The degree of political intrigues ahead of the 2019 general elections is rising on daily basis. It has compounded the myriad of problems confronting Nigeria to the extent that except the political class soft-pedaled and play according to rules patriotically and in civility, in the national interest, the cataclysm, which was predicted in 2015, may just be around the corner. The contention for political office by largely people who seem to have no other business is adversely affecting the polity and the economy.
On the economic front, for instance, reports indicate that the heat and uncertainty of the 2019 general elections have rocked the stock market, making investors to lose a whopping N729 billions in three months of decline between February and April after the initial January rise triggered strong anticipations. This development, experts say, runs contrary to the general expectations of positive earnings in 2018 after the country apparently pulled out from a recession at the end of 2017.
Analysts say investors are apprehensive about the political risks associated with the 2019 elections. The investors, who are mostly foreigners, would prefer to sit on the fence and watch developments to avoid losing money. This unsavory scenario cuts across almost all facets of the economy. The implication is that the economy may be stagnated from now till May 29, 2019, when the elections would have been concluded and a new government inaugurated. And, depending on who becomes president, things could change in the most unexpected manner.
The 2018 national budget, which is yet to be passed by the National Assembly (NASS), may not make much difference even after it is passed because election year budgets are believed to be used to prosecute the election. Only a fraction will actually go into real budgetary spending. This is the Nigerian experience that is not expected to change in the present circumstance. The result is that the masses of the people are the losers. Poverty and suffering will increase as politicians play their dirty game without minding. So much so on the economic front.
But the real fear is the unprecedented insecurity and killings ravaging the country. How do we add political thuggry and hooliganism to the already bad situation where Boko Haram and herdsmen are massacring people daily across Nigeria with epicenter in the Northeast and the Middle Belt? Would Nigeria survive the barrage of assaults on her?
A closer look at the situation in 2015 and now will reveal the extent of imminent threat. The prediction, in 2015, by the U.S. Intelligence Unit that Nigeria would disintegrate was based on two contending forces at the time, namely, the challenge of the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan's PDP led Federal Government by the Muhammadu Buhari led All Progressives Congress (APC) opposition party. The disenchantment and frustration of the people against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) cleared the coast for Buhari and the APC, whose mantra of change reinforced peoples' conviction that Buhari could be the Messiah that Nigeria needed to redeem a corruption-ridden polity. Consequently, Buhari had overwhelming support in the entire North and South-West with pockets of support in the South-East and South-South.
Today, all that has changed. The contention now is between the same Buhari and the APC and very powerful forces that have risen to unseat him and his party. Whereas, the PDP has fallen short of its erstwhile political muscle to tackle Buhari and the APC that now seem to have the upper hand, some critical forces that supported and boosted Buhari's chances in 2015 are no longer there.
For instance, the critical support given to Buhari and the APC by former president Olusegun Obasanjo, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and a host of other political juggernauts are no longer there. The exit of Atiku Abubakar from the APC and his intention to contest as president in 2019 under the PDP has split the north, meaning that the entire north can no longer be said to be solely for Buhari. Besides, some powerful politicians in the North appear to be disgruntled against the APC.
The same scenario is playing out in the South-West. Obasanjo, who in 2015 dramatically pulled out of the PDP, the party under which he was president for eight years, and declared Buhari as the next president even before the election has, once again, dramatically, withdrawn his support for Buhari. And he didn't stop there.
As early as January, 2018, Obasanjo wrote a scathing letter against president Buhari accusing him of mismanaging the economy and followed it by floating a powerful political movement he christened "Third Force," whose sole aim is to unseat Buhari and the APC in 2019. The political coalition has morphed quickly and adopted the African Democratic Congress (ADC) as a political party.
Latest reports indicate that Obasanjo's ADC, PDP and 36 other political parties are working to form a formidable alliance to remove Buhari. These parties believe that the same way a coalition of parties joined forces in 2015 to uproot Jonathan and the PDP, the same could happen to the APC if they could come together to confront the incumbent. The implication is that the unflinching support the APC got from the South-West in 2015 may be divided in 2019.
Add this to the apparent opposition of retired military generals like Ibrahim Babangida and T. Y. Danjuma, who have openly voiced opposition to Buhari's administration. All this shows that Buhari and the APC have an uphill task if only the festering internal wrangling would allow the party to face its challenges. A kingdom divided against self cannot stand. The internal divisions, contentions and power play that contributed to the defeat of the PDP in 2015 may have infected the APC and that could constitute its greatest challenge ahead of 2019.
Over and above all this, those who know Buhari think that he can't easily be brushed aside as was the case with Jonathan in 2015. Buhari's exponents think that he will deploy all the forces within his power, including the power of incumbency and financial muscle, to counter the opposition to win the re-election.
Whatever might be the case, Nigerians want peace and not chaos. Anything that will lead to bloodshed should be avoided. Buhari should adopt Jonathan's patriotic position in 2015 that his re-election bid did not worth the blood of any Nigerian. That was exceptional patriotism.
Except Buhari and the APC adopt a "no bloodshed mantra," adding political killing to the already degenerate killing fields across Nigeria may spell doom for the country. That way, the prediction that Nigeria could not survive the 2015 elections may only have been postponed to 2019. President Buhari, who fought to unite the country, should not let this happen in his hand.