By Oke Epia, Telephone (sms only): 07059850016 Email: email@example.com.
In spite of the numerous challenges of life and living in Nigeria over which the government of the day has badly floundered, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday declared his intention to seek re-election in 2019. It is well within his constitutionally guaranteed right to contest a second term in office but in the context of the timeousness of the declaration, it can be argued that it is an abridgement of the four year mandate he is currently exercising on behalf of the people of Nigeria. Because the effect of the announcement is that by default, almost forms of governance effectively grinds to a halt as politics of reelection takes centre stage across the country.
The President has spoken and all functionaries and apparati of the federal government must work towards actualizing his declaration. It is no longer a case of body language which some may claim to be unable to decode: an executive order in the political sense has been issued and everything must fall in line to ensure implementation. Ministers, heads of agencies and parastatals of government will now begin to undo each other to prove their loyalty to the President and to show who is contributing more to the second term bid than the other. Even top and influential bureaucrats in the civil service who want to warm up to the presidency or increase their sphere of influence will get more active in stealthy politicking at the risk of political neutrality as demanded by the rules of public service. At the sub-national levels, some state governors, especially of the ruling party, will abandon much of the governance concerns in their jurisdictions and chase after relevance in the reelection campaign of the President. And as the pressure to please Buhari becomes fierce, some will antagonize if not undermine others in a haste to claim the tag of being favourites of the President. Thus, both at the federal and much of the state level, the craze for Buhariâ€™s reelection will become the only occupation in town while the business of catering for the security and welfare of citizens gets relegated to AOB on the agenda of elected officials.
Virtually all kinds of development including infrastructure projects, social intervention schemes and even a coherent management of the economy will become challenged as political considerations will impinge on decisions relating to the allocation of values. The coarse relationship between the Executive and Legislature which has hampered smooth implementation of the Buhari administration is likely to get worse with much of development issues ensnared in politics. The 2018 budget that is still hanging in the National Assembly may get further embroiled in stormy waters as politicians seek to extract political advantage from opponents going forward. There will be more clashes between pro and anti Buhari members of the National Assembly just as the easy passage the President once enjoyed for his bills, confirmation requests, and other such executive asks would suffer delays and possible denials on the altar of politics. On the other hand, the hawks in the presidency will tighten the screw against real and imagined foes in the legislature. There has recently been a dragnet being thrown around the corridors for Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu from the Executive, and as the battles take clearer shape, it is becoming likely that the number two man in the Senate will be hurled before the courts to join Sen. Bukola Saraki who has been defending charges of false assets declaration brought against him by the federal government at the Code of Conduct Tribunal since his emergence as Senate President in 2015. So, with these frictions and bumps set to escalate over the Presidentâ€™s 2019 declaration, any hope that the administration may still be able to redeem its many promises made in 2015 has been effectively dashed.
Meanwhile, there is well over a year remaining in the extant four year mandate remaining which could be used to deliver democracy gains to the electorates and thereby improve the chances of reelection. But the warped system of politics which allows for politicking to trump governance for almost two years before the next election has ensured a vicious circle of arrested development and stalled governance for a substantial part of the tenure. Sadly, the administration has spent a better part of its existence in delivering on very little or nothing with which Nigerians can convincingly reward it with a return in 2019. The standard of living of millions of citizens has since 2015 taken a turn for the worse with virtually all the indices telling a tale of gloom. While it will be interesting to see what facts and figures with which the Buhari reelection will be prosecuted, the reality in the country is that the President has performed below expectations in the three cardinal areas of impact on which the administration bench-marked itself on- security, the economy and the war against corruption.
Interestingly, the President attributed his declaration of interest to contest in 2019 to the â€˜call by Nigerians to continue the good worksâ€™ he has been doing in the almost three years of his administration. But is that not same line that has been used by politicians who must rationalize their desire to stay on in office even when their popularity has nose-dived to the abyss? However, President Buhari has disappointed critics who accuse him of being slow in taking decisions. He has also shamed those mischievous cynics who have labeled him as â€˜President Unawareâ€™ having clearly shown that he is very much aware of the loud yearnings of citizens who have called out to him to save the country from collapse by remaining in office till 2023. Our President has heard and hearkened to the cries of the several sai baba crowds which clung dangerously to trees, light bulb scaffolds and arena fences to hail and hail non-stop at the risk of their little lives. At least, we saw pictures from Kano and Nassarawa when he visited on some of his pseudo campaign rounds. Those mammoth crowds were veritable postcards of the famed Buhari mystique. They were evidences of the calls by Nigerians for him to contest the 2019 presidential elections. The â€˜disgruntledâ€™ voices of opposition to his desire to contest represented by the likes of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the gap-tooth General at the Hilltop are no match for the cacophonous din of hypnotized supporters who ferociously believe that the worsening hardship of their lives is because of the push-back of corruption and corrupt elements upon whom their messiah is prosecuting a mission of strangulation.
But if those crowds are the measure of popularity upon which the President is hinging his decision to stay on in office, then Buhari may have read wrongly. Because the other day, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) effectively countered the â€˜sea of headsâ€™ credentials of the Presidentâ€™s All Progressives Congress (APC) rallies when it staged a very remarkable rally in Katsina, the home state of the incumbent. Many political analysts have pointed to that event as evidence of the fact that the goodwill and massive popularity hitherto enjoyed by Buhari in the north is much of a myth. But it is only a free and fair election in 2019 that can truly determine that. What is however not in doubt is that by Buhariâ€™s declaration to contest in 2019, the APC administration has reduced its chances of gaining any further momentum in governance that could enhance its chances in next yearâ€™s polls. With a poor record to boot so far, it may resort to the use of strident propaganda in the upcoming campaigns like it did in 2015. But Nigerians may not fall for that trick again because once beaten they say, twice shy.