He Fell Short on His Promises, but Nigeria’s Buhari Can Still Expect a Second Term

He Fell Short on His Promises, but Nigeria’s Buhari Can Still Expect a Second Term
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, right, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, left, and Babagana Monguno, center, attend Friday prayers, Abuja, Nigeria, Nov. 6, 2015 (SIPA photo via AP Images).

He is often tagged as an aloof, slow-moving executive with a narrow and insular coterie of advisers, and he has fallen short of the promises that won him the presidency four years ago. Yet Muhammadu Buhari remains the front-runner in Nigeria’s presidential elections scheduled for Feb. 16, which will pit the incumbent against several challengers—the most prominent, by far, being former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who served in office from 1999 to 2007 and placed third in the 2007 election. Buhari is still the favorite because of his party’s continued strength in its strongholds in northern and southwestern Nigeria, along with the considerable advantages of incumbency and some specific liabilities of Abubakar.

Buhari, who was the runner-up in three successive Nigerian elections before his upset victory over Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, has not transformed the country as he pledged. He inherited a struggling economy that fell into recession for over a year in 2016 and 2017. Although the economy is now growing again, extreme poverty affects at least half of Nigerians, and unemployment has, according to government statistics, doubled.

Buhari has also fallen short of meeting his two core campaign promises from 2015: curbing corruption and restoring security. Under Buhari, anti-corruption investigators claim to have recovered millions of dollars in stolen funds, including some $322 million stolen by former dictator Sani Abacha in the 1990s. Yet observers have cited a lack of transparency in plans to redistribute the funds, and critics charge that Buhari’s anti-corruption measures are partisan. In terms of security, Boko Haram continues to defy government proclamations of near-victory against the jihadist group with more attacks in the northeast. Other forms of violence—including farmer-herder conflicts and banditry—have also escalated in different parts of the country, including in some of the areas where support for Buhari was strongest in past elections.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.