It seems all is not well with the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Buhari administration. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is saying that APC has displayed its insensitivity and anti-people stance by encouraging President Muhammadu Buhari to visit his cattle ranch instead of Kankara, Katsina State, his home state where 600 students were abducted by terrorists.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement says his party strongly rejects an alleged unfolding ploy by APC to set up, ridicule and paint President Buhari as being solely responsible for their collective failure in governance.
PDP says it is standing with Nigerians, and insisting that APC ‘’must not be allowed to hide under the failure of President Buhari to launder its image as it is the real architect of the misrule of the Buhari administration’’, adding, ‘’APC must answer for its atrocities and fake promises and not think that by abandoning the Buhari Presidency at the eleventh hour and by embarking on name change and orchestrated expulsion of some its state governors and leaders, it will be exonerated by Nigerians.’’
Hammering on, PDP says by not impressing it on President Buhari to cut short his ‘’unnecessary holiday’’ and make efforts to rescue the abducted students, ‘’APC has again shown that it is a party of political bandits, which has no iota of concern for the wellbeing of Nigerians.’’
Public trust in the Buhari administration appears to be declining very fast alongside a growing perception of lacking political inclusion. This is worsened by negative economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and a sense of undelivered political promises which PDP has been hammering, and which underscore the importance of collective buy-in for the country’s development aspirations.
During a ministerial retreat last September to assess his stewardship, President Buhari declared his administration’s progress in all fronts to improve his citizens’ quality of life and set them on the path to prosperity. Speaking further, he commended his administration for innovatively addressing insecurity and insurgency by rehabilitating and re-integrating repentant terrorists into society.
Seemingly triumphant, he affirmed that his administration is on the right course and highlighted their efforts in building strong institutional capacities to fight corruption, while urging his appointees to defend his government by going on the offensive to better present information.
A Senior Political Economy Analyst and Visiting Fellow at the LSE Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa, Dr Uche Igwe, says in his election manifesto were promises to ensure the equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth and close the gap between different classes. ‘’He had committed to lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next ten years, but he did not explain, however, how he intends to achieve this. Many Nigerians did not believe their President, and currently many more rather feel the opposite about his positive self-assessment – that things have actually gone from bad to worse under Buhari’s watch’’, Igwe said.
The Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa (FLCA) at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) focuses on the study of, and engagement with, Africa. It promotes the visibility of Africa in LSE’s teaching, research, and policy engagement. It supports independent multi-disciplinary academic research and teaching; open and issue-oriented debate; and evidence-based policymaking.
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Continuing, Igwe said, ‘’these sentiments were expressed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who said he was embarrassed about how President Buhari is running the country, insisting that Africa’s most populous black nation is moving towards becoming a failed State. The former President then openly accused the current administration of mismanaging diversity by allowing disappearing old ethnic and religious fault lines to reopen in greater fissures with drums of bitterness, separation and disintegration.
‘’Obasanjo is apparently not alone. Wole Soyinka, poet, essayist and first African Nobel prize winner, concurred with the former President’s assessment, describing the country as a crumbling edifice on the edge of collapse. According to another elder statesman, the former governor of Kaduna State, the late Balarabe Musa, referring to attacks across the country by bandits and criminal herdsmen, the failure is because ‘no serious and patriotic government will allow this level of killings of its citizens by terrorists and be watching aimlessly’. A prominent Islamic scholar, Sheik Murtala Sokoto, described those still praising Buhari as liars and hypocrites.
‘’Even within the President Buhari’s own party, many people who worked for his victory now complain openly that the mission that brought them to power might have been willfully abandoned. Frustration and discontent are fast spreading among the populace who have already been negatively impacted by the adverse economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the government is quick to showcase their achievements on infrastructure, especially in the road and railways sectors, while promising to complete the second bridge across the River Niger in the eastern part of the country.’’
Within the administration, sources say the pandemic should be blamed for the sudden economic downturn that led to the fluctuation of oil prices and necessitated the deregulation that seeks to permanently remove the costly and opaque subsidy regime. The larger populace further doubts their sincerity and might have lost confidence in an administration that was voted in under the mantra of change. Thus declining levels of trust in the Buhari administration is unsettling which, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), compromises the willingness of citizens and business to respond to public policies – essential for economic prosperity.
COVID-19 another government drainpipe
The visiting fellow, Igwe is arguing that through the Presidential Taskforce, the Buhari administration appears to have fought to minimise the fatality and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, even as citizens are still doubtful of official information. ‘’In particular, the statistics shared by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in the Ministry of Health remain suspect as people believe that it does not represent the reality on ground. Rather, they feel that it is a ploy that provides another opportunity to siphon public resources into the private pockets of the parasitic elite.
‘’This general public doubt about the realities of the pandemic reflects a clear deficit of trust between the government and the governed. It underscores many years of lies and failed promises from politicians to the people.
‘’For many ordinary citizens, information coming from the government should be taken with a pinch of salt. Even the death of one of Nigeria’s most powerful men and former Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, as a result of COVID-19, could not convince many. And despite the death of many other Nigerian politicians recorded as a result of COVID-19, distrust continues to thrive; even citizens who believe that the pandemic is real dismiss it as the ‘disease of the elite’. Although evidence from government data shows that more than 1,000 deaths have already occurred due to the raging virus, the fact that their names were not carried by the media may have helped to reinforce the public doubt towards the virus’ lethality.
‘’This spiraling level of distrust leaves a country almost ungovernable. Despite the lockdown and other forms of restrictions imposed by the government, officials encountered a lot of difficulty enforcing it. Angry protesters in many parts of Lagos, Nigeria’s megacity, attacked police officers enforcing the government directive to restrict movement.
‘’In many locations outside the urban areas, life was going on as normal with inhabitants believing there is little to fear despite government announcements to the contrary. Indeed, the lockdown in many parts of Nigeria provoked hunger and suffering for many families who are daily wage earners. For a country that lacked effective forms of social security, palliatives in the form of food aid were necessary to enable people to survive’’, he said.
According to the senior political economy analyst, ‘’although the government and well-meaning individuals tried to provide such aid while the lockdown lasted, there were widespread complaints that the distribution pattern adopted by government agencies was not inclusive. It was rather done along partisan lines, especially in favour of the ruling party and other ethnic considerations. This misgiving contributed to fuel public angst and discontent particularly among the poorest of the poor who felt that the lockdown increased their hunger.
‘’Apparently after gnashing their teeth for many weeks, some people took to the streets to cause pandemonium and loot vehicles on essential duties transporting food items from one city to another. A recent survey commissioned by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) in Nigeria found interesting linkages between COVID-19, instability and conflict, unsurprisingly finding that victims of recent violence are less likely to trust the government’s mitigation measures than those who have not experienced it.
‘’Given the above scenario, an objective assessment of the administration’s performance cannot be accrued through self-praise, but by reflecting deeply on the pulse of the street, and evaluating whether government policies and interventions are realistically lifting Nigerians out of poverty or pulling more back into it? Growing rates of poverty in the country signal a failure in achieving the promises made and will continue to build distrust. A 2016 Pew Research Centre poll on Nigeria revealed that most Nigerians do not consider the political and economic system to be fair. Three years after, there is no evidence that the opinion of citizens have changed.
‘’A core marker of success for Buhari’s administration will therefore be the ability to regain the trust of citizens. This will entail a clear roadmap, an inclusive approach and a robust communication strategy to secure a collective buy-in for the county’s short, medium and long-term development aspirations.’’
That may be a far cry. Already, PDP is stressing that the preference for the welfare of Buhari’s cattle over the safety of young students, who are now languishing in their abductors’ den, foregrounds APC’s disdain for Nigerians, for which it should never be entrusted with governance at any level in future.
‘’Our party and, indeed, discerning Nigerians are not surprised that the APC, as a party, has not forcefully condemned the kidnapping of the students even as it has not raised any strong voice against the recent gruesome killing of 43 farmers in Borno state by terrorists.
‘’Rather, the APC has tacitly supported the insensitive comment by the Buhari Presidency, which blamed the slain farmers instead of taking steps to apprehend the assailants. Our party charges the APC to come clean on this manifest conspiracy of silence as such silence, in the face of horrific killing and kidnapping of innocent Nigerians, only points to the complicity of its leaders.
‘’APC leaders must explain their interests in acts of violence and terrorism ravaging our country, particularly, given that many of them, including some state governors, had admitted establishing contacts with and even paying ransom to bandits.
‘’Moreover, the admission by a terrorist group of being responsible for the Kankara abduction, after the APC government in the state had informed the public that bandits were responsible and that it was already in contact with the said bandits raises critical questions on the integrity of the claims by the APC government.
‘’Furthermore, our party recalls that the APC has failed to account for the whereabouts of political mercenaries they imported from neigbouring countries, particularly Chad and Niger Republic, to unleash violence on voters in the 2019 general elections.
‘’The escalation of banditry during and since after the 2019 elections, therefore calls for explanations by the APC and its leaders’’, PDP says.