Why Buhari Needs Help

Edition 47

Tell Magazine Cover Page

 

President Muhammadu Buhari faces an uphill climb to 2019 with many variables in disarray in his party and the country

 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   

Are full of passionate intensity.

–       W.B. Yeats

 

For the repeated time, Irish poet, William Butler Yeats’ “Second Coming” captures the current dilemma of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to a prophetic exactitude, like it captured the conflict between the robust traditional African society and the intruding western culture in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.  Buhari and APC’s trajectory along the gyre of change, democracy, corruption and heterogeneity appears to be coming apart just 17 months in office as critical party stakeholders and allies face different directions as Nigeria wobbles in the sea of worst economic recession in her history.

 

Rochas Okorocha, governor of Imo State and chairman, All Progressives Congress, APC, Governors Forum, has been making efforts to save the party from the threatening tides.  To stem the rising currents in the party, he met with the National Working Committee of the party, NWC, on Tuesday, November 2 in Abuja, and discussed the need to restructure the party and ensure unity. In the absence of a board of trustees, APC has no formal back up in the times of crisis and has to rely on the intervention of party stakeholders like APC Governors Forum, National Assembly Caucus and the President. Okorocha summed the crisis diplomatically: “We noticed that there is so much bitterness among the ranks and members of our party and there is a need for communication and dialogue because where there is no communication and dialogue, war is inevitable…it was the same National Working Committee and these party leaders that saw us through during the last election…So the party will be restructured for the purpose of making it stronger and to move forward as a people and as a party.”

 

Next Okorocha met with the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, and speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. He lamented: “Nigerians expect so much from us but yet we seem to be in crisis within ourselves. Not crisis made by the opposition parties but crisis created by ourselves for ourselves and which has kept us in total difficult position that we are not making the headway we need to make as a party. One wonders then what went wrong. Where did we get it wrong? And after these troubles and after the much hope we have given to Nigerians, we still cannot work together as a party, as a family…we notice there is no cordial relationship between the governors, the executive and the legislature.” TELL’s investigation indicate that the north faces an unenviable predicament over Buhari and 2019, just like it did with his candidature in 2015. Major stakeholders in the north who spoke with the Magazine in confidence are worried that the President may have squandered the enormous goodwill that brought him to power on May 29, 2015 and consequently jeopardized the interest of the bloc. The hope they share privately is that if Buhari decides not to run in 2019 on account of age or on health grounds he would have provided an easy solution to this Catch-22 situation. But that may just turn out some wishful thinking, as political leaders and members of his kitchen cabinet are already working very hard to ensure his nomination for a second term irrespective of his scorecard.

 

It has dawned on all stakeholders, including non-partisans like Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka that Nigeria is in trouble. Soyinka noted in Abuja on last February that the country was not being run efficiently and called for an economic conference of experts to brainstorm for solutions. “I agree with those who say the economy is bad. It is obvious and it is so bad. I think the Presidency should call an emergency economic conference where experts will be enlightened. We really need an emergency economic conference, bringing experts together to march the nation forward. I think the economy is not encouraging. Quite frankly, I think most economists will agree with this.” In addition, he advised the government to follow the tenets of democracy. “My attitude to the performance of the present administration is that the rule of law should be followed.. If that goal is attained by constitutional means, if nothing else, it would have moved this nation forward.”

 

The North is worried that the Buhari government’s poor management of the economy has reinforced existing stereotype that the bloc doesn’t have the competence to run the country and has ruined the economy each time it ruled since independence in 1960. The Northern elite, knowing Buhari’s antecedents did not see him as their most competent candidate in 2015 but they settled for him out of desperation to wrestle power back to the north by any means necessary. And fortune smiled on them as northwest and southwest brokered a political arrangement. Many of them suspected Buhari had not changed but they hoped that his three failed attempts at the presidency under democracy would have tempered him down and made him a nationalist. Buhari was seen as very provincial and parochial but they had hoped he would prove critics wrong by doing things differently. His actions so far, they argue, do not suggest that their projection was right.

 

The North is angry, embarrassed and unhappy. Our sources argued that the bad economy and the recession will impact more negatively on the north than the south. The fear of the northern elite is that the south will feel the north just want power but does not have the competence to run a country. They feel that though government propagandists are blaming former president Goodluck Jonathan for the collapse of the economy, the statistics show conclusively that the economy is being mismanaged under the Buhari administration. For instance, the economy was adjudged by all the rating agencies to be growing at about 6.7 percent as at May 29, 2015; 18 months later, it has gone into recession at -2.16 percent with the fear that it could go into depression with a consecutive third quarter negative growth.

 

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, Consumer Prices Index, CPI, in Nigeria went up by 17.9 percent year-on-year in September 2016.  It was the highest inflation rate since October 2005 boosted by cost of food, housing and utilities and transport. Compared to September 2015, cost of food increased by 16.6 percent (16.4 percent in August); housing, water, electricity and gas surged by 26.3 percent (25.9 percent). Other contributors to the rise were: clothing and footwear (17.2 percent from 16.7 percent); transport (18 percent from 17.9 percent); furnishings and household equipment (12.4 percent, the same as in August); education (18.4 percent, the same as in August); health (10.9 percent, the same as in August); miscellaneous goods and services (12.7 percent from 12.5 percent); alcoholic beverages, tobacco and cola (14.9 percent from 14.8 percent) and restaurants and hotels (9.4 percent from 9.7 percent). Annual core inflation rate went up to 17.7 percent from 17.2 percent in the previous month. Inflation is projected to hit 18.8 percent by December but in the streets prices of commodities have more than doubled. For the common man on the street in real terms the bag of rice that sold for N8, 500 in May 2015 is now selling for N22, 500.  This is over 150 percent increase.

 

The inflation is driven by increase in electricity tariff, devaluation of Naira and removal of fuel subsidy, all actions consciously taken by the Buhari administration as responses to the fall in the price of crude oil. Nigeria is also borrowing herself back into the debt trap that then president Olusegun Obasanjo brought the country out of in 2006 when the Paris Club forgave Nigeria a debt of $18 billion after a payment of $12billion to free the country from a $30 billion debt overhang. In the 2016 budget alone, Buhari has a deficit of N2.2 trillion which is being borrowed. And the Senate just recently turned down a blanket request to borrow $29.96 billion in the next three years. According to the debt management office, Nigeria’s total debt stock as at June 30, 2016 is $61,477.01 million and N16, 298, 709. 51.

 

The real catastrophe is the official exchange rate which crashed from N196/$1 in May 2015 to N305 in November 2016. In the parallel market it was N220/$1 in May 2015 but now N460, down from a high of N506. It is no longer logical to blame Jonathan for these 18 months after he left office. All the economic indicators are conclusive that lack of appropriate fiscal policies and actions taken and not taken by the Buhari government account for the present economic recession in the country. A source said last week, “These are hard facts that can’t be blamed on the past government any longer. The question is, you met a bad situation, have you improved it?” His verdict; “No, it has worsened.”

 

This is not just coming from critics and the opposition. Within the government and the ruling party, associates are getting embarrassed for the president.

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