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Buhari's Honeymoon Is Over As Popularity Slips, According To GAIN Poll

Buhari government scores low on jobs, economy, power


Key highlights

  • Buhari government scores low on jobs, economy, power
  • More Nigerians hold Buhari responsible for the economy
  • Overall approval for the Buhari government declines
  • Nigerian Senate maintains lowest approval rating of governmental institutions 
  • Nigerian Army remains highest rated National Institution
  • Kachikwu rated best performing minister
  • Concerns about abuse of rule of law grows
  • Majority hold negative view of the selection of Ali Modu Sherriff as the PDP Chairman 
  • 79% give poor ratings to government’s handling of Fulani Herdsmen clashes
  • 72% of Nigerians do not support any political parties

Buhari government overall approval rating declines


We saw the sharpest decline in the month-to-month approval ratings for the president yet in our polls. High approval ratings dropped from 63.4% in January to 32.8% in the February poll. Overall, a slight majority of Nigerians (50.4%) gave the Buhari administration average (17.6%) or high approval ratings (32.8%). As with previous polls, we provided respondents with a 5 point-scale response to this question. We maintained our approach of not using a simple forced two-scale measure of approval (Yes or No) to enable a deeper understanding of the nuances that informed respondents’ choices. A positive approval rating in our terminology refers only to those respondents that reported either an “Excellent” or “Good” rating. A negative rating comprises of those individuals that reported a “Poor” or “Very Poor” rating.

Security, Anticorruption, Power and the Economy are priority areas


Respondents were provided with a number of key segments and focus areas for the government and were required to provide a forced three tier ranking (High, Medium, Low) of their perceptions of the importance of each of the areas.

Under the “High” ranking response, security (Boko Haram Crisis) was rated as the most important area of concern and/or interest by 55% of Nigerians, continuing the trend from the January poll.  The top 5 rated areas overall were Security (55%), Anti-Corruption (51%), Power (51%), Economy & Jobs (50%) and Education (45%).

Anticorruption war remains popular, but concerns grow over abuse of rule of law


Support for the anti-corruption war dropped from about 76% in the January poll, to just under 45% in this poll.   We also saw an increase in the number of Nigerians that are critical of the way the anti-corruption war is being prosecuted. More Nigerians indicated that the anti-corruption war targets the president’s political opponents (34.4% in February vs 15.5% in January) and opposition PDP members (33.1% in February vs 16.8% in January). Those expressing concern about the potential for abuse of the rule of law in the prosecution of corruption cases increased from 21.5% in the January poll to 35.3% in February. 

It is not clear why this shift in the support for the anticorruption war has occurred. Future polls will include questions aimed at better understanding the basis for this shift. 

Anticorruption and Security remain bright spots; Nigerians score government low on economy, housing, healthcare, education and power.


The government received low ratings from majority of respondents in six of the nine areas surveyed. The worst ranked areas were Housing (74%), Economy & Jobs (73%), Healthcare (62%), Transportation (62%), Power (59%) and Education (58%). 

Combining “High” and “Medium” ratings, the three highest ranked areas are Anticorruption (75%), Security (70%) and Availability of Petroleum Products (60%). 

Majority of Nigerians are against devaluation of the Naira


A majority of Nigerians (62.6%) indicated opposition to the devaluation of the Naira. While this position is popular, most economists have indicated that the Buhari’ government’s defense of the Naira is not sustainable in the long run given the lack of sufficient reserves to offset the dollar deficit that has led to downward pressures on the value of the Naira.

Majority shift blame on Economy to Buhari government – reversing earlier trends that laid responsibility on the Jonathan government


For the first time since the Buhari presidency, more Nigerians held the current government responsible for the current state of the Nigerian economy. In the February poll, 35% of Nigerians indicated that the Buhari government was “completely to blame” for the state of the Nigerian economy (versus 14% in the January poll), compared to 30% who indicated the past government of Goodluck Jonathan was to blame (compared to 59% in the January poll). This seismic shift in responsibility for the economy to the Buhari administration marks a major change in attitudes by the Nigerian people. President Buhari made more economic policy statements in the month of February than at any other time in his administration, which clearly signaled to the Nigerian people that his government’s policy choices are directly responsible for their economic realities.

Majority are troubled by the economy, optimism about the future drops


Majority of Nigerians (55.3%) expressed concerns about the economy – an increase from the January poll (37.6%). On every metric measured, Nigerians were generally more negative about their current and future economic prospects. Optimism about the economy dropped from 45.2% in the January poll to 30.3% in February. Positive feelings about the future, dropped from 51.1% to 35.8%. The percentage of respondents indicating that they saw encouraging signs for jobs and employment dropped from 33.6% to 20.6%.  The percentage of respondents indicating that they saw no signs that anything was being done by the Buhari government to create jobs, increased from 18.7% to 36%.

Kachikwu continues to shine in ministerial performance ratings; Lai maintains second place


Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum retained his position as the highest rated minister, with 33.3% of respondents giving him high ratings (very high plus high). Lai Mohammed was the second rated minister with 22.3% high ratings. Raji Fashola, was rated third for his work in the power sector (15.2%), while Adebayo Shittu, the Communications Minister was ranked a close fourth with 15.1%.

Nigerian Senate maintains lowest approval rating of major governmental institutions (12%); Army is the most respected national institution (49%)


Respondents were asked to rate the two (2) major political parties and ten (10) major governmental institutions, i.e., the Presidency, Senate, House of Representatives, Army, Police, Judiciary, the 3 anti-corruption organs – EFCC, ICPC and CCB and the Central Bank. 

The Nigerian Army was the most highly rated governmental institution, with 49.4% of respondents rating it as high or very high. The EFCC ranked second with 33.7% of respondents giving it high or very high ratings. The Presidency ranked third with 32.4% high approval ratings. 

The APC was the highest ranked political party, with 16.3% high approval ratings compared to the PDP’s 4.2%. 

Majority disapprove of government’s handling of Fulani Herdsmen attacks


The Buhari government continued to receive high approvals for its handling of the Boko Haram crisis (66%). As the Shiite – Military conflict has dragged on, the approval ratings for the government’s handling of that conflict has dropped, with 42% now showing support for the government’s handling of that conflict, compared to 59% in the January poll. 61% of respondents disapprove of the government’s handling of the pro-Biafra agitation. As news of rampaging attacks by Fulani herdsmen in an increasing number of communities have continued to emerge, the government’s handling of this crisis has come under increasing scrutiny. Nigerians’ views about the Buhari government’s handling  of the Fulani herdsmen crisis has dropped to a new low, as 79% of respondents rated the government’s handling of the Fulani herdsmen attacks as poor or very poor, compared to 60% in the January poll.

Disaffection with both major political parties grows


An increasing number of Nigerians continue to indicate that they do not support any political party. In the February poll, the number of independents increased to 71.6%. Those expressing support for the APC dropped to 19.9% from the January poll value of 31.1%, while the number of Nigerians expressing support for the PDP in this poll was 8.6%. 

Ali Modu Sherriff’s selection as PDP Chairman not considered favorable 


A major development in the January – February timeframe was the PDP’s controversial selection of Ali Modu Sheriff as the new party Chairman. A majority of respondents (88.4%) indicated that Mr. Sheriff’s selection would not make it more likely for them to support the PDP. When we analyzed the impact of Mr. Sheriff’s selection on respondents who had indicated that they do not support any political party, 90.72% indicated that his choice as leader of the PDP did not enhance their view of the party.  Amongst Nigerians who indicated that they were supporters of the PDP, Mr. Sherriff’s selection was viewed negatively by 58.62% of respondents.

Methodology & Disclosure

The survey was administered using electronic media between February 22nd and 29th, 2016. A total of 757 complete responses were received. The survey results have a 4% margin of error at a 95% confidence level. The Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria (GAIN) Poll is a public service survey intended to track the performance of government at all levels and provide feedback from the public to their elected officials. GAIN also periodically publishes policy statements to provide perspectives on key policy and governance areas. GAIN surveys are coordinated by Dr. Malcolm Fabiyi and Dr. Adeleke Otunuga. Any inquiries regarding the survey should be directed to [email protected].

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