“Let me assure you that if I am elected president, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has had to recently; that Nigeria will return to its stabilizing role in West Africa; and that no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service…” These were the words of General Muhammadu Buhari while delivering a speech at Chatham house in February 2015, a few weeks before the elections that brought him to power.
Now in his second term in civilian office, there is very little attestation that the issues mentioned in his speech from that day have been attended to. Nigeria’s progress under President Muhammadu Buhari has been wobbly and he has largely failed to live up to his campaign promises. In the wake of his second term, he is doubling down on social investment programs, while the country’s economy suffers and civil liberties shrink.
He contested for democratic office in 3 consecutive elections (since 2003) before winning the popular vote in 2015 and then bagged a second tenure in 2019. During his Chatham house speech, General Buhari assured all concerned that his military rule was a thing of the past, explained that they had no options but to ‘arrest the drift’ and that he was now a “converted democrat”. Widespread arrest and disappearance of critics, journalists, or anyone who dares to dissent and most recently, the deployment of forces who opened fire on peaceful protesters in Lagos state prove his conversion to a democratic leader may have just been an ideal.
A Short Walk Through History
Mr. Buhari’s previous military rule could explain why Nigeria’s democracy is dwindling in his administration. His first political involvement was in the military coup that ousted Yakubu Gowon in 1975, he later became a petroleum Minister in the Olusegun Obasanjo regime before becoming the head of state after a coup that ousted Shehu Shagari’s civilian government in 1983. His regime was familiar with a “War Against Indiscipline” which was meant to be a crackdown on corrupt politicians and businesses with the aim of instilling values. But soon, journalists and trade unionists were included in Mr. Buhari’s purification agenda, restricting press and political freedoms. He also suspended the constitution shortly after he came into power. He set the country on the path of another constitutional crisis as a civilian leader in 2019 when he suspended the Chief Justice of Nigeria three weeks to the presidential elections that bagged him a second term, a move which was widely criticised and described as illegal.
His administration is now under intense scrutiny as soldiers broke up protests with gunfire at the Lekki Toll Plaza during peaceful demonstrations killing several people. Since then, targeted arrests and bans on bank accounts of supporters of the #EndSARS movement has occured. Aside from a ten minutes address where he called on Nigerians to stop protesting, president Buhari has not given credence to the recent events. Nigerians have now turned to the international community for help, requesting for sanctions on top government officials as well as investigations by the ICC for crimes against humanity. A recent CNN investigation has proven beyond doubt that Federal Forces were present and shot at #EndSARS protesters, a validation for supporters of the movement who were once accused of spreading false information.
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