Nigeria faced with economy Malaise sd critics, and some supporters, have become increasingly disappointed with Mr Buhari’s sluggish response to multiplying problems. Discontent is also rife in the ruling All Progressives Congress [APC], a coalition of interest groups that banded together to help propel Mr Buhari to the presidency.
It took him six months to put together his cabinet and there have been disputes between him and senior party members over how to pursue the reforms he promised.
One senior APC member said powerful figures in the party feel the president “came to power and jettisoned the party, the manifesto, and the people that took him to victory”.
Meanwhile Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president, has turned to a contentious scheme he first implemented more than 30 years ago to revive his flagging fortunes — a “War Against Indiscipline”.
Mr Buhari originally introduced the programme in 1984 when he was the military ruler of Africa’s top oil-producer, and under the initiative Nigerians faced physical punishment — even imprisonment — for such misdemeanours as queueing improperly or being late for work.
Government officials insist that under the new “war,” announced last week, such punitive measures will not be meted out. But for many, the 73-year-old’s decision to revert to an old and largely unpopular tactic exacerbated the sense of a leader out of touch and faltering as he attempts to turnround a nation enduring its worst economic crisis in years.
“Let’s see action, initiatives, fresh thinking,” said Olusegun Adeniyi, a columnist for ThisDay newspaper. “In this difficult, desperate time, the president should inspire hope.”
The controversy around the war against indiscipline — which officials say is aimed at tackling social ills — is the latest example of how the public mood has shifted since Mr Buhari won historic elections in March 2015, becoming the first opposition candidate to unseat an incumbent at the ballot box. The hope was that the austere, no-nonsense former general would tackle endemic corruption, overhaul the oil and power sectors, shake up poorly performing state entities and deliver success against Boko Haram militants wreaking havoc in the northeast.
Mr Buhari’s biggest challenge is the economic malaise and he was unfortunate to take office as the slump in oil prices hammered the government’s finances. Nigeria depends on petrodollars for about 70 per cent of revenue and 90 per cent of foreign exchange earnings, and it is sliding towards its first recession in more than two decades.
Mr Buhari’s confidantes claim that much of the criticism he faces in the media is being funded by an elite that siphoned the nation’s wealth during the last oil boom.
“Our biggest challenge is that elites still feel it has to be business as usual,” said a close adviser to the president. “Nobody likes what we are doing, but we won’t yield. We would rather take the flak to save the country.”
Administration officials say Nigerians need to be patient as they work to clean out the rot and inefficiency the government inherited in the civil service and core institutions.
“The onus is on Nigerians to keep hope alive,” said Femi Adesina, the president’s spokesman. “If they had enough confidence in President Buhari to vote him into office, they should have enough confidence that he will turn things around.”
But Nnamdi Obasi, Nigeria analyst at International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think-tank, said the government appears not to be responding to the country’s economic crisis “as speedily as that crisis is evolving”.
“It is not generating solutions anywhere as urgently as citizens and the business community expect,” he added.
Badly needed foreign investment is staying away, discouraged by monetary policies seen as dictated by Mr Buhari and enforced upon a timid central bank governor. The financial woes are also fuelling security challenges in disparate parts of the country, from the east to the oil-producing Niger Delta in the south and the so-called Middle Belt, where cattle herders and farmers are fighting over shrinking resources.
At the grass roots, Mr Buhari does enjoy the benefit of the doubt because he is seen as incorruptible, analysts say.
But as the effects of recession, including inflation soaring above 16 per cent, are felt by the poor and the middle class, citizens want more information about how and when their lives will improve.
“People see that their conditions are worsening,” said Clement Nwanko, a human rights lawyer. “Despite all the talk about fighting corruption, it has not translated into any meaningful improvements in their lives.”
Last month, a music video of a popular Nigerian song remixed to poke fun at the president, went viral.
It included lines that translate roughly as: “After the elections we are still waiting for change; all the promises that you make, we say they are fake; where’s the money, where’s food? . . . since you’ve come there’s been nothing but tears and pain.”