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President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Imo State has come and gone – leaving behind some big take-aways. Pundits and political analysts have begun to dissect the speech he gave during his much-anticipated visit. Buhari arrived Imo amidst fanfare Tuesday, to commission projects of the Governor Hope Uzodinma administration.

To the surprise of some, in his speech Buhari did not respond to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) sit-at-home threat or the opposition party, PDP, claim of alleged embezzlement of N241 billion of state funds by Uzodinma. Buhari instead begged to discard his “prepared speech” in order to, in his words, “digress”.

The President is renowned for not talking much to the media – indeed even amongst politicians, he’s said to be less of a talker. But when Buhari talks, he tends to “throw the spanner in the works!” as Ali Harazimi, an Abuja-based political analyst told The Skuup.

Buhari wanted to talk about “infrastructural development” he said. He started by taking a swipe at other Governors – who unlike his host – did not invite him to commission projects. He remarked, “maybe they are not being fair to invite me, but I don’t mind not being invited.”

President Buhari then went on to give what analysts see as personal assessment of his administration’s successes and challenges since coming to power in 2015. He said, “On the question of insecurity and bandits, if Nigerians will reflect, anyway, to be frank with you, I have been blaming Nigerian elites for not sitting and thinking hard about our country.”

“Between 1999 – 2015, I will like people to check the Central Bank and the NNPC; the average crude oil production was 2.1 million barrels a day at the average cost of 100 US dollars per barrel. So, Nigeria was earning 2.1 million, multiplied by 100, multiplied by the number of days of those years.”

The President continued his lamentation, “But look at the state of infrastructure, some of the roads – since the good old PTF days; look at the railway, it was virtually killed; look at power, we are still struggling.”

He then went on to make an accusation – without naming anyone – that “militants in the South-South were unleashed” on his administration. That, according to the President has caused crude oil production to go “down to half a million barrels a day”. To make matters worse, the global cost of petroleum “went down from 28 to 37 dollars.”

On the issue of insecurity, Buhari gave himself a pat-on-the-back, as he said, “look at the problem in the North-East, ask anybody from Borno or Adamawa. How many Local Governments were in the hand of the government then; they were in the hands of so-called Boko Haram! Bloody fraudulent whoever they are. They are fraudulent” spat Buhari. But now, he said, “the Local Governments are under the control of Government.”

As President Buhari ended his speech, he concluded, “so relative, in terms of time and resources, this administration has done extremely well”.

However, Buhari took another dig – blaming but without naming. He said he had to say all that he had said “because those who are supposed to say it are not saying it. I don’t know why!”

Speech take-aways:

So as the audience the President addressed clapped and nodded while he gave his speech, we asked what were the take-aways of his speech?

On Buhari’s remark about not being invited to commission projects by Governor Uzodimna’s colleagues, that may be a veiled dissatisfaction with some Governors – especially those of the President’s party, APC. Only time will tell if they will be spurred into action – by inviting him to commission projects.

On the issue of insecurity, Buhari said “they have tried.” According to Abuja analyst Umar Suleiman, whereas it may be correct to claim that Boko Haram has indeed lost control of many local governments in the North-East, the issue of mass abductions and kidnappings for ransom have come to characterize Buhari’s administration whenever insecurity is discussed.    

According to data from Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), there were 2,943 abduction cases and 5,800 death cases due to insecurity between January and June 2021. On 28 March this year, bandit attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train and abducted close to 100 people – including a pregnant woman and children.

Also, a report by SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence, a Lagos-based political risk analysis firm, an estimated N10 billion have been demanded by kidnappers ($19.96 million) in the first six months of the year. Nearly 1,000 students have been taken from schools in mass abductions since December 2020, according to the United Nations. This means about 33 percent of kidnapped people in the first half of the next year are school children.

Buhari blamed the Nigerian elite for Nigeria’s problems. With about 60 Ministers, a majority in the Senate and House of Representatives, arguably, there is no shortage of elites surrounding the President. Could his elite-blame be that he is unimpressed by their performance, their advice, their “thinking” about Nigeria?

The President claimed that “militants were unleashed” on his administration – invariably blaming crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism on the notorious group. But Ali Harazimi asked, “What happened to the billion-dollar contract that was given to ex-militant Tompolo to provide security in the Niger Delta? What on earth is going on?”  

Whatever it is that is going on says Harazimi, “there is clear evidence that Muhammadu Buhari is overwhelmed by all the issues he has touched upon – and not just that, his speech does give an insight into his state of mind as well as his frustration about many aspects of governance since he became President.”

Analyst Umar Suleiman said, “one would have thought that with all the debt the Buhari administration has incurred, life would be better for the ordinary Nigerian; instead, it is not the case.” Indeed, on their part, the “ordinary Nigerians” are increasingly dealing with the economic hardships, rising unemployment, poverty, inflation, and more.

Financially, economists argue that Nigeria is worse off today than it was pre-Buhari era. In the first quarter of 2022, Nigeria’s public debt rose to N41.6 trillion from N39.56 trillion recorded at the end of December 2021. Recall that the Minister of Finance and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has indicated that the federal government will borrow over N11 trillion and sell national assets to finance Nigeria’s budget deficit in 2023.

So as the curtains of the Buhari regime are about to be drawn, all eyes will be set on the President to see how much more he can tangibly achieve before he hands over power to the next President in May 2023.

Skuup Exclusive