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21 Nov 2016

Fool Nigeria Once, Shame on You. Fool Nigeria Twice...

It’s been a tough year for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. The mood in Africa’s most populous nation is a far cry from the euphoria that greeted his historic 2015 election — the first time in Nigeria’s history that an opposition candidate unseated an incumbent president in a democratic election. For weeks and even months after the vote, Buhari was a media darling, praised at home and extoled abroad.

Since then, the cheers have turned to jeers — even from members of the president’s own party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Meanwhile, his administration cowers under attacks from a disillusioned electorate, members of the opposition, and even Buhari’s wife, Aisha, who said she might not vote for him in 2019, when he is up for re-election.

What’s behind the swift unraveling of Buhari’s presidency? His inability to formulate a coherent economic plan as Nigeria tipped into recession and unwillingness to make crucial decisions — as basic as appointing a cabinet — in a timely manner certainly didn’t help. But the main reason Buhari has lost the support of his countrymen is that the last year has revealed the central premise of his candidacy to be false:

The man who claimed in the campaign to be a “reformed democrat” has proved to be the same old authoritarian showman who ruled Nigeria in the early 1980s.

Buhari’s first attempt to run Nigeria ended after a year and a half in the same manner it started: a coup d’état. Back then, Buhari launched a campaign to root out corruption, dubbed the “war against indiscipline,” which was accompanied by restrictions on free trade and free speech, as well as repression of his political opponents. Soon Nigeria was embroiled in a political and economic crisis that paved the way for his ouster.

By 2015, however, many Nigerians were ready to give him a second chance. Growing economic hardship and rampant corruption — and the seeming inability of then-President Goodluck Jonathan to tackle either — convinced them to embrace Buhari again despite his checkered past. To many he seemed like a competent leader — at least more so than the weak and feckless Jonathan.

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