IT WAS two years ago in April that some 200 school girls from Chibok in Northern Nigeria were kidnapped by members of the Islamic insurgent group, Boko Haram. And it is just over a year ago that Muhammadu Buhari won the presidential election in Nigeria – a stunning victory that saw him defeat the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, who swiftly conceded defeat.
In becoming the first opposition politician to triumph over an incumbent since Nigeria became independent in 1960, Buhari rode to victory on the back of fighting corruption and dealing with the Boko Haram threat.
A year on of Buhari’s presidency, the battle on both fronts has been far from easy and is raising concerns about the rule of law and democracy. In his headlong quest to tackle graft, Buhari has found himself at odds with Nigeria’s legal system.
He has been carrying on this fight through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which many Nigerians do not even countenance because they view it as ineffective.Some 70 people have been nabbed by the EFCC, most of whom are members of Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), since last year. Recently, the High Court in Abuja took the EFCC to task for acting in a way that was ‘illegal, wrongful, unlawful and constituted a blatant violation of fundamental rights.’ The court added that these actions were reminiscent of a ‘military dictatorship that arrests and releases persons at will.’
The Bishop of Kaduna, Timothy Yahiya, said Buhari’s fight against corruption had been ‘lopsided, selective and only targeted members of the opposition party.’ Former President Olusegun, who was also once a military ruler and who never shies away from controversy, said about Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign that he should look closer to home, starting with himself, the Vice President, the Senate president and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Ordinary Nigerians today are more interested in tangible things rather than abstract issues. For instance, they are more concerned about their personal wellbeing than about Buhari’s fight against corruption, which they believe cannot be easily won. A survey conducted by an international polling organisation before last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections showed that only nine per cent of Nigerians were worried about corruption. For them, having the basic necessities of life – shelter, jobs, food, running water, electricity and security – were uppermost in their minds. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, two out of three Nigerians live in poverty. They have over the years become disillusioned with the various governments – both military and civilian.
Added to Buhari’s apparently futile fight against corruption is his failure to deal with the terrorist activities of Boko Haram. Security experts say that Boko Haram has emerged as the world’s deadliest terrorist organisation, responsible for more deaths than the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
Critics say that his failure to focus on Boko Haram is increasing the risk of an escalation in the death toll while the collaboration between Isil and Boko Haram poses risks far beyond the borders of Nigeria. Indeed, if he is serious about fighting corruption he would be focusing all of his efforts on targeting graft and security issues that have a direct impact on protecting human lives, which is what ordinary Nigerians want.
Instead he has focused his efforts and those of his military intelligence on corruption in less critical areas, tied to his need for authoritarian control.
The UK government has been assisting Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram, providing over £260 million this year alone while also increasing financial aid and technical and military support.