2019 Nigerian Presidential Election: A Referendum on President Buhari?

President Muhammadu Buhari

Any electoral process involving an incumbent automatically means a referendum on that incumbent. In the 2015 election, it was obviously a referendum on President Jonathan, which means it ran on Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s (GEJ) records, accomplishments and achievements. The mood of the people at the time implied President Buhari (PMB), then GEJ’s opponent did not have to show any records even though the Nigerian electorate could have drawn from his records as military head of state and antecedents after his reign. However, the Nigerian electorate like most African countries have other variables that weigh more than what a particular candidate may be able to do given the candidate’s antecedents, intellectual zeal, philosophy, and world view. Ethnic attachments, primordial fear of the state (country), lack of understanding of citizenship and disengaged responsibility to the said country’s government as an entity that is alien are some of the more important variables that drive the electorate. To make the long story of the 2015 elections short, PMB eventually outwitted GEJ in a combination of these factors particularly Bola Tinubu’s weigh in on his ethnic domain. GEJ’s record on the growth of the Nigerian economy, provision of security and unity in Nigeria was not fantastic enough to overcome the effect of ethnic attachments, primordial fear of the state (country), lack of understanding of citizenship and disengaged responsibility to the said country’s government as an entity that is alien.

The tripod of economy, security, and unity are the real factors that should drive elections and motivation by citizens to offer their support for an incumbent government. In the last three years, PMB has held sway so Nigerians can now assess for themselves whether President Buhari and his lieutenants have really grown the economy, provided better security, and united Nigerians. The next 3 paragraph summarizes how the man or woman in the streets of Nigerian cities, towns and villages can come to a conclusion. 

Economic growth during the last three years: The Nigerian economy dipped into a recession within the first year of PMB’s reign. Several analysts suggest combination of factors led to this. PMB immediately on stepping into leadership brought a cloud of distrust, lack of urgency and direction in governance. This led to capital flight and disengagement by foreign investors as well as Nigerians in diaspora who were not sure which direction the country was headed. The result for the common man and woman was increase in prices of commodities and food staples like rice, beans, garri, and yam. For instance, the price of rice tripled moving from about N8,000 to as much as N20,000 for a bag, while tomatoes actually became a luxury item. Infrastructural development which is an important factor in economic development actually deteriorated. Power supply went down for the first 12-18 months, but has recently come up to remain at best just a tad less than pre-2015 era, meaning most Nigerian cities and towns have more than 18 hours of darkness per day on the average. This leaves much to be desired especially as those with intents of investing in industry will have to continue running scared. Unemployment has also skyrocketed as over 6.5 million Nigerians lost their jobs in the first 14 months of PMB administration. The summary is that the common man and woman are hungrier, poorer, unemployed/underemployed and living in darkness.

Security in the last three years: One of the strengths of PMB’s campaign was the idea that he will be better suited to deal with the Boko Haram insurgency and sweltering epidemic of kidnapping. However, the events of the last three years, what some Nigerians have called ethnic cleansing by Fulani herdsmen who are murdering, raping women and children, and burning down towns and villages does seem to show that security situation under this current administration is actually worse. Also, the Boho Haram has continued to do evil, recently carting away 110 school girls from Dapchi, Yobe State. 

Unity amongst Nigerians in the last three years: Look everywhere from Lagos to Kano, Enugu to Jos, Calabar to Maiduguri, Awka to Sokoto etc. and what you find is mistrust, suspicion and even paranoia from one ethnic group to another. Between the 2 major religions there is even more. Where TY Danjuma, a military general will accuse those he trained and now successors as colluding with Boko Haram and Herdsmen to murder and maraud his people. This PMB’s Nigeria where the new lingo is “hate speech”. These have never happened before.
Nigerians are therefore poorer, more helpless, more insecure and suspicious of one another since the inception of PMB’s administration.

This coming election should be a referendum on Buhari administration’s performance on critical issues like the economy, security, and unity. Nigerians will loose if things stay the same and there is status quo with the PMB plan, meaning a Buhari victory. For Nigeria to win, the right candidate has to show how he or she can grow the economy, bring peace and unity as well as overcome the ethnic attachments, primordial fear of the state (country), and disengaged responsibility to the said country’s government as an entity that is alien