Buhari’s Reign: Dante’s Comedy or Marx’s Farce?
By Pope Jay with Gracious Egedegbe
Man has always been interested in predicting the future. Although this is entirely impossible, there are instances in which he still tries to predict as accurate as possible, expected events and turnouts. Weather forecasts, stock market predictions, scientific hypothesis and sport betting are instances in which man has continually depended on predictions and likely events to acquire knowledge that, in turn, inform choices and decisions.
One major approach in prediction is the studying of past trends and facts and comparing findings and results on any given issue with special focus on conditions and factors that may have changed over time. This essay will use that same approach to answer the question that doubles as the title of this article. To do that fully, we must understand the peculiarities of Buhari’s earlier reign, draw similarities and differences between that reign and his present, and draw conclusions from our findings.
Muhammadu Buhari is someone that needs no introduction in the context of the Nigerian political area. He served in both military and civilian governments. He actively participated in the countercoup of July 1976 that ousted General Aguiyi Ironsi and the July 30, 1975 coup that overthrew General Yakubu Gowon. In 1975, he was appointed Governor of the defunct North-Eastern State by the then Head of State General Murtala Muhammed; an office he occupied until the state was split into Bauchi, Borno and Gongola States in 1976.
In March 1976, General Olusegun Obasanjo, assigned him as the Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources; sequel to that, he became the first Chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). In 1984, he became Head of State after the military coup that overthrew President Shehu Shagari in December 1983.
His military tenure lasted for about a year and eight months; during which, according to reports, the socioeconomic state of the country was nothing to write home about. Corruption was rife in the country; inflation was as high as 17.82%; crude oil price, a major source of foreign exchange, was dwindling and a massive 77.2% of graduates were unemployed.
To deal with these issues, Buhari introduced policies to revamp the economy, stem the tide of corruption and reinstitute social ethics in the populace. Amongst the policies were cutbacks on national expenditure and reduction of imports. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) advised him to devalue the naira and he responded by severing ties with them. This move greatly reduced Nigeria’s access to loans. He also stopped capital projects, replaced the Nigerian currency and encouraged importation of raw materials need in the agriculture and related industries. To deal with widespread indiscipline, he launched the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) program. By the end of his tenure, about 500 politicians, office holders and businessmen had been jailed in his campaign against corruption.
However, his policies have often been a source of debate as regarding the effects on the Nigerian economy and the masses in particular. Amongst the negative effects are the astronomically rise in cost of living resulting in poor standard of living; mass retrenchment, particularly in the civil service; rampant reports of civil right violations and clampdown on the press. The coup plotters that overthrew him in August 1985 would later cite the aforementioned as justifications for their military action.
An alternative narrative will be that the coup plotters were spurred to action to prevent Buhari’s anti-graft campaign from exposing their illicit actions and resulting wealth. Notwithstanding, there is no gainsaying that by the end of Buhari’s military tenure, his policies fell short of revamping the Nigerian economy as far as the common man is concerned.
On May 29 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari was officially sworn into office with great optimism that he would be the much needed ‘messiah’. As it were, although Nigeria now operates a democratic government, the problems of corruption, inflation, rising cost of living, falling crude oil price and employment still linger. In addition, between the end of his military regime and his election as a democratic president, insecurity, terrorism and militancy added to the problems of the Nigerian society.
Nigerian ex-president, Olusegun Obasanjo, on the 11 of June 2015 according to News24, while addressing Southwestern women leaders, stated that current faults in the Nigerian system could not be amended in just four years. He admonished Nigerians to cultivate endurance and patience as it would take a while for the newly elected president to deliver on the much-expected (positive) change. Even now, loyalists and optimists have argued that the current hardship prevalent in the country is a necessary price to pay for good things to come.
From the foregoing, it would seem that, like Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, Nigeria will have to go through an inferno to be purged of her faults before she can become the paradise we all want her to be. Hopefully, that would be a true representation of the Nigerian situation.
However, on a second thought, Nigeria current travails could just be a repetition of the Buhari’s military regime; as in the words of Karl Marx: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”
(Pope Jay is a Student of Pharmacy at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-ife and a member of the OAU Peeps Team.
Gracious Egbedegbe is a Language student of the Obafemi Awolowo University and a member of the OAU Peeps Team.)