As 2019 general election in Nigeria draws near with speculations widening from all corners as to who becomes the next president of the country, analysts say that if President Muhammadu Buhari is represented by his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), as its candidate for the election, and Atiku Abubakar secures the ticket to run on People’s Democratic Party (PDP) platform, they may affect investor confidence in the nation’s fragile economy.
The analysts hinge their argument on Buhari on his health condition which they consider a strategic political risk. The thinking is that given Buhari’s health status which has been a major concern, he might not be able to prosecute the election with all its rigours and still function as president.
“It is doubtful if the president will have the capacity to do all that and where he cannot, it is going to derail the electoral process and create uncertainty in the political system”, said an analyst who did not want his name mentioned, adding that long term investors will keep away if that happens.
But this might not turn out to be a risk after all if the party has a plan B which, according to the analyst, is a remote possibility given the posturing from Buhari’s apologists. Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State was once quoted as saying that nobody could rise to challenge Buhari in the north and that the whole northern governors support the president’s re-election in 2019.
The resignation of Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president, from APC and return to PDP means the battle for presidency in 2019 will be between him and the incumbent President. There may, however, be some jokers who will chicken out and do a retreat when the battle field becomes too hot and risky to advance further.
By any stretch of the imagination, Atiku Abubakar is a political phenomenon who has not only the means and capacity to prosecute elections, but also the sagacity and clout to wield influence and garner sufficient support for his cause. His most recent political move cannot be dismissed by a wave of the hand, despite protestations by a few individuals who, some observers say, speak with tongue-in-cheek.
Atiku as vice president under Olusegun Obasanjo regime was a powerful political figure who used his position to build and nurture a formidable political machine that remains a launch pad for his soaring political ambition till date. He is known to be not only ambitious, but also audacious.
Both Buhari and Atiku are from the Northern part of the country. Analysts see this posing another strategic risk expected from the oil bearing Niger Delta region of the country. “Nobody knows what will prevent a major crisis from happening in this region”, said Emmanuel Ameke, a public affairs commentator.
Ameke explained in a telephone interview that the Niger Delta militants, who might feel short-changed, could resume militant activities, bombing oil installations, scaring away investors and derailing the economy which is still in early and slow recovery from a crippling recession.
The Niger Delta region of Nigeria has always felt that they are not adequately rewarded for the nation’s wealth which is derived from their domain. Ameke said that the recent musings on the former President Goodluck Jonanthan nursing ambition to take another shot at the presidency in 2019 is not unconnected with this thinking in the oil-rich region.
Jonathan as an incumbent president lost re-election to Buhari in 2015 and his people have not stopped sulking over this loss ever since. His alleged interest in 2019, though flatly rebuffed by his aides, has raised concerns in the polity.
“That will be a misadventure by the former president”, Ameke said, explaining that since the former president could not win a re-election with everything available to him, including power of incumbency, it will be a sheer waste of time for him to think of winning this time. “It is not every time that luck and fate smile at us,” he quipped.
He advised that the former president should sit back and continue to enjoy the statesmanship and international respect he has attracted to himself by conceding electoral defeat as an incumbent president. “That, to me, is a more honourable thing for him to do in this dispensation”, he said.
The 2019 election is well over 12 months away but politicians are talking about it as if it is just 12 days away from today. All these are raising concerns among investors whose confidence may be eroded if things are not properly managed.
Analysts foresee a situation where the government will use the first six months of 2018 to just spend money preparing for the election. “This will be too risky for the economy because it is going to be an over-drive”, the analysts said.
They however, advise that government could still court investors by tweaking the ease of doing business initiative. Investors should be assured that any of them wishing to invest in stocks, infrastructure or real estate has government’s support and guarantee. This way, the investors would maintain their confidence in the economy.
“The ruling party should know that the change mantra that brought them into office has evaporated and nothing is happening. So, if the government doesn’t achieve the kind of things they promised to deliver, then there would be a ripple effect in terms of confidence deficiency”, the analysts reasoned.