In more ways than one, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari has an uncanny way of stealthily creeping into public consciousness at moments of national angst.
In 1983 when Chadian forces invaded Nigeria through the old Borno State, Buhari as military commander deployed the forces under his command to chase them out of the country and even entering that country’s territory inspite of the howling of the dour-faced President Shehu Shagari.
He was to return to the national psyche again some months later after ousting the rudderless Shagari administration in the December 2003 coup, imposing a strict 20-month regime which with the benefit of hindsight now was a laudable efforts to tackle the country’s endemic culture of crass corruption and indiscipline.
Today, after three previous attempts, Nigeria’s answer to America’s Abraham Lincoln has again emerged in the public space, achieving an historic victory on March 28 by becoming the first opposition candidate to defeat an incumbent.
Yet again, this self-effacing and highly upright retired major general is assuming leadership of Africa’s largest economy at a moment of grave national crisis. A country built on tragic paradoxes, Nigeria is all at once a rich and impoverished country and the figures are damning. The nation’s proven oil reserves are estimated to be 35 billion barrels while natural gas reserves are well over 100 trillion cubic feet.
While Nigeria’s oil revenue has plunged in recent times, the ordinary people have hardly benefitted at periods of peak prices. It has been said that 80 percent of the nation’s oil revenue goes to government, 16 percent covers operational costs while the remaining four percent is left to investors.
Sadly as a result of corruption, this 80 percent of oil revenue benefits only one percent of the population. This “resource curse–’’ co-existence of vast natural resources in the face of extreme personal poverty,– may well account for the 45 percent of Nigerians who eke a living on less than one dollar a day.
Quite unenviable for the emergent Buhari administration, it will inherit an economy on its knees with oil prices having fallen more than 50 percent over the last one year. Given the mantra of change promoted by the victorious All Progressives Congress, the immediate task before the Buhari administration would be to tackle corruption in every sector of the economy, particularly now that Transparency International has rated Nigeria 136 out of 175 states in terms of perceptions of corruption.
Buhari must also tackle headlong the debilitating Boko Haran insurgency. Inspite of the recent streak of advances made in containing the extremist sect, Nigerians are still dying daily due to the attacks by the blood thirsty sect members.
Since 2014, more than 6,000 civilians have been reportedly killed while more than a million have been forcibly displaced within the country, with another 200,000 fleeing to Niger, Chad and Cameroon for safety.
Other challenges competing for attention are legion—unemployment, collapsed public infrastructure, epileptic power supply, fuel crisis, industrial unrest, frightening crime wave, rot in the health and education sectors and many more!
A man of valour, Buhari is perhaps the only man Nigeria needs at this crossroad of its trajectory!