‘It has been seven years of the locust’

•Nigerians lament socio-economic woes under Buhari’s government

FUNMILAYO AREMU reports the feelings of Nigerians and their assessment of the past seven years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, as most of them complain that the socio-economic realities are in opposite direction of promises made.

This day, seven years ago, the MuhammaduBuhari government was inaugurated, having won an unprecedented election based on its ‘Change’ mantra. It was the first time an opposition party was taking over government from an incumbent government. There was so much excitement and hope in the land that things were really going to change for the better based on promises made on the economy, power, education, food security and general insecurity, among others.

Though another election took place in 2019 with promises to build on achievements made between 2015 and 2019, and take the country to the ‘next level,’ the reality on ground doesn’t seem to have convinced the average Nigerian that their lives had been better in the last seven years. If anything, many believe that the entire nation had retrogressed and may go moribund if not quickly salvaged.

Today, Nigerians, young and old, are singing the same song of suffering and poverty. Making ends meet, for them, is becoming an everyday struggle. According to the World Bank, as many as four out of every ten Nigerians are poor. Similarly, according to the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), 91 million Nigerians as of today, live in abject poverty.

Sunday Tribune investigation also revealed that inflation rate in the country had risen from 9.01 per cent in 2015 to 16.82 per cent in April of this year. Nigerians around the country have been lamenting a lack of purchasing power as basic commodity costs have soared. The young generation, who should not have felt the heat as most are still dependants, appears worst off as the mantra among them now is SAPA, which stands for Severe Absence of Purchasing Ability.

Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja, the General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) who spoke with Sunday Tribune on the last seven years of Buhari’s administration lamented the situation of things.

According to him, though the Buhari administration met some expectations on the issue of National Minimum wage and resisted the pressure to retrench workers, among others, his government had failed on several fronts which include poor economy, insecurity, banditry and failure to put pressure on  some state governments to pay the new minimum wage.

“We have lost our members to banditry and insecurity in the North-West and North-East respectively. We have lost workers, nurses, teachers and road transport workers in the course of all these. You will also will not forget easily our running battle with the government on fuel subsidy removal; he got away with some increase, and in another instance, he bowed to the pressure of the organisedlabour.

“Some governors are saying they are not implementing the minimum wage. Nothing can be more ridiculous that people who are sworn to uphold our Constitution and our laws; they sit in government chambers and then make a ridicule of our laws. So the president could use, if not the coercive force of the federation, at least the legal bite of the federation, to say there must be enforcement of the law of our land (on the minimum wage),” Ugboaja stated.

Speaking on the issue of incessant strikes by workers in the country especially the current one by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the NLC secretary blamed government for its insincerity and pushing the average worker to the wall to go on strike with its attendant effects on the country’s economy.

“When you verify to know what is causing the strike, you will find out that government’s insincerity is chief. Strike is a legitimate weapon used by workers globally. It is a standard practice that the worker has the innate fundamental right to withdraw services where he feels he’s been pushed to the wall and there is nothing left to do.

“What else do you do when you have an agreement with government and that agreement is breached? What else do you do if not to go on strike? What are the indicators you can carry out? So the strike option is the most civilised route that the worker can take, and it behoves on government to then do what is right; it behoves on government to respect an agreement freely entered into.

“So it becomes very funny and incomprehensible that the person who has all the paraphernalia of advantage in a negotiation is the one now breaching an agreement that was freely reached. On that score, the government has not fared well.

“But you cajole and harass legitimate demands; push those demanding legitimately, hoodwink them, pound them to stupor, to submission, to enable you steal our collective heritage. That is a challenge we have,” Ugboaja lamented.


Oyo State NLC Chairman, Comrade Martin Kayode, didn’t score the administration high too. He bemoaned the fact that the Buhari administration has not satisfied the wishes and expectations of the average Nigerian.

“Naturally, I wouldn’t say they (Buhari administration) really changed anything,” he says, adding: “They came in with the purpose of changing things, but what has happened is not what Nigerians expected. Insecurity and inflation are at an all-time high. The current price of a dollar to naira is more than N600. Why? My personal opinion is that they should do more.

“Only those who have benefited from this administration will give them credit.  Poverty has increased more than they expected. Lives are not being protected, and insecurity is on the rise; if this is not addressed, it will have an impact on other sectors of the economy. Students have remained at home for months; they (government) claim that they cannot afford what ASUU is requesting.  Some persons in the same country are embezzling more than what the universities are seeking,” he lamented.

The ordinary Nigerians on the street are not smiling either. MrsOlabisi (not real name), a market woman, while speaking with Sunday Tribune said government has forced her entire family further into poverty, as she has been unable to afford three-square meals per day for the past seven years. She claimed that the cost of basic necessities and services has surged, which had forced her to be living from hand to mouth in recent years.

“Before this administration, I used to eat properly and even have leftovers,” she claimed, adding: “but things have been really difficult for me in the last six years. I have had to do demeaning things like cleaning people’s houses and fetching water for them for little or nothing.

“I no longer eat three square meals a day; instead, I eat what I can afford once a day and supplement the rest of the day with garri and groundnut. My market products have substantially decreased. I used to spend approximately N50,000 to fill my stall as a petty trader, but now I sell smoked fish, which is extremely expensive. People don’t patronise me as well as I would like. I occasionally have leftovers that finally got spoilt. I sometimes feed on the spoilt ones,” she lamented.

She also regretted that her husband abandoned her five years ago because he couldn’t handle caring for her and her daughter.

“I had to send her (daughter) to my older brother in Lagos since I couldn’t take care of her any longer. My husband abandoned me; he never actually took care of us before he left, so it made no difference. It is really tough to live and survive in this country. I don’t even go to the hospital because I know I can’t afford it. Feeding is quite challenging,” she cried.

Mr John Olonade is a barrister, based in Ibadan. According to him, the Buhari administration in the last seven year has performed done poorly. In his own view, “It is as evident (even) to the blind as it is audible to the deaf that this administration has done badly in so many areas. The evidence speaks for itself. It is general knowledge that they have not performed well; to claim differently would be deception.”

Speaking on the situation with the judiciary, Olonade said that arm of government is currently crippled, noting that since the dismissal of former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, the APC-led executive has issued a subtle message to the judiciary that anyone who tries to kick against them will be dealt with.

“All it takes to frighten any Nigerian judge into doing their bidding is to threaten to expose any undeclared wealth or any skeleton in their closet. Unfortunately, most judges have got their hands filthy, giving the APC-led administration authority over them.

“Because the judicial system has been compromised, it is clear that their verdicts are prejudiced and biased in favour of the current administration. A famous example is when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Muhammadu Buhari, despite the fact that he clearly lacked the necessary qualifications to hold public office,” he said.

Mahmoud Ahmed, a librarian and Folahan Mosunmola, an entrepreneur, are also of the opinion that the government has failed. Ahmed said that the administration has failed so bad that “you can use its campaign manifesto heavily founded on economy and security to slap it down to purgatory.”

Mosunmola, in her response to scoring the government performance in the last seven years said it was obvious to see that “it (the government) had failed in the area of education, the economy, and security, among others.

“The only ministry which I think has performed, is the Ministry of Works and Transport and we can see what the current government has achieved in their seven years in government. Aside that, it’s been a disaster all around, and it’s always been a disaster giving the helm of government affairs to bad apples.They have not only pulled the country backwards, but also her population and everything inside her; the dignity, hope, and justice for the common man have been stomped and destroyed.”

While the working class Nigerians are suffering the case of pensioners is better imagined. MrAbiodunAkanji, a member of the Contributing Pension Union, told the Sunday Tribune that if he were to evaluate the administration’s performance it could only score a 25 per cent.

“I’m not going to rate him (Buhari) more than 25 per cent. He hasn’t accomplished much. As far as I’m concerned, his performance as a leader has been very poor. I’m not sure which area he couldscore high. Security was not this bad when he first arrived seven years ago. He has made it the worst from one administration to the next. If it was bad before he came in, it’s even worse now. People cannot sleep peacefully with their eyes closed in their homes; when people sleep at night, no one knows if they would wake up the next day. He has not performed well in my own opinion,” Akanji lamented.

 

Still Waiting on Hope

However, as the Buhari administration draws the curtain in the remaining 365 days, Nigerians are still expressing hope that things could get better, if only the president could really be in charge and try to leave a legacy behind.

Ugboaja, NLC secretary said instead of imposing new taxes and policies that would drain the masses financially, the federal and state governments should pay backlog of salary arrears and pensions, and not hoard the commonwealth of the people.

“If they had used the money to pay salaries, there’ll be no need for EFCC to be chasing them. If they had used the monies to pay salaries, EFCC won’t be jumping through the roof to enter anybody’s house. These were people when they were in power, they were reluctant to pay salaries.

“We have piled-up of gratuities, piled-up pension arrears, piled-up grants and allowances. We have arrears of salaries unpaid; but these people live in dangerous luxury. All they do is harass people away from their legitimate demands, only to embezzle those funds,” he said.

Speaking further, Ugboaja said the poor power supply being experienced across the nation could still be fixed, including other problems such as the bad refineries, crime, among other problems.

“The president, definitely, it is not rocket science, it’s not something that is impossible, can ensure that in the next nine months, our refineries come back on stream. It will be a big relief to the working people and their families.

“The president in the next nine months can help attack the challenge of power that a cabal even under his watch has rendered ineffective. They only talk about increase in charges.So he has the duty and responsibility to have a critical, dispassionate look at the criminality that has bedeviled our power sector because it’s an open secret, and it is ridiculous,” he added.

 

  • Additional reports from Adeola Otemade

 

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