By Douglas Anele
Continuing with our discussion, the World Bank Report also projects that the fiscal deficit will widen and that the economy as a whole will get worse if drastic measures are not implemented promptly to halt the tide of sluggish growth. From our analysis of some key economic indicators in the preceding paragraphs, the inevitable conclusion must be that the fundamentals of Nigeria’s economy are still relatively weak.
Some economists even argue that the economy is worse now than Buhari met it in 2015 because the measures by his government to boost productivity, investment and wealth creation are simply not working. They point out that the President, in his bid to blame and demonise the immediate past administration, had on several occasions abroad made certain negative remarks about Nigeria and Nigerians that probably discouraged prospective foreign investors from investing in Nigeria. Little wonder, then that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is at a low ebb right now.
To assess the re-electability of President Buhari on the strength of his performance on security, the most important questions to ask are: Has the President made the country more secure as he promised? Do Nigerians feel safer now since May 29, 2015? Is the country more peaceful after over three and half years of APC government? Before we answer these questions, let us remind ourselves very briefly Buhari’s major promises on security which we had presented earlier. Buhari boasted that as President he will recover all the territories controlled by Boko Haram and decimate the terrorist group in three months, brainstorm with relevant stakeholders for the purpose of amending the Constitution to enable states and local governments create city, local and state policing systems appropriate to their peculiarities, and establish a Conflict Resolution Commission (CRC) to help prevent, mitigate and resolve civil conflicts within the polity before they escalate.
He also promised to bring forward solutions that could lead to permanent peace in all flash-points across the federation and initiate policies that would enable Nigerians work in any part of the country undisturbed by removing state of origin, tribe, ethnic and religious affiliations from documentation requirements in the identification of citizens and replace them with state of residence based on clearly defined minimum qualification for attaining such status. Now, looking critically at the current situation in the fight against Boko Haram, it is clear that the sect has not been decimated, “technically defeated” or degraded. President Buhari’s inability to completely crush Boko Haram up to this time should not surprise anyone who remembers his widely reported public support of the terrorist group in 2014.
In my view, the President has no choice but to confront Boko Haram albeit reluctantly because it would be quite embarrassing for him not to move against the sect given its violent activities and condemnation by Nigerians and the global community. Having said that, it should be pointed out that gallant Nigerian soldiers in the field deserve commendation for liberating virtually all the areas previously occupied by the Islamic militants, although it must be remembered that Boko Haram was losing ground in the north-east already before Buhari was elected – which was why election was successfully conducted there in 2015. Since then, the terrorist group has changed tactics: instead of using suicide bombers and bombs to attack “soft targets” at random, the insurgents have increased their onslaught particularly on the military by means of penetrating stochastic guerrilla methods, which is a more challenging situation to deal with by the army.
As a result, Boko Haram terrorists have probably killed more Nigerian soldiers in the last three years than ever before. In the latest audacious attacks that took place on November 18, at least about 113 mostly ill-equipped, ill-motivated and battle-weary soldiers were killed in Metele, Borno state. Thus, even if the security situation in the north-east seems to have improved somewhat, Boko Haram is still kidnapping young school girls, killing and destroying despite the extra N360 billion President Buhari took from the federation account without due process to enhance security.
Remember also that, according to media reports, this government has paid huge ransoms to the terrorist group and released many so-called repentant members from police custody, including those captured before Buhari himself assumed power, most of whom might have re-joined their colleagues in attacking our brave soldiers and innocent citizens. No doubt, the ransom provides Abubakar Shekau, Abu Musab Al-Barnawi and their murderous gangs the financial wherewithal to continue operating and emboldened them to be more daring and vicious in attacking selected targets.
In addition, insecurity especially in the north-central states and parts of the south-east has gone from bad to worse as a result of increased attacks by the so-called Fulani herdsmen. Based on that, many Nigerians mainly from the south think that President Buhari’s northernisation of the country’s security architecture is a big mistake. Or else how would one explain the pusillanimous responses of Mr. President and his ministers of defence and interior to what appears to be essentially a vicious programme of land-grabbing and internal colonisation by marauding terrorists masquerading as herdsmen? The “Fulani herdsmen” problem has been well reported by the media, so there is no need going into details here.
However, we should note that some of the pronouncements of President Buhari, his minister of defence, Mansur Dan Ali, interior minister, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, and his media aides tend to create the impression that the federal government does not really intend to deal decisively with the “herdsmen” because they belong to a privileged ethno-religious group, a suspicion that gained ground especially after the idea of cattle colonies and “it-is-better-to-give-up-your-land-than-lose-your-life” attitude were recommended by top government officials.
All this, and the apparent unwillingness of the police to apprehend and prosecute the “herdsmen,” is fuelling suspicion that what is happening is part of the devious Islamisation strategy of some key elements of the northern power block to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state dominated by the north. It would be unwise to dismiss that suspicion off-handedly, considering the sordid history of Fulani political and religious adventurism in West Africa. Be that as it may, the violent activities of “Fulani herdsmen” have put into serious question Buhari’s claim that under his presidency all law-abiding Nigerians would be protected.
Let us not forget other causes of deepening insecurity such as increasing youth unemployment, which is fuelling ritual murders, armed robbery and kidnapping, and the President’s much talked about clannish approach to governance, which has encouraged separatist agitations especially in the south-east. Only sycophants and those benefiting from the system are inoculated from Buhari’s nepotism which actually violates the federal character principle enshrined in the 1999 Constitution. To be clear, the President stated that there will be “justice” for all Nigerians based on his intriguing 97% versus 5% calculus derived from the voting pattern of the 2015 presidential election.
The fallout of this is that people from some parts of the country feel that Nigeria is an Animal farm where some citizens from certain areas are more equal than others. Had President Buhari been even handed and fair to everyone, perhaps the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) led by Nnamdi Kanu would not have been as popular as it is today in the south-east. Surely, justice and fairness is a condition sine qua non for peaceful co-existence and security in a fractious, multiply plural state like Nigeria. Another four years under Buhari, according to several people I have spoken to, would be tantamount to continued divisiveness and disunity in the country.
There is nothing to show that President Buhari is serious about constitutional amendment to decentralise policing and allow the states and local governments take care of their peculiar security needs or establish a commission to help prevent, mitigate and resolve civil conflicts in the country. He has issued several executive orders, but none of them addresses the ethno-religious bottlenecks preventing Nigerians from working in any part of the country they please. Both in employment and business, people are still required during documentation to identify their state of origin, tribe, ethnicity and religious affiliation.
Has the President forgotten his promise to do away with these parochial identification criteria? is there any reason to hope that he will do it if re-elected? For the first question, he may or may not have forgotten; for the second, I cannot see any good reason to be optimistic. To conclude on security: Just as in the case of the economy, there is a wide gap between what Buhari promised in 2015 and what he has achieved thus far.
We now come to the issue of fighting corruption, considered by majority of Nigerians in 2015 as Buhari’s forte, his strongest claim to the presidency. Because of the brash and draconian manner late Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon and himself treated politicians of the Second Republic based on the War Against Indiscipline (WAI), millions of Nigerians thought that the much younger Buhari who was a military dictator from 1984 to August 1985 will fight corruption and indiscipline thirty years later with the same kind of abrasiveness and harshness with which he implemented WAI.
To be continued…