By Adedayo Salami
The date is 12th February 2015, every political blog is awash with details of the presidential media chat that happened the previous day. President Goodluck Jonathan had his 8th presidential media chat and this time, it was even different, questions were not only taken from different journalists sitted in the hall but a telephone line was also provided for Nigerians to phone in and ask questions.
Different questions were asked, most notably reasons for the postponement of the presidential elections which president jonathan answered that it was an independent decision by INEC and he wasn’t consulted before the decision was taken. President Goodluck Jonathan is preparing for the upcoming election, hoping for a second term even though his tenure has been described as a failure by a lot of quarters in Nigeria. President Goodluck Jonathan has lost the goodwill that brought him in, the people no longer want ‘the boy that had no shoes’ to walk for them. What they now want is a man that can walk the talk.
One thing here is the definition of failure which is quite clear and people do not have to put contexts into their talks about the administration’s shortcomings. To the majority of Nigerians, the exchange rate is at its worst, security is abysmal, the inflation numbers are concerning and even the progress recorded from the economy can not salvage anything for the Jonathan administration. Change is needed, quick one at that.
The kidnapping of the Chibok girls could have been said to be the last straw. It could have been anything, to a lot of Nigerians it felt like hope was getting sucked out everyday and they couldn’t take it anymore.
On the 11th of December 2014, the All Progressive Congress which was formed February 2013 by the merger of the 3 biggest opposition parties, the Congress for Progressive Change, the Action Congress of Nigeria and the All Nigeria’s People’s Party, announced General Muhammadu Buhari as it’s presidential aspirant. The APC built a platform on the anti-corruption and integrity and made Muhammadu Buhari as the front cover of that platform. He was propped up as a no-nonsesne disciplinarian that was going to end corruption in Nigeria.
Change was here, hope was here once again for Nigerians, Nigerians were dreaming and not even Buhari’s failure to present a secondary school leaving certificate was enough to sway people away from him. They were determined to make the next best decision for the country; elect the man with integrity.
I say, one of the biggest mistakes Nigerians have made is to not regard the history and antecedents of a man that was presented as ‘Mr Integrity’ before actually agreeing that he was fit to rule. At that point, a lot of Nigerians insisted that they were ready to elect ‘a pig’ if it meant ousting President Goodluck Jonathan out of office. Decisions like this have consequences, grave consequences at that.
General Muhammadu Buhari is not new to leadership, he ruled Nigeria as a military head of state between 1983-1985. Under the General, Nigeria witnessed some of the most regressive and repressive laws with the most popular being the Decree 4. In 1984, Buhari passed Decree Number 4, the Protection Against False Accusations Decree, considered by scholars as one of the most repressive press law ever enacted in Nigeria.
Repressive laws were not his only specialty, he said in an interview in 2001 “I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria”, he then added: “God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country”. Statements like this alone are enough to bring about logical discussions as to his capability to rule over a democratic nation.
In 2012, the Boko Haram sect included his name as a mediator between the sect and the federal governement. A ‘responsibility’ that was not met with disgust by Buhari.
It is simple, track records matter, in the blind pursuit for a messiah we became even more blind to very visible patterns and the lack of concrete plans from the side that wanted to ‘rescue’ Nigeria from sudden death.
What Are The Facts?
The discussion here is not to whitewash anybody’s image neither is it to put out some kind of revisionism, but to analyze the evolution of failure.
How the definition of failure has changed over time and every day sees more ambiguity attached to what failure is.
Under Jonathan’s administration, Nigeria rebased its Gross Domestic Product for the first time in over a decade to become the largest economy in Africa overtaking South Africa and Egypt (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-04-06/nigerian-economy-overtakes-south-africa-s-on-rebased-gdp).
Nigeria’s economy averaged an impressive 7% annual growth between 2010 and first quarter of 2015. The country had a debt-to-GDP ratio of roughly 18% and a budget deficit of under 3%, levels Europe would be delighted with today (https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/07/goodluck-jonathan-nigeria).
The Jonathan administration took education seriously, approving the creation of 12 new federal universities in states that, before then, had no federal university and allocating enough to the education sector.
But there were security challenges, the Chibok girls were not rescued, there were suicide bombings and this was what the General was coming to fix but people could still air their grievances, people still had the right to protest, the freedom of speech and the right to question authorities.
This was what failure was. It was clear with zero ambiguity.
Even better was that, the General had a vice that was propped up to be as intellectual as we can get and will focus on the economy while the General focuses on Security.
What Is Failure now?
What failure is now is almost non existent. The same standards that held then do not hold anymore.
I no longer know what failure is now because once you declare failure in a sector, you get presented contexts to make you ‘understand’ it is not quite failure.
So what I will do is tell you what failure is not, that is clear now.
Being the country with the highest number of poor people in the world is not really a terrible thing as we have learnt, it just shows that the president is trying to curb corruption.
Under Buhari’s watch, Nigeria’s economy, once one of the world’s most promising, has struggled with tepid growth, including a 15-month long recession. The effects on the lives of everyday Nigerians has been significant: the unemployment rate has more than doubled and more people now live in extreme poverty in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world but again, this is not quite failure.
According to The UNICEF, one in every five out of school children is in Nigeria ( https://www.unicef.org/nigeria/education ) and this is no surprise at all as we have had the lowest budget allocation for education in Nigeria’s democratic history since Buhari became president but we can still have contexts to explain that it is not quite a statement of failure. After all, it’s just 1 out of 5.
Recently, the national bureau of statistics put the unemployment rate in the country at 33.3%, a national record and inflation attaining 21.7% (https://nairametrics.com/2021/03/15/nigerias-unemployment-rate-jumps-to-33-3-as-at-q4-2020/). But it’s not really General Muhammadu Buhari’s fault, there was a pandemic and we can put all the blame on the pandemic
An entire piece can be written about the terrible statistics that have come up since Mr Integrity became president and the very plenty human right abuses.
Across the country, people no longer have their fundamental rights to protest. Anyone that does will either be duhumanised or even shot down as we saw on the 20th of October 2020 at the Lekii Toll gate (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Lekki_shooting).
These are not evidences of failure, in fact they are evidences that we have a no-nonsense dictator (beg your pardon, disciplinarian) as president.
Truth is, the way forward is not very clear now. Almost every sector is far worse than it was before. This is the cost of an election, an election that was backed by people’s lack of judgment to elect a man that had not shown any sign of competence.
What is very clear now is that, the next election cycle is important to this nation. Even our sovereignty is at risk now because we have gotten to levels never seen before.
When 2023 comes, I hope the consequences of the mistake of 2015 and the error of 2019 will not be too big to right.
Till then, we hope to keep surviving here.
Adedayo Salami can be reached at Salamiadedayopash@gmail.com