In 2019, Performance Debate is Unavoidable

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With a few months to the election year, the indicators are clear that only performance will dictate the dimensions of the 2019 elections, writes  Iyobosa Uwugiaren

Day after day, anxious leaders and critical stakeholders in the ruling All Progressives Congress ( APC ) are troubled about how Nigerians and the international community would rate them as the election year draws near. And for many APC admirers and members, the equation doesn’t really look good for the party.

For several challenges including the swelling complaints of lopsided appointments that seem to favour the north that were recently made by President Muhammadu Buhari, including the party’s national caucus and National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings earlier scheduled for April 24 and 25, 2017 respectively, but were suddenly put off penultimate Thursday.

A statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said the cancellation of the two events was as a result of unexpected developments, even though an insider linked the postponement to the interminable squabbles among the “owners” of APC now struggling for the soul of the party ahead of 2019.

Yet, while many concerned leaders of the party are making seeming panicky and jumpy moves to fix the teething troubles enveloping the party, some of them strongly believe and rightly so, that the swelling resentments against the Buhari administration, instigated by the administration’s widely perceived incompetent and unproductive style in the last two years, combined with the obvious evidence that the next general election will be based on issues and performance, is not helping the APC .

President Buhari was elected in 2015 with the main campaign message of “change”, predicated on a tripod of security, corruption and the economy. Widely believed to have been packaged by experts in propaganda and spine doctors, the party campaigned ferociously, promising to bring about change in all facets of the Nigerian life.

And during his presidential campaign, Buhari and his party made a lot of promises to Nigerians. They promised “change”, which many thought would transform Nigeria overnight. Nigerians, who were won over by the powerful campaign messages of APC decided to try the “change” for a change even though a few of the president’s promises were extremely fanciful and impracticable, especially within the timeframe alluded to.

Check it out: APC had promised to improve on the epileptic electricity, inadequate water supply and widespread unemployment, reduction of fuel price to N45 per litre, implementation of free education at all levels including free meal for pupils, payment of N5,000 to 23 million Nigerians monthly, increment of minimum wage and placement of every graduate on salary for extra one year after their youth service, reviving all refineries in the first one year in office and building more to produce more for the nation’s domestic consumption, bringing naira at par with dollar and crushing the terrorist group, Boko Haram in the first three months in office.

The ruling party also promised to stop importation of refined products. But nearly two years into the life of the APC-led federal government, there are mixed feelings over the performance of the Buhari administration.

While one of the promoters of Buhari in the 2015 presidential campaign and Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, recently applauded the president for delivering on his campaign promises to Nigerians, political monitors said the recent action of some angry youths in Kastina State – Buhari’s home state – torching homes and properties of two politicians over unfulfilled campaign promises the president made during his campaign, was ominous for the APC.

A mob of young men had stormed and set on fire, the country home of Senator Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya, Buhari’s close ally and the campaign office and poultry farm of politician Abdullahi Mahmud, located in the town of Gaya. Both members of APC were elected in the 2015 general election along with Buhari.

To be sure, a governance tracking tool launched by the Centre for Democracy and Development, Buharimeter, stated sometime ago that Buhari had only achieved one of the campaign promises he made during the 2015 electioneering. According to the report, the national survey — Buharimeter — received responses from a cross-section of Nigerians, representing different social groups and government officials. The responses were comments on three key issues that included corruption, economy and security.

In the statement issued by the Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, 84 per cent of Nigerians endorsed the approach of President Buhari towards fighting corruption in the country. The survey also showed that the president’s zone, the North West with 60.2 per cent had the highest number of citizens applauding his anti-corruption war.

“Using the four categories: ‘Achieved’, ‘Not Achieved’, ‘Ongoing’ and ‘Not Yet rated’, which were developed by the tracking tool to rate the extent of fulfillment of the campaign promises, Buharimeter scored the President as follows: One promise was rated as ‘achieved’ and 45 promises were rated as ‘ongoing’. According to the tracking tool, within the period under review, President Buhari has only achieved one campaign promise, which constitutes 0.5 per cent of all the tracked promises.”

The report said the state of the economy and its biting effects on the citizens, justified the low ratings the administration received in the national survey on the administration’s performance in the economy sector. According to the survey, nearly two-thirds of the respondents rated Buhari’s performance in employment generation as either “very poor” (39.8 per cent) or “poor” (22 per cent). On job creation, the report concluded that the expectations of Nigerians had largely remained unmet.

Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, who is also worried about the unfulfilled promises of his party, had cause to write a strongly-worded letter to Buhari recently, highlighting what he considered were the factors compounding the challenges of his administration. He said there was a possibility that some officials in the presidency had persuaded Buhari that the governors of APC “must have no say and must also be totally excluded from political consultations, key appointments and decision-making at the federal level”.

The governor said because of its failure to be proactive in taking key decisions in a timely manner, the ruling party had made the situation in Nigeria worse than it met it in 2015.

“In very blunt terms, Mr. President, our APC administration has not only failed to manage expectations of a populace that expected overnight change but has failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance outside of our successes in fighting Boko Haram insurgency and corruption,” el-Rufai said in the 30-page memo to Buhari.

Continuing, he added, “The situation is compounded by the fact that some officials around you seem to believe and may have persuaded you that the current APC state governors must have no say and must also be totally excluded from political consultations, key appointments and decision-making at the federal level.

“These politically-naive ‘advisers’ fail to realise that it is the current and former state governors that may, as members of NEC of the APC, serve as an alternative locus of power to check the excesses of the currently lopsided and perhaps ambivalent NWC.”

Overall, El-rufai said the feeling even among the party’s supporters today is that the APC government is not doing well, adding that he was distressed that Buhari is seen not to be succeeding mostly due to the failures, lack of focus and selfishness of some he had entrusted to carry on and implement his vision.

“I am troubled that our own missteps have made the PDP and its apparatchiks so audacious and confident”, El-rufai lamented.

But NOIPolls stated recently that the president’s performance rating had increased by five points. The results of the poll indicated that the rise was due to the president’s return from medical leave, his Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) policy intervention in the foreign exchange market, among others.

NOIPolls revealed that with the five-point increase, Buhari’s job performance evaluation for the month of March 2017 now stands at 55 per cent. NOIPolls was however quick to say that the marginal increase was laudable but massive inroads still need to be made in terms of curbing inflation and poverty rates, which still remain the highest reason for disapproval of the president’s job performance.

It advised Buhari’s government to focus on the adequate implementation of recommendations outlined by the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan to ensure sustainable economic growth and national development. The opinion poll, NOI said, was conducted in the week commencing March 27, 2017 and involved telephone interviews of a random nationwide sample. One thousand randomly selected Nigerian phone owners aged 18 years and above, representing the six geopolitical zones in the country, were said to have been interviewed.

The National Caretaker Committee of the PDP recently took the Buhari adminsitration to task over its claim that the administration had struggled to meet Nigerians’ expectations, saying the administration has been a monumental failure in all ramifications.

In the reaction to the claim made by Buhari in his Easter message, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led PDP leadership said the achievements of the last PDP administration under President Goodluck Jonathan had been reversed under the present APC administration.

“These comments from Mr. President are to say the least untrue and an insult to the intelligence of Nigerians, who have been at the receiving end of his government’s mismanagement in the last two years”, PDP stated.

Urging Nigerians to reflect on the state of affairs before and after Buhari took over in the country nearly two years ago, the party reviewed progress on security, war on corruption and the economy and concluded that the ruling APC had failed in every sector.

“The origin of insurgency in the North East part of the country is well known locally and internationally. We cannot forget in a hurry, the frantic efforts made by late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua to nip the ugly incidence in the bud that later escalated to the formation of the deadly Boko Haram sect”, the PDP noted on security.

“Equally, when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan took over government, his administration made several efforts to procure ammunition from the West to prosecute the war on terror despite stiff resistance from some of the western powers to sell weapons to Nigeria, notwithstanding, before the 2015 general election, the Goodluck Jonathan administration was able to procure sizeable number of war heads, ammunition and other modern weaponry to fight the Boko Haram terrorist group.

“This breakthrough led to the successful dislodgment of the terrorist sect in the North East before the March 28, 2015 elections. Nigerians can testify to the gallant display by the Nigerian Armed Forces that allowed elections to take place in virtually all the wards and local government areas of Borno, Adamawa, Kebbi and Gombe states, respectively.”

The main opposition party however added that the result of the election from these states gave President Buhari the edge in the presidential election, saying APC governors and officials, who routinely condemn President Jonathan’s anti-insurgency effort conveniently forgot that without the relative peace in those states at the time, there would have been no elections from which they could emerge as governors.

The PDP said its government not only defeated Boko Haram before it handed over power in 2015, it also reduced kidnapping and other anti-social vices in the country and there was palpable state of peace in Nigeria as at May 2015.

“The same cannot be said today as kidnapping has taken a new turn. We are also facing another menace of insecurity in the name of Herdsmen attacking and displacing communities across the country. Suicide is also gradually becoming a household name in Nigeria as citizens, who cannot cope with the current harsh economic condition have resorted to taking their own lives”, the party further stated.

On the war on corruption, the PDP noted that APC has failed as it had been selective and targeted only the political opponents of government.

“The war on corruption like other policies and programmes of the Buhari-led APC administration has failed as well. As we have mentioned in our previous statements, any war on corruption that is selective and targeted at humiliating only leaders and other members of the opposition is a total failure. The entire anti-corruption war of the APC since inception is just in the media with only one conviction. Many of the cases in courts have been set aside and suspects discharged and acquitted while others are in EFCC and DSS detention centres without trial against their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Nigerians may also recall the several allegations of corruption made against prominent APC members that the anti-graft agency has not attended to. The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has been rejected twice by the Nigerian Senate because of damning corruption allegations against him made by another agency of government,” it said.

Still boasting about its achievements in office, PDP added that the immediate past government of Jonathan grew Nigeria’s GDP from $270.5 billion in 2009, and handed over a Nigeria that had become the fastest growing and largest economy in Africa and the 24th largest economy in the world, with a GDP of $574 billion. In May 2015, the party said, the PDP also handed over a single digit inflation rate but today, inflation rate in Nigeria is at a double digit of 17.26%, adding that the recession the nation is experiencing today is as a result of the failure of the APC-led administration to properly manage the economy.

“The Buhari government is indeed clueless and had no economic plan until March 2017, when it launched the so-called recovery plan. The economy is at a standstill. Major infrastructure development that began with the previous administrations of the PDP has been abandoned. Power generation dwindled from over 5,000MW in 2015 to the present all-time low of less than 2,000MW. The only project of note that this government has ever commissioned is the Abuja- Kaduna railroad, which was 99 per cent completed by the PDP administration.”

In the estimation of PDP, there is nothing to show by the APC-led government, challenging the president and his team to articulate their two years achievements point by point and let Nigerians compare with the previous PDP administrations.

President Buhari is however not unmindful of the state of the nation and the perception of his administration by Nigerians. A few days ago, the president took a stagy step to manage the damaging image problems created for his much touted anti-corruption crusade by ordering a full scale investigation into the discovery of large amounts of foreign and local currencies by the EFCC in a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, over which the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has made a claim.

In statement signed by the presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, the president directed a committee headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to also investigate the allegations of violations of law and due process made against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. David Babachir Lawal, in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE), running into millions of naira.

Consequently, the president directed the suspension of the Director General of the NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke, and Mr. Babachir Lawal, pending the outcome of the investigation. This came as many political observers said Buhari’s action was designed to manage the “stinky mess” created by EFCC over the discovery of huge amount of foreign and local currencies in Lagos.

In the statement, a three-man Committee comprising the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, is also to conduct investigation into the circumstances in which the NIA came into possession of the funds.

The committee also has the mandate to dig up how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to the NIA, and to establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds.

The committee is to submit its report to the president within 14 days, while the most senior Permanent Secretary in the SGF office, and the most senior officer at the NIA, are to act, respectively, during the period of investigation.

Already, many Nigerians, including civil society groups, labour organisation and others have saluted the President for having the courage to reset the anti-corruption war, but would rather an independent investigative body to handle the recent development, especially when a member of the committee, Malami had once cleared Lawal. Besides, the committee is said to have been making tremendous progress. Nigerians certainly can’t wait to hear it all, even though the investigations are behind closed doors.

However, as the election year draws near and while many APC leaders may be relying on the weight of incumbency to win the next general election, not many political experts doubt that voters’ views of an incumbent’s previous performance greatly influence their decision.

Unseating an incumbent president may be difficult, as was witnessed in the 2015 general election, because according to experts, for an incumbent to be defeated, some of the electorate who voted for the incumbent in the preceding election must shift loyalty.

But political thinkers believe many voters reckon that an incumbent’s performance is based on the state of the nation’s economy, that if the economy is doing well, an incumbent has a good chance at re-election. And right now, this might be the headache and pain of some APC strategists, who understand the game very well.

Pix: Buhari during the campaigns. Behind   him are his wife, Aisha and former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola.jpg and  Buhari, during is swearing-in…he   is still in the campaign mood, one year after.jpg