BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

Tracking the progress of the Buhari administration

These days, when President Muhammadu Buhari and members of his administration talk about their achievements, they talk in very broad terms and generally do not cite figures.

Last year, President Buhari, in Paris, at the Nigeria International Partnership Forum (NIPF) boasted that he’s revitalized Nigeria’s economy, built massive infrastructure, lifted millions of Nigerians out of poverty and improved the living standards of Nigerians. As usual, he provided no proof of this bold assertion or indices to measure the progress he claimed to have made.

But how can the administration be making such bold claims without evidence? How can you understand or even improve a situation you can’t measure? To be sure, the government knows there are globally accepted indices with which progress in virtually all socio-economic and political processes are measured. In fact, it is obsessed with those figures and has tried to control and manipulate them at various times.

In August last year, the administration moved quickly to claim credit for the 5 percent quarterly growth of the Nigerian economy – the first such growth since 2014.

But we also know that in 2018 when the same National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released a record unemployment figure, the then Statistician General of the country, Yemi Kale, according to Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu, was summoned to Aso Rock and the president ordered him “to change the high unemployment statistics.”

When Mr Kale wouldn’t budge, the president instead set up a new Economic Advisory Council (EAC) and in his inaugural address, admonished them to help produce regime-friendly data/figures to highlight the gains of his administration. Don’t take my words for it. Hear him: “As you develop your baseline study, I would like you to focus on primary data collection.

Today, most of the statistics quoted about Nigeria are developed abroad by the World Bank, IMF and other foreign bodies.

Some of the statistics we get relating to Nigeria are wild estimates and bear little relation to the facts on the ground, the president told members of the advisory council. “This is disturbing as it implies we are not fully aware of what is happening in our own country. We can only plan realistically when we have reliable data.”

Because the government couldn’t get Yemi Kale to change the embarrassing figures, the administration began ignoring all the unemployment and growth figures Mr Kale’s agency periodically puts out and even reduced funding to the agency to cripple its work

Because the government couldn’t get Yemi Kale to change the embarrassing figures, the administration began ignoring all the unemployment and growth figures Mr Kale’s agency periodically puts out and even reduced funding to the agency to cripple its work.

However, when Mr Kale’s NBS reported a 5 percent quarterly growth, the president and his administration were the first to respond, claiming credit.

Also, when Nigeria recorded a slight improvement on the now rested World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking, the presidency set up a whole agency domiciled in the Vice President’s office to aggressively track and improve on most of the indices to ensure Nigeria continues to improve on the ranking.

So, the Buhari administration is obsessed with those figures. They closely monitor and follow them but remain tight-lipped and don’t refer to them because they reveal a dismal picture of the administration and put a lie to all its propaganda of success.

So, they’ll rather tout the few schools, hospitals, or roads they built even when the country is doing very badly in terms of educational and health outcomes and the roads are virtually impassable or when Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children in the world.

What do the numbers generally say about the Buhari administration? The GDP – the total final market value of all goods and services produced within a country during a given period – as insufficient as it is, is generally used to measure the wealth of a country and GDP per capita measures prosperity of the citizens of a country.

In 2014, just months before Buhari took over, Nigeria’s GDP was $546.7 billion, but it has been dropping consistently and is now $440.8 billion. GDP per capita in 2014 was $3,098; today it is $2058.03. What about inflation?

In 2014, inflation rate was 8.05 percent. Today, it has doubled to 21.9 percent. Unemployment? In 2014, the unemployment rate was 9.7 percent.

Today, it is about 33 percent while youth unemployment sits gingerly at around 55 percent – one of the highest in the world together with South Africa’s.

What about Nigeria’s Human Development Index? In 2014, Nigeria scored 0.504, ranking 152 out of 189 countries. Today, it is ranked 0.539 falling to 161 position out of 189 countries and territories.

Also, Nigeria’s out of school children are said to have grown from 10.5 million in 2015 to about 20 million, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in October 2022. Nigeria currently has the most out of school children in the world.

Health figures are even scarier. In 2017, the World Health Organisation’s analysis of health systems ranked Nigeria 187 out of 191, ahead only of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Myanmar.

Its verdict was damning: “Nigeria lacks a serious approach to healthcare.” The WHO also put maternal mortality rate in Nigeria as 814, per 100,000 live births only outperforming Chad with 856, Central African Republic; 882, and Sierra Leone; 1360. War torn countries like Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo even outperformed Nigeria.

Also, while Botswana and Mauritius have the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel as 100 percent, Nigeria is again down the pyramid with 35 percent, competing with countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Chad.

The statistics get worse, for every 1000 births in Nigeria, 108 infants (and children) die before the age of five, and again, the country sits comfortably close to the bottom of the ladder in Africa.

Read also: Buhari wants Tinubu as next president; he’s Nigeria’s worst enemy

Data from WHO world health statistics 2017 further shows that over 72 million Nigerians are at risk of malaria, with 380.8 at risk out of every 1000 Nigerians, whereas malaria has ceased to be a health concern for many other countries. Yet, Africa’s largest economy shares the three bottom slots on the continent with Burkina Faso and Mali.

The figures for cancer are even more mind-boggling. Nigeria has a cancer death ratio of 4 in 5, one of the worst in the world.

According to the WHO, over 100, 000 people are diagnosed with cancer annually in Nigeria, and about 80, 000 die from the disease, amounting to 240 daily.

Furthermore, cervical cancer, which is virtually 100 percent preventable, kills one Nigerian woman every hour while breast cancer kills 40 Nigerian women daily.

What about the administration’s favourite talk point – lifting millions out of poverty? Figures from various measuring agencies show poverty in Nigeria has worsened with Nigeria overtaking India as the poverty capital of the world in 2018.

Worse, Nigeria’s own National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) just released its report which shows 63 percent of Nigerians (approximately 133 million people) are living in multidimensional poverty.

So, when the Buhari administration is done and out of office and the history of his administration is being written, it is those official figures that will be used and not the administration’s propaganda that are empty and unmeasurable.