I am not unaware that without question, the headline is a mouthful. If you’re not in academia, there is a good chance you don’t know what the hell a Nomological Network of Cumulative Evidence means. Much less how it ties to Buhari’s failure as president. I came across this rather prolix and strange phrase during one of the many podcast interviews granted by Lebanese-Canadian professor Gad Saad that I have been binge-watching for weeks. Gad Saad is arguably one of the world’s leading experts in Evolutionary Psychology; a field that theoretically explains psychological structure through modern evolutionary context.
According to Saad, to build a nomological network of cumulative evidence essentially means to provide a wide range of evidence across various disciplines to explain a theory. The results of this interdisciplinary voyage usually would lead to the same conclusion, hence, giving the researcher an airtight premise to support their case. He often cites how Charles Darwin used this framework in On the Origin of Species. Darwin presented a nomological network of evidence from geology, biology, anthropology, and a mélange of other disciplines in support of his theory of evolution in his seminal book.
In this article, I will attempt to extrapolate this variegated framework in my assessment of the expiring Buhari administration.
Let’s start with the easiest (and incidentally the most critical) which is security. Buhari’s candidature was extremely popular during the build-up to the historic 2015 elections in part because he seemed to be the only one that could fight terrorism. At the time, Boko Haram had terrorized the Northeast for about five years with no seeming end in sight. Then president, Goodluck Jonathan in the estimation of most Nigerians was very lukewarm in the fight against terror. I recall how Boko Haram during the twilight of his administration took over and hoisted their ridiculous flag in 14 local government areas in Borno state. Under Jonathan, hardly did a week pass Boko Haram lunatics didn’t mastermind an attack on Nigerians.
Buhari with his military background seemed to many as a credible alternative to Jonathan’s tepidity. Nigerians were willing to forgive his despotic human rights record when he was military head of state. Many saw his authoritarian résumé as an asset that could be used in the fight against terror. Alas, Nigerians would soon find out they were greatly mistaken as they are yet to see that no-nonsense “hard guy” persona they had hoped for. If Boko Haram was a rabid dog under Jonathan, it morphed into an untamable monstrosity under General Sai Baba. Under his watch, more police stations and military bases were attacked. Governors and some politicians had their fair share of attacks too. The peak perhaps was an attack on Buhari’s convoy when he was in his home state, Katsina sometime last year. I should add that on the same day, Boko Haram attacked Kuje prison with sheer brazen confidence and freed their incarcerated members.
Might I add that all of this is happening despite countless assurances from Lai Muhammed that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated.” One can make a case that the failure of the Nigerian government in defeating Boko Haram has inspired other terror groups across the country. Simultaneously, Nigeria is confronted with Boko Haram, ISWAP, unknown gunmen, militia herders, kidnappers, and bandits. Because of the apparent incompetency of the Buhari administration, Nigerians are now demanding to be granted the right to bear arms to defend themselves. It couldn’t become any clearer that this government has failed in its most important responsibility.
Let’s talk about the economy. To be fair to Buhari, Jonathan bequeathed him a tailspinning economy. And of course, Buhari promised he was going to fix it. To be fair to Jonathan too, he reportedly left $26.8 billion in external reserves contrary to frequent claims by the Buhari government that hardly anything was left.
Nigeria’s oil export dwindled under Jonathan. The Naira was devalued. Corruption was rife. Nigeria became heavily indebted. But Buhari was meant to be a breath of fresh air. He was meant to fight corruption and salvage what was left of the economy. Yet again, Buhari would outdo his predecessor. For context, a month after Buhari took over from Jonathan in 2015, our domestic debt stood at N8.39 trillion. Buhari would spend the next seven years increasing it to N19.24 trillion, as of December 2021. Our debt rose to N41.6 trillion in Q1 2022. Nigeria owes so much but there is nothing to show for it. We spent 96% of our revenue in 2021 on debt servicing. The last figures released by Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, budget and national planning show that debt servicing surpassed Nigeria’s revenue in the first four months of 2022.
Under Buhari’s watch, the Naira continues to tank to all-time lows against the dollar. The prices of petrol, kerosene, diesel, and LNG have continuously increased beyond what the average household can afford; a perfect storm for skyrocketing inflation. Talking of prices, how was your experience the last time you visited the market?
Last year, in what many saw as self-deluding, Buhari promised that his government would lay the groundwork to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years. Well, unemployment currently accounts for 33.3% of the population (that’s approximately 60% of the youth demographic) and despite social investment schemes like N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfer, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program (GEEP), Tradermoni, and the Special Public Works Programme he launched, it’s hard to see how they have served as any meaningful solution to the trifecta of poverty, unemployment, and underemployment. Because Nigeria and Nigerians have gotten poorer, crime has multiplied. Internet scams and money ritual killings are now the order of the day.
Buhari has another woeful legacy. Nigeria’s social fabric became threadbare under his watch. At no time in our history have we had this level of ethnoreligious angst and division. Though Nigerians have always held themselves in mutual suspicion, Buhari did nothing to address these fault lines, and that made ethnic and religious relations degenerate abysmally during his administration. It is astonishing how the same Nigerians who voted for him in 2015 across all regions are now disaffected with his government today.
Buhari fueled the perception of being a tribalist with his double standards when dealing with militia Fulani herders and secessionist leaders like Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho. Somehow, he never seems to care when militia herders attack hapless farmers and villagers. But the Buhari government went as far as the Benin Republic and Kenya to arrest Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu for their secessionist demagoguery. The very ones who kill and maim Nigerians never seem to attract that type of swift punishment.
I could go on and on explaining how Buhari failed astoundingly in health, human rights, education, infrastructure, energy, and power. But to his supporters, none of that matters. It doesn’t matter how convincing a nomological network of cumulative evidence I present to them. They believe what they believe regardless. It’s almost like a religion to them. Their confidence in Buhari will never be swayed even In the face of incontrovertible evidence. But political leaders should never be pedestalized in such positions, especially in a so-called constitutional democracy.
As we prepare to elect fresh leaders next month, it’s helpful we remind ourselves that the people we think are capable of doing the job may end up becoming a disappointment like Buhari. If that happens, the honourable thing to do is to own up to the facts instead of being self-deluded like Buhari’s supporters.
Olayemi is the publisher of The Disaffected Magazine. He also hosts the Disaffected Nigerian Podcast. He enjoys everything from Evolutionary Psychology to the syncopations of Apala music to Fela’s discography. He fancies himself as an Amala enthusiast. His dream is to be a travel writer someday.