…boosts PDP’s chance to take over
By Emeka Ejere
Twelve months to the 2019 general elections, several factors point to a very coarse road to a second term for President Muhammadu Buhari, if the verdict of the court of public opinion is anything to go by.
The Buhari-must-go crusade gathered momentum recently with former President Olusegun Obasanjo charging the President to forget about second term as he does not have what the nation needs to be where it should be at the moment.
Unless he heeds Obasanjo’s advice, Buhari, who has started enjoying endorsements, is most likely to be the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) come 2019 as it is increasingly unlikely that any primaries result will say otherwise.
While the unfortunate massacre of 73 people in Benue State by the killer herdsmen dominates discourse as a testimony of government’s failure in fighting insecurity, unfolding events are also not giving the government pass mark in the areas of economy and war against corruption.
More than ever before in the history of Africa’s largest economy, Nigerians have suffered untold hardship due to the actions and inactions of a government that enjoyed their overwhelming support in 2015.
The situation in the country at the moment, analysts say, portrays the President and his party as having deceived Nigerians with good promises only to get even worse than the heavily criticized previous government after seizing power.
Buhari’s unique selling point during the 2015 election was his perceived passion to rid the country of corruption, an ill generally believed to be the bane of the nation.
Riding on a ‘Change’ mantra, he also had fighting insecurity and growing the economy as part of his three-point agenda.
Little wonder when the President took over power on May 29, 2015, Nigerians were full of hopes and expectations that he was going to fix many aspects of the nation that required quick fixes. It was more so when in his inaugural speech he declared: “I belong to everybody. I belong to nobody.”
“Unfortunately, the President busted the bubbles of hope and expectations of many Nigerians,” said Pastor Adedeji Adeleye, media chairman of OneVoice Coalition.
Buhari’s presidency has seen over 4 million Nigerians lose their jobs, making hunger and deprivation a way of life in many homes in the country.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), out of a total active labour force of 85.08 million people in Nigeria, about 16 million people were unemployed in the third quarter of 2017.
Extreme implementation of policies like the Treasury Single Account (TSA), has brought almost to zero, the ability of commercial banks to live up to their obligation of granting credit to businesses, thereby prompting downsizing and in some cases outright closure that has left many Nigerians jobless.
It took the President three months to appoint his own aides even as he ended up appointing some officials believed to be of dented integrity. It also took him 166 days to form his cabinet and 14 months for his government to unveil its medium term economic strategy – the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
The government is also characterized by delayed budget presentation, approval and poor implementation, which many place at the root of a near economic stagnation the nation presently witnesses.
Accordingly, the implementation of the capital component of the 2016 budget was extended to March 31 and later to May 5. Yet many believed that up till the time the next budget got the president’s assent, that budget could not be said to have been fully implemented.
Similar situation is most likely this year as findings show that the 2017 budget has not been implemented up to 20 percent, even as members of the National Assembly are threatening to frustrate the passage of 2018 budget.
The Nigerian economy slipped into recession in 2016 contracting 2.06% between April and June, translating to two consecutive quarters of declining growth, owing to inability to diversify the economy. The price of oil had fallen from highs of about $112 a barrel in 2014 to below $50.
Outside the oil industry, the figures show the fall in the Nigerian currency, the naira, has hurt the economy. It was allowed to float freely in June last year to help kick-start the economy, but critics argued it should have been done earlier.
President Buhari’s much-publicised war on corruption is one area in which his hard-core supporters continue to defend him.
“The rot of many years cannot be fought overnight,” Johnson Moses, an ardent supporter of President Buhari, cautioned. “Nigerians should try and be patient with this man who is honestly giving corruption a true fight for the first time in this country.”
In many respects analysts believe that the defence is entirely understandable as there has been no point since its establishment in 2003 the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) been seen to be so active in pursuing alleged perpetrators of graft as it is at present.
However, that there has not been high profile conviction till date as Nigerians only hear about arrest, interim forfeitures of huge cash and properties calls integrity to question.
Within these lie many of the president’s allies who many think ought to have been shown the way out of government if it were to be in a more serious clime.
A prominent example, observers note, is the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, who allegedly had his hands dirty in many corrupt cases:
Early last year, Mr. Malami reportedly forced the EFCC to transfer the case-file of the Malabu Oil deals to his office. Ever since, the case-file is gathering dust in his office shelf without any further action from him.
Secondly, he was found to have given clearance to Abdulrasheed Maina, a former deputy director of pension commission (wanted by EFCC) to resume as a director in the federal ministry of interior.
Malami admitted to the Senate sub-committee probing the Maina-gate that he acted in consultation with Aba-Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Buhari and Minister of Interior General Danbazzau.
“In all of these, President Buhari pretended not to know what is going on,” Pastor Adeleye observed.
“No person has been indicted or fired for this terrible embarrassment to the administration. It is business as usual.”
On his part, human right lawyer, Collins Okeke, sympathized with Nigerians who he said have been disappointed by a government they so much trusted.
“And there seems not to be a credible alternative for the frustrated Nigerians even as 2019 is fast approaching”, Okeke feared.
In the area of security, the menace of Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen is still far from over as they still wreak havoc at will. Only recently Nigerians woke up to the news of the 36 governors of the federation approving the withdrawal of $1 billion from the nation’s excess crude account to fight Boko Haram.
“One billion dollars to fight Boko Haram that has been defeated”, sarcastically queried Barr Jide Ologun, a public affairs analyst.
He was speaking the mind of many Nigerians who could not find the correlation between the development and the federal government’s earlier claim that Boko Haram had been decimated.
Similarly, Fulani herdsmen under the national association called Miyyetti Allah, are still using AK 47 and other dangerous weapons, to ravage and decimate farmlands in Benue, Nassarawa and Enugu States, destroying houses and killing thousands of people.
The President has promised, to the disbelief of most of our respondents, that those behind the Benue killings will be arrested and brought to book, even as the Senate has given the Inspector General of Police, Abubakar Idris, one week to produce the perpetrators of the heinous act.
Also, a committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has been set up to put an end to the herdsmen/farmers clashes.
“Nigeria is fond of setting up committees that will not produce any result at the end of the day,” Nnamdi Okoro, a resident of Lagos observed.
Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, and other Nigerians had suggested establishment of cattle ranches whereby grasses will be imported from Brazil and other Latin American countries), but Miyyetti Allah rejected it, insisting that they prefer the nomadic pattern.
The federal government is rather proposing a cattle colony in all the states of the federation to the total refusal of a large majority of the states.
Before the latest carnage in Benue, the state had passed ‘Anti-grazing law’, with Miyyetti Allah threatening fire. “President has refused to say a word against it. No arrest has been made so far. And the ordinary farmers have become endangered species in their own land,” a source had lamented.
Governor Samuel Orthom, says the herdsmen have so far sent 1,800 citizens of Benue State to their untimely graves, leaving several others injured and homeless.
However, Special Adviser to the President on media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, believes the President has achieved a lot on security, economy and anti-corruption and is only being demeaned by those who want to return to power at all cost.
Changing the “Change”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic PDP (PDP) is finding hope of return in the obvious weakness of the APC-led federal government. The opposition party has succeeded in conducting a national electoral convention which has produced a national chairman and other members of the National Working Committee (NWC).
Although there are still minor internal crises in the opposition party, the new national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, is on a peace move that is already yielding fruit.
After a truce was reached at the residence of former National Chairman of PDP, Okwesilieze Nwodo, in Abuja, members of a minor splinter group in the party tagged Fresh PDP cancelled plans to inaugurate a parallel NWC, on Monday, January 22.
Though this has since been denied, Leader of the group Olukayode Akindele, speaking at the end of the closed-door meeting reportedly said they were collapsing into the main NWC of the party after receiving words of assurance from PDP leaders.
However, Prof Taoheed Adedoja, one of the chairmanship aspirants at the national convention is still in court. He is asking a federal high court sitting in Abuja to nullify the outcome of the convention on the basis that he was “excluded” from the exercise.
The party has also amended its constitution to accommodate the political ambition of new and potential members, especially the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who defected to the party recently in what many saw as a desperate move for power.
Even some prominent members of the ruling APC, namely the party’s National Chairman, John Oyegun, and Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, have admitted that Atiku’s defection was a huge loss to the party.
Although PDP says there will be no automatic ticket for anybody, pundits believe it is almost certain that Atiku will fly the flag of the party come 2019.
Atiku appears to be the right person at the moment to give the APC a good fight for their money, political reach, public acceptance and international connections.
But to become the president of the country, Atiku will have to cross many hurdles, including Obasanjo, who has not withdrawn his vow never to live and watch him (Atiku) become the president of Nigeria.
Donald Duke, former governor of Cross River State, has also indicated interest to run for presidency on the PDP platform. Duke is also not a pushover going by the voices from the street.
“Our party is well-positioned to win the next election if we can change our style a bit and beat APC at its own game,” Duke told Dele Momodu in an interview.
“We must take advantage and benefit from our experience since 1999. Despite our apparent mistakes, Nigerians can now compare and contrast us with APC.”