President Muhammadu Buhari cannot bring up Economy, Security and Anti-corruption (ESA) campaign slogans on which his 2015 successful campaigns were hinged . . .
“Albatross” is a metaphor used to describe a constant and inescapable burden, a psychological burden that feels like a curse. It is a source of frustration or guilt; an encumbrance. President Muhammadu Buhari ran his 2015 Presidential campaigns on a three-pronged platform: “Economy, Security and Anti-corruption” (ESA). The last platform was built around his image as a staunch anti-corruption fighter and his incorruptible and honest reputation. In a country massively populated by politicians who are criminally-minded, fraudulently-disposed and latently-deceptive, Buhari’s reputation was likened to that of an angel.
As 2019 looms, nobody knows whether the president will contest. If he decides to run, he will emerge as the presidential candidate with the most constant and inescapable burden on the campaign trail. It is unlikely that the presidency is unaware that the president has an inescapable burden, a duty, to explain the success or failure of his three-pronged ESA platform to the Nigerian people, come 2019. It is a given that angels are supposed to do angelic things. Has Buhari done angelic things? Many pundits contend that an angel can only do angelic things if the angel is surrounded by fellow angels. Is Buhari surrounded by fellow angels?
How this administration came to power must be examined before any postulation on angelic deeds. Major Gen. Muhammad Buhari (rtd.) came to power on a multi-layered, multi-dimensional, multi-differentiated, multi-faceted and multi-partied platform glued together by very strange bedfellows – with the sole purpose of sending Dr. Goodluck Jonathan back to Otueke. It will be recalled that the angel had craved Aso Rock three times before. Under such despairing cravings, who cares about angelica with its aromatic smell. The abodes of the strange bedfellows were devoid of angels – just fellow travellers. It is unfortunate that an angelic candidate cannot make it to Aso Rock without political influencers, ardent followers and stalwart supporters. The truism that you get what you pay for is apt because the strange bedfellows were not non-profiteering angels. They were angel investors.
How has ESA faired? On the economy, an attractive choice to many Nigerian voters because of his perceived incorruptible character, Buhari may have disappointed many who voted for him in 2015. In his first year in office, Nigeria suffered a decline in commodity prices triggering economic slowdown. In order to close shortfall in revenue and fund an expansionary capital budget, Buhari travelled to many countries seeking loans. Naira depreciated in the black market creating a gulf between official exchange rate and black-market rate. In 2016, the economy tanked leading to inflation. From 2017 to the present, recession enveloped Nigeria and the economy fell into a comatose state impoverishing millions of Nigerians, while federal lawmakers maintained their first position as the most overpaid and underworked legislature in the world.
On security, Boko Haram had a mini-Islamic State with its own captured territories. In his inaugural speech, Buhari ordered the army boss to relocate to Maiduguri signalling a shift in the war against Islamic insurgency in the northeast. Boko Haram started loosing captured territories (“caliphates”). The war progressed and both the military and the presidency claimed success. It was short-lived, as the terror group started hit and run and suicide bombings. Conflicting claims of defeating and/or degrading Boko Haram surfaced. Most of the 110 “Abducted” DapchiGirls were released in mysterious and controversial circumstances by Boko Haram (similar to “ChibokGirls conspiracy theories”) with the terror group allegedly acting out a script. Fulani herdsmen marauded with impunity hitting the mark with the Benue massacre. As a result of the callous indifference and lukewarm response to the Benue tragedy, Buhari’s APC lost the Middle-Belt in the equation for 2019.
On anti-corruption, Buhari constituted the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC). PACAC commenced work on August 10, 2015 with the mandate to, inter alia – promote a reform agenda on the anti-corruption effort, advise the administration in the prosecution of the war against corruption and implement required reforms in Nigeria’s criminal justice system. Anti-corruption agencies began clampdowns with accusations of crackdowns on opposition elements. The anti-corruption crusade stalled with lingering court cases and EFCC couldn’t secure any high-profile conviction. Alleged corrupt political/bureaucratic elite, either out of power, in power or walking the corridors of power survived and the anti-corruption crusade lost its luster.
Grading ESA, 2015-2018, Buhari scored the following: economy, 3 over 10; security, 5 over 10; and corruption, 2 over 10. From dialectical reasoning, it becomes clear that Buhari cannot bring up Economy, Security and Anti-corruption (ESA) campaign slogans on which his 2015 successful campaigns were hinged. This is because the three-pronged platform has collapsed under the weight of economic depression, wanton insecurity and ineffective anti-corruption crusade – epitomized by hungry Nigerian masses; unrestrained Fulani Herdsmen killings; and pervasive corruption, respectively. The president has few and far between catchy recruiting slogans to choose from, for his 2019 presidential campaigns.
With elections due in February 2019, Buhari’s trump card is weak opposition. PDP remains divided, scarred by past voter anger, stoking calls for a third force. This administration is overseeing the most severe economic slump in 25 years, failing to end security threats and unable to stop daily power cuts and fuel shortages – enough shortcomings for a landslide electoral defeat at the 2019 presidential election. Surprisingly, there’s no sign of a significant opposition threat. PDP has not been able to shake-off the perception of a fundamentally corrupt party built on rent-seeking. That the so-called third force can organize successful campaigns across 36 states is a tall order. As a result of inept opposition, Buhari may yet win the 2019 vote. Again, no Nigerian politician can match Buhari’s enduring cult-figure image in his core-north base – an advantage. However, If he persists on using economy, security and anti-corruption as his campaign slogans, again, it will not sell. ESA has become an encumbrance, Buhari’s albatross in 2019.