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An ex to forget

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Change, change. Sai Baba, sai Baba. The words that filled the streets on Tuesday, 31st March 2015 after the then President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat and congratulated Muhammadu Buhari on his victory in the presidential election. Sadly, the darkness and chaos to come was unprecedented and drastic.

Buhari emerged from the All Progressives Congress (APC), established in February 2013, as a result of a merger between three powerful political parties at the time – the Action Congress of Nigeria, the Congress for Progressive Change and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, along with a breakaway faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The nation at that time was gripped with corruption and insecurity especially in the North.

The APC was on a mission – a mission to win the 2015 general elections. Buhari was its presidential candidate and Lagos based lawyer and Pastor, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, his running mate. They sweet-mouthed us with lines like ‘a military officer and a Pastor; security is sure.’ Their campaign slogan, ‘change’ captured the hearts of millions of Nigerians. In some of their rallies, it was the only real word Buhari spoke; a clear indicator of the failure and scarcity of progress to come, overlooked by the electorate, coupled with his avoidance of media appearances, a tactic later deployed by Bola Tinubu in 2022.

They confessed their love to us even better than fictional character, Antony Bridgerton. Heart-catching promises like the creation of three million jobs per year, building one of the fastest-growing emerging economies in the world with a GDP growth averaging 10 per cent annually, and a social welfare programme where a minimum of ₦5,000 would be paid to 25 million of the poorest and most vulnerable citizens. A promise now laughable was the generation, transmission and distribution of at least 20,000 megawatts of electricity within the first four years, increasing to 50,000 MW with a view of achieving 24/7 uninterrupted power supply within 10 years. Elite rizz from the APC.

First few years

His inauguration speech in 2015 can be remembered for the line, “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”. After that day, many assumed that indeed change had come. The first major indicator of ‘a man without a plan’ was in the non-appointment of ministers for nearly six months (166 days) after resuming office. It sparked rumours that perhaps Buhari’s plan was just  to defeat the ruling PDP and after that, he was out of depth.

Dependence on oil and gas continued. As prices fell, foreign exchange was not flowing and the Naira began pleading for it’s pains to be taken away. Fuel queues got longer and black market prices lacked ‘church mind’. By the end of 2015, our GDP growth rate was 2.79 per cent, the worst since 1999. The fight against Boko Haram seemed to be paying off as we experienced reduced attacks. However, according to the Global Terrorism Index, herder-farmer conflicts  resulted in over 800 deaths in 2015. By the turn of the year, power supply worsened, lingering around 2,000 MW. Before leaving office, the previous administration generated around 5,000 MW. After marking one year in office, the President had travelled 30 times, probably more than a touring hip-hop artiste.

By the third quarter of 2016, Nigeria slipped into recession. Recording a -2.06 per cent growth rate between April and June, the second negative of the year. In July, the inflation rate hit an 11-year high of 17.1 per cent. At the end of 2016, her GDP rate was -1.58 per cent. The worst in the Fourth Republic and herdsmen’s attacks, which were predominantly in the North drifted to the southern parts of the country. There was a relief in 2017 as the economy escaped recession with a growth of 0.82 per cent. The year 2018 was sadly full of bloodshed as Fulani herdsmen killed nearly 1,700 people, six times more than Boko Haram, as reported by the Global Terrorism Index. A report that identified Benue, Plateau, Kaduna and Taraba as the deadliest states in Nigeria.

Buhari’s health

Between 5th February and 6th June 2016, the President spent 19 days in the United Kingdom; the latter for an ear infection. On 19th January 2017, he jetted off for the UK on another medical trip, which was initially for 10 days as revealed in a letter to the Senate . However, he spent 50 days, returning on 10th March 2017. He departed for London again in May, spending 104 days. A trip that sparked the infamous ‘body double’  rumours.

The President went on more medical trips in 2018 and 2021. By the end of 2022, he had spent over 220 days on medical trips. A man who once promised to ban government officials from going abroad for medical trips became the ‘poster boy’ for medical trips. Interestingly, his son, Yusuf was flown in an air ambulance to the UK after a power bike accident and was flown back with a chartered aircraft. It sure does seem like the first family had exclusive access to ‘Air Paramedics’.

Controversial speeches

On a visit to Germany in 2016, while responding to criticism by his wife, Aisha, Buhari he said: “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen, my living room and the other room”. Angela Merkel, the then Chancellor of Germany and one of the most powerful women in politics, seemed to look in disbelief. His spokesperson, Garba Shehu said the President respected the place of women in society and tagged it as ‘banter’. Considering worldwide efforts for women’s rights, it was an expensive joke and with the state of our debt servicing, it is one we couldn’t afford.

In April 2018 at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London, ‘his new home’, Buhari referred to Nigeria youths as lazy, saying: “More than 60 per cent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country. Therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education for free”.

Continued woes

In 2020, about a year after Buhari’s victory at the 2019 presidential election, the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world’s economy and, by the third quarter, Nigeria fell into recession with a -3.62 per cent decline amid low oil prices. Buhari was quick to blame the pandemic but maybe he should have looked at the man in the mirror.

Regardless, what Nigerians will remember 2020 for is #EndSARS. In October of that year, young Nigerians held peaceful protest against alleged brutality by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. But on 20th October, the worst happened as military men opened fire on peaceful  protesters. A tragic event now known as the “Lekki toll gate shooting”. Many were injured and some were believed to have lost their dear lives. The question, “who ordered the shooting?”, remains unanswered till date.

Twitter ban

On 5th June 2021, the Buhari-led government placed an indefinite ban on Twitter after the social media platform deleted tweets made by the President where he warned the Igbo people of a re-occurrence of the 1967 Biafran war if the violence and insecurity ravaging South East Nigeria, a geopolitical zone mostly populated by the Igbos, was not terminated. An action that exemplified misplacement of priorities.

It was a cut in the pockets of many Nigerians, most especially the youths, he once referred to as ‘lazy’. Twitter was an e-commerce platform for many. At the time, Netblocks, an online service that tracks internet governance estimated that Nigeria lost N2 billion in the first 24 hours of the ban and $250,000 every hour since the ban. The unemployment rate sat at 33 per cent, Dollar to Naira ratio was 1/450 and fuel price, ₦162. The ban was lifted in January 2022. In 2021, Nigeria recorded its worst insecurity-related death toll since 2016, as nearly 10,400 people were killed, according to SBM intelligence. A truly heart-wrenching toll.

‘Free and fair elections’

In February 2022, Buhari signed the 2022 Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law. It sparked enthusiasm among the Nigerian faithful, mostly due to the introduction of electronic transmission of results. Buhari also stated that he would leave a legacy of free and fair elections; the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu restated that in numerous occasions that results would be transmitted in real-time from the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal. Nigerians waited anxiously and on 25th February, election day was here. But what played out remains a scar in the hearts of many.

INEC staff arrived late in many polling units, short-staffed, some with insufficient amount of ballot papers, polling units with more than a thousand people had to make do with one BVAS machine for accreditation. Worst of all, the presidential election was not uploaded in many locations but House of Representatives and Senate election results were uploaded electronically in the same locations, COMEDY CENTRAL! Pictures of possibly tampered result sheets circulated on social media. The original figures were struck out with a pen and new figures written on top; awork even four-year-olds would be ashamed of.

A recent BBC investigation found an increase of just over 106,000 in Tinubu’s (APC) votes in Rivers State from the IReV portal, almost doubling his total in the state while Peter Obi’s (Labour Party) votes had fallen by over 50,000. Tinubu has since been declared by INEC as the President-elect.

An ex to forget

As his tenure draws to an end, with 133 million people (63 per cent of the country’s population) in multidimensional poverty and over 20 million out-of-school children. He is leaving behind an ‘oil-producing’ country that relies on fuel imports, and over 80 per cent of revenue being spent on debt servicing; a low-trust society, largely disunified as many can argue that Chef Hilda Baci united Nigerians in more in five days of her recording-breaking cooking than Buhari in eight years.

Buhari’s time as President was a nightmare in a nightmare. For him, it’s a trip back to Daura; for Nigerians, he’s an ex to forget.

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