On May 29, 2000, Nigeria celebrated its first Democracy day to mark the period the military handed over power to an elected civilian government headed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Democracy day in Nigeria had always been held annually on the 29th of May since the year 2000, but the date was later changed to June 12 by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018 to commemorate the democratic election of late MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993, general elections which was annulled by Ibrahim Babangida.
Since 2000, Nigeria has enjoyed an uninterrupted democratic political atmosphere that allows citizens to elect whoever they want in free and fair elections, and deliberate on issues without fear of repercussions for speaking against the government as opposed to what operated during the military regime.
With recent developments in the country, people have been found wondering if we are truly operating a democratic system of governance or gradually slipping back to the authoritarian system which was in place during the military rule.
For instance, let’s take a look at the Anti-social Media Bill which was introduced by the Senate on the 5th of November, 2019 to criminalize the use of social media in peddling false or malicious information.
The idea of such a Bill being debated let alone passed got a lot of push back, and a number of civil society organizations, human rights activists, and Nigerian citizens unanimously opposed it, which eventually led to the initiation of an online petition tagged “Stop the Social Media Bill! You can no longer take our rights from us” to force the Nigeria parliament to drop the Bill. The petition received over 90,000 signatures within 24 hours.
On the 5th of June, 2021, the Federal government decided to ban Twitter operations in Nigeria indefinitely.
Here is the issue, it is apparent that the Federal Government did not think of the implications of “suspending the use of Twitter” before doing this as it has led to dire consequences like the loss of revenue, unemployment, lack of access to emergency services, etc.
Many Nigerians benefit from Twitter as they get various gigs and jobs to sustain them on a daily basis. The suspension of Twitter has also led to the loss of revenue generated from there and many experts have opined that it sends the wrong message to potential international investors.
Many also fear that Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and other social media services will soon be “suspended” in the country.
It has also been opined that the freedom Press, considered the 4th realm of any democracy enjoyed under past administrations has been gravely stifled by this current one, with the disappearance, murder, and incarceration of many journalists going unchecked.
How about protests? One of the main characteristics of a democratic society is the protection of the fundamental right of the electorate to protest. Under this administration, however, a lot of protests have been silenced brutally without recourse to the victims. Also, protests are seen as an attempt at undemocratic regime change rather than a cry for help by citizens.
Nigerians are now wondering if this current administration really espouses democratic values as touted, as elected officials are seen passing impulsive directives without thinking of the negative consequences on the ordinary citizen.
Let’s examine President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in the past 6 years as against how he met the country.
Before we start, let’s keep in mind the analysis of Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity who said the Buhari administration is “recording giant strides, enough to make Nigerians proud”.
Adesina said and I quote, “Some people claim we don’t see what they are doing. We don’t hear about it. Well, here it is. A Fact Sheet, a report card on the Buhari Administration, just a bit of the success, as the milestone of six years is attained.
“As it is said, the past is but a story told. The future may yet be written in gold. When the Administration breaks the tape in another two years, by the grace of God, the applause will be resounding, even from the worst of skeptics. Facts are undeniable and always remain so. They are stubborn things.”
Looking at the security situation of the country in the past 6 years, Nigerians believe that this administration has failed its core mandate which is to secure the lives and properties of its citizens. The government has continually claimed to have ‘technically defeated’ Boko Haram insurgents in the North East but it now appears to be propaganda as fatalities continue to be recorded periodically from attacks.
In addition, other criminal groups known by many as bandits, armed herders, and unknown gunmen continue to cause mayhem through countless kidnappings and massacres in parts of the South-East, South-West, North-Central, and Nigeria as a whole including the President’s home state of Katsina. It is no longer a shocking revelation that nowhere in Nigeria is safe.
School abductions are almost a weekly occurrence, with as many as over 350 students abducted in Nigeria in 2021 alone. Just barely 2% of those were rescued by security operatives, the rest had to pay for their freedom with little or no input from the government. Some including minors also lost their lives owing to the actions of these criminals. This has led many to opine that the best way to stop these criminal elements was to grant them amnesty, in other words, beg them to stop, as our security agencies are overwhelmed, an opinion many Nigerians including policymakers have kicked against.
According to an independent researcher, Dr. Jose Luis Bazan, it is reported that an estimated 2,539 persons have been killed from 654 attacks between 2017 and 2020.
In 2019, Nigeria was ranked 3rd below Afghanistan and Iraq out of 138 countries in the Global Terrorism Index and is said to be the 14th most fragile in the world and the 9th in Africa, according to the Fragile States Index. Unsurprisingly, in the same year, the country was also ranked 148th out of 163 countries in the Global Peace Index, far below former war-ravaged countries like Sierra Leone (52), Liberia (59), and Rwanda (79).
Recall that before the incumbent president ascended to power, he promised to end the insurgency in the country but today the case is different.
Scot Bower, the Chief Operating Officer of the UK-based organization CSW, described these attacks as “the failure or unwillingness of those in authority to address these and other non-state actors and to secure ungoverned spaces, has not only allowed the violence to mutate but has also created an environment in which Boko Haram can extend its operations.”
The actions of these non-state actors have also led to secession agitations by some sections of the country, with many sympathizing with their ideologies but seeking to proffer more amenable solutions that would not destabilize the country, and many others either totally for or against the idea. Either way, everything happening right now in the country points to one thing, a huge vacuum in leadership from the very top.
On the economic front, things are not looking too bright. A prominent non-partisan private sector organization, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) recently criticized the Buhari administration for taking actions that left the economy prostrate for the last five years with rising inflation, contrasting GDP, unsustainable borrowing, a dwindling value of the naira, falling industrial capacity utilization and frightening unemployment figures.
Also the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele on the 25th of May, 2021 said the country’s economy was in stagflation. According to Investopedia, Stagflation is characterized by slow economic growth and relatively high unemployment. It can also be alternatively defined as a period of inflation combined with a decline in the gross domestic product (GDP).
According to an article by Kimberly Amadeo, an expert of world economies and the President of World Money Watch, Stagflation is an unnatural situation because inflation is not supposed to occur in a weak economy.
What causes Stagflation you might ask? Well according to the Corporate Finance Institute, Stagflation occurs when the government or central banks expand the money supply at the same time they constrain supply. In other words, when the government keeps printing money, as was recently alleged by the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki. This wouldn’t be Nigeria’s first period of Stagflation. In 2016, the country recorded its first recession in 25 years, after which a period of stagflation was also recorded.
For context, a bag of rice that sold for 9,000 naira in 2015 has now tripled up to about 26,000 naira. A fact acknowledged by Nigeria’s Minister for Finance, Budget, and Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
The price of fuel in 2015 was N65 per liter but now goes for 165.
This has impacted negatively on the poor in a country that is said to be already hosting a high population of the world’s poorest citizens. Nigerians continue to live in agony, but according to this present administration, we have never had it better and history would praise them for it.
Also, the billions of naira spent by the government, presumably to contain the economic shock as a result of the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, had no significant result in alleviating the electorate’s poverty status.
The Buhari administration rode on the mantra of anti-corruption upon its inauguration in 2015. Perhaps in what was termed one of the most moving inauguration speeches of a democratically elected president in the country’s recent history, a particular statement of Buhari’s was widely applauded by many then, “I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody”. 6 years down the line, many believe this to be false, as politicians cross-carpeting from the opposition PDP to the APC has been seen by many to be like “criminals” going to the synagogue for “redemption”.
In what many also term the most disappointing move by the president which directly puts his integrity into question, a sitting state governor caught on camera tucking dollar notes into his outfit in a primitively and intellectually bereft way, was endorsed by the President for a second term. And while many claim it was just a political move by the President and as such not a personal betrayal of his convictions, many others see it as an insult to all the virtues the President claims to uphold and seek to instill in the electorate.
The nation’s foremost anti-corruption agency has also been accused of only “witch-hunting” active opposition players. And despite the many touted convictions secured by the agency, no single high-profile one has been recorded, a promise the President made upon his ascension to office. For now, many Nigerians believe to escape prosecution, all you have to do is join the President’s ruling party, the APC.
The very first major move by the President upon his ascension to office, even though widely criticized, was the raid by the DSS of Judge’s quarters in the nation’s capital. This was justified by some saying it was his attempt at sanitizing the country’s judiciary. Imagine people’s shock when this same “sanitized” judiciary headed by a supreme court judge sworn in after his predecessor was removed unconstitutionally, later went on to rule albeit unprecedentedly that a governorship aspirant who came fourth in an election be sworn in as the governor of a key South-Eastern state. We can all guess which party this particular governor belongs to.
These actions and many more have led a lot of the President’s previous supporters to voice out their disappointments, further agreeing with many others that the President’s anti-corruption war is a joke.
Perhaps the most touted achievement of this current administration is its infrastructure policy, with many infrastructural projects going on in the rail, road, and agricultural sectors. But let’s examine that for a moment.
THE RAIL PROJECT
The construction of the Abuja-Kaduna rail line started in February 2011 and got completed in December 2014. The rail line was inaugurated for commercial services by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2016.
Since it began working, there have been reports of it developing one fault or the other. On September 25, 2017, the train from Abuja to Kaduna which was transporting passengers broke down close to Jere, a community that has recorded a series of kidnappings. Passengers were stranded for close to 20 minutes before the fault could be fixed.
Another incident was that of Passengers having to trek 1000 meters to Rigasa rail station when the train broke down and could not be repaired.
There have also been cases of kidnappers and bandits abducting passengers along this same route. People begin to wonder if this rail service which is meant to be a blessing has become a curse in disguise.
Contrary to popular and uninformed opinions, the Buhari administration did not initiate this project, nor did it complete it. The project conception has been in the works and was initiated by previous administrations, and the Buhari government only came onboard just when some phases of the project were nearing completion. So yes, credit is due to this administration for overlooking and disbursing necessary funds for the final phases of an already initiated project, albeit its many challenges in efficiently operating such projects.
It is difficult to estimate how much the Federal and State governments have invested in Nigeria’s roads. Every year, billions of Naira are allocated for road construction and the roads are still in deplorable states.
Looking at the 2018 Budget, the FG planned to spend at least ₦295 billion on road construction, expansion, and maintenance. Also, in 2017, the FG raised a debut sovereign Sukuk of ₦100 billion to fund the construction and rehabilitation of 25 high-impact roads across the country.
Despite all these monies spent, very little change was witnessed. Take for example, the Abuja- Lokoja road. It is littered with potholes and it is in a state of general disrepair despite the state government’s disbursement of billions of naira in 2017 and 2018 for road repairs and construction in the town.
The federal government’s inability to complete the 200km Abuja-Lokoja highway which has been under construction for the past 15 years ago is another testament to the fact that despite the many touted inroads made in infrastructural development under this current administration, there is still much more to be done and left desired, considering the country’s current debt profile which has been mostly justified with this administration’s strides in infrastructure. Where are these strides? Many ask.
The health sector has been crippled with doctors going on strike as a result of salaries being owed. That is coupled with the sad reality of Nigerian doctors migrating out of the country in droves to find greener pastures.
The Secretary to the government of the Federation who has been in office since 2017 and also the Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) expressed shock over the state of public hospitals while inspecting some facilities during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He saw dilapidated hospital buildings, hospitals without beds, emergency wards without ambulances, intensive care units without power supply, etc.
According to Boss Mustapha, “I never knew that our entire healthcare infrastructure was in the state in which it is until I was appointed to do this work.”
This is simply to show the rate of neglect which the country’s health system has suffered over the past years, and not just in this administration. Public holders do not even care because they have the resources to fly themselves and their loved ones abroad for treatment in the case of any eventualities.
Also recall that in the past six years of President Buhari’s administration, he has traveled out of the country seven times for medical treatments. Within two years in office, Buhari spent 172 days outside the country. Also, the longest he has stayed on a medical trip was on August 19, 2017, in which he spent 103 days.
To show the level of neglect the government has for its people and the health sector, on March 30, 2021, the president flew out of the country to London for a medical check-up while doctors were on strike across the country.
Bringing back the COVID-19 pandemic period, it was alleged that Nigeria had few ventilators which could not accommodate citizens and it was also alleged that there were no ventilators in the State House hospital as ventilators had to be taken from the general hospital.
Also, remember that the Government of the United States (US) had to donate 200 lifesaving ventilators to Nigeria. On another post on Twitter which was eventually deleted, there was a post by the Federal Government literally “begging” Elon Musk who wanted to give out ventilators to support Nigeria with 100-500 ventilators. As usual, FG denied this accusation. In the past 6 years, many will agree that not much has improved in the health sector under this administration, in fact, things have gotten worse.
According to UNESCO, Nigeria’s literacy level has not improved as the country still has over 10 million out-of-school children, despite the many claims by the current Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu that more children are being enrolled in schools under this administration.
There have also been incessant but avoidable strikes in Tertiary institutions making students miss productive years, coupled with various cases of insecurity experienced in schools.
Also, according to the findings by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) about 50 percent of Nigerians with post-secondary school qualifications are underemployed or unemployed.
Despite the achievements claimed as recorded by this administration in the education sector, the 2018 World bank report released in March says only 20 percent of young Nigerian adults who have completed primary education can read. This is a result of the decline in the quality of education.
While many might opine that the administration’s strides in the area of infrastructure is commendable or not, the truth is the average Nigerian just doesn’t care.
In a country where hundreds are being massacred, maimed, and abducted monthly, the government wants to be lauded for building rail tracks? Who needs credit alerts when a gun is being pointed at their heads?
The primary objective of any government is the protection of lives and property, and the insecurity in this country has never been this bad. In Fact, many policymakers have opined that Nigeria didn’t have it this bad even during the civil war.
In 2015, during the presidential campaign, President Buhari via Twitter asked Nigerians a question which if asked today would still get the same answer, “Is your life better now than it was 6 years ago?” The resounding answer to this question by the majority of Nigerians would be “No”.
So what exactly has this administration then done in 6 years, deserving of celebration?