In two days, we no longer would refer to Muhammadu Buhari as president, but ex-president, former president, two-time head of state, and any other fitting term to reflect the expiration of his tenure.
It represents the winding down of a presidency in which the ovation was louder at the start than at any other time between May 2015 and May 2023.
‘Sai Baba,’ from not too distant memory, was the battle cry many Nigerians employed to share the gospel of Buhari and usher in ‘change’ from what Nigeria was to what they believed the retired soldier wanted it to be in 1984.
And yes, that was the loudest the ovation has ever been. The people were so happy that no fewer that 50 people died celebrating his 2015 victory, and right then, he became the president we died for.
But how would we remember an administration many suggest would be difficult to do worse than? FIJ has a number of ideas.
THE ‘LAZY NIGERIAN YOUTHS’ BRAND
Of all the pictures taken of Buhari during his tenure, the image above is definitely one of the most popular.
Taken on February 27, 2019, by Bashir Ahmad, the president’s media aide, the image captures the president in what might be the most relaxed manner he was ever photographed in eight years.
The president was caught barefoot, picking his teeth and watching himself on TV. It was a very harmless image, but many Nigerians begged to differ, and backlash came.
The thing is, a year earlier, Buhari, during a panel appearance with world leaders at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London, described Nigerian youths as lazy.
He said, “More than 60 percent 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 free.”
The number one image-maker of the country sold an image to the world, but unlike Ahmad’s, his was far from harmless. In a 2016 interview with UK Telegraph, Buhari also claimed many Nigerian youths were disposed to criminality and should not be granted asylum.
LONGEST ASUU STRIKES IN NIGERIA’S HISTORY
Since the turn of the fourth republic, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has gone on strike occasionally to express grievances.
The first strike action occurred in 1999 and lasted five months. ASUU strike actions littered the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, with the longest spanning six months, and the total amounting to 18 months of strike actions in eight years.
Buhari’s administration dwarfed those numbers and snatched the records by clear margins.
In 2020, ASUU went on strike for 272 days, nine months of inactivity in Nigerian federal universities. Two years after, there was another eight-month-long strike.
These numbers mean during Buhari’s administration, ASUU went on its longest and second longest consecutive strike action in Nigeria’s history. The union was also on strike for 21 months cumulatively, three months shy of two years.
#ENDSARS AND BUHARI’S BODY LANGUAGE
It is impossible to review the Buhari administration without highlighting the violent end to what was a peaceful protest against police brutality.
While containing COVID-19 spread in the country in 2020, Nigerians were in their homes, and were ready when called upon to protest. It was the largest protest under a democracy in Nigeria’s history, but it ended with soldiers and policemen claiming the lives of more Nigerians.
#EndSARS saw the end of many innocent Nigerians, but before it all went south, Babajide Sanwo-olu, Lagos State Governor, collected from the protesters a file containing their demands and took it to the president.
Buhari, in a viral video of the handover of demands, laughed.
Femi Adesina, Buhari’s Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, later claimed Buhari was lenient with protesters, and there would have been a worse outcome had he not been.
Terrorism did not begin with the Buhari administration. The president inherited insecurity from Goodluck Jonathan, his predecessor.
Between then and now, terrorism has gained a more national spread than was the case in 2015.
Activities of Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP), the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and bandits undermined the government, but Buhari remained loyal to his service chiefs.
There were clashes between farmers and herders in Nigeria’s southwest region as well, prompting governors to set up the Amotekun Corps, and arm them in defiance to the federal government. It was not the only time governors defied the president.
CASH CRUNCH: BUHARI’S CHESS GAME WITH ‘MEFFY’
On November 23, 2022, Buhari and Godwin Emefiele, Central Bank of Nigeria Governor (CBN), launched new designs for the ₦200, ₦500 and ₦1000 notes.
The original idea was for the notes to go into circulation on December 15, 2022, and replace old denominations of the naira. This did not happen.
Earlier, Buhari had signed into law the Electoral Act, a legislation marketed as capable of making the 2023 general election the fairest in Nigeria’s history, but the document did not say the government would need cash scarcity to achieve this.
What Buhari and Emefiele began was a mop up of cash in circulation. The result was untold hardship and deaths. Yes, people died, and the cash crunch did not ease until the election was over.
Some governors challenged the president in court and won.
Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand — Buhari, June 1, 2021 (via Twitter)
When Buhari put out this tweet, IPOB was the topic of discourse, and no one imagined the tweet would be deleted, but it was.
Three days later, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, announced a suspension of the social media platform.
Twitter was no longer welcome in Nigeria, and more disgruntled Nigerians sprang up.
The FG lifted the ban on January 12, 2022, and Buhari began tweeting again on May 2, 2022.
On July 5, 2022, gunmen attacked the Kuje Correctional Centre in Abuja, and freed more than 600 inmates. They killed six inmates and one prison official.
They also took their time to deliver a Quranic lecture and subsequently shared transport fares to their freed members. The Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Since 2016, there has been 10 of such jail breaks under the Buhari administration, and numerous escaped prisoners unaccounted for.
In Kogi, Enugu, Akwa-Ibom and Niger State, prisoners escaped, exposing the country’s weak correctional facility infrastructure.
PRESIDENT ON TOUR; BUHARI’S 225-DAY MEDICAL TOURISM
As of December 2022, Buhari had spent a combined total of 225 days away from the country for medical reasons.
In May 2017, he traveled to London where he spent 104 days away. It was the longest time he was away for consecutive days.
Earlier, in January 2017, Buhari traveled to London and spent 50 days away. In May 2018, there was a four-day trip, and then a 15-day trip in March 2021.
The president’s frequent trips for emergencies left many questioning the health facilities in the country, and why the government failed to develop facilities that match the ones the president patronises.
Buhari completed several infrastructural projects for the country in his eight years as president. Among others, he reconstructed the Runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu; built the second Niger Bridge; reconstructed the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Rail Line; and built the 2.8MW Solar Power Plant at Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State.
However you remember the Buhari-led administration, his records pale compared to his predecessors, and the next four years are an opportunity to either better them or do worse.
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