PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has delivered his final Independence Day address to Nigerians. This year’s address on June 12 also is his final Democracy Day address to Nigerians.
Buhari has addressed Nigerians every May 29 and October 1 since commencing office in 2015 and has teased out topics he is most passionate about in lengthy speeches.
Democracy Day address has always been delivered in conjunction with Independence Day every year by Buhari, except for 2017, when Acting President Yemi Osinbajo gave the Democracy Day address.
While his word choice confirms his election promise, little has changed since 2015. Under Buhari’s presidency, Nigerians have witnessed a deterioration in the economy, culminating in a regular increase in inflation and a worsening security situation.
Both the state of the economy and the security situation featured prominently in his speeches.
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The ICIR‘s Shehu Olayinka examined the number of keywords in Buhari’s Democracy and Independence Day speeches since 2015 and classified them into topics such as security/insecurity, economy/economic, corruption, power/electricity, agriculture and infrastructure.
Since the country’s independence from Britain on October 1, 1960, every Nigerian leader has delivered a speech commemorating the occasion, serving as an annual opportunity for the country’s leader to commit to good governance and account for stewardship. And, from May 29, 1999, until 2020, when the date was changed to June 12, every Nigerian President delivered a speech commemorating our hard-fought democracy.
Since taking office in 2015, President Buhari has made security and the economy the focal points of his Independence and Democracy Day speeches.
What is clear is that rising levels of armed violence, banditry, terrorism and crime throughout the country, as well as a drop in Gross Domestic Production (GDP), Poverty rate and an increase in inflation, are unavoidable and took centre stage in the presidential speeches.
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Buhari read 19,435 words to Nigerians in celebration of Democracy Day and 16,190 words on Independence Day between 2015 and 2022.
In his Democracy Day speeches from 2015 to 2022, the president mentioned the word security 65 times, while in his Independence Day speeches, the word security occurred 45 times.
The President acknowledged Nigeria’s security situation. On his inaugural Democracy Day, identified Boko Haram as the country’s most immediate challenge.
To address security challenges, the president listed a number of measures he has taken in his Democracy Day address in 2020.
The list included the establishment of the Ministry of Police Affairs, the expansion of the National Command and Control Centre to nineteen federation states, the resuscitation of the National Public Security Communication System, and the start of the Community Policing Strategy implementation.
That is understandable. Security threats beleaguered Nigeria before Buhari took office in 2015, most notably Boko Haram, which controlled a large territory within the country’s borders and caused a massive humanitarian disaster in the country’s northeast.
Nigeria has made progress in its fight against terrorism in the North East since 2015, driving it to the outskirts of Sambisa Forest and the Lake Chad Islands, where the Islamic State in West Africa, ISWAP, is believed to be headquartered.
However, between late 2014 and early 2015, many of the territories, particularly northern Adamawa, including Michika, Mubi, and Madagali, and parts of Borno, including Gwoza and Bama, were reclaimed.
Buhari mentioned security six times in his first address to Nigerians on May 29, 2015, and once in his Independence Day speech. He acknowledged the difficulties ahead and outlined his government’s efforts to address the country’s security concerns.
However, the words Boko Haram, ISWAP, Bandit, terrorism, Militants and kidnapping appeared in Buhari’s Democracy and Independence Day speeches.
Nigeria has seen an annual increase in deaths, attacks, and kidnappings under Buhari’s presidency.
Since 2015, there has also been a steady increase in related violent attacks, according to data from the Nigerian Security Tracker.
The ICIR observed a growing trend in the number of deaths, attacks, mass abductions, and total number of kidnappings across the country by analysing data collected through the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) between 2015 and September 2022.
Nigeria experienced an estimated 10,500 security-related incidents and over 57,000 deaths between May 2015 and September 2022.
Boko Haram-related incidents accounted for 1,447 of the recorded incidents and 19,220 deaths.
In 2021, Nigeria experienced the highest number of kidnappings since 2015. According to available data. The rate of kidnapping increased in 2021 compared to the previous years since 2015.
Kidnappings increased from 111 in 2015 to 137 in 2016, 141 in 2017, 157 in 2018, 331 in 2019, 439 in 2020, 590 in 2021, and 406 in the first nine months of 2022.
There were also incidents of mass abduction. Abductions involving more than 20 victims. While there were five abductions in 2015, Nigeria recorded 11 such cases in 2018, eight in 2019, 25 in 2020, 69 in 2021 and 40 in the nine months of 2022.
Large-scale atrocities have also targeted schoolchildren. Thousands of students have been kidnapped in Niger State’s Kagara, Zamfara State’s Jangebe, Kaduna State’s Afaka, and Kebbi State’s Yauri.
In 2021, Save the Children International, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), disclosed that over 1,000 students had been abducted from Nigerian schools.
The Country Director, Save the Children International Nigeria, Mercy Gichuhi, disclosed this in a statement issued to mark the world’s second International Day to Protect Education from Attacks in 2021
She said, “The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), says between 2015-2019, there were 100 reported attacks on schools in Nigeria. These attacks have been on the increase between 2020 and 2021, which led to the closedown of many schools by the government due to fear of being attacked.”
According to data released by SBM Intelligence in September 2021, at least 1,409 students were abducted from their schools, with 16 of the victims dying since the latest wave of the school abduction epidemic.
Data from the NST also show how the wave of kidnapping has shifted from one region to another.
Due to the Boko Haram insurgency and militancy, the North-east and South-South had the highest number of victims in 2015. However, a few years later, particularly in 2020 and 2021, the North-central and Northwest have become the hardest-hit regions due to the spread of terrorism and banditry.
In his Democracy Day speeches from 2015 to 2022, the president mentioned the word “economy and economic” 82 times, while on his Independence Day, both words occurred 64 times.
In the 2022 Independence Day speech, the President acknowledged the economic situation. He stated that his government is confronting the current economic challenges such as debt burden, growing inflation, living standards and increasing unemployment.
That is understandable. The Nigerian economy fell into recession twice between May 2015 and September 2022.
Nigeria fell into recession in 2016 when the growth figures showed the economy contracted 2.06 per cent between April and June, which according to the NBS, was a full-year recession.
Also, in 2020 the country suffered its second recession in June during the COVID-19 pandemic, which according to a report by the Punch Newspapers from data obtained from the World Bank, was the worst in 36 years.
The Nigerian GDP has also seen dropped since 2015. Under Buhari, between 2015 and 2020, the Nigerian GDP growth did not exceed the population growth rate of 2.6 per cent.
Buhari’s government’s best annual GDP growth rate since he became President in 2015 was in 2021 at 3.4 per cent.
The Buhari’s government annual GDP growth in 2016, 2017 and 2018 was -1.58 per cent, 0.82 per cent and 1.92 per cent, respectively.
In 2019 and 2020, annual GDP growth rates were 2.27 per cent and -1.92 per cent, respectively.
Although in terms of GDP growth, Buhari’s administration has also been affected by the global economic meltdown of the 2016 and 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a -1.92 per cent in 2020 – the worst under his government.
Also, Nigeria’s current total Public debt stock, according to a statement by the Debt Management Office (DMO) posted on its website, comprising the debt obligations of the federal government, states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) rose from N39.56 trillion in December 2021 to N41.60 trillion ($100.07 billion) in the first three months of 2022 (January to March), which shows an increase of N2.04tn within a period of three months.
Nigeria has also witnessed a rise in the price of food, and general goods and services are skyrocketing.
There has been over 100 per cent hike in key staple food prices since President Buhari assumed office in 2015.
Nigeria’s inflation rate stood at a single digit of 9.01 per cent when Buhari assumed office in 2015. But the figure rose to 15.68 per cent in 2016 and increased to 16.52 per cent in 2017.
The current inflation rate as of September 2022, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), is 20.52 per cent, the highest in 17 years.
Olayinka works with The ICIR as the Social Media Manager, Reporter and Fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via firstname.lastname@example.org. You can as well follow him on Twitter via @BelloYinka72