Reminiscent of the past, analysts say president Buhari may get increasingly weaker as party primary nears as he will be required to deal with endless requests from party faithfuls from now onwards.
Already, there have been increasing calls on the president not to run for a second term in office. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has urged him to “dismount the horse” and not seek a second term in office. Ex-military president, Ibrahim Babangida agreed with Obasanjo, saying Nigeria needs a new breed of leaders. His wife, Aisha, has also been visible with her criticisms suggesting a cabal has hijacked her husband’s government and re-tweeting videos of Senators criticising her husband.
However, analysts reckon that the president may likely give in to pressure to contest again in 2019 setting off new sets of demands by politicians and interest groups to secure political support.
“There is a 35 percent chance that Buhari decides not to contest the 2019 election… Nonetheless, walking away from the presidency would be a very difficult move for Buhari. He will face significant pressure from his closest advisers to seek a second term, even if he personally prefers to step aside,” says Amaka Anku, head of Eurasia’s Africa practice.
It will be recalled that former president Jonathan faced the same set of pressures as he approached re-election time, eventually giving in to pressures to deplete oil savings to secure political support. A number of his political associates are still being tried or investigated for using huge sums of money meant for fighting the Boko Haram insurgency for elections.
Last week the country’s Catholic Bishops visited the president where among other demands, they asked the president to address the imbalance in government appointments and distribution of amenities by respecting the federal character principles as enshrined in the constitution. While at other times the president has flatly denied imbalances in government appointments and distribution of amenities, this time, while saying no “ethnic group or political zone has been deliberately marginalised in the appointments made so far,” he however, said “he would take a second look at areas on which issues have been raised,” signalling an intention to compromise.
If his close aides prevail on him to contest, he will increasingly become beholden to politicians who will make several demands that must be met in exchange for their political support. One of such politicians is the former governor of Lagos state and leader of the All Progressives Congress, who controls the important swing region of the South West. Sources close to Tinubu hinted that unlike in 2015 when the APC leader gave his support to Buhari on a platter of gold, this time, his support will not come cheap. “This time, everything will be negotiated before hand,” the source revealed.
What will make the South West an important region for the president is that unlike 2015 where he overwhelmingly won all states in the North East and North Central, his failure to stop the deadly herdsmen attacks on states like Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Nasarawa, and Plateau states have cost him huge support in those states and region and he may, of necessity, need to capture the South West if he is to win the 2019 elections. Therein lies the importance of Tinubu who has equally silently endured a frosty and humiliating relationship with the president and his “nepotic court” to such an extent that he was sidelined from key decision-making both in governance and in the party. The highpoint was when the President made key appointments from Tinubu’s South-West zone without Tinubu’s input whatsoever.
But even before campaigning kicks off fully, political gridlock, blamed mainly on the rigid nature of the president and the muscle flexing between the executive and legislature is taking its toll on policy and businesses in the country reasoned Bismark Riwane, Chief Executive of economic consulting firm Financial Derivatives Company.
“The 2018 proposed budget is effectively in limbo, the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria cannot form a quorum due to the refusal of the Senate to consider nominations for any office from the Executive until the president replaces the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) whose nomination has been rejected twice by the Senate based on security report from the Department of State Security, DSS. Equally, the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) has been without a leadership since its Director General was abruptly and controversially removed when the president was on medical vacation,” Rewane said.
Of course, the National Assembly too have capitalised on the tense relationship between the Executive and legislature to turn oversight functions into an elegant shakedown. Overall, there is a sense that both branches of government are locked in a deadly battle and waiting to see who will blink first. But in the process, policy, governance and businesses are being sacrificed.