By Muyiwa Olayinka
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria is a rare politician. He’s a man that did not allow initial failures to deprive him from achieving his ultimate goal.
He contested for the office three times and lost but as he was almost giving up his aspiration he tried the fourth time, he won. He won the 2015 Presidential election with a wide margin of almost 2.5m votes, beating the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan against all odds and expectations. It was an epoch making election because it would become the first time an opposition figure will win against an incumbent in Nigeria.
Buhari hinged his government’s policy on a tripod stand, namely Fighting Corruption, Fixing the economy and the Fight against Insurgency and Terrorism.
Almost four years of President Buhari, this article will examine his chances of re igniting the winning streak of 2015 Presidential election based on his strength and weakness.
The integrity of President Buhari has been his major strength. Compared to his contemporaries that have been at the helm of affairs, Buhari is generally believed to be above board in the management of public funds. Despite being the head of the state’s oil monopoly in the 70s and the military head of state in the early 80s, he lives a Spartan lifestyle that is devoid of ostentatious lifestyle.
This quality endeared him to his admirers; he enjoys a cult like followership, in Nigeria, most especially in the northern part of the country where he hails from. It is accepted he’s not corrupt and will not allow his aides, appointees and associates to dip hands into the nation’s coffers for self-enrichment.
Buhari became the second Nigerian President, after late Umaru Yar’adua to publicly declare his assets and also challenged his Vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to follow suit. With his declaration he has presented himself to be investigated after leaving office. With a renewed vigor, he plunged himself into the task of tackling the hydra headed problem of corruption headlong.
This fight have seen many untouchables and heavyweights clamped into different detention centers and courts in Nigeria. Highly placed Nigerian retired military officers, top civil servants, top politicians, foreigners, top bank chiefs, serving Judges caught with stolen public funds have returned huge sums of money back to the treasury while others are facing different charges in law courts.
Many slush and illicit funds have been repatriated from western countries that used to serve as conduit and safe havens of stolen public funds.
President Buhari implemented the Treasury Savings Account (TSA) that harmonizes all revenue generated by federal government MDA (Ministries, Departments and Agencies). This policy has mopped up all revenues belonging to Federal Government and deprived private and financial institutions from fleecing federal government’s revenues through sharp practices.
On security, he decimated the vicious terrorist organization, Boko Haram that had been tormenting the north eastern part of Nigeria and holding the nation on its jugular. Some local government areas that were under siege before were taken back and peace had been restored in affected areas. Life has gradually returned back to these trouble spots.
Furthermore, President Buhari used many military interventions to quell some distressed and war torn areas that tend to destabilize the corporate existence of the nation.
On the economy, Buhari was able to stabilize during the oil crises that hit many oil producing countries. The nation managed to survive the recession that adversely affected many countries of the world. With good macro and micro economic policies, Buhari steadily steered the country from the crises that hit countries like Greece, Italy and Venezuela.
One core area of strength for Buhari in wining this election, is the raw power of incumbency. It is a potent weapon deplored by incumbents, especially in the Sub Saharan Africa where system of government is weak and can easily be manipulated to seek political ends. Nigeria is not an exception, a country where the Executive President is granted an awesome and overriding power by the 1999 Constitution.
A President that controls and appoints all the security apparatus: the head of the Army, the Navy, the Air force and the police, may deplore his awesome powers to influence and manipulate outcomes of election. The current head of the Federal Electoral Commission that oversees the electoral processes was appointed by him. Lately Buhari exploring the loop holes in the legal system used it to remove a serving Chief Justice of the Federation, over an allegation of corruption that has not be proven in any law court. Constitutionally, it is the National Judicial Commission NJC that is vested in the hiring and firing and taking disciplinary action against judges, after due process has been complied with.
The appointment of Buhari’s step niece into a sensitive positive in charge of collation of final results within INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) has generated an uproar that is yet to settle.
His weakness stems from some of the unfulfilled promises he made to the electorates. The state of the economy is still not out of the woods despite Nigeria surviving the recession period.
The national economy growth is abysmally low in the region of 1% and 2%; unemployment rate is high with many Nigerians out of jobs. The capacity utilization of the industrial base is weak, though the federation reserve has been increasing steadily from the beginning of 2017.
Cost of staple food prices is still high despite the federal government initiatives in banning imported goods, and encouraging the local production of grains like rice.
Some of these problems have dominated political rallies and campaigns in the buildup to the Presidential election.
Foreign investors are still reluctant to invest more because of cloudy and unstable economic environments. Though the exchange rate is stable but other indices have to be considered before confidence can be restored. They are also cautious of how the general election will play out since elections in Nigeria are always rancorous.
One major weakness of this government is inability to manage the political coalitions and forces that propelled Buhari to win the Presidential elections in 2015.
In 2015, four legacy parties namely ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria), ANPP (All Nigeria Peoples Party), CPC (Congress for Progressive Change), APGA (All Progressive Grand Alliance), came together to form the ruling APC (All Progressive Congress).
Five governors from 5 states from the then ruling party, PDP, namely Governors Aliyu Wamako of Sokoto, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers state, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara state, Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano state and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa joined the then opposition party to give the needed fillip to give the party a resounding victory . Inability to resolve the internal wrangling within the party has cost the party some of its established members.
Unfortunately, the coalition collapsed under the weight of bad politics and unsolved intractable problems; leaving some political heavy weights to leave the ruling party. Former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who is now the main challenger to Buhari was among the political heavyweights that left the fold.
Three serving Governors of Samuel Ortom (Benue), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) decamped. The Senate President Bukola Saraki led the delegates of Kwara state out from the party while the Speaker of the House of Representative, Yakubu Dogara followed suit.
Other strong politicians that left are 13 senators including Rabiu Kwankwaso, Dino Melaye, and Barnabas Gemade to mention a few and 36 Honorable Members of House of Representatives also shifted their loyalties to the opposition party, PDP.
The vigorous campaigns have started with all other candidates of other parties apart from the main opposition party, PDP. If the crowds at the party rallies are anything to go by, Buhari should be able to win the Presidential election but the real winner will emerge through the ballot boxes. The new President will emerge with candidate that has the highest popular vote and be able to garner at least 25% votes from the 24 states of the total 36 states of the federation.
Will President Buhari be able to re-ignite the feat of 2015 in 2019?