Pulse Opinion: What should Nigerians expect from Buhari's Next Level?

As Buhari settles in for a second term, Nigerians are not exactly clear on his blueprint for improvement on the past four years.

Muhammadu Buhari is president for another four years, but what tricks does he have up his sleeves this time around? [Bayo Omoboriowo]

Four years later today, in a more subdued affair, the 76-year-old former military dictator is being sworn in for a second four-year term with Nigerians trying to find their place in his promised Next Level.

Leading Nigeria for the past four years certainly hasn't been the best of times for President Buhari, as all those clandestine medical trips to London would prove, and it very certainly hasn't been the best of times for the country itself.

When he campaigned for his first win in 2015, Buhari was vocal about what his focus would be: improve the economy, fight corruption, and put an end to insecurity especially the Boko Haram insurgency in the troubled northeast region.

When he campaigned for a second term, which he won in February, Buhari hardly shifted the needle on those three major issues, an indication, perhaps, of the little progress he's made in four years.

Under Buhari's watch, Nigeria's economy has taken a battering that included a devastating recession, its worst in 29 years, which his administration has majorly blamed on the inadequate governance of past administrations of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from as far back as 1999. That recession lasted for 15 months and the economy has witnessed steady, but really slow, growth since then.

In the time since his 2015 inauguration, Nigeria's external debt has doubled to $25 billion, unemployment rate stands at an astronomical 23.1% (as of Q3 2018), and the number of people living in extreme poverty stands at 93.6 million, the highest in the world.

The president loves to flaunt his Social Intervention Programme - including school feeding, Trader Moni and Conditional Cash Transfer of N5,000 monthly to the poorest of the poor - as an economic master stroke but it'll be a while before its true impact can truly be determined.

The little that's said about Buhari's fight against corruption the better as he's found it hard to shake the criticism that it's a campaign that's rigged to target political opponents more than anything, despite some obvious gains.

When he came in four years ago, Boko Haram was Nigeria's most significant security threat with some local government areas still under the control of the terrorist group that has been on a destructive streak since 2009.

To his credit, Buhari significantly clamped down heavily on the terrorist group as Nigeria experienced an 80% drop in the number of terror-related deaths in 2016, the largest reduction in the world.

However, since then, a faction of Boko Haram named the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has grown in leaps since it broke off the main faction led by Abubakar Shekau in 2016.

ISWAP carried out dozens of attacks on military troops last year, killing scores of soldiers and briefly taking over towns that were later retaken by the military.

The group also abducted 113 students in Dapchi, Yobe State, and only returned 107 after negotiations with the government, with five girls reported dead and another one, Leah Sharibu, still in captivity.

Despite the obvious resurgence of the terrorist group, the president has stubbornly clung to his claim that the group has been 'technically defeated', a term that was first used in 2015 and has long started to sound hollow with repeated use.

Alongside Boko Haram's menace is another terror in the form of a recurrent conflict between farmers and herdsmen that has ballooned out of proportion under the president's watch.

The struggle for economic resources like land and water between farmers and nomadic cattle herders, usually of the Fulani extraction but not exclusively, led to a lot of bloodshed in 2018.

Nearly 1,700 violent deaths were attributed to Fulani herdsmen in attacks carried out between January and September 2018, according to the 2018 Global Terrorism Index.

The GTI, which measures the impact of terrorism across the world, estimated in its report that Fulani herders killed six times more people than those killed by Boko Haram in 2018.

So-called bandits have also very recently wreaked havoc in several states, most notably in Zamfara, and embarked on a killing and kidnapping spree that has inflamed passions in the country.

Dwelling on whether Buhari deserves a second term based on his first term performance or not is a pointless exercise because he's already been elected by a majority that's put that debate to bed, regardless of how contentious that victory currently is. 

With four more years at the helm, Buhari gets another chance to decide Nigeria's future trajectory, not just for the next four years but potentially for the next decade, at least. However, it should be of utmost concern where Nigerians fit in his plans. 

Perhaps the most immediate apprehension about Buhari's second term is that he's very unlikely to switch things up even slightly from how he's operated over the past four years. That's a problem once you acknowledge the feeling that he's not done quite enough in his first four years.

There's already a validation of this apprehension with the reappointment of Godwin Emefiele as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Emefiele's monetary policies have found favour with Buhari but those policies, most notably operating multiple exchange rates, have also been blamed for the lackadaisical growth of the economy.

Throughout all of Nigeria's escalating insecurity crisis, the president has also resisted pressure from several quarters to replace his service chiefs, determined to not have been doing enough, and rejig the security agencies.

The president has himself publicly admitted that it's hard to change his mind on certain topics and for a nation desperately in need of fresh ideas to get out of a sticky situation, that does not inspire confidence.

Even worse than his reticence to change is the president's inability to accept responsibility for any perceived incompetence on his part.

During an interview with the NTA on Monday, the president apportioned blame for every single problem to everyone else but himself.

Most bizarrely, he heaped the responsibility of ending insecurity and attracting investment on ordinary Nigerians themselves.

"My message to Nigerians is that they should please expose the criminals in their neighbourhoods to help the government clear the country and attract foreign entrepreneurs to come and invest into the country, to create factories, employ people and produce goods and services.

"This is what will move Nigeria forward. You cannot accommodate criminals in your neighbourhood and start glibly blaming government that nothing is being done. People are differently stopping government from doing anything," he said at some point.

It's not the rarest sight for a politician to try as much as possible to absolve himself of blame that might put him in bad light, but Nigeria is currently in too much of a mess for the man that leads it to believe he's completely blameless after four years at the helm.

Despite his posturing on the campaign trail and his promise of a Next Level for Nigeria and Nigerians, the truth is there's not much of a difference between the Buhari of 2015 and the tricks he has up his sleeves four years later.

Not much has been seen to convince Nigerians that the president isn't just making it all up as he goes without some concrete master plan to actually hop onto the Next Level.

And this only means Nigerians cannot do anything but hope that the president knows what he's doing.


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