“For Africa to succeed, Nigeria must succeed and more importantly, if Nigeria fails the world is in trouble”. ~ Tony Blair, 2003
One of the key areas which Nigeria must do well as a key example to rest of Africa is in leading a peaceful election and transitional government as it has been since 1999. Observations of the economic crisis, thriving inequality, growing arrest and oppression of civilians and the media, the Nigerians dying in the mediterranean sea in bid to illegally immigrate to Europe makes this statement even more meaningful 16 years later.
In less than 4 days Nigeria goes to the polls to decide if incumbent Muhammadu Buhari deserves a second term or if the leading opposition candidate, People’s Democratic Party flag bearer and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar is a better option. For the first time in a democratic Nigeria, the leading opposition and current President are both Hausa-Fulani Muslims and it does not matter. Many say that this is a sign that Nigeria is progressing, but I beg to differ: I think it is simply that Nigerians are even more desperate now than they were in 2015 and are willing to overlook ethnic concerns in order to move the country forward. Here is why I believe Nigerians should vote against Buhari and for Atiku in the coming election.
In recent times past state and by-elections have induced with tension, violence and electoral malpractices, analysis by political analyst, Remi Adekoya on Twitter suggests that since the inception of the second republic of Nigeria in 1999, 2015 election was the freest and fairest. A free and fair 2019 election for Nigeria is crucial because is important to the region of Africa, where democracy has been problematic of recent. The outcome of this election will have a greater impact on foreign investors confidence and on a larger scale the financial markets.
It is common for the incoming government to meet a highly depleted treasury and this should not be an excuse why a nation’s economy nose-dives into multiple recession like Nigeria has under this administration. In President Buhari’s case, his government had no economic plans and this was the beginning of trouble for the economy; as saw things spiraling out of control. Five months into his government, President Buhari had no Finance Minister, leaving the nation’s most important ministry vulnerable. What ended up happening was the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) assumed the sole position of policymaking and this saw a clueless Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele shred an already fragile economy in a position it has not been able to recover from since 2016. These self-destructive policies include but not limited to the Foreign Exchange (FX) manipulation and exclusive trade policy that saw the CBN closing Naira cards out of global economies. This singular action took the power of a people-driven economy and placed it back under the command of the President via the CBN.
President Buhari’s good intention behind this bad policy follows a similar pattern attempted and failed as the Head of State during his military rulership in the 1980s was attempting to promote industrialization by forcing it through stringent economic policies. But even first-year economic undergraduates know that any force applied to the economy often induces an uncontrollable disaster. First, in 2016, President Buhari resolution to prevent the devaluation of the Naira caused foreign investors to panic and this sent the market into monetary panic and uncertainty. Also, when the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefile removed the Naira cards from the global economy and the politics of FX control which saw the Presidency and the CBN rationing and controlling Foreign Currency sent the market in a panic and drove the economy into recession.
The reason why stringent economic policies make no sense for Nigeria is simple: Nigeria imports many goods because it produces very little of what it needs and, more critically, production is impaired by multifaceted challenges. Naturally, the high cost of production for the producer forces them to sell at a more costlier price to break the profit margin. To the producer, the option of purchasing raw materials from China becomes a more viable option and to the consumer, paying more when the option of paying less makes no economic sense. The implication of these stringent policies impacted all businesses directly or indirectly because as an export-dependence economy, businesses across all scales and sizes requires access to FX directly or indirectly to stay afloat. The manipulation of the FX by the Presidency through the CBN forced all businesses to downsize, and in some cases to foreclosure were inevitable. In 2018, analysis of the Nigerian Stock Exchange showed the multinational investment portfolio dropped significantly. In 2018 alone, over 10 multinational firms have exited in Nigeria. These departures and the closure of multinational and domestic enterprises are stoking unemployment in the country.
An illustration of this is a personal friend of mine who left formal employment in 2014 to focus on his ice block and pure (sachet) water business. Between 2014 and 2015, he had purchased land for a factory in Lagos, Nigeria’s second city and commercial capital. This business, which started with 10 employees and had grown to employ a total of 58 within 10 months would be left vulnerable by the nation’s harmful policies. This business that mostly purchased its raw materials online from China as it was far cheaper to do so and this increased its profit margin. When the Buhari administration took these decisions it meant that this thriving business had no access to FX nor could it purchase goods on the black market. It struggled for months to stay afloat, after which it shut down. For example, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment rose from 6.4% in the final quarter of 2014 to 23. 10% in the third quarter of 2018.
President Buhari’s administration was 24 months into power before it kicked off the national economic agenda on economic recovery and growth, showing Buhari did not expect Nigerians to take him and his campaign seriously and vote for him, and that he did not have an economic plan in place.
This administration has consistently taken action that suggests it is undemocratic and a threat to democracy. For example, in 2017, Senate President Bukola Saraki publicly declared that the President had withdrawn $1B from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) without following due process as required by the constitution. In April 2018, President Buhari again withdrew $462 million from the ECA for the purchase of 12 Super Tucano aircraft also without notice and without the approval of the National Assembly and the Senate. The ECA is a national account that requires the approval of the three tiers of government, therefore, the President has no veto power over it. It is critical to note that at the beginning of the Buhari’s administration, the ECA account had $2.07 billion and presently the account is at $631 million, with $1.46B withdrawn illegally.
President Buhari, who is both the President and Minister for Petroleum, is administering the most untransparent, authoritarian and corrupt government in Nigeria’s democratic history. In 2017, online platform Sahara Reporters reported that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to remit over $35.7 billion into the Federation’s account. Another report by the Premium Times newspaper proposed that as at March 2018, the NNPC had not remitted $16.8B into the Federation’s account.
The recent illegal suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen and the illegal appointment of an illegal acting CJN, Justice Mohammed Tanko is of great concerns. This is important because the President thought it appropriate to disregard the rule of law and illegally replace the CJN. The timing of this illegal suspension is worrisome because of the upcoming elections and the controversy surrounding the appointment of the new Independent National Electoral Commission Chief who is alleged to be the daughter of the President’s elder sister’s husband, hence, a relative of President Buhari. This action suggests a plot to rig the upcoming elections.
For the first time in Nigeria, the Federal cabinet is 95% Hausa-Fulani Muslims. The Nigerian Federal Character Commission which was set up to promote, monitor and enforce compliance of political appointments at the Federal level of government to reflect the nation’s ethnic and religious diversity has been undermined by this administration. Although this commission is not subject to any supervision or regulation, the nation’s susceptibility to internal multifaceted conflicts makes it a crucial body.
Is Buhari fighting corruption or is Buhari corruption? President Buhari came into power on the podium of fighting corruption, yet accusations of sharp practice against his administration are flying, both at home and abroad. The administration hides behind anti-corruption in order to use the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) as a vindictive tool against key opposition members. It has become common for accused opposition members to switch to the ruling party in other to escape the vindictive methods adopted by President Buhari in targeting opposition leaders. This has seen thousands of targeted opposition members switching from the PDP to the ruling party APC, afterwhich the cases against them are withdrawn and silenced. From Babachir Lawal, Rotimi Amaechi, George Akume, Tony Nwoye, Goodwill Akpabio to Abdullahi Adamu whose corruption cases with the EFCC have been silenced, President Buhari has shown that he is unserious about fighting corruption and switching from opposition to the ruling party, the APC, washes away the sins of corruption.
On the 16th of January 2019, the President when asked about his opinion on Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano who was caught on camera receiving a bribe, the President Buhari in his response expressed doubt by asking “what kind of technology did they use to do this?”. On the same issues, the President has since said that the governor is enjoying the immunity that comes with his position. Interestingly, the Nigerian Chief Justice was not allowed this same immunity pending the due process of trial in the allegations against him.
Furthermore, President Buhari’s approach to tackling an insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast seems unserious and irresponsible. The President is reportedly paying members of the Boko Haram terrorist sect large sums of undisclosed sums as amnesty; connoting since that the Niger Delta militants were appeased, therefore, the same rule should apply for religious fundamentalists. This response to the growing crisis is empowering terrorism in Nigeria. In June 2018, after a major attack by the Fulani herdsmen in Benue state, the head of Miyetti Allah, (cattle herders association) was on Channels TV live rationalizing the killings and proposing the solution of individual state land allocation for grazing in order to further senseless murders. Not only does such rationalization equate human life with animal life but empowers terrorista by rewarding criminals with the land. The following week, President Buhari suggested the same proposal as a solution to the herdsmen crisis in Nigeria.
The frequent arrest of civilians and peaceful protesters such as political activist Deji Adeyanju, the killings of Shitties Muslims, the continuous illegal detention of Shiite leader Ibrahim Zakzaky, and the growing harassment, arrest and intimidation of journalists all points to the danger that this government is becoming to Nigeria’s greater good.
Looking back at 2015, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar would never be a choice I would consider as an option, but the failures of the sitting President have forced many of us to embrace Atiku Abubakar even though we do not totally trust him.
I particularly have no concrete reasons to be hopeful with Atiku, but the only thing I remember well of him as the VP to President Olusegun Obasanjo was his resolute stance against his boss’s third term and this makes me feel safer with him.
The PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar in his manifestos and very interviews and dialogue with the electorates has proposed various solutions to tidy up the mess created by this administration should he be voted as President. Of all the promises in his manifesto, the most exciting for me is the privatization of the NNPC. Particularly interesting is the promise of ensuring timely and public remittance of oil revenue income as well as the digitize the internal processes of the NNPC.Secondly, Atiku Abubakar has promised to expand manufacturing sector from 9% to 30% of the nation’s overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP). His job creation agenda and the framework of uniting the nation from the internal fractions created by the Buhari administration, the promise to protect democratic processes among other things is a reason to be hopeful and feel safe with Atiku.
The question of whether or not Atiku is better than Buhari is the wrong question: the appropriate question is does President Buhari deserve a second term? And the answer for me is not only a no, but that the survival of our democracy, the path to economic progress and unity as a nation depends on his replacement and Atiku happens to be the only candidate with a chance.
By 2023, replacing Atiku will be a non-negotiable because whether or not he performs, at 74 years old, he will be too old to be the President that Nigeria needs. But until then, it is more important that our nation is protected from falling into anarchy.