In a self-assessment on Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari awarded his administration high marks, saying the country is better than he met it more than five years ago.
But the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, faulted the president’s claim, contending that he has underperformed.
Buhari, in assessing his administration, gave himself a pass mark for a job well done, tasking the elite to be fair in their criticism of his stewardship.
Buhari, who spoke while hosting the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission, Reverend Yakubu Pam, painted a bad picture of the economy, infrastructure as well as the security situation in the North-east as at the time he became president on May 29, 2015.
The president, in a statement by his media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, charged Nigerians, especially the elite, to be fair in their criticism of his administration, given the state of the nation in 2015 and thereafter.
He said: “Those criticising the administration should be fair in terms of reflecting on where we were before we came, where we are now and what resources are available to us and what we have done with the limited resources.
“We had to struggle paying debts, investing in road repairs and rebuilding, to revamp the rail and try to get power. This is what I hope the elite, when they want to criticise, will use to compare notes.”
On security, especially in the North-east, the president said: “What was the situation when we came? Try and ask people from Borno or from Adamawa for that matter and Yobe. What was the condition before we came and what is the condition now?”
Buhari added that although there are still some security challenges in the North-east, the situation has improved.
“Still, there are problems in Borno and Yobe, there are occasional Boko Haram problems, but they know the difference because a lot of them moved out of their states and moved to Kaduna, Kano and here (in Abuja). We were not spared of the attacks at a time. The government is doing its best and I hope that eventually, our best will be good enough,” he stated.
The president also expressed the determination of his administration to ensure a better life for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
“The people in IDP camps, the weak, the aged; I feel sorry for the young because this is the time they are supposed to get an education. We must not allow this time to pass because it will never be regained. So we are really interested in what is happening there and we are doing our best.”
He commended Pam on his appointment and activities on peacebuilding around the country despite his short time in the saddle.
Earlier, Pam had intimated the president with some of the activities of the commission since he was appointed in July 2020.
These, he said, include the organisation of a peace summit on Southern Kaduna as well as peacebuilding efforts in Plateau, Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa States, adding that the commission is proposing to host Christian leaders at a summit to ease tension in the polity.
Buhari’s self-appraisal, however, attracted criticism from Afenifere and PDP.
But the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) declined to comment on his claim when contacted by THISDAY.
Spokesman of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, told THISDAY that Nigeria in the last five-and-a-half years of the Buhari administration is much better from a backward perspective.
He said: “Honestly, herders who are grazing cows on the expressway in Abuja must have seen some changes and, therefore, are not living in the same country with us. It is a clash of civilisation we cannot overcome in any way.”
The main opposition party, the PDP, faulted the president for resorting to what it described as “desperate face-saving media stunts in his incongruous plea to Nigerians to accept that the situation in Nigeria is better under his watch, despite the contrary harsh reality in the country.”
The party said Buhari’s illusory self-assessment further validated its position that he has since abandoned governance for the luxury and pleasures of the Presidential Villa, having lost touch with how the country has fared under him.
The PDP stated that every fair criticism of the Buhari administration reveals failures and a reversal of fortunes for the country.
“It is unfortunate that at a time Nigerians expected the president to be remorseful for his failures and rally compatriots for a solution, he is rather seeking an endorsement of his cluelessness,” the party said.
In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the party wondered how the president “wants an unmerited pass mark knowing that under his watch, bandits, terrorists, kidnappers and vandals, who have been pushed to the fringes before he took over in 2015, have now resurged, taking communities hostage, raping our women, beheading our compatriots and foisting a reign of terror to the extent that our nation ranked as the third country with the highest level of terrorism in 2019, after Iran and Afghanistan?
“How does President Buhari sleep in the night, in the comfort of Aso Villa, knowing that because of his failures, millions of Nigerians go to bed on empty stomach; that since he took over, more than 30 million businesses have crumbled; that over 60 million Nigerians have lost their means of livelihoods resulting in excruciating hardship in our country in the last five years?”
The party said it is unfortunate that Buhari wants Nigerians to overlook the fact that he wrecked a robust economy handed over to him in 2015 with Fitch B+ rating as one of the fastest-growing economy in the world.
It accused the Buhari administration of turning Nigeria into the world’s poverty capital and a beggar nation that is now borrowing from all parts of the world.
It stated: “Is President Buhari trivialising the pain of a nation, which his administration plunged into the worst type of economic recession; where families can no longer afford their daily meals and other necessities of life; and where life has become so unbearable that compatriots now resort to suicide and slavery mission abroad as options?”
The party added that when Buhari took over in 2015, one dollar was N160 whereas it is about N500 now.
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha