goodwill’: How Buhari got Nigeria to lose for second time Muhammad Buhari

Abuja, Nigeria – Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has handed over power to Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a member of the All Progressive Congress (APC), leaving behind a legacy Voters had hoped for a very different legacy when they elected him years ago.

He defeated Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, the first defeat for a sitting president in Nigeria’s history, following a palace coup in August 1985 that ended his 18-month tenure as military ruler After the second ruling.

After three consecutive failed attempts by Buhari to return to the presidency, the polls succeeded as voters turned to a man of the past out of frustration with Jonathan, who critics say was a more docile leader and a better fit. His previous life was as a lecturer in zoology rather than as president of Africa’s largest democracy.

Buhari’s winning campaign underscored three key promises: tackling insecurity, curbing corruption and tackling the economy. But when he left after two terms, not many thought his scorecard was better than that of his successor, despite a massive infrastructure build.

Under Buhari, Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world—133 million of his countrymen now live in abject poverty. When his staunch ally and Kano state governor Umar Ganduje was seen stuffing dollar bills believed to be contract kickbacks into his robes in a viral video, Buhari defended him, claiming the videos had been doctored up.

This year, even Tinubu, considered the strategist behind the APC’s 2015 victory, has criticized the government and distanced himself from Buhari’s achievements, or lack thereof, on the campaign trail.

“Only the deaf and dumb would say that Nigeria is doing great… It’s disappointing that the president doesn’t see it the way we do,” APC leader Frank Corkary said in August 2022. “From 2014 to 2015, people were ready to die for Buhari, but unfortunately, Buhari squandered all his goodwill.”

“Baba slow down”

In the first sign that Buhari’s presidency will be a thorough exercise for long-suffering, he announced his cabinet formation only five months after taking office. The delay earned him the nickname “Baba Go Slow,” a shameless reference to the iconic traffic jams in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

The cabinet list is a roll call of outdated people and staunch supporters of the aging party, including a minister returning to office 30 years after his first appointment. “Some of his appointments are not ideal, he may not have appointed competent people to key positions in the government,” Ayodeji Dawodu, director of London-based investment group BancTrust & Co, told Al Jazeera. Some of the decisions made may have been unwise.”

During Buhari’s eight years in power, he also appointed at least six deceased individuals to the boards of federal agencies. Analysts say a similar series of missteps and inaction has stifled the economy, leading to two recessions in five years. With Buhari gone, the naira has lost 70 percent of its value against the dollar compared with 2015, and inflation has hit an 18-year high.

According to the Nigerian Debt Management Office, debt is at a record high of around $150 billion. This has forced Africa’s largest economy to spend 96% of its income servicing these ballooning debts.

In October, the central bank announced the redesign of 200, 500 and 1,000 naira banknotes to remove excess cash from circulation and curb inflation ahead of general elections. The move backed by Buhari has led to a cash crunch. Seven months later, the policy was suspended.

In 2019, he ordered the closure of land borders to limit imports, end smuggling and boost local production. Instead, relations with neighboring and dependent economies such as Benin, Ghana and Niger are strained as food costs soar and inflation soars.

The economy never recovered from it, said Wilson Erumebor, senior economist at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and a PhD fellow at SOAS, University of London.

“Since the border closure, quarterly trade figures from the Office for National Statistics show non-oil exports never peaked at 1.08 trillion naira ($2.34 billion) in the third quarter of 2019 in more than three years of border closures. was introduced,” he said.

The move also undermines Nigeria’s commitment to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, a continent-wide free trade area, and freedom of movement for the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

“This is not in line with Nigeria’s foreign policy, … [so] ECOWAS was not too happy,” Remy Ajibewa, then director of political affairs at the ECOWAS Commission, told Al Jazeera. market, they think Nigeria is one of the countries they can rely on? “

The government appears to lack a coherent foreign policy and has failed to act quickly on issues concerning Nigerians abroad. The government has been slow to evacuate nationals in South Africa amid xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2019 and conflicts in Ukraine and Sudan in April in 2022.

Over time, Nigeria’s international status gradually declined.

“I can see countries respecting us less because they see that we don’t have enough energy and strength,” Ajibewa said.

“Extremely selfish”

The local daily Punch estimated that the president has spent 225 days on sick leave, including three and a half months in 2017. Another absence sparked a conspiracy theory that he died in London and was replaced in Abuja by a stand-in from Sudan.

Even when Abuja was healthy, Buhari was widely seen as uncaring, as the president reacted slowly — or not at all — to a national tragedy. Some insiders on the presidency said he was “very selfish” and unable to keep up with the times.

“The president didn’t delegate responsibility — he abdicated it,” the governor of a northern state and a close ally of the president had lamented to his advisers, one of whom told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity.

When Buhari’s chief of staff died of COVID-19 in 2020, the presidency fell apart even more. Tensions between cabinet members and heads of government agencies often spill over into the public sphere, sometimes including allegations of graft and abuse of power.

Buhari’s seeming indifference to all the crises surrounding him has inspired viral memes. After his office posted a photo on social media of him sitting barefoot in the presidential palace with a toothpick, a meme swapped the background of the palace for a scene of massacres.

This perception of indifference extends to security issues as well.

Buhari, who came to power relying on his experience as a civil war veteran and Nigerian army general to reverse the gains of the militant group Boko Haram in the northeast, has long been respected for his prowess in African peacekeeping operations.

Shortly after being sworn in, he issued a deadline of December 31, 2015, for defeating the rebels. When the deadline expired, Information Minister Rai Mohamad infamously declared that the group had been “technically defeated”, although it was still carrying out attacks.

“Having a false sense of success [this] Malik Samuel, a researcher at the Security Institute in Abuja, told Al Jazeera he was referring to the Jonathan government’s last-minute success in retaking some areas controlled by the previous government. Boko Haram before leaving office.

Nigeria’s overwhelmed security agencies are now battling multiple armed groups across the country, including Boko Haram factions like the Islamic State West Africa Province.

There are also violent separatist groups in southeastern Nigeria, and parts of northern and central Nigeria have been kidnapped and killed by armed bandits greedy for ransoms.

According to the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations, 98,083 people have been killed in violence by armed state and non-state actors in Nigeria since counting began in May 2011. Two-thirds of those deaths occurred during Buhari’s eight years as president.

“Based on what people have experienced since he’s been in office, I would say we’re not making progress on the threat, and that’s one of the reasons he’s doing well in the polls,” Samuel said.

human rights

During his first administration in the 1980s, Buhari pushed through laws that imposed the death penalty for drug trafficking and empowered law enforcement agencies to clamp down on media coverage deemed harmful to the government. They also apply retroactively.

Ahead of the 2015 election, he was marketed as a democrat free of his authoritarian past. Even Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate in literature, called him a “reformed dictator.”

But the government has continued a litany of human rights abuses, ignoring court orders, as it has targeted journalists and dissidents.

The National Broadcasting Commission routinely penalizes television and radio stations with fines and revoked licenses for views deemed critical of the government. Twitter was not spared either. The platform was banned for seven months after it deleted one of Buhari’s tweets.

Security agencies have carried out numerous extrajudicial executions, including the killing of more than 300 Shia Muslims in the northwestern state of Kaduna in 2015. Three years after the army opened fire on Shiite protesters in Abuja, a video from US President Donald Trump suggested that US soldiers could take action against migrants who threw stones at troops on the country’s southern border. Respond with force.

There have also been reports of multiple murders of civilians in areas where the military has been tasked with curbing communal violence.

“His body language encouraged security personnel, which led to massive human rights violations that we continue to see every day,” Samuel said. If Buhari holds military officers in key positions accountable for their actions, he said , “I don’t think we’ll [be] Talking about these issues is too much. “

According to Amnesty International, in October 2020, at least 10 people were killed during a week of peaceful protests by young people against police brutality. Anetti Ewan, a Nigerian researcher for Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera there was “a lack of adequate measures to hold security forces accountable for their abuses”. “These are very emblematic examples of how [the] The Buhari government launched [back] Some basic rights that we can almost consolidate. “

calling card infrastructure

Still, Buhari’s supporters say no other president has focused as much on infrastructure — a construction spree on rail lines and vital bridges, as well as dozens of interstate highways.

They also point to social protection programs for low-income families. One of these schemes, the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme, distributes a monthly stipend of 5,000 naira ($13.83) to more than 784,000 of the country’s most vulnerable people.

But even these achievements have come under scrutiny for their poor execution.

The Abuja Metro, which opened to much fanfare in 2018 following Chinese-funded construction, is now almost unused. Other rail projects have been delayed for years.

Despite starting up several power plants and signing more deals, the national grid has collapsed more than 100 times in eight years, repeatedly plunging the country into darkness.

For some Nigerians, the new era cannot come fast enough. For others, Buhari’s defeat only reinforces their skepticism.

“At this point,” bus driver Olusegun Badmus, 57, told Al Jazeera, “I trust in God, not politicians.”

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