Joachim MacEbong: Dear President Buhari, ‘it’s the economy, stupid!’

by Joachim MacEbong

This morning, research firm NOI Polls released President Muhammadu Buhari’s job approval rating for June. It stands at 39%, a significant 9% decline over his rating for May. In many ways, this matches up with anecdotal evidence. With the economy contracting and inflation going through the roof as a result of his government’s policies, tempers are fraying. In bars, markets, buses, motor parks, churches, offices, and anywhere people gather, the complaint is the same. Even vociferous supporters of the President are more muted. There is nothing to shout about.

It no longer matters that he inherited an economy that was already going down. It no longer matters that the previous administration did not save in times of plenty. It does not matter that he inherited an insurgency and out of control corruption.

What matters is that the mess is now his own, and he came to power on the promise to fix that mess. What matters is that he has yet to deliver on that promise, or even put a floor under the falling economy. What matters is that his policies have contributed to the slide.

Let there be no mistake. The honeymoon is over. Already, more and more people are beginning to openly look forward to 2019 when they return to the polls.

While many still support his anti-corruption agenda, Nigerians will not eat anti-corruption. Anti-corruption cannot become megawatts of electricity. Anti-corruption cannot become jobs. Anti-corruption cannot stop the price of a bag of rice, or tomatoes, or fish, from becoming prohibitively expensive.

It cannot console the many who have lost their lives as a result of the violence of Fulani herdsmen, or those who, having survived Boko Haram, now run the risk of falling to starvation throughout the North-East. Neither can it provide solace to the thousands who have lost their jobs as a result of the harsh economy, and have to feed their families.

In order to fully appreciate the damage that a struggling economy can do to an incumbent, George H.W. Bush comes to mind. In March 1991, following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, a ground invasion of Iraq was authorized. His approval ratings in August 1991 was 90%. By August 1992, his approval rating was 36%.

The reason for this? The US economy was in recession, and unemployment peaked at 7.8% in June 1992. The Bill Clinton campaign used the slogan ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’ to drive home the point, and by November, Bill Clinton was President.

A bad economy was also a key factor that enabled Babangida overthrow Buhari in August 1985. Back then, there was rationing of basic necessities and inflation hit 40%.

He is treading the same path again. Merely mouthing slogans like ‘corruption is fighting back’, or blaming past administrations, is not a substitute for putting in place the proper economic policies that will get the economy moving in the right direction.

Buhari was elected to deliver a material improvement in peoples’ lives, not to give excuses. Right now, he is failing. Badly.


 

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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