Buhari and the broken window theory

Ray Ekpu


By Ray Ekpu

In the last few days, there has been a whirlwind of activities to bring to a close the eight-year tenure of Muhammadu Buhari as the President of Nigeria. These include commissioning of projects, launching of books, dinners and luncheons as well as lectures on how to keep Nigeria united, keep Nigeria developed and keep Nigeria progressive.

The President also gave a farewell speech, in which he told us that he felt fulfilled. In that speech he also said “I am confident that I am leaving office in Nigeria better in 2023 than I met in 2015.” That was his assessment of his performance. He is entitled to it even though it sounds like an incestuous proclamation. His wife, Aisha, also gave him a 50 per cent score on his eight-year performance.

Several analysts have been sinking their teeth into the matter on social media and in the traditional media. It is not easy to discuss an eight-year tenure in one page or even in a few pages. I am not sure that the President was able to speak with chin-jotting pride about his achievements even though he struggled to put gloss over the rough edges of his policies.

Obviously, he made some achievements. That is being fair. He invested heavily in rail transportation linking Kaduna with Abuja and Lagos with Ibadan etc. He paved some roads in various parts of the country and built some bridges including the long abandoned Second Niger Bridge. He took Nigeria through the COVID-19 era in a commendable fashion that limited the casualty figures. He also completed some airport projects, bought planes and other hardware for the Armed Forces.

So it can be said, truthfully, that he contributed significantly to infrastructure, improvement in Nigeria even though the execution of these projects lacked transparency and accountability. This column is able to agree with him that in the area of infrastructure he left that sector better than he found it in 2015. But on the three major planks of his policy, namely: economy, corruption and security, the story is different, tragically different. On these three areas, his reputation took a hit as Nigerians were thrown into the abyss of grief on a regular basis.

On the economy, the government failed to make a significant departure from the past whereby the government depended largely on crude oil for its survival. Other assets such as agriculture and solid minerals remained largely untapped. And when oil production was low or its price fell or the product was stolen we were left in a quandary.

Even though crude oil is said to have been discovered in parts of Northern Nigeria, we are yet to get it into the market for sale. And as our four refineries remained dormant we had to import finished petroleum products into the country at suspiciously high prices. That has been the root cause of the subsidy removal battle that we have today. That albatross will be hanging on the neck of President Bola Tinubu.

The power sector is a major factor in the production or manufacturing process. Our power generation capacity has hovered between 2,674mw and 4, 725mw as at last month. Since Buhari took over in 2015 the national power grid has collapsed 99 times. That is inefficiency. All politicians like to engage during campaigns in a pageant of promises. In 2015, Buhari promised to generate 10, 000mw. Today, we are far, very far, from that target.

Buhari promised in 2019 that he would initiate policies that would lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within 10 years. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has warned that 25 million persons in Nigeria face the threat of hunger as from June this year. That corresponds generally with the 2022 Global Hunger Index in which Nigeria was ranked 103 out of 121 countries.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 133 million Nigerians are already multi-dimensionally poor. And with the national debt, which stands at N77 billion we are all in trouble. We are in more trouble when you consider that we are spending 96.4% of our revenue from debt servicing. Ben Akabueze, Director General, Budget Office of the Federation is worried about the high debt level. He said recently: “Once a country’s debt service ratio exceeds 30% that country is in trouble and we are pushing towards 100% and that tells you how much trouble we are in.”

When Buhari assumed office in 2015 the exchange rate was N190 to the dollar. Today, it is N750 to the dollar. Why is this important? Because Nigeria is a largely import dependent country. We import even toothpicks.

According to the NBS unemployment in 2015 was 10.44%; by 2020 it had risen to 33.3%. That high level of unemployment has contributed to the high level of poverty, which put us in the number one position as the poverty capital of the world, a dubious title that was hitherto held by India. We occupied that position between 2018 and 2022. On this front, there has been an unsettling urgency for a solution so as to dim the growing flame of pessimism and misery among the people. His currency redesign policy, which impoverished a number of artisans, small and medium scale business owners was a negative game changer for the economy.

On the issue of corruption, the government has recovered some of the monies siphoned out of the country and deposited abroad. Some properties and monies have also been seized but the scent of corruption scandal is still harassing our nostrils. And the statistics will bear us out.

In 2015, Nigeria was ranked 136 among 180 countries by Transparency International on corruption. Last year, we were placed on the 150th position on the Corruption Perception Index. In the last few years, very little was heard about the combat of corruption by the government. The government’s excuse may be that corruption was pushing back. The fight against corruption is not a child’s play. Any government that promises to wipe out corruption must be ready for the counter attack by the corrupt.

In the last eight years the toughest problem for Buhari has been the high level of insecurity. Many of those who were campaigning for him in 2015 told the public that being a retired major general and a man who had fought in the Nigerian civil war between 1967 and 1970 he was the right man for the job. Many people believed that he would decimate Boko Haram within months or weeks.

Even though Boko Haram has been largely destroyed in the North East insecurity has spread to almost all the zones now. Under Buhari 19, 129 persons lost their lives to Boko Haram attacks. According to Saturday Punch of May 27, 2023 which quoted figures from Research portal, Dataphyte, it was stated that the cases of kidnapping of school children rose by 36.19% during Buhari’s administration with 1, 010 abducted between 2018 and 2022.

Also, the attacks by herders’ militia took 53, 418 lives between May 29, 2015 and October 15, 2022. For some of these abductions, huge sums of money were paid either by individuals or governments to the terrorists as ransom. A National Security Summit Report of the House of Representatives has revealed that $2.4 million was paid as ransom to secure the release of school children in separate mass kidnappings in the North West in November last year.

Terrorists have invaded army and police facilities, killed soldiers and policemen, attacked correctional centres, including the Kuje Correctional Centre, where they killed several persons and freed 600 inmates including 150 Boko Haram members. Herdsmen militia have been murdering people in Benue, Plateau and Southern Kaduna for years now without respite.

It is in the area of insecurity that the broken window theory comes in. The theory states that if a problem is left untackled or is tackled poorly or inefficiently then that problem can grow into an epidemic. Insecurity was poorly, very poorly, tackled by the Buhari administration. That is why it grew into an epidemic that has affected almost all the zones of the country.

That is why about 25 State Governments decided to establish one security outfit or the others. That is why two zones, South West and South East decided to establish regional security outfits named Amotekun and Ebube-agu respectively. That is why some fellows in two zones, South East and South West have been agitating for separation, making the country largely ungovernable despite the commendable efforts of our security personnel.

Buhari’s failure in the security sector has dimmed his achievements in other sectors. So perception in the other sectors is viewed through the prism of insecurity. If you build roads and people are afraid to travel on those roads because of kidnapping how useful is that road? If you provide trains and people are afraid to use those trains because of terrorism how useful are those trains? What this means is that insecurity is a subject that must be tackled in multi-dimensional fashion with more than one police force that covers all the 774 local governments.

Since independence, there has been no strike that has lasted for several months. The last strike by ASUU lasted for about eight months. The strike by the doctors lasted for several weeks. The doctors even had a five-day warning strike recently. Which means that President Bola Tinubu will be inheriting several problems of exasperating dimension.

Perhaps the most serious crime that Buhari committed in those eight years is the nepotism that has become a subject for regular analysis. This country has never been more disunited than now. And Buhari made no serious attempt to unite it and to bind the wounds of people and communities that have been hurt.

He remained nonchalant and aloof. Instead, he wanted to take people’s land as grazing grounds. Instead, he wanted to take rivers and streams from where people make a living and make them properties of the Federal Government. Instead, he was extending the tenures of his favourites even though they have completed their terms in office. And this was happening in a country where there is an abundance of manpower. And yet he claimed: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.” That statement remained sterile for the eight years of his administration.

He has asked for forgiveness. I urge Nigerians to forgive him. But I know that they will not forget him because even his parting speech had no intuitive accord with the mood and murmurings of the moment.
Baba, go in peace.

*Mr Ray Ekpu’s article was originally published by The Guardian