Nigeria’s president sworn in amid criticism of his first term

Muhammadu Buhari faces an array of challenges, including Boko Haram unrest

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari waves at the crowd while he drives around the venue during his inauguration for a second term in Abuja. Photograph: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari waves at the crowd while he drives around the venue during his inauguration for a second term in Abuja. Photograph: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

 

Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in for a second term on Wednesday, with an array of challenges ahead.

The 76-year-old was re-elected in February with 56 per cent of the vote, after campaigning on many of the same promises he made four years ago, including ending the Islamist insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast and improving the sluggish economy.

“The big issues remain the same, only now it is Buhari trying to clean up his own mess,” said Eromo Egbejule, a Lagos-based editor for The Africa Report.

“Insecurity is arguably worse and the economy is in a worse shape than it was then, having gone through a recession.”

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil and natural gas producer and its largest economy. Despite this, many Nigerians are struggling, and about half its population of 201 million people have no access to electricity, according to a recent BBC investigation.

The Boko Haram insurgency, which has displaced more than 2 million people and led to tens of thousands of abductions and deaths, is also continuing. A faction of Boko Haram aligned to Islamic State is now forming a “proto-state” around its territorial base on the banks of Lake Chad, while growing in influence and power, according to a May report by the International Crisis Group.

Fulan Nasrullah, a researcher at the Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation, a Nigeria-based think tank, said he doesn’t expect much change in how conflicts in the north are being dealt with.

“In the northeast, the situation for the most part will remain a strategic stalemate where both sides are unable to deliver the final knockout blow,” Mr Nasrullah told The Irish Times. Unless major cities are attacked directly again, the researcher doesn’t think it’s likely Mr Buhari will alter his tactics.

Instability is also plaguing Nigeria’s northwest. On Tuesday, the UNHCR – the United Nations refugee agency – said 20,000 people there had been forced to cross the border to Niger since April.

“People are reportedly fleeing due to multiple reasons, including clashes between farmers and herders of different ethnic groups, vigilantism, as well as kidnappings for ransom,” said spokesman Babar Baloch.

Activist criticism

Aisha Yesufu, an activist who led protests after the 2014 Chibok kidnappings, in which 276 female students were abducted from school by Boko Haram, said she was not happy at Mr Buhari’s re-election.

“My fervent wish would be [that] president Muhammadu Buhari gets his act together in his second term and surprises us all with good governance, accountability and transparency. He needs to first take responsibility for the failure of his first term and then he needs to focus on security. The present security arrangement is not working and any government that cannot protect its people is not fit to be called a government.”

Ms Yesufu said she also wants Mr Buhari to make jobs available to everyone, “rather than to the children and associates of his cronies”.

“The economy is shrinking. The people are getting poorer by the day and being killed on top of that,” she added.

Mr Buhari previously served as Nigeria’s military leader in the 1980s, following a coup.

One of his policies then was a “war on indiscipline”, part of which involved deploying soldiers with whips to beat Nigerians who failed to queue in an orderly manner at bus stops.

Mr Buhari has since described himself as a “converted democrat”. Last December, he was forced to publicly deny he had died and been replaced by a lookalike, after he spent months in the UK getting medical treatment.