19 April 2017

Nigeria: PMB, Nigeria and 2019


As President Buhari faces what is increasingly looking like a revolt from within the patchy coalition of political groups that supported him to power midway into his first term in office, it is pertinent to look at what this portend to this fractious nation of ours especially as in just a matter of a couple of years hence we will be going to the polls to give verdict on how the president and his party has fared.

In 2015, Muhammadu Buhari was the unlikely political outsider around whom a critical mass of the nation's political class coalesced, frightened out of their wits by the grim fate that awaited them had President Goodluck Jonathan succeeded in his re-election bid.

The decision to rally round Buhari was also predicated on the fact that none of the principal anti-Jonathan figures in 2015 seemed able to agree to let one among them lead the field, or even garner the kind of support needed to challenge President Jonathan individually. It therefore became glaring to all of them that despite their misgivings about him, Buhari was that neutral outsider with the ready fanatical following, status and character disposition which they all lacked, to lead the charge against President Jonathan in 2015.

This choice was ironic because some of the principal figures in that cast had played decisive roles in thwarting Muhammadu Buharis three previous attempts at seeking the Presidency of the nation on the consideration that his brand of politics and what he stood for was not to their liking.

At the inception of his presidency, Muhammadu Buhari predicated the thrust of his administration on three main issues; combating security threats to the nation especially from the North-east flank where the Boko haram scourge had taken and occupied large swathes of the area, governance issues particularly with regards to high corruption and fixing the economy by diversifying to other sources of revenue away from overdependence on crude oil exports whose price had taken a hit on the international market.

From what we have seen so far, it is clear that not all members of his administration and political party (talk less the political opposition) share his vision and passion in carrying out these tasks. On the security challenges and Boko haram, there are those who would rather that the president just faced the task of defeating the terrorists than delve into how monies voted to fight the scourge during the previous administration was expended. They are simply not comfortable with the fantastic tales of how respected and highly placed members of the Nigerian establishment have been found culpable in the whole conundrum. Again there are also those who while purporting to support the president in this crusade as their standing in the administration demands of them, are however sabotaging it by redirecting the resources away from where it is meant to reach.

The anti-corruption issue is one that President Buhari was never going to get any reasonable measure of support. As the president himself would know, corruption has eaten so deep into the psyche of Nigeria that the only public official or officials not guilty of it are probably the ones against whom the searchlight had not been directed for one reason or the other. And having seen from the results of the anti-corruption efforts of the Buhari administration that the issue transcends the ethnic and religious divide of the country, its counter-attack against the government also mirrors the same template without regards to party affiliation and sectarian loyalties and sentiments. Nigerians are simply mortified that the fiercest resistance to President Buharis anti-corrution drive comes from members of his own political party. I am pretty certain that having by now been confronted with the enormity of the dimension of corruption in the country, President Buhari would be wondering whether he could even hurt, let alone kill it as he pledged during his presidential campaign.

As for the promised economic diversification, the administration has to contend with not only external factors of falling oil prices and the foreign exchange issues arising therefrom, it is also finding it difficult to plug the leakages in the entire value chain of the Nigerian economy. Against its most trying efforts to rejig the economy, the administration is always confronted with both local and foreign economic predators ever ready to scuttle.

The outlook from all these indicate that the circumstances that made President Buhari such an attractive prospect for the political class in 2015 may not be so in 2019.

First up, the Jonathan fear factor that made a good many among the political class to seek and rally around Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 no longer exists with the defeat of the former at the polls in 2015. We have also seen that through all manners of political subterfuges, the political class have thus far successfully devised ways of managing what for them would have been the Buhari fear factor from the inception of the administration.

In this regard the political class both from within the President's own All Peoples Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party out of self-preservation have found common ground to work to contain the President from carrying out some of the radical programmes that form the hallmark of his politics especially those policies that appear to bear negatively on them. By its composition of members from virtually all the political parties, the National Assembly has proven to be the strategic arena where this game is most visibly and effectively played out.

It must be said that they have been helped in no small measure by the president's laissez-faire, almost non-challant disposition to political issues reinforcing the perception of him as a political outsider. Added to that has been President Buharis provincialism and lack of diversity and wide consultation in appointments, and his laborious approach to governance. All this constitute the grounds to diminish President Buharis stock in the political circumstances of 2019.

Then of course there is the factor of the President's health and age challenges. Of this, out of reverence and consideration for the man we can only wish him well. But it will be out of place not to expect politicians to seek to make capital out of this. Although many would want to tip toe around this factor due to its sensitivity, it will weigh in considerably in the political calculus of 2019.

Going by this outlook baring any fortuitous developments, it will be safe to bet that by 2019 President Buharis support base among the political class would be greatly eroded. His support base among the neutrals in the country will also shrink considerably. And by that date, the nation as a whole will once more be faced with a Hobson's choice of whether to consider President Buhari as being surplus to requirement or stick with him with all the uncertainties this choice will throw up.

Gadu, a policy and public affairs analyst, wrote this piece from Abuja.


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