Nigerian literary icon Wole Soyinka on Thursday said he was not surprised that President Muhammadu Buhari has lost popularity just 18 months into office, given the high expectations that weighed on his government.
The former military ruler won the 2015 election on an agenda of “change”, vowing to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency, fight graft, fix broken infrastructure and heal the economy.
But since his election, the economy has officially gone into recession and global energy prices have plummeted.
A relentless rebel campaign to sabotage the production of oil, the country’s main export, has added to the woes.
“There’s nothing surprising to me about his losing popularity, it should be expected,” said Soyinka, who was a fierce critic of Buhari’s earlier term as head of state after taking power in a coup in 1983.
“People wanted change, that word was not just a slogan, it was a promise,” Soyinka told AFP in Johannesburg.
But when he took over power, “Nigeria was sinking”.
“Fulfilling political promises when you take over the reins of power and you have to clean up a lot of mess, it’s not easy,” said the Nobel prize-winning author.
The ex-military ruler has seen his approval ratings decline in recent months from 80% last year to 41% this September, according to analysis firm BMI Research.
Soyinka said while Buhari was the better choice of the two candidates in last year’s vote where he squared off against ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, it was high time the country weaned itself off leaders with military backgrounds.
“I was not particularly enamoured of the idea of a military person continuing – for heaven’s sake, it’s been too long,” he said.
“I feel very passionate that it’s about time that we eliminated the last vestiges of military control, of military representation. It’s as if there are no brains outside the military.”
Nigeria abandoned military rule in 1999 in favour of multi-party democracy following six military coups after independence from Britain in 1960.