The style of politics being played in the present administration among members of President Muhammadu Buhari kitchen cabinet may have grave consequences on the nation’s economy.
Nigeria is currently struggling to exit its worst economic recession in 29 years.
With exactly 20 months to the 2019 general elections and the administration already in second half of its four year mandate, analysts are concerned that the succession battle for 2019 among members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), has relegated governance to the background while politics takes centre stage.
Political pundits say the situation has been exacerbated with the absence of President Buhari who is currently in London for his second medical vacation this year as uncertainty clouds whether he would seek reelection in the next general election.
Although Buhari is yet to make any official pronouncement on his plan to seek re-election, the APC national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun has said that he would pray and fast to God that the President agrees to contest in 2019.
Oyegun said his decision to support Buhari for a second term was based on two factors.
While saying that the President is the only politician in Nigeria today that has the capacity to win 12 million votes without major campaign, the elder statesman said he is the only man who has the courage to make the changes that Nigeria needs.
“There is no another Buhari in this country. Buhari is the only man who can command 12 million votes even without any major campaign. So, you can see the picture. Yes, there will be changes, the party will get new members or lose a few members, but there is no Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“So, there is no strong party any more to say you are going to join and strengthen it. It is only APC that is really a strong party,” he submitted.
Also, presidential aides like Minister of State for Petroleum Resource, Ibe Kachikwu, his Transportation and Agriculture counterparts Rotimi Amaechi and Audu Ogbeh, respectively have maintained that the President would win the 2019 presidential election.
Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu also shares the same sentiment. According to him, “The confidence reposed in Buhari by ordinary Nigerians had remained unshaken because the president is doing what they want”.
However, body languages of key actors in the ruling party have indicated that the likes of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, his Kaduna State counterpart Nasir el-Rufai, ex-Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso and former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido may also be interested in contesting for president in 2019.
Sources say the President is keeping sealed lips on his decision to re-contest, in other not to further heat up the already charged political atmosphere.
Investigations by BDSUNDAY revealed that power play by opposing factions of the President’s cabal was responsible for delay in the signing of the 2017 budget into law.
Although Acting President Yemi Osinbajo signed the N7.441trillion appropriation bill into law on June 12, there was controversy among the President’s men over who would assent to the document between Osinbajo and President Buhari after the National Assembly had passed the document on May 11, 2017.
While a section of the cabal sympathetic to Buhari are afraid that signing of the document by the Acting President, could indicate that they are losing out in the political chess game, the kitchen cabinet members loyal to the Acting President insist that there cannot be two presidents at the same time, hence Executive powers lie with Osinbajo, pending another correspondence to the National Assembly stating otherwise.
This came to the fore when a press statement from Shehu affirmed that the President had directed Osinbajo to sign the budget into law.
“Following the receipt of a full brief on the 2017 Appropriation Bill as passed by the National Assembly, and to buttress the unity at the highest level of government, President Muhammadu Buhari has indicated that it is in the interest of the nation’s economy for the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to sign the Appropriation Bill into law.
“In a letter dated June 10, 2017, which he personally signed and addressed to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the President also said he was “pleased by the joint resolution that the Executive would submit next year’s budget proposals by October 2017 and the National Assembly will conclude the Appropriation process by December 2017, so that the country can return to a normal fiscal period from next year onwards,” the two-paragraph statement reads.
With about six months into the year, Nigerians are worried over the implementation and impact of the 2017 budget on the economy.
Experts say delayed passage of the budget implies that businesses waiting on the 2017 budget to rev up their operations for the year will have to wait much longer due to lost grounds. However, a school-of-thought faults this assertion on the grounds that the lifeline of the 2017 budget commenced on June 12 when it was signed into law.
Speaking on the development, a political economist, Adakole Ijogi, criticised the fanfare surrounding the submission and signing of the annual budget, without corresponding impact on the masses.
His words: “The conversation about whether the President can sign the budget or not is a distraction. I think that the whole conversation is being wrongly premised. The reason I say this is that we have this culture of celebrating submission of the budget, signing of the budget. And the real question is: how much of the budget has been implemented? I would rather have preferred a situation where as you are signing the fresh budget, the Presidency also gives us the successes of the previous budget. But that is not done.
“I would like to liken it to the fact that when a couple is getting married, you now celebrate the wedding as a successful marriage. You don’t do that because wedding is a one-day event while marriage is a life time event. You cannot celebrate a wedding as a successful marriage”.
In a chat with BDSUNDAY in Abuja, Richard Joseph, a Professor of International History and Politics, who lectures at the Northwestern University in the United States of America, called for implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference.
But in what is a clear indication that the Conference midwived by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan would not be implemented, the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, had in 2016 declared that the exercise was merely a job for the boys.
Going forward, Professor Joseph called on the government to assemble the best brains of Nigerians scattered in different parts of the world, to solve the current economic challenges.
He said: “I do believe that we need to be able to bring together some of the best minds; some of them are not here in Nigeria, they study and teach overseas and have them contribute to that thinking”.
As Nigerians devise survival strategies of coping with the current recession, venting their anger on the social media, Information Minister Lai Mohammed insists the APC-led government has fulfilled its campaign promises.
In his presentation at the National Social Investment Programmes (N-SIP) Report Card to mark the second anniversary of President Buhari’s administration, Mohammed said through N-SIP the Federal Government provided employment to 200,000 unemployed graduates, engaged 57,000 people through Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) and empowered about 26,000 ordinary Nigerians through Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT).
The Information Minister said that under the National Home Grown School Feeding Programmme (NHGSFP), government was able to serve about 25 million meals to 1.2 million pupils all over the country in order to make learning conducive.
But the Ahmed Makarfi-led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) disagrees. The opposition party argues that bad policies of the the President Buhari-led government coupled with high taxations with little or no economic activity, led the country to the present economic recession with attendant costs of “extreme hardship, starvation, deprivation, insecurity and rise in ethnic, sectional and political agitations for self-determination.”
In a statement signed by Dayo Adeyeye, spokesperson of the party, it called on President Buhari to speedily employ the services of economic experts to help his administration marshal out workable policies that would restore the nation’s battered economy.
Although the Federal Government has expressed optimism that the 2017 Budget would get Nigeria out of recession, most Nigerians think otherwise. An online poll by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) reveals that 52 percent of Nigerians do not believe the 2017 Budget will steer the country out of recession.
OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja