Weighing Buhari’s achievements
On August 21, the Presidency triggered a conversation around its second-term achievements by publishing via its Twitter handle, @NGRPresident, a list of 35 items.
The achievements include, among others, approval of a 10 billion Naira intervention fund for the upgrade of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu; establishment of the National Humanitarian Coordination Committee and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19; National Special Public Works programme meant to provide employment for 774,000 young Nigerians; increment of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), allowance; successful restoration of January-to-December budget implementation calendar; defeated polio; applications opened for a new batch of beneficiaries for the N-Power Jobs Scheme, and presidential assent to a landmark bill amending the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA).
While chest-thumping may be considered decent and proper, it is imperative to evaluate these achievements on the strength of their impact on the quality of life of citizens measured against the globally accepted Human Development Index (HDI).
In 2019, official statistics put the number of out-of-school children at 10,193,918. Only recently in August, 2020 a former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, put the figures at 14 million. That claim is yet to be challenged by the Buhari administration.
Indeed, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report may have lent credence to this claim as it reveals that 1 in 5 out-of-school children in the world is a Nigerian, and that only 61% of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school while only 35.6% of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.
According to data shared by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on August 14, the country’s unemployment rate hit 27.1% in the second quarter of 2020, indicating a 4% increase from its December 19, 2018 report.
Worse still, the World Poverty Clock report of 2018 which indicated that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million people has not changed.
Yet, the country looks not have made any significant progress in its housing deficits. As the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, acknowledged In February, 2020, Nigeria’s housing deficit ranges from 16 million to 22 million.
And, whereas the Spectator Index’s long list of worst performing countries, when it comes to electricity supply in 2017, ranked Nigeria second out of 137 countries, the sector has continued to work in fits and starts.
An only bright spot is the reported gains made in the management of infant mortality. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 2020 report for Nigeria places the figures at 59.18 deaths per 1000 live births, indicating a 2.44% decline from 2019 stats of 60.67 deaths per 1000.
While the Presidency cannot be begrudged for chest-thumping, it must turn its radar on the real impact of its policies on the living standards of citizens.
A critical challenge for the Buhari team, therefore, is to lift the country from its poor HDI ratings to an acceptable minimum built on a better and more secured
President Muhammadu Buhari, on August 20, joined other members of the Economic and Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to call for a restoration of Constitutional order in troubled Mali. Nigeria also demanded immediate release of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita from detention. Buhari made the call while speaking at a virtual ECOWAS Extraordinary Session on the situation in Mali.
The President had said: “I am pleased that ECOWAS, African Union, UN and others issued strongly worded statements against the action of the Malian military. The events in Mali are great setbacks for regional diplomacy which have grave consequences for the peace and security of West Africa.”
His response to the Malian crisis must be consider timely. Nigeria’s intervention is understandable given its leadership role in the West African sub-region.
But more importantly, critics acknowledge that in lining up against military rule, Nigeria was by extension protecting its young democracy and others in the sub-region from being influenced by political developments in Mali.
However, while President Buhari defends democracy vigorously in Mali, it is hoped that he also keeps watchful gaze at democratic institutions back home as the integrity of elections come under constant scrutiny.
It must not be forgotten that the Malian situation was not unconnected with the widely held opinion that President Keita had attempted to rig his way into power while violently suppressing the opposition.
The First Lady, Aisha Buhari, returned from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on August 22, after undergoing treatment for a severe neck pain, and called for improved healthcare in Nigeria.
“I am well now and fully recovered and have since returned back home, Nigeria. I want to use this opportunity to thank all Nigerians for their prayers and well wishes while I was away for medical treatment,” she stated via Twitter handle, @aishambuhari.
While wishing the First Lady well, the dust her medical trip has raised cannot be ignored.
Her Dubai trip brings to the fore the undeniable fact that a few privileged citizens exist and that the law may not always apply to them.
The body language of the presidency appears to suggest that the country can continue wasting meager resources on medical tourism rather than deliberately building and sustaining a competitive healthcare system.
Above all, Aisha’s trip further raises the question of what has become of the several billions injected into the State House Medical Centre over the years.
And, finally, it might be safe to ask why Aisha’s call for improved healthcare system couldn’t have been served Mr President privately if it wasn’t intended to be an embarrassment?