I n exactly 48 hours’ time, the journey that started with so much hope and promise finally comes to an end, with the change of baton from President Muhammadu Buhari to the President-elect Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. In the run-up to the 2015 polls, it was clear to discerning observers that the incumbent administration of President Goodluck Jonathan would face an uphill battle to extend the tenure of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in keeping with the boast of a former National Chairman, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, that the party would rule for 60 years, because millions of Nigerians were totally fed up with where they had found themselves under the self-acclaimed “largest party in Africa.’
Although under the PDP, the nation had enjoyed some of its best moments, especially under the first leader of the Fourth Republic, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, when a combination of factors ensured the economy was in much better state than it is now. Under the former military ruler, the economy grew at an average of 6.59 per cent, although his predecessor, Umaru Yar’Adua, was able to raise it to 8.01 per cent (a 1.42 percentage point rise).
Obasanjo and Yar’Adua’s economic successes have been linked to high oil revenues, with Nigeria earning $261.8 billion and $139.6 billion respectively under both administrations, according to OPEC. But Goodluck Jonathan’s administration earned more revenue from oil with $381.9 billion. However, despite this, Jonathan could not sustain the 8.01 per cent growth rate he met when he became president in 2010. He left office in 2015 with a growth rate of 2.65 per cent, which played a prominent role in the clamour for ‘change’ from millions of voters.
The general election in 2015 gave them the opportunity to effect this change with 15,424,921 of them voting for the All Progressives Congress (APC), making it the first opposition to oust a ruling party through the ballot box. The then 73-year-old Buhari, who became Nigeria’s oldest leader in 2015, had promised the people that he would right the perceived wrongs of the PDP government and would ensure peace and prosperity for the long suffering citizens.
Unfortunately, President Buhari’s current tenure has seen a 0.41 percentage point drop in growth rate (from 2.65 per cent to 2.21 per cent), having taken the country in and out of two recessions, no thanks to slumps in oil prices, the COVID-19 pandemic and some question- able economic policies. For instance, despite battering the PDP for the huge money allegedly spent on fuel subsidy, which was then in the region of N500 billion and with a promise to end it, rather than seeing the back of the regime (which the APC claimed was a fraud), the money has increased to a staggering N3.36 trillion ($7.3 billion).
None of the four refineries which the outgoing government promised to fix as a way of ending the fuel subsidy regime is working, even though a $1.5 billion loan was approved in March 2021 for the repair of the Port Harcourt Refinery by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The outgoing government has now shifted the contentious issue of fuel subsidy removal to the incoming government acutely aware that another sharp rise in the pump price of petrol, which by the way they met at N87 in 2015 and moved it up to N184, would be met with stiff resistance from the populace.
Almost a year after taking office, in March 2016, President Buhari, while addressing the National Economic Council retreat held at the State House, Abuja, said his administration has set a target of delivering 10,000 megawatts of electricity generation in the next three years and promising that year alone the administration would add 2000 megawatts to the national grid. He said: “Nigerians’ favourite talking point and butt of jokes is the power situation in our country. But, ladies and gentlemen, it is no longer a laughing matter. We must and, by the grace of God, we will put things right.
“In the three years left for this administration we have given ourselves the target of 10,000 megawatts distributable power. In 2016 alone, we intend to add 2,000 megawatts to the national grid.” However, although the current administration has in the last eight years, increased electricity tariff by over 168 per cent, with billing jumping from an average of N23.5 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2015 to N63 kWh as of January this year, not much has changed for the consumers.
Incidentally, Nigerians paid between N16 and N31kWh in 2015 for electricity consumption. Currently, a consumer pays between N55kWh to N71kWh, depending on the categorisation. Notwithstanding the high cost of electricity, supply gaps remain huge with many Nigerians paying estimated bills for unavailable electricity and further depending on generating sets for household and commercial supply. In July 2019, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told the nation that the present administration had invested N900 billion in the power sector since its assumption of office in 2015, and yet many still live in darkness.
Sadly, this has often been the hallmark of the eight-year government of Buhari, which promised so much but let many people down. This was reinforced in a recent BBC assessment entitled: ‘Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari leaves legacy of kidnapping, inflation and debt.’ The headline says it all! However, in keeping with the dictates of his office, Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to President Buhari, insists it has not been all doom and gloom for the administration, insisting that the people will appreciate all Buhari has done when he leaves office.
According to him: “The economy of Nigeria would be better appreciated when we look beyond the shores of our country and understand what is going on. Globally, national economies have suffered so much distress in the last few years. “It’s on record that Nigeria was the second country to come out of COVID induced recession all over the world. Today, Nigeria is no longer an economy based on crude oil alone. The economy is today diversified. Look at money coming into the country from sources other than oil.
Today, the digital economy contributes over 18 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country and it is still growing.” Although a compelling defence, how- ever, it is posterity that will be the ultimate judge of the performance of the Buhari administration. And by the way, if one is to go by Buhari’s own admonition to elected officials, I am not sure if there was provision for a third crack at the presidency he would have made it back to Aso Rock, because like he said: “Any public officer who fails to either meet up with the expectations of the people or deliver on his campaign promises would be voted out in the next election. That is what democracy is about” His words, not mine!