One Hundred Days of the Buhari Presidency

A short article my colleague and I wrote on the first 100 days of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency in Nigeria. The photo (above) was taken at the International Youth Day event hosted by President Buhari and the Federal Ministry of Youth Development on August 12, 2015. President Buhari is joined by Nigerian youth and representatives from the Ministry of Youth Development.

One Hundred Days of the Buhari Presidency

By:       Alao Sunday Afolabi, Assistant Program Officer, IRI-Nigeria and Sentell F. Barnes Resident Country Director, IRI-Nigeria

Last week, the discussion in Nigeria focused on the first 100 days of President Buhari’s time in office.  Analysts disagree on the role that the president has played in the National Assembly’s leadership elections, the recent presidential appointments, the government’s efforts to combat corruption and tame the Boko Haram insurgency.  And although President Buhari spoke of his indifference on the usual practice of celebrating 100 days in office during his Chatham House address in February 2015, it is important nonetheless to assess his performance over the past few months.

President Buhari has demonstrated respect for democratic institutions with his refusal to interfere in the leadership selection process of the National Assembly when it was inaugurated.  Buhari also resisted calls to intervene when those not favored by the party emerged as the leaders of the bicameral legislature.  It was agreed that such disposition was necessary in ensuring the independence of the legislature and protecting the doctrine of separation of powers.  However, the scenario is different with the judiciary, as the president has been accused of using the Department of State Security (DSS), whose leadership he changed in favor of his townsman, to affect the proceedings of the governorship election tribunals in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states.  This allegation was bolstered by the Chairman of Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, who berated the DSS for usurping the powers of the police by interfering with the proceedings of the election tribunals during its investigation.

Besides prompting widespread criticism over lopsided presidential appointments which many Nigerians say favor the north (where the president hails from), the appointments have not had adequate representation from marginalized groups, especially women.  During his campaign, President Buhari promised to ensure gender balance in his government; however, of the nearly 30 appointments made thus far, only the acting chair of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is female.  Her appointment has sparked controversy based on her alleged familial relation to the president and the fact that her tenure as national commissioner elapsed in July.  The number of national commissioners who form the management of the electoral body has dwindled from 13 down to two after the majority of their terms elapsed in recent months.  This has perhaps prompted the Peoples Democratic Party – serving now as the opposition for the first time since Nigeria’s transition to civilian rule in 1999 – to condemn the apparent unwillingness of the president to commence the constitutional process of nominating credible persons to fill the sensitive position in INEC, which is of particular importance considering the upcoming local elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.

The efforts of President Buhari to combat corruption, a major component of his campaign, has led to revelations of huge sums of funds allegedly stolen by officials of the previous government.  The increased tempo of arrests and interrogation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the creation of the Presidential Advisory Corruption Committee are indicative of the president’s resolve to prosecute corrupt offenders.  However, critics have argued that President Buhari is using the anti-corruption campaign to witch hunt members of the opposition.  He has also been accused of shielding members of his party from corruption prosecution.  The September 3, 2015 release of the details of the assets of the president and vice-president submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau as required by law demonstrates Buhari’s commitment to having a transparent government.

It is also noteworthy that the president has visited neighboring countries to build a military coalition against the Boko Haram insurgency, whose suicide attacks and bombings increased after he assumed office.  Buhari also appointed new military service chiefs, issuing a directive for them to end the insurgency in three months, which has resulted in increased military action against Boko Haram in the last few weeks.

While his first 100 days do not provide an adequate analysis of President Buhari’s time in office, it does provide insight into the president’s priorities.  There are signs that President Buhari is addressing corruption and security head on but he has not given much attention to the importance of ensuring that INEC has the legitimacy to perform its duties ahead of two gubernatorial elections.  In addition, President Buhari has not upheld his campaign promise to appoint individuals from marginalized groups and geo-regional groupings.  Nigeria is one of the largest democracies in the world, yet full representation of all segments of society is still lagging when compared to its smaller African neighbors.

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