It’s exactly one year since President Muhammadu Buhari took over the helm of affairs in the country’s political office after winning the 2015 Presidential election under the auspices of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
May 29, is regarded as Democracy Day and is celebrated annually to commemorate the restoration of democracy in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The holiday began when the newly elected [Olusegun Obasanjo] took office as the President of Nigeria in May 1999 ending multiple decades of military rule that began in 1966 and had been interrupted only by a brief period of democracy from 1979 to 1983.
President Buhari was heralded with so much hope and optimism that Nigerians would experience the needed change that the past administrations being the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) could not offer.
During his inaugural address at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Buhari promised Nigerians that he would transform the decaying state of the nation’s economy and the level of insecurity.
“I am immensely grateful to God who has preserved us to witness this day and this occasion. Today marks a triumph for Nigeria and an occasion to celebrate her freedom and cherish her democracy. Nigerians have shown their commitment to democracy and are determined to entrench its culture. Our journey has not been easy but thanks to the determination of our people and strong support from friends abroad we have today a truly democratically elected government in place”.
“At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems,” Buhari said.
Democracy faces some challenges
Similar to any leader’s first full year in the presidential seat, there have been ups and downs, some more unexpected then others. The global reduction in the price of crude oil was not in the forecast, and with some estimates stating that 80 percent of Nigeria’s economy is based on crude oil production and exportation, this has aided Nigeria in falling into a downward economic spiral, possibly leading to recession.
Continuing on the aspects of “issues on oil”, Buhari suffered from good policy but at bad timing when his Minister of Petroleum decided to remove the fuel subsidy, on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. What does that mean exactly, well a change in the price of fuel from N86.50 per liter to N145. This increase should not have made such a drastic impact, seeing as, as the minister stated, the price change would go far in stabilizing the market, but unfortunately it did. Nigerians are affected by oil price changes not only to fuel their cars but the majority of their homes, so the less privileged were and still are greatly affected by the change, considering the fact that the majority of them still depend on the government’s minimum wage of N18,000 per month.
The anti-corruption President
Buhari took his anti-corruption stance further making more foreign visits in his first year in office than any other president, seemingly determined to change the image of Nigeria globally from internet scammers, and being “fantastically corrupt”, as Prime Minister David Cameron said, to a country regarded at par with other developing nations without such a negative moniker.
He’s been accorded the status of a rock star globally. Strengthening economic ties with countries like Cameroon and China, he is well respected but how this will translate to concrete achievements economically for the long-term remains to be seen.
The nation is still plagued with massive unemployment, with the highest unemployment rates being with young graduates. According to Tradingeconomics.com, “Nigeria’s unemployment rate was recorded at 12.1 percent in March quarter of 2016, up from 10.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, reaching the highest since December of 2009. Youth unemployment increased to 21.5 percent from 19 percent.”
Agriculture a previous bed-rock of the nation’s economy and a medium of battling the increase in poverty in the country has been wrestled down by both the past and present administration, due to over-dependency on petroleum, and the rise of terrorist group Boko Haram, in the country’s predominately agricultural northern region.
strengthens against the dollar
During the 2015 presidential electioneering campaigns, PMB, promised to make the naira equivalent to the United States of America dollar. With this pronouncement, most Nigerians were happy since our economy is an import dependent one. As of May 29, 2015, when he assumed office, the value of the naira to the dollar, on the black market, which unfortunately is where most average Nigerians exchange their currency, was N195.00 against its current rate of N385.00. As a result of this, cost of almost every commodity in the market has skyrocketed.
In addition there are just not enough dollars in circulation, as Vanguard explains, “the incidence of the use of dollar in Nigeria arose from the adoption of the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) when the CBN officially encouraged the opening of domiciliary accounts and allowed hotels to charge and accept dollars from foreigners. That was when Nigeria was in dire need of foreign exchange to foot the cost of accumulated foreign trade bills. This was followed by the high inflation rates which decreased the demand for naira and raised the demand for alternative assets, including foreign currency and assets denominated in dollars.”
But again, with the current overall decrease in the price of crude oil, the economy, and the money has run dry. In addition, the emergence of the Avengers in the Niger Delta region has further added more headaches to President Buhari’s present challenges as the group have embarked on blowing up oil and gas pipelines, and Buhari certainly has not checkmated their activities within the region, at least, not as of yet.
An un-kept promise
PMB announced that 500,000 unemployed graduates were to be employed as teachers. This was greeted with much applause. But one year after, the PMB led government announced that these teachers would be trained under its social welfare scheme to serve as voluntary teachers. Which equates to, as Nigerians say, nothing doing.
One year gone bye-bye may not be enough to judge Buhari’s vision and true agenda for the country, however, he shouldn’t wait too long to make a meaningful impact in changing the discussion, which currently has him waning in decreased favorability ratings, according to a GAIN poll conducted in late March, Buhari scored low on jobs, economy, and power.