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Mixed Signals: Nigerians Score Buhari Low On Economy And Jobs, Blame Jonathan Govt For Recession

October 18, 2016

A poll conducted by the Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria (GAIN) revealed that most Nigerians are unsatisfied with President Buhari's performance regarding the economy, among other findings.

Key highlights

  • Almost half of respondents are worried about Nigeria’s future
  • Less than 2% think Nigeria is doing well
  • About 40% of respondents give Buhari government positive approval rating
  • 83% of Nigerians oppose the sale of national assets
  • Nigerian Army is the most respected national institution with 64% approval rating
  • Support for judiciary at all time low with 7% approval rating
  • 70% of Nigerians do not support any of the major political parties
  • 52% support the “Change Begins with Me” campaign
  • Hunger in the land - 68% score Buhari government lower than Jonathan regime on affordability and availability of food

Despite recession, Buhari government's overall approval rating holds steady


39.4% of respondents rated the performance of the Buhari government as good or excellent. This was slightly higher than the June poll results, where 32.2% of respondents rated the government’s performance as being good or excellent. A review of the ratings since the beginning of the year shows that high approval ratings for the Buhari government have hovered between 31%-63.4%, with the highest rating coming in January 2016 before the first major economic downturn witnessed in the country.

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, while a negative rating comprises of those individuals that reported a “Poor” or “Very Poor” rating.

"Change Begins with Me" campaign - needed initiative or waste of time?


The “Change Begins with Me” campaign is a new initiative that was launched by the government to drive home the message that effecting change is a collective endeavor - one that must begin with individuals. From the outset, this initiative has been mired in controversy. Several commentators have argued that it is a diversionary and deflection tactic from a government that is struggling to convince Nigerians that its mantra of change is more than a mere slogan.

Our poll is the first attempt using a scientific survey, to determine what the majority of Nigerians really think about the initiative. A slight majority (52%) of respondents support the “change begins with me campaign”. However, almost 42% of respondents do not view the campaign as being needed in the country at this time.  This is far from a rounding endorsement and it underscores the fact that the government has a lot more work to do in convincing Nigerians that this is a worthwhile program to invest time and resources.

Anti-corruption war remains popular, but concerns remain over abuse of rule of law


Support for the anticorruption war remains relatively high, with 52.6% of Nigerians expressing support for it and affirming the success of the campaign. The polling period (September 30 – October 6) did not cover the recent raid on Federal judges on allegations of corruption. Future polls will allow the determination of the impact of the opening of a new judicial front in the anti-corruption war on citizens’ perceptions of the seriousness and effectiveness of the effort.

Less than one third of the respondents expressed concern about the potential to abuse the rule of law (27.4%), or held the opinion that the anticorruption war targeted either the president’s political opponents (30.4%) or members of the opposition PDP (25.6%). 

Nigerians score government low on economy, housing, healthcare, education and power


The government received low ratings from majority of respondents in five of the nine areas surveyed. The worst ranked areas were Housing (70%), Economy & Jobs (69%), Healthcare (63%), Education (56%), Transportation (53%) and Power (40%).

Combining “High” and “Medium” ratings, the three highest ranked areas are Security (89%), Availability of Petroleum Products (81%) and Anticorruption (74%). 

Power concerns ease, availability of petroleum products records major turn around



In previous polls conducted since February 2016, respondents had rated the power sector low. In March 2016, the nation experienced its first zero power transmission event and prior to that, militia attacks on gas pipelines had a deleterious impact on power generation. Although ratings continued to be low through June, the situation in the power sector now appears to have eased considerably. About 40% of respondents now give low ratings to power sector performance compared to the highs of about 60%-75% in prior periods.

A major turnaround has also occurred with regards to the availability of petroleum products. From historic low ratings of about 71%-83% at the height of the fuel scarcity crisis in March and April, only 19% of Nigerians now give low ratings to the government’s work in making petroleum products available. 

Mixed results on economy: Nigerians hate Buhari's economy but blame Jonathan's government for recession


This is the first poll that we have carried out since Nigeria officially fell into recession. We were keen to obtain Nigerians’ views on two issues. Our first polling question sought to understand who Nigerians blame for the current recession. While 60% of Nigerians held the Buhari government partially or completely responsible for the recession, 74% believe that the Jonathan government is to blame.

While nearly similar numbers (28% for PMB vs 25% for GEJ) believed both governments were partially to blame, more respondents (49% for GEJ vs 32% for PMB) believed that the Jonathan government was completely to blame for the recession.

Supporters and critics of the Buhari government can both take solace in these numbers. Those who argue that the profligacy of the Jonathan government led directly to Nigeria’s budgetary and economic crisis will take these results as vindication that Nigerians agree with their point of view. However, critics will argue that although the Buhari government was dealt a bad hand by coming in at a time of low oil prices and a depleted treasury, it is the policy decisions that have been made in the last year that have tipped Nigerian into recession.  About 60% of Nigerians agree with that point of view. Our survey question allowed for respondents to assign blame to both regimes, and many respondents obviously did so.

We asked another set of questions that sought to compare the performance of the Buhari and Jonathan governments across a number of areas such as security, war against corruption, availability & affordability of food and the economy. 


Respondents rated the Buhari government higher than the Jonathan government in three areas – security of lives and property, war against corruption and availability of fuel. The Jonathan government received higher ratings on the Economy, fostering of national unity, as well as the availability and affordability of food.

Majority of respondents indicated that nothing had changed in two sectors – housing (68%) and education (61%).

The Buhari government has been very vocal about ascribing the blame for Nigeria’s current budgetary shortfalls and foreign exchange woes on the failure of the Jonathan regime to shore up Nigeria’s reserves. Our polling results suggest that this argument has gained traction. However, we wish to sound a note of caution to the Buhari government - regardless of where blame lies, what is clear is that majority of Nigerians have been significantly impacted by the recession. The government will need to intensity its efforts to bring real solutions to the table in a number of key areas – economic growth & job creation, housing, education, roads & infrastructure and food. 

Majority are troubled by economy, optimism about future drops


This is the first poll that we have carried out since Nigeria officially went into recession following two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. The polling showed that Nigerians had already begun to experience the effects of an economy in recession since February 2016, when economic sentiments turned in the country.

Many Nigerians (47.4%) continue to express concerns about the economy, while only 29.4% of respondents expressed optimism about the economy. Generally, the economic outlook was gloomy, with only 35.1% of respondents indicating that they feel positive about the future. About 22% indicated that they see encouraging signs for job growth. 

Majority support investments in agriculture


Respondents were asked to provide their top three selections for the sectors in which they believe the government should focus its economic growth investments and initiatives. A majority of respondents chose the agricultural sector as their first (48%) and second choice (24%) options. 

Judiciary rated in single digits for the first time (7%). Nigerian Senate and House of Reps maintain lowest approval rating of major governmental institutions (3%); Army is the most respected national institution (64%)


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 agencies – EFCC, ICPC and CCB and the Central Bank.

The Nigerian Army continues to be the most highly rated governmental institution, with 64% of respondents rating it as high or very high. The EFCC ranked second with 42% of respondents giving it high or very high ratings. The Presidency ranked third with 38% high approval ratings.

The polls show that the judiciary’s ratings have continued to slide, from 22% in the April poll to 7% in this recent poll. Our next survey will capture the impact of the recent arrest and allegations of corruption against top judges on Nigerians’ ratings of the judiciary. 

Majority continue to 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 (82%) – the highest that has been recorded since we started polling on the issue. As the Shiite – Military conflict has dragged on, the approval ratings for the government’s handling of that conflict now stands at about 49%. A significant number of respondents (51%) disapprove of the government’s handling of the pro-Biafra movement. 77% of Nigerians disapprove of the government’s handling of the Fulani herdsmen crisis. GAIN continues to be concerned that not enough is being done by the Buhari government to bring a lasting solution to the Fulani herdsmen crisis. We believe that the creation of commercial ranches based on sustainability principles will be key to finding a long lasting solution to the crisis.

Disaffection with both major parties stays high


A large number of Nigerians continue to express disaffection with both major political parties. The APC has maintained support at about 23% since we started polling on this issue in February 2016, while the PDP has averaged about 7.5% support. The October poll showed that there was 24% support for the APC, while only 4.2% of respondents expressed support for the PDP. The depressed numbers expressing support for the PDP possibly reflects Nigerians’ disillusionment with the party due to the major controversies that it has continued to face. The PDP’s inability to elect a new national leadership and provide a unified opposition to the APC led government has eroded its ability to communicate a coherent message to Nigerians. A majority of Nigerians (71.8%) are not affiliated with either of the two major parties, continuing a trend of major disengagement from the major political parties.

Do you support sale of government assets?


The question of selling national assets as a means of raising funds to fund the budget has been raised lately. We introduced a polling question that addressed this question directly. An overwhelming majority of respondents (83%) indicated that they do not support the sale of national assets. 

Nigeria at 56: Challenges acknowledged, but hope still high


We used the occasion of Nigeria’s 56th independence anniversary to solicit respondents’ views on the nation’s trajectory and their hopes for the future. About 51% expressed optimism about Nigeria’s future, while acknowledging that the country still has many challenges to overcome. A significant number of respondents (48%) expressed worry about Nigeria’s future, and only a tiny minority (1.3%) agreed that Nigeria was absolutely on the right path. 

Methodology and disclosure

The survey was administered using electronic media between September 30th and October 6th, 2016. A total of 1091 complete responses were received. The survey results have a 3% 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]