Politics and surprises are no strange bed fellows. Although, we expect surprises in the new year, some of the issues that will dictate the pace of politics in 2018 are carry overs from 2017.1. The Economy.
People will remain agitated by the economy in the new year. For many Nigerians, 2017 was a disaster economically. Many are therefore hoping that the federal government will save them the hardship they went through in 2017. They are also looking forward to a better year hoping to recover some lost ground in the new year. But recovering will be tough. This is because, the government does not appear to have the answers to the economic challenges the nation faces. Individuals will have to make adjustments and perfect their surviving strategy in a difficult economic environment. If anything, 2017 should be instructive and should serve as a guide.
Head or tail, the economy and its challenges will continue to dominate the headlines in the new year.
2. Herdsmen will Remain on Rampage
It has become crystal clear that government has no answers to the challenges posed by marauding herdsmen. Hardly a week passes by without reports of horrendous killings perpetuated by the herdsmen.
Last month ten persons were reported dead in Ogabifo, Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State when herdsmen invaded the farming community.
The invaders, described as herdsmen, were said to be armed with several weapons, including AK47.
The invaders were said to have set several houses and farmlands ablaze, leaving many injured.
The attack was said to have been preceded by the invasion of a farmland in the community by the herdsmen and their cattle, who destroyed the crops there.
More often than not, government is eerily quiet. But when it speaks, it is the usual lamentation of a helpless government. The assurances often contained in such statements lack believability.
By failing to stop these herdsmen, government unwittingly undermines its agriculture policy. Many farmers are now afraid to venture out because of fear of attacks. This in turn makes projection in the agricultural sector unrealisable. The consequence is that, agriculture which President Muhammadu Buhari is banking on to turn the economy around will not perform optimally.
Nigerians must therefore prepare to continue to live with the threat posed by these herdsmen while those living in areas highly vulnerable to these attacks will be well advised to make their own security arrangement.
3. Endless Kidnapping
Just like they have no answer to the threat posed by herdsmen to the nation’s security, law enforcement agencies have proved incapable of stopping the spate of kidnapping across the country. In 2017 policemen were kidnapped. In the new year, kidnapping will continue. Politicians will become prime targets for kidnappers.
4. Buhari to Continue with Reconciliatory Move
Expect the president to continue to adopt more reconciliatory tones. Perhaps it is the year former National Security Adviser,Sambo Dasuki and other political detainees will eventually regain their freedom. The president will accommodate dissents not because he is a changed person but because reality is beginning to dawn on him. He will need a lot of support for his re-election bid and in the process can not afford to continue to make more enemies.
In the new year, the president will reach out to adversaries and mend fences with enemies so as to project himself as the people’s candidate.
Some abuses of powers by this administration will eventually come into the open in the new year. Echo of unresolved scandals such as the return and promotion of the former chairman of the Task Force on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina will continue to rent the air. The refusal to prosecute a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and a former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke will haunt the government in 2018.
6. Nigeria’s Energy Sector Will Remain in Turbulence
No one should be under the illusion that 2018 is the year the problems in the energy sector will be finally resolved. This certainly is not the year. So, expect the struggle to continue with power generation and distribution in the new year.
In 2017, Nigeria’s energy sector had challenges that threatened its sustainability, yet it struggled to survive but not without some defining scars that could have been avoided or do not make economic sense.
Specifically in the electricity sector, revenue shortfalls that accumulated from the inability of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to allow the 11 electricity distribution companies (Discos) charge cost reflective tariffs for electricity they supply to their customers shot up to N460 billion. The NERC had accumulated up to three tariff exercises it refused to allow to operate and this amongst other indecision of the government affected the commercial values of the market.
However, the government took significant steps to address the operational challenges of the sector by initiating amongst others, the Power Sector Recovery Programme (PSRP) with the supports of the World Bank and N701 billion financial support for generation, its execution of the PRSP with regards to addressing the distribution and commercial ends of the market would define the economics and workings of the electricity market in 2018.
2018 which would be leading to the general elections in 2019, is predicted to be a tough year for the electricity in that the execution of the PSRP which is a remarkable piece of policy statement, would define the growth of the sector. If the government truly follows its plans in the document, it would have to cough up billions of money to provide subsidy for electricity consumption on the back of its sidestepping of tariff reviews.
Also, experts are of the view that helping the Discos get over their debt overhang would really be a big plus for the sector, but then, 2018, being close to an election year could be tricky with regards to the government taking hard decisions needed to get the sector back on, one of which is tariff.
On the other side, progress in generation capacity, mini grid development and transmission expansion is expected in 2018.
7. Oil and Gas
At press time, there appears to be no end in sight to the problem of inadequate supply of fuel at filing stations despite the assurances by government officials. That is a sad indication of one of the challenges the country will grapple with in the new year.
Like the power sector, the oil and gas sector witnessed a topsy-turvy condition, helped mostly by low oil production levels and prices which later began to inch up in late 2017, however, the spot-on challenges of the oil sector were the country’s abysmally low refining capacity which leaves her relying on imported fuel, the Niger Delta issues which the minister of state for petroleum resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, described as ‘the big elephant in the room’, funding for joint venture oil exploration, and then commercialisation plans for gas – all of which should be addressed by the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
However, experts believe that in 2018, Nigeria would be expected to address the challenges in its downstream petroleum sector, or continue to witness dire anomalies like fuel scarcity and prolonged queues.
Nigeria, according to them would have to find a way to largely address the rising petrol import bills which according to the NNPC indicates that subsidy has crawled back into the system. The 2018 budget however has no provision for subsidy, so, the NNPC would be expected to shoulder this albeit unlawfully, and this could lead to intergovernmental frictions.
The Niger Delta issues upon which all other expectations of the sector rest, are also there. A troubled Niger Delta would derail the government’s new joint venture funding plans which is somewhat built on incremental production. Similarly, gas would have to be given some more priority to power the economy considering the volatilities of oil and global push for cleaner energy sources.
The PIB has remained in the woods for a long time and would need some accelerated push to make the country’s oil industry realise its plan, and this is even more important as the government plans to open bids for marginal oil field blocks in 2018. If the bids do not measure up to the transparency mark the government of Muhammadu Buhari pushes around, then the government should expect loads of backlash and loss of credibility leading into the 2019 polls.
8. Ekiti and Osun States Election
Going by the timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Ekiti State governorship election is to hold on July 14, 2018, while the Osun State election is scheduled to hold later on September 22, 2018.
The body also fixed the commencement date of campaigns for Ekiti governorship election at April 15, 2018, while that of Osun State is June 24, 2018. These two elections are expected to ingnite stiffer rivalry between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the newly resuscitated opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
9. INEC will Come under Scrutiny
How prepared is the Independent National Electoral Commission for the next general elections will become an issue.
Apart from the fact that it will conduct two governorship elections in 2018, the Independent National Electoral Commission will come under the searchlight as politicians and citizens alike will seek to know the commission’s level of preparedness for the next general election.
No doubt, how the commission handles the two gubernatorial elections will be a pointer to what to expect during the general elections.
10. Boko Haram Resurgence to Continue
Contrary to claims by the Presidency, the war against Boko Haram is far from over. This is however not to disregard the modest success recorded by the administration in the fight against the insurgents. Before Buhari came into power, Boko Haram had already taken the war to Abuja. Now, Abuja residents move freely without fear. They are no longer under the apprehension of possible bomb attacks. At least, this government succeeded in restricting the attacks to Borno State in the North-east. That is a no mean achievement.
However, the decision of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to authorise the federal government to withdraw $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account to fight Boko Haram is an indication that the war is far from over.
In 2018, Boko Haram will fight back and seek to reclaim lost ground.
11. More Gaffes
The level of incompetence in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is unparalleled. Three contradictory letters were issued regarding the appointment of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission. The removal of the Director General of the National Pension Commission, Mrs Chinelo Anohu-Amazu was wrong both in fact and in law.
Recall that the nominations of Maimuna Aliyu and Sa’ad Alanmu as members of the board of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission were withdrawn after it was revealed that the same commission was investigating them.
When Nigerians thought they had seen enough gaffes, the president dished out another surprise by appointing about five dead men into boards of parastatals.
Francis Okpozo, who died in 2016, was appointed chairman of the Nigerian Press Council.
Ironically, when he died, the president in a statement by his spokesperson, Femi Adesina, commiserated with “the family and friends of the late senator, whose championing of social justice in the Niger Delta, during his long history of service to the people, endeared him to many.”
Also Donald Ugbaja, a late former deputy inspector general of police, who died a few weeks ago was appointed a board member of the Consumer Protection Council.
A third person, Christopher Utov, was appointed board member of the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research. He is believed to be the same person as a Catholic priest from Benue State who died on March 18.
Since the president has chosen to retain some of the incompetent hands working with him, expect more gaffes in the new year.
12. A New Cabinet
This is the year, the president will finally wean himself of his fear to change his cabinet. This was projected to take place in 2017 but the president did not make up his mind and also had difficulty getting replacements for the ministers even though he became convinced some of them needed to go.
Expect the president to finally do away with some dead woods in his cabinet. And there are many of them.
13. Pressure on the President to Declare/Declaration
The charlatans will intensify their calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to seek a second term in office. They will claim that he is the best thing to happen to Nigeria. Eventually, the president will succumb to the pressure and announce that he is seeking a second term. More so, INEC wants all candidates for the general elections to emerge in the new year.
14. The Biafra Cause
The Indigenous Peoples of Biafra had been proscribed while its leader Nnamdi Kanu had fled, but the last has yet to be heard on the agitation for a sovereign state of Biafra. Those who share the ideals and the cause of IPOB will find alternative ways to express themselves. IPOB followers are not likely to disappear in 2018, they will likely re-strategize.
Also the confusion generated by Kanu’s sudden disappearance will not subside so soon.
Without admiring it, the president will continue to find ways to appease the Igbos.
15. Niger Delta Won’t Remain Quiet
The federal government made some promises to the Niger Delta but these promises remain largely unfulfilled. As usual, militants will issue threat, government will rush to pacify them and the cat and mouse game will continue.
16. Getting Ready for 2019
As the pre-election year, expect horse trading, defection from one political party to the other, mudslinging, legal tussle and other intrigues usually associated with a pre-election year.
There is no doubt that the new year promises intense power tussle, allegations and counter allegations in the political arena. The drama will begin to unfold sooner than expected. There will also be a realignment of forces during the year. It is going to be a defining moment for the nation’s politics.
17. Anti-corruption War to Continue, But..
Politics will take precedence over the fight against corruption. Those opposed to the president’s ambition to get re-elected for a second term will come under scrutiny. Many will shelve their political ambition because they fear anti-corruption agencies will come after them.
Gradually, this administration has been losing the war against corruption. Perhaps, 2018 may the year the war will be finally lost.
Intense rivalry among agencies will continue to undermine the fight against corruption. Nevertheless, EFCC will record a modest achievement. Perpetrators of corrupt practices will devise new ways how to continue to ply their trade. Expectedly, more Nigerians will be guests of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) in the new year.
Also, a lot of Nigerians are eagerly looking forward to seeing how some of the biggest cases pending before the anti-graft agency are resolved.
18. PDP Will Struggle
Considering that the former ruling party, which is now the main opposition party, PDP, was able to mend its cracked fence to a significant extent last year after the Supreme Court named Senator Ahmed Makarfi its authentic National Chairman, the expectation is that it should be able to give the ruling APC a good run for its money by standing as a formidable opposition.
The PDP will be expected to play the roles of a strong opposition party in the days preceding the 2019 general election.
But more than anything else, two important things will define the future of the PDP; the ongoing reconciliation efforts and the conduct of the party primary.
Nevertheless, internal wrangling will make sure that the party remains crippled. In 2018, APC will not be PDP’s problems. Disgruntled members of the party will continue to pose a threat to PDP’s existence.
19. APC Convention/Primary
Despite express provisions of its constitution, the ruling APC refused to hold its statutory meetings, particularly the National Executive Council (NEC) and convention. This flagrant disregard for its constitution will however not exceed 2018. The party will have to stage a convention. The frictions within the party will escalate as those who want the national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun to go will mount pressure.
But because the party is in power, it will not be too difficult to reign in the trouble makers within the party.
20. Restructuring Debate
Even though, those pushing for the country to be restructured are no longer as loud as they used to be, the clamour for a restructured Nigeria will continue in the new year. is not in sight soon. In fact, just as the APC relied on the change mantra to during the 2015 general elections to win power, restructuring will become a campaign issue especially by those hoping to sweep the APC out of power.
In the new year, there will be meetings on restructuring as proponents of the idea seek to come up with a united front.