Having survived the past eight years, Nigerians are anxiously waiting to see what the next four years holds for them.
For most Nigerians, the last eight years can be likened to the biblical years “the locusts have eaten.” It has been a miserable period that saw unprecedented job losses, with 40 percent of the nation’s population being unemployed, the country becoming the world’s poverty capital with 133 million people living in multidimensional poverty
The 2022 Cato Institute Human Freedom Index scored Nigeria a dismal 123rd among 165 countries, assessing the country to be characterised by varied coercive restraints
One relatable consequence of this poor placement, Ibrahim Anoba, a fellow at the Centre for African Prosperity at the Atlas Network and managing editor at African Liberty noted, “is that an individual is more likely to experience police brutality and other state repressions in Nigeria than in Uganda, Niger, or Haiti, all ranked higher than Nigeria.
But Nigeria is the architect of its embarrassment. The deplorable state of press freedom, the brutal killings precipitated by religious extremism and inter-ethnic violence, and the continued invasion of private farmlands by Fulani herders, are some of the problems eroding human freedom.”
“In Nigeria, 40.1 percent of people were poor, based on the 2018/19 national monetary poverty line, and 63 per cent are multidimensionally poor according to the National MPI 2022,” the country’s National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, said last year.
Sluggish growth, low human capital, labour market weaknesses, and exposure to shocks are holding Nigeria’s poverty reduction back noted a 2022 World Bank report.
Since 2015, Nigeria’s currency has depreciated by more than 300 percent against major international currencies. Nigeria’s inflation has continued to balloon to a current 43.25 percent per year, “nearly twice the official rate of 21.91 percent per annum,” noted Steve Hanke, professor of applied economics at the Johns Hopkins University.
Propelled into office in 2015 on the promise to end insecurity, grow the economy and destroy corruption, President Muhammadu Buhari’s eight years in power have been more than characterised by a massive lacuna in quality governance.
In 2016, one year into his presidency, Oby Ezekwesili, a former World Bank vice president warned that Mr. Buhari’s “archaic” and “opaque” economic principles were not only encouraging massive corruption and abuse of power, but also hurting the poor they were intended to help.
Ezekwesili said Buhari’s distortion of foreign exchange system has left the poor it was intended to support even worse off.
“The President comes into this economic philosophy on the premise that he does not want the poor to suffer. I can relate to that, a leader must not allow the poor to suffer, especially a leader who knows that most of his votes came not from the elite but from the poor.
“The problem though is that the intention and the outcome are diverged.
“The weakest and the most vulnerable suffer the impact of inflation the most. Enormous power is being abused as a result of opaque economic policies.
“Companies are suddenly finding themselves unable to produce because they’re unable to access foreign exchange,”
“In 2022, 74 percent of Nigerians struggled to afford food while 48 percent struggled to afford adequate shelter. Under president Buhari’s regime, Nigeria has been plagued by inflation, poverty and persistent corruption,” noted a Gallup survey report.
Nigerians have paid a steep price for Buhari’s incompetence. His ineptitude, noted the London-based Economist Magazine, has led to soaring food prices and made life more difficult for Nigerians.
Economic troubles, the paper posited in a 2021 report, “are compounded by a government that is inept and heavy-handed.
Buhari, who was elected in 2015, turned an oil shock into a recession by propping up the naira and barring many imports in the hope this would spur domestic production.
“Instead he sent annual food inflation soaring above 20 percent. He has failed to curb corruption, which breeds resentment. Many Nigerians are furious that they see so little benefit from the country’s billions of petrodollars, much of which their rulers have squandered or stolen.
“Two factors help explain Nigeria’s increasing instability: a sick economy and a bumbling government. Slow growth and two recessions have made Nigerians poorer, on average, each year since oil prices fell in 2015.”
It is the bumbling and inefficiency that Nigerians hope to put behind them when a new president is installed on May 29.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu is likely set to take over from Buhari if the courts do not overturn his election which has been widely described as fraudulent.
He has in the past defended the incumbent’s terrible socio-economic policies.
Tinubu has been reticent about his strategies for ending the Buhari years that the ‘locusts have eaten’.
In October 2022, he told an Arewa Committee in Kaduna that, “our major economic challenges are underinvestment and effective management, and these are what I am bringing to the table. Our economic plan would utilise the vast natural resources we have, through strategic investment in infrastructure which will lead to the diversification of the economy and wealth creation across the entire country.
“We will pay attention to modern economic drivers such as the digital economy, creative industries, sports and entertainment sectors for the benefit of our young people.”
In December, he told the BBC that, security would be his major priority if he won the election in February 2023 and is subsequently sworn in in May.
“And economic recovery to accelerated development, to get Nigerians employed and get inflation down.
“Monetary policy needs to be changed,” he said. “Subsidy needs to be decided upon and then removed.”
Declining foreign investments means that the incoming Tinubu administration would be facing declining foreign exchange reserves; a situation that has been the hallmark of the incumbent Buhari administration.
In addition, since lower capital importation tends to result in lower investments and hence higher unemployment, Mr. Tinubu and his economic team would have to work hard to encourage higher capital inflows.
The uncertainly about the stability of the next government would have a strong impact on capital inflows into the country, argues Professor Rajneesh Narula of the University of Reading
“Uncertainties lead to capital flight and even Nigerians have taken their monies out for the same reason,” he noted, adding, “there is no clear signal yet that there is a clear government policy. The Tinubu government has not said anything about its big plans.
“The hard choices before the Tinubu administration to grow the economy and encourage capital importation are debt restructuring, subsidy removal and exchange rate realignment,” he added.
“Any investor on the planet who has any brain would know that Nigeria’s debt has to be restructured, petrol subsidy removed and exchange rate readjusted. If the Tinubu administration is too weak to do these, investors will avoid Nigeria. Look Nigeria is essentially in the same place as Pakistan, Pakistan wants money from the IMF but do not want to agree to the medicine prescribed. So, foreign investors are waiting to hear what will happen” Mr. Narula further noted.
What is equally important to engender capital inflow for the Tinubu government, he further added is stability of investment and returns. “If everything happens according to plan and Nigeria probably starts stabilising itself, which would be six months away, if there are no more debacles like the central bank’s ill management of the monetary and exchange rate policies, Nigeria can stabilise in 2024. What matters is stability of policies and Nigeria has never taken stability of policies seriously”.
For stability of policies to thrive, the next administration needs the confidence of local and foreign investors.
Keen to end the sordid and lacklustre Buhari era, many Nigerians voted with the hope that a new president will better tackle insecurity, grow the economy and significantly reduce poverty.
The outcome of the elections has left many feeling worried about the future of the Nigerian state and economy.
The result of the elections has led to controversies regarding compliance with the Electoral Act. The widely held consensus among observers is that the elections did not meet basic credibility test.
The legal challenges currently taking place to determine the validity of the February 2023 presidential elections need to be quickly and qualitatively disposed of by the judiciary in order to induct and surge the confidence of investors.
“In 2015 there was this insistence by many that they want anybody but Goodluck Jonathan. Today, that same scenario is playing out as people want anybody but Buhari. We want him to go despite that he left us with another of his like. At least, having a new government will give us respite for now, but I cannot vouch for them because of the compromised system that brought them in,” Bulus Danjuma, a Plateau State-born retired senior security officer, said.
According to him, the new administration will come with new policies, new ministers, new people and new hope, but the hard question to answer is how much interest they will have in reducing the sufferings in the land.
“If President Muhammadu Buhari had fought corruption, insecurity and spread development across the country as he promised in both 2015 and 2019, we will not be in a haste to bid him farewell. Olusegun Obasanjo was not wished out like this because he did far better than Buhari,” Danjuma said.
So, considering these ‘eight years of waste’ in the country, Onike Anjorin, a company lawyer, said that every responsibile citizen should bid farewell to Buhari to allow new beginning and respite to the many troubles they have faced since 2015.
“I am happy May 29th is here, at least we will send the ex-general packing legitimately. But I am also not happy because I voted for change but the way the election went signal how the incoming administration will behave because the wish of the masses was not granted,” she said.
She thinks that Nigeria is more divided now than in 2019 and that national reconciliation should have happened before the inauguration as many are going into government with a mindset and the citizens have different mindset already for the incoming government.
Well, many who lost their loved ones to herdsmen, banditry attacks, kidnappers or terrorist are elated at the sound of a new administration come May 29th. But the fear for many is that the elements Buhari could not conquer in the fight against insecurity are still there and would pose bigger threat to the incoming administration.
“If you consider the war in Zamfara and Sokoto between Hausa and Fulani, the killing of over 100 innocent people in Benue just weeks to the inauguration and more, I think it is not yet uhuru. The incoming administration has to brace up for more troubles,” Danjuma said.
But Chjioke Umelahi, an Abuja-based lawyer, don’t see light at the end of the tunnel as he insisted that the INEC truncated the mandate of the masses at the polls and the inauguration of the government should be suspended until the case is decided at the Supreme Court.
“There shouldn’t be jubilation for a new administration because we all know that the INEC rigged them in against the wish of the masses. Again, they said that they will continue from where Buhari stopped, and we know where Buhari stopped; hardship, more corruption and rigging. So, curtail your expectations,” he warned.
On the same vein, Samuel Onikoyi, a Nigeria academia in the diaspora, argued that in a sane world, election petitions are settled before inauguration to legitimise the government.
I think the laws on inauguration should change because if you inaugurate the president on May 29th, the judiciary will be answerable to him and he will influence the ruling on the case.
After 20 years of democracy, I think we should be wiser because the system will favour you now and will work against you tomorrow. We need a comprehensive law on election to legitimise our governments,” he suggested.
In all, it is all mixed feelings as many are happy and expectant, while more are sad.
“There seems to be a gentle agreement and they are same people. So, I see no respite, I see only change of name and not developmental policies or thinking towards the suffering masses,” Onyewuchi Akagbule, a senior lecturer at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, lamented.
“Particularly, I think one of the reasons that Muhamamdu Buhari’s administration has failed is because officials are not held accountable for their actions.
“A Minister just remains in office, until the four years ends, there is no assessment of their performance by anybody.
“Buhari does not care, and that is one of the reasons he has failed in the last eight years. Ministers, top government officials behave anyhow.
“I want the new administration to change that. The Tinubu administration cannot afford to waste time with people without focus and vision,” Okon Usen, a financial analyst, said.
Tunde Akemode, public affairs analyst, said the major determinant of Tinubu’s success may rest on the calibre of people he appoints into office as Ministers and other major positions, warning that he must get it right.
“The starting point of the revival is in getting the right team by Tinubu; a cabinet of round pegs in round holes. Sadly, the exercise is usually a playground for hijackers of power, ethnic and religious interests, cronyism and compensation to allies who ensured victory.
“But while I agree the need to compensate those who worked for your victory, but if you don’t also get the right people around you as well forget it. I am optimistic Tinubu knows the job ahead of him and would do the right thing,” he said.
However, some Nigerians have also said that it was imperative for the election petition tribunals to expedite action on the cases filed by aggrieved candidates across the country, especially the presidential candidates as the date for the swearing-in nears.
Tope Musowo, an academic and public affairs analyst, said going forward Nigeria needs to amend its judiciary law to allow election disputes to be resolved before the winner takes the oath of office.
“The tribunal and court cases can be concluded before swearing in of elected officials or President-elect, if the right judiciary reforms are done.
“What I see is that this system benefits some few people and they are not ready to do anything to change it. Is the CJN not aware of these challenges, what has he done since assuming office?” he said.