Buhari’s victory is dangerous for Nigeria’s economy – Analysts

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has been declared winner of the 2019 presidential poll by INEC, the country’s electoral commission defeating his closest rival Atiku Abubakar with about four million votes. While the incumbent is currently being congratulated on his re-election by fellow leaders across the world, Bloomberg says his victory is bad for the Nigerian economy.

“If President Muhammadu Buhari wins another four-year term it will probably mean more political interference in Nigeria’s economy and slower growth,” research by Bloomberg Economics shows.

This sentiment was echoed by ratings agency Moody’s in a note shared with TheNerve Africa.

“Nigeria’s credit challenges remain and include a low growth environment, very high exposure to fluctuations in oil prices of government revenues and export earnings, weak institutions, and high levels of corruption,” said Aurelien Mali, Vice President at Moody’s.

Since 2015 when Buhari was first elected president, the country has been in dire economic strait, going into recession and slightly recovering at a time regional neighbours were posting impressive growth. Although a fall in oil prices took its toll on the nation, policy uncertainty under Buhari and his blatant disregard for the rule of law scared investors away. Worse, any time he is called into question over actions that are detrimental to the economy, he gets defensive. Last year, foreign direct investment into Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy dropped 36 percent to $2.2 billion. This decline saw Ghana overtake Nigeria as the country with the highest FDI in West Africa, recording an inflow of $3.3 billion. Nigeria also became the country with the highest number of poor people in the world, overtaking China. Unemployment also rose to 23.1 percent in the third quarter of 2018.  

President Buhari’s fight against corruption has also been less than impressive, with his party members facing allegations of corruption seem to be getting a free pass. It took more than two years of outcry and the nearness of the presidential poll for the country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to arrest former Secretary to the Nigerian government Babachir Lawal who was sacked over corruption allegations. The governor of Nigeria’s Kano State had a key role to play in ensuring the state with one of the highest number of voters in the country support the president’s re-election bid, so when he was caught on video receiving wads of dollars, President Buhari, who was once known to abhor corruption was convinced the video must have been doctored. Governor Umar Ganduje repayed Buhari’s decision to look away with more than a million votes.

There are other members of President Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress who are under investigation or even undergoing trial for corruption, but were candidates in the just concluded National Assembly elections. Like the chairman of the ruling party said, once politicians join the party, their sins are forgiven. But not for long; Buhari’s re-election did not come easy. He garnered 15,191,847 votes against Atiku’s 11,262,978. He won 19 states against Atiku’s 17, plus the capital Abuja. This is despite the corruption-ridden label that seem to have stuck on the latter and his party, the PDP.

Thus, the president is expected to review his first term in office and strive to correct his mistakes and put the country back on a path of economic prosperity. Despite failing to fulfill his campaign promises, he was re-elected. That should count for something.

“The new Administration will intensify its efforts in Security, Restructuring the Economy and Fighting Corruption,” President Buhari said in his victory speech, although he believes a foundation has been laid to achieve improved security, fight corruption and grow the economy. But he seems to concede that nepotism reigned during his first term and so, he would correct this.

“We will strive to strengthen our unity and inclusiveness so that no section or group will feel left behind or left out,” he promised.

Regardless of what they think a Buhari second term means for the country, analysts see a better year for Nigeria in 2019. According to Bloomberg Economics, the opening of the Egina offshore oilfield operated by Total, this month and the Dangote refinery expected next year will deliver a near-term boost. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had also stated this in its Global Investment Trends Monitor released in January.

But analysts doubt his government would be able to build on gains from such projects. Bloomberg Economics expects Nigeria to keep losing ground in real GDP per capita against its peers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

One way to start well is ensuring it does not take him another six months from May 29, to set up his cabinet. The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) is an important plan his government should see through; he needs to ensure capable hands are appointed to his cabinet to ensure the country benefits from the plan.

SOURCE: The Nerve Africa

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How Nigeria 2019 election is an improvement to the previous elections

The close-run election contest between incumbent Muhammadu Buhari and former vice-president Atiku Abubakar was largely peaceful. But it was not a perfect performance given that there were some pockets of violence that led to the death of at least 16 people. Olayinka Ajala gives his views on the poll.

How well did the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission’s manage the vote?

Although the election can’t be described as a perfect performance, it was a noticeable improvement on previous elections conducted since the country returned to democracy in 1999.

The commission understandably received a lot of stick for pushing back the election by a week. But it has acquitted itself well by resisting intimidation from the political parties to conduct a fairly credible election.

Although there were pockets of violence – in one incident in River State 16 people died – the process was peaceful in most of the states. There was delayed voting in some polling units but the commission was able to douse the tension by extending the voting hours in the affected areas.

Faulty voter card readers were a key source of complaints by several political parties during the 2015 elections. This time around, issues relating to malfunctioning of electronic card readers were promptly addressed by the electoral commission’s mobile team.

The postponement of the elections by a week also allowed the electoral commission to replace the card readers destroyed in arson attacks on three of its state offices.

The electoral commission’s work has been commended by a number of organisation’s. Two notable ones were the All Progressives Congress whose chairman Adams Oshiomhole commended it’s work as did the Centre for Transparency Advocacy.

Despite the challenges faced by the electoral commission in the run-up to the poll, the commission was able to conduct a credible election in a very challenging atmosphere.

What other factors affected the election?

One of the key threats prior to the elections was insecurity in the already volatile regions of the country as well as in several electoral hotspots. Frequent attacks by Boko Haram and a cycle of clashes between farmers and herdsmen north of the country had created apprehensions before the elections.

True to these fears, there were multiple blasts and gun shots around the North-Eastern region of the country on the morning of the elections. Boko Haram factions fired rockets in Borno State capital Maiduguri to dissuade residents from participating in the elections. The military, however, was able to take charge of the situation and allow the residents to vote in the elections.

Although the Boko Haram ambush was quickly foiled, there were pockets of violence around the country that could affect on the outcome of the elections. This is especially at the national assembly levels in the regions affected.

In a repeat of the 2015 elections, Rivers State – which is the largest oil producing state – experienced the highest number of election related fatalities. This resulted in the cancellation of some local government elections.

At least six people were killed in Rivers State including an army officer in clashes between political party hirelings and security operatives. Rivers State is considered a major hotspot in the country during elections not only because of its position as the largest oil producing state but also because it is home to several militant groups agitating for the control of oil resources in the Niger Delta region.

There were also clashes in areas that include Lagos, Ibadan and Bayelsa.

Although these pockets of violence would affect the regions where the violence took place, it’s unlikely to affect the overall outcome of the elections as electoral commission insisted it would cancel elections where there are outbreaks of violence. Elections in the affected areas in Rivers have already been cancelled.

Can the elections be described as free and fair?

To a large extent the conduct of the elections can be described as free and fair. The electoral commission, security forces and most candidates have conducted themselves reasonably well.

As for the electorate, there is evidence that Nigerians were more willing to play their part. The electorate monitored political parties very closely, an indication in my view that democracy in Nigeria is maturing

It also seems that people were prepared to take action (sometimes by taking the law in their hands) to ensure that there wasn’t any interference in the election process. For example, in Lagos irate voters attacked and killed a one member of a vigilante group who attempted to destroy ballot papers. Although the police force has warned the electorates from engaging in “jungle justice” the willingness of voters to confront political thugs is a new development in Nigeria’s democracy.


SPURCE: The Conversation

#NigeriaDecides: why poor economic performance is the biggest issue

On February 16, more than 84m eligible voters in Nigeria go to the polls to elect the next president of the country and members of the national assembly. There are nearly 80 candidates competing for the country’s top job but the contest can be viewed to be mainly between the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, aged 76, of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, aged 72, of the People’s Democratic Party.

Buhari, a former military head of state from 1983 to 1985, was re-elected as a civilian president in 2015 and is campaigning for another four years at the helm. He has vowed to expunge the country of corruption, while Abubakar, who was the vice president from 1999 to 2007, is campaigning on the promise to get Nigeria “working again”.

Indeed, Nigeria is in dire need of all that has been promised. But given the past records of the two main candidates, it would be near delusional to hope for meaningful change if they are re-elected.

Buhari’s handling of the economy has been somewhere between poor and appalling. The same could be said of past administrations, including when Atiku was vice president from 1999 to 2007.


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Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with more than 198m people. It is also the continent’s largest economy, with a GDP in 2017 of US$376 billion. It holds the world’s tenth-largest gas reserves and eleventh-largest oil reserves – some 37 billion barrels, as of 2017.

Despite this abundance of natural and human resources, the country’s development indicators are nothing to write home about. As I document in my book, Nigeria’s economy faces a number of challenges.

Serious under-performer

Over 75% of Nigeria’s population lives below the US$3.20-a-day poverty line and more than half of the population is multi-dimensionally poor – they are deprived of access to basic health, education and standards of living. What’s more, the inequality gap in the country has widened over recent years, with the top 10% sharing more than 40% of the national income and the bottom 20% living on less than 5% of the national income. According to Oxfam, Nigeria has the unenviable distinction of being at the bottom of the commitment to reducing inequality index (CRI) since 2017.


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Its record on social spending (on health, education and social protection) is also abysmal. One in 10 children in the country does not reach their fifth birthday, and more than 10m children do not go to school. Of these, 60% are girls. Average life expectancy at birth in Nigeria is around 52 years, which is significantly lower than the sub-Saharan African region’s average of 62 years.

The country’s infrastructures are in a very sorry state. More than two thirds of the population does not have access to constant electricity, safe water and good sanitation. The roads and transport facilities are in poor condition despite the billions of dollars budgeted for their construction and maintenance.

The implications of this infrastructural inadequacy and insecurity is the decline of investment in the economy, which then results in high unemployment and underemployment. The inadequate provision of basic infrastructure means that private companies have to take on these costs, making it more expensive for them to do business in Nigeria. Plus, weak institutions, in the form of weak rule of law and poor quality regulations, also contribute to the increase in the cost of production.

These inadequacies, together with fierce competition from low-cost production from abroad (China especially) and low domestic-demand for locally manufactured goods (due to the high poverty rate), all contribute to undermining the viability of any productive process in the country. The result is an under-performing economy that is overly-reliant on its oil and mineral wealth to prop up its GDP – but this does not benefit a large proportion of the population.

Road to recovery?

To solve this, whoever wins the Nigerian elections desperately needs an ambitious industrial policy. The country has huge economic potential that can be met if governed well. The state needs to play a strategic role in the development process, beyond just providing the right infrastructure and a conducive environment. Right now the economy is far too dependent on exporting oil and other minerals. Emphasis needs to shift to fostering knowledge-based, high-tech economy.

Nigeria’s exports in 2016. “The Atlas of Economic Complexity,” Center for International Development at Harvard UniversityCC BY

Indonesia, for example, is at a similar level of development to Nigeria and is similarly rich in natural resources. But, as the graph below shows, it has a much more diverse economy.

Indonesia’s exports 2016. “The Atlas of Economic Complexity,” Center for International Development at Harvard UniversityCC BY

The next Nigerian government must follow the lead of many developed and emerging countries in funding research and development (R&D) activities that drive innovation. The current lack of R&D and innovation is one of the main reasons the country is still struggling to achieve any meaningful development. Lastly, the state also needs to create an environment that attracts, grows and retains talent. This means developing its dilapidated education and health infrastructure and creating institutions that recognise and reward talent.

And, amid all this, corruption must be tackled. Like a cankerworm, it has gnawed at Nigeria for so long and has also contributed significantly to its persistent underdevelopment. If Nigeria is to make any meaningful inroad towards development, more also needs to be done in the fight against graft. Buhari’s efforts on this front have been seen by his critics as selective. And Atiku, on the other hand, has been accused by his detractors as a ruthless businessman-politician who has milked the system for decades. So, Nigeria’s voters face two uninspiring choices in the coming election.

SOURCE The Conversation

#NigeriaDecides: Presidential elections – Live

OFFLINE

Three critical African elections

Welcome to the live update of Nigeria 2019 Presidential Elections. Follow updates and commentaries from our reporters and contributors on ground for first hand information from the polls.

3:00 – INEC postpones elections till Friday February 23rd. Read statement below.

#NigeriaDecides: Here’s How Nigerians will vote at the Presidential elections

More than 80 million eligible voters in Nigeria are expected to troop out on Saturday to select their preferred candidate for presidency as the presidential poll holds. With the campaigns by the major candidates hardly issue-based, we consider how Nigerians might vote on February 16.

Voters in Osun election

There are different categories of people who will vote: party loyalists, either by affiliation or occupation; people with ethnic bias; people whose choices are informed by their perceptions of candidates’ personalities and people whose choices will be influenced by the state of the nation. Often, party loyalists and people whose choices are informed by their perceptions of candidates’ personalities play a major role in who wins elections. However, on few occasions when a leader has obviously performed poorly, people whose choices are influenced by the state of the nation may cause a shift, but the category of people who vote based on their perception of the candidates makes this difficult, sticking with their candidate regardless of the state of the nation.   

The reality of the having the categories of voters described above is a Nigerian presidential election with two septuagenarians as frontrunners. Not that there is anything bad in having old leaders, but in Nigeria’s case, one of the two old candidates is not in the best of health and the other is labelled corrupt. Although there are 73 presidential candidates but only incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and candidate of the main opposition party Atiku Abubakar, together, tick all the boxes for categories of voters described above and this is why only one of them could win Nigeria’s presidential election on Saturday.     

Accountability

In recent elections, accountability has played an increasingly important role. With the Nigerian constitution allowing incumbents to seek re-election, accountability of government is ensured by consecutive elections. According to Friedrich’s rule of anticipated reactions, elections motivate the incumbents seeking reelection to anticipate citizens’ future reactions to their public policy. When incumbents perform below the expectation of the citizens, they risk losing their seat. This is what is playing out in the Nigerian presidential race where the opposition has mounted a formidable challenge for the presidency.   

Perception

Politics is always about perception. It is the reason why Atiku Abubakar visited the United States for just hours to dispel rumours he was barred from entering the U.S. due to corruption allegations. There are indeed evidence linking him to alleged corruption but many who say Atiku is corrupt have no knowledge of the Jefferson case. Atiku’s former boss ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo did not help his case either, with past comments raising questions about the presidential candidate’s character. Hence, the perception of corruption has stuck with Atiku and it is the reason why many votes that would have gone his way will end up with other candidates like Kingsley Moghalu, Fela Durotoye and Omoyele Sowore.

Bad thing about perception for politicians is that how they are perceived isn’t always within their control. In fact, it is easier to alter the public’s perception of opponents than it is to create a taint-free persona for yourself. 

The conflicted voter

On Saturday, some Nigerians would still be torn between the two main candidates. Buhari, because they believe he is incorruptible despite everything that has gone wrong with his presidency; and Atiku, because they believe he can turn the country’s economy around.

These Nigerians would mull over their choices on their way to vote. Some may decide before they get to the polling booth while others may end up making up their mind when they are about to thumbprint the ballot. For those who still struggle with choosing either of the two candidates at that point, they may end up voting one of the popular alternatives. A few others might vote for the first party they notice on the ballot, just to get the decision over with. According to Jon Krosnick, professor of Psychology and Political Science at the Ohio State University, this is why candidates get about 2.3 percent more votes on average when their names are listed first on a ballot than when they’re listed later.

“Voters are least inclined toward the first-listed candidate when they know a lot about a race,” he noted, explaining, however, that the situation is applicable when voters are not very interested in politics. 

“People who are very interested in politics are least likely to be influenced by name order, presumably because they know the most about the race.” 

There is also a section of conflicted voters torn between voting for their preferred candidate or the candidate who offered gratification.

“Due to the voter’s poverty level, ethnicity and religious inclinations, voting pattern runs inline in order to satisfy those religious/ethnic interest and personal immediate economic needs,” notes Iwundu E of the Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria. “They accept gratification from politicians to vote for them even when they knew that such persons are not credible,” he adds. 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the body responsible for conducting elections in Nigeria has promised to tackle vote buying, which was widespread at recent governorship elections in the country.

SOURCE: The Nerve Africa

PDP alleges ghost voters ahead of Election

Nigeria’s main opposition party charged Thursday that the election commission has kept more than 1 million ghost voters on the national register, raising fears of vote rigging ahead of Saturday’s presidential election.

Voters in Osun election

The electoral commission “did not in fact do a cleanup of the register of voters” before publishing it, Uche Secondus, chairman of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, told a news conference in the capital, Abuja.

“A sick narrative has emerged, one of systemic and systematic rigging, manipulation of the true record of the voters’ register and a cabal you can no longer trust with the trajectory and growth of democracy and nation,” he said.

He also alleged “a coordinated approach to register foreigners” as voters.

The People’s Democratic Party, whose presidential candidate is Atiku Abubakar, is Nigeria’s main opposition party. Allegations of ghost voters are bound to raise tensions in what is widely seen as a close contest between Abubakar, a former vice president, and President Muhammadu Buhari.

The electoral commission says 84 million people are registered to vote in this country of 190 million.

A spokesman for the electoral commission did not respond to requests for a comment.

The opposition and some election observers also have expressed concern about military deployments in part of southeastern Nigeria where separatists are active.

Buhari and Abubakar renewed a pledge for a peaceful poll on Wednesday. Both leaders vowed to contribute to a free and fair election in Africa’s most populous country and refrain from “religious incitement” or ethnic profiling.

The push for candidates to publicly renew their peace vow, first made in December, picked up in recent days after the governor of Kaduna state declared on television that anyone who came to Nigeria to intervene in the election “would go back in body bags.”

Buhari was elected to his first term in 2015, the first time in Nigerian history that an opposition party democratically won power, and his first few months in office were full of optimism.

But his government now faces widespread discontent over rising unemployment and insecurity in some parts of the country.

Obasanjo is an expired politician, says Tinubu

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, National Leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC), says former President Olusegun Obasanjo is an expired politician, who is known for his trade.

On Monday, while speaking at a campaign rally in Maiduguri, Tinubu advised the people not to believe the former president who is  “known for his trade”.

“Obasanjo is expired. Ota is enough a place to keep quiet,” he said.

According to the former Lagos State governor, Obasanjo failed the Yoruba people by not recognising the June 12, 1993 mandate of late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola. 

“Yoruba won’t forget in a hurry that Obasanjo could not actualise and recognise the mandate given to MKO Abiola. We waited in 2003 and 2007, but Obasanjo failed to recognise the June 12 struggle. But, President Buhari came and recognised our aspiration in June 12; within three years of his government,” Tinubu said 

Tinubu further described Obasanjo as the brain behind rigging in the country. He asked: “Who can recall the 2003 rigging? Who can recall Obasanjo’s rigging in 2007? Who knows rigging better than him?” 

Over the weekend, Obasanjo released a scathing letter in which he criticised the president and his administration. 

Also speaking at the campaign, President Muhammadu Buhari reiterated his commitment towards enhancing security in Borno. He affirmed the need to do more in the area of security.

SOURCE: Sahara Reporters

Full text: Obasanjo compares Buhari to Abacha as a dictator, says he’s planning to rig election

A former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Sunday criticised President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing him of plotting to rig the general elections.

In a statement he personally signed, Mr Obasanjo also expressed doubt in the neutrality of the electoral commission, INEC.

Read Mr Obsanjo’s full statement below.

POINTS FOR CONCERN AND ACTION

By

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

I am concerned as a democrat who believes that with faithful and diligent practice of democracy, we can get over most of our political problems and move steadfastly and surefootedly on the course of stability, unity of purpose, socio-economic growth and progress for all.

Democracy becomes a sham if elections are carried out by people who should be impartial and neutral umpires, but who show no integrity, acting with blatant partiality, duplicity and imbecility. For all democrats and those carrying out the process of elections, there must be the red line that must not be crossed in tactics and practices of democracy.

I personally have serious doubt about the present INEC’s integrity, impartiality and competence to conduct a fair, free and credible election. And if the INEC is willing, will the ruling party and government allow it? From what we saw and knew about Osun State gubernatorial election, what was conclusive was declared inconclusive despite all advice to the contrary. The unnecessary rerun, if viewed as a test-run for a larger general election, would lead people to expect incidences of deliberately contrived, broken or non-working voting machines or card readers, confusion of voters as to their voting stations, inadequate supply of voting materials to designated places, long line to discourage voters and turning blind eyes to favour the blue-eye political party of INEC because the Commission’s hands will be tied to enable hatchet men and women to perform their unwholesome assignment. The transmission and collation of results are subject to interference, manipulation and meddling. If the INEC’s favourite political party wins with all the above infractions, the result will be conclusively declared and if not, there will be a ‘rerun’, the result of which is known before it is carried out. I know that I am not alone in being sceptical about the integrity of INEC and its ability to act creditably and above board. But we are open to be convinced otherwise.

The joke about INEC would seem real. The INEC was asked if the Commission was ready for the election and if it expects the election to be free, fair and credible. The INEC man is reported as saying in response, “we are ready with everything including the results!” God save Nigeria! It is up to Nigerians to ensure that the redline is not crossed in safeguarding our fledging democracy. And if crossed, appropriate action must be taken not to allow our democracy to be derailed.

A friend of mine who is more credulous and who claims to be close to the Chair of INEC keeps telling me that INEC will retrieve its image and reputation by conducting the coming elections with utmost integrity and impartiality. I am not sure as I believe more in action than in words and in past record than in promise. The track record of the present INEC is fairly sordid and all men and women of goodwill and believers in democracy must be prepared for the worst from INEC and their encouragers and how to get Nigeria out of the electoral morass that the Commission is driving us into. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. A battle long forewarned does not embroil the cripple nor catch him unawares. A word is sufficient for the wise. The labour of Nigerian democracy heroes must not be in vain. Some men of God would hold President Buhari to his word on free, fair, credible and peaceful elections. I am a realist and I reiterate that I go by track record. Therefore, I am not persuaded by a track record of hollow words, impunity, insensitivity and ‘I-couldn’t-care-less’ attitude, or by the sanctimonious claims of any candidate and his campaign staff. I will only believe what I see. This is a time for vigilance to fight to safeguard our votes and defend our democracy. The price of liberty and sustenance of our democracy is eternal vigilance and appropriate reaction to ward off iniquities. We must all be ready to pay that price and not relying on hollow words of callousness. The derailment of Nigerian democracy will be a monumental disaster comparable to the disaster of the Nigerian first military coup.

While Nigerians must not allow such a disaster to happen nor take such an affront lying low, the international community who played an admirable role in warning INEC, of course, to no avail on the Osun State gubernatorial election and who have been warning all political parties must on this occasion give more serious warning, send more people to the field to observe and work out punitive measures against INEC and security officials especially the Police and politicians who stand to gain from INEC’s misconduct, which is obviously encouraged by the Executive Arm of Government and who must be held responsible for the violence that will follow. Such measures can vary from denial and withdrawal of visas from the people concerned and from their families to other more stringent measures including their accounts being frozen and taking them to International Criminal Court, ICC, if violence emanates from their action or inaction. Nigeria must not be allowed to slip off the democratic path nor go into anarchy and ruin. No individual nor group has monopoly of violence or gangsterism. And we must not forget that in human interaction, reactions are normally greater than action, though opposite.

It is no use, at this juncture, to keep lamenting about the failure, incompetence, divisiveness, nepotism, encouragement and condonation of corruption by Buhari administration as there is neither redeeming feature nor personality to salvage the situation within that hierarchy. You cannot give what you don’t have. Bode George put it bluntly in his statement of December 3, 2018 when he said:

“The other day, the Vice-President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo – a learned man, an enlightened person in all parameters – was seen at various markets in Lagos State and Abuja distributing N10,000 each to market women. What an absurdity! It was indeed an obscene display of executive recklessness and abuse of office. Pray, where did the money come from? Was it budgeted for in the appropriation law? In more civilised nations, Osinbajo would have been impeached and prosecuted for gutting our collective treasury.”

What an act by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria lawyer, number 2 man in the Executive hierarchy; and what is more, a pastor of one of the Christian movements led by a revered, respected and upright church leader, Pastor E. A. Adeboye. Osinbajo must have gone for, “if you can’t beat them, join them”. A great pity indeed and which makes people ask the questions, “Any hope?” Yes, for me, there is hope. Osinbajo has shown the human weakness and proved the saying that the corruption of the best is the worst form of corruption. His explanation that it was their government programme can only be construed to be very shallow and lopsided, if not an outrightly idiotic programme.

Traders in rural and sub-urban areas of Nigeria are many more than those in urban areas and they are much poorer than traders in Lagos, Abuja and other cities. They need more attention and greater help. Are they to be confined to the heap of perpetual poverty? What of those who are not traders? They are not entitled to hand-out and they can languish in penury? And what about millions who have lost their jobs in the last three and a half years? The timing is also suspect. Those who criticise the action are called evil but they are not evil as they know what they are doing and saying, and they love Nigeria and Nigerians not less than the likes of Osinbajo. They are not devils incarnate; they are patriots.

What is the connection between taking the number of PVC (Permanent Voters Card) of the recipient of the N10,000 doled out to ‘traders’ and the forthcoming election? There is something sinister about it, and Professor Osinbajo, of all people, should know that. With collusion of the INEC officials and card readers not made to work, anybody quoting the PVC number may be allowed to vote as the revised Electoral Bill was not signed. And if that happens all over the country, it will be massive rigging indeed. The Chairman of INEC must stand firm and carry out his duties with competence and unbending neutrality. Card readers must be used without fail and accreditation must be completed and number ascertained and made public before voting commences as was done in 2015.

Amina Zakari has become too controversial a figure to be able to give assurance of free, fair and credible election for INEC. President Buhari and her family have declared that there is no blood relationship but there is relationship through marriage and that is more than enough for the good lady to step aside. A judge does not sit in judgement over a case once he or she becomes a cause for controversy or one side in the case has strongly objected to the judge. Madam Amina Zakari should, in honour, stay out and not be seen as a source of contamination of the election. Otherwise, it will be difficulty to deny the rumour that she is being assigned to Collation Centre for one duty only – to write out figures that are not results of the voting in the field on fake results sheets without water mark or on genuine results sheets which she will have access to as a Commissioner. Amina Zakari is not the only Commissioner that can be in the Collation Centre. Let the INEC Chairman act boldly and impartially and prove his absolute neutrality and responsiveness to contribute to make the election peacefully free, fair and credible. His integrity needs to be transparently demonstrated.

We should remember that there had been reports of INEC sponsored rigging in the past, and also with INEC officials through collation and with officials being put in party coordinators’ dresses and working for the political party favoured by INEC and also putting the dresses of other parties on INEC-favoured parties and police uniforms on INEC-favoured parties to rig all the elections for the favoured party. Like all of us, INEC knows all these and it should devise means to make sure they do not happen. But will they? One way will be to only allow card readers to be means of authenticating voters and where there is no such authentication, it should mean no voting. The second is to use only identity cards with watermarks issued by INEC itself to party officials only for identification of political party coordinators, officials and agents and not political parties dresses or arm and wrist bands which anybody can wear for purposes of identification on election duty or function. Both the Presidency and the National Assembly must so far be commended for adequately providing funding as confirmed by INEC, and therefore funding cannot be an excuse for poor performance by INEC.

President Buhari and his hatchet men in the coming election think that the judiciary must be primed in their favour. Hence, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, has been harassed and prosecuted for non-declaration of his assets without following the Constitution and the law, just to make him conform or set him aside for a Buhari man to take over or act, as President Buhari and his people believe no stone should be left unturned to rig Buhari in. It seems to be a ploy to intimidate the judiciary as a whole in preparation for all election cases that will go before them. Where and how will all these stop? Typically, with overwhelming outrage and condemnation, we are told that the Presidency denied knowledge of the action. But the Vice-President told us that the President knew of the action on Saturday night for everything that has been prepared for Monday morning. Haba VP, it doesn’t happen that way. Nobody should take such measure against any of the four in hierarchy below the President or any of his ministers without his knowledge and indeed his approval. But if that can happen to the Chief Justice of the Federation, the fifth man in the hierarchy of government, without the knowledge let alone the approval of the President, then it speaks for the type of government we have which means the President is not in charge let alone being in control and no Nigerian must take anything for granted. We are all unsafe and insecure under such an administration. And enough of it! Buhari’s apologists will not stop at anything to try to cover up his administration’s inadequate performance and character. A constitutional liberal democracy cannot thrive without an independent and insulated judiciary from the executive and the legislature. Nigerians must wake up and stop these acts of wanton desperation tantamount to mental incapacity to run the affairs of Nigeria wholesomely.

Life and living are anchored on trust. But if I trust you and you deceive, cheat or disappoint me the first time, it is shame on you. However, if I allow you to do so the same thing for me the second time, I do not only have myself to blame, I must be regarded as a compound fool.

Buhari has succeeded in deceiving us the first time and we will be fools to allow ourselves to be deceived the second time. Buba Galadima, who knows Buhari very well as a confidant and National Secretary of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, the Buhari’s party before it joined in forming All Progressives Congress, APC, has warned us this time around that no matter what he promises, he cannot change his character and attitude. He describes him as inflexible, insincere, dubious, intolerant, never accepts responsibility when things go wrong and impervious to reason and advice for change. If you cannot change your mind, you cannot change anything is the assertion of George Bernard Shaw. Even when figures, facts and statistics are made clear to Buhari, he keeps repeating what is untrue, either because he cannot understand or for mischief purposes and that places him on the level of a pathological liar. He believes he can get away with impunity and deceit as he seems to have done on many occasions in the past. Buba Galadima’s position is well complemented by Dr. Auwalu Anwar on the APC, CPC, TBO and Buhari’s character and attitude in his yet to be launched book, “Politics As Dashed Hopes in Nigeria”. It is also a stunning revelation. Anwar clearly pointed out, “the brazen display of incompetence, insensitivity and irresponsiveness by delusional party, CPC, leadership at all levels”. Buhari was the leader of the party. Bola Tinubu’s statement about Muhammadu Buhari in 2003 is fairly prophetic, “Muhammadu Buhari is an agent of destabilisation, ethnic bigot and religious fanatic who, if given the chance, would ensure the disintegration of the country. His ethnocentrism would jeopardise Nigeria’s national unity.”

Junaid Mohammed was eloquent on the issue of nepotism. But if as we were told that Buhari is nepotic because he does not trust others, why should others trust him to continue to put their fate and life in his hand. Trust begets trust. They cannot be trusted for ‘sensitive’ appointment but they can be sent out to campaign for his re-election. Who is fooling who?

What is happening under Buhari’s watch can be likened to what we witnessed under Gen. Sani Abacha in many ways. When Abacha decided that he must install himself as Nigerian President by all means and at all costs, he went for broke and surrounded himself with hatchet men who on his order and in his interest and at high costs to Nigeria and Nigerians maimed, tortured and killed for Abacha. Buhari has started on the same path in mad desperation.

From available intelligence, we have heard of how Buhari and his party are going about his own self-succession project. They have started recruiting collation officers who are already awarding results based on their projects to actualise the perpetuation agenda in which the people will not matter and the votes will not count. It is the sole reason he has blatantly refused to sign the revised Electoral Reform Bill into law.

His henchmen are working round the clock in cahoots with security and election officials to perfect their plan by computing results right from the ward to local government, state and national levels to allot him what will look like a landslide victory irrespective of the true situation for a candidate who might have carried out by proxy presidential debate and campaigns.

The current plan is to drape the pre-determined results with a toga of credibility. It is also planned that violence of unimaginable proportion will be unleashed in high voting population areas across the country to precipitate re-run elections and where he will be returned duly elected after concentration of security officials as it happened in Osun State. We are monitoring them and we call on all democrats across the world to keep an eye on the unfolding anti-democratic agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is the time for preventive measures to be taken otherwise Nigeria may be presented with a fait accompli with impunity and total disregard of all pleas.
His scheme bears eloquent testimony to this road similar to Abacha whom he has praised to high heavens and as an arch-supporter and beneficiary from Abacha, he has seen nothing wrong done by him. It is clear from all indications that Buhari is putting into practice the lessons he learned from Abacha. Buhari has intimidated and harassed the private sector, attacked the National Assembly and now unconstitutionally and recklessly attacked and intimidated the Judiciary to cow them to submission.

I was a victim of Abacha’s atrocities against Nigeria and Nigerians – high and low. At the height of Abacha’s desperation for perpetual power, he did not brook any criticism because Nigeria was seen as his personal property. You must go along with him or be destroyed. All institutions for ensuring security, welfare and well-being of Nigeria and Nigerians particularly the Police, the Military and the Department of State Services (DSS) were abused and misused to deal with critics of Abacha and non-conformists with Abacha.

Today, another Abacha Era is here. The security institutions are being misused to fight all critics and opponents of Buhari and to derail our fledgling democracy. EFCC, Police and Code of Conduct Tribunal are also being equally misused to deal with those Buhari sees as enemies for criticising him or as those who may not do his bidding in manipulating election results. Criticism, choice and being different are inherent trade mark of democracy. If democracy is derailed or aborted, anarchy and authoritarianism will automatically follow.

Today, as in the day of Abacha, Nigerians must rise up and do what they did in the time of Abacha. Churches and Mosques prayed. International community stood by us Nigerians. I was a beneficiary and my life was saved. Well-meaning Nigerians took appropriate actions and made sacrifices, some supreme, some less than supreme but God had the final say and He took the ultimate action.

God of Nigeria is a living God and a prayer-answering God. Nigerians must cry out to God to deliver Nigeria. Here again, I have been threatened with arrest and extermination but I will not succumb to intimidation or threats. Maybe I should remind those who are using probe as a threat that I have been probed four times by EFCC, ICPC, House of Representatives and the Senate and Buhari has access to reports of these probes. But I have also challenged Buhari and the criminals around him to set up a probe on the same allegations and I will face such probe in public.

But I know that these criminals cannot withstand a Police inquiry let alone clinical probe on the past public offices they held. My fervent prayer is that President Buhari may live to see the will and purpose of God for Nigeria. My final appeal to him is to desist from evil with manipulation and desperation because evil has repercussion especially as man who should watch and be mindful of his self-acclaimed and packaged integrity. At the end of the day, those who goad you on will leave you in the lurch. You will be left alone, naked and unheralded. In defeat, which must be Buhari’s fear leading to desperation, he and his co-travellers can still maintain modicum of decency, and exhibit fear of God in their actions. We have been told that governance has been abdicated to a cabal. Now, campaigning has been abdicated to ‘jagaban’. And it is being authoritatively stated that he would not join any presidential debate. Nigerians will not allow the elections to be abdicated to INEC and Police to give us false and manipulated results. I personally commend the President for yielding to popular outcry to let the former Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, go when he is due as he had the track record and history of being assigned to rig elections for the incumbent. It was alleged that he was sent to Kano for that purpose in 2015. He was already deploying his Commissioners of Police on similar mission before his exit. We must all encourage the new Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to tread the path of professionalism, even-handedness, respect and new image for the Police.

While Nigeria must appreciate Buhari for the little he has done and allow him to depart for home in peace if he allows free, fair, peaceful and credible elections, we must also tell ourselves that Nigeria deserves better at this point in time than what Buhari is capable of offering. History will note that he has been there. Nigeria now needs a man with better physical and mental soundness, with an active mind and intellect.

Let me say again that Nigeria belongs to all Nigerians and exists for the benefit of all Nigerians and non-Nigerians who desire to live or do business in and with Nigeria. The attitude of “it is my turn and I can do what I like” with impunity will not last because Nigeria is created by God and it will outlive all evil machinations and designs against the overall interest of Nigeria.

Before I conclude, let me assert that the security situation has deteriorated with kidnapping everywhere and Boko Haram more in action and nobody should deceive Nigerians about this. With the teaming up of Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), Boko Haram is stronger today militarily than they have ever been. Boko Haram has also been empowered by the Nigerian government through payment of ransom of millions of dollars which each administration disingenuously always denies. With ISIS being liquidated in Iraq and Syria, Africa is now their port of concentration. Soon, they may take over Libya which, with substantial resources, is almost a totally failed state. When that happens, all African countries North of Congo River will be unsafe with serious security problems. The struggle must be for all West African, Central African, North African and most East African States. Nigeria has to play a vanguard role in this struggle as we have much to lose. This administration has reached the end of its wit even in handling all security issues, but particularly Boko Haram issue, partly due to misuse of security apparatus and poor equipment, deployment, coordination and cooperation.

Finally, those Nigerians that are being intimidated or threatened by this Administration must trust in God and stand firm. Tough times do not last forever, but tough people invariably survive tough times. This is a tough time for almost all Nigerians in different respects, but the people’s will shall triumph. All people who have registered to vote with their PVCs must never allow anybody or anything to deny or deprive them of the right of performing their fundamental civic duty of voting and sustaining democracy. Establishment of democracy and its sustenance is second to attainment of independence in our political life, leaving out the victory of the civil war. We shall overcome.

Atiku must be ‘picked’ ‘once he returns from US’ – Lai Mohammed

Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), will answer to allegations of corruption when he returns from his current trip to the United States, the Federal Government has said.

According to Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, who was speaking with State House correspondents on Friday, there is new evidence showing that Atiku received N156 slush funds in 2009, contributing to the collapse of Bank PHB.

“I have come to make few remarks about the recent visit of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party to the US. You can recall that few weeks ago, I did issue a statement advising the US government not to issue visa to Atiku,” Mohammed said.

“Remember also that in that same press conference, I also stated that it remains the prerogative of the US government to issue visa to anyone it deems fit.

“In any event, any time Abubakar returns home, he has questions to answer following the fresh evidence that we have that he benefitted from slush funds that led to the collapse of the former Bank PHB.

“The document we have, shows that he benefitted to the tune of N156 million from that slush fund. The paper, which we have here, started from an internal memo on January 13, 2009, which reads ‘please refer for discussion your requested overdraft in favour of Atiku Abubakar for N156 million and deliver same to me. Please note that it must be delivered today (January 13).’”

He added that on the same date, another memo was generated to confirm that the amount be issued from Claremont Management Services account. 

“We have evidence here of the account mandate — the name of Atiku Abubakar — we also have a copy of the cheque in which the sum of N156 million was issued to Atiku Abubakar dated January 13, 2009 and of course we also have statement of account within that period that confirms that this sum was actually paid into his account.

“These are fresh evidence as to his involvement in the collapse of Bank PHB, so we want him to stay as long he wants in the US but as soon he comes back; he has to explain to the electorate and to Nigerians what is his role in the collapse in the former Bank PHB.”

Mohammed downplayed the signifance of Atiku’s visit to the US, saying: “Let me say right away that we are not perturbed one bit that Alhaji Atiku Abukakar was able to secure visa to the US. 

“As a matter of fact, he can go ahead and get the US Green card that will not save him from imminent defeat in the forthcoming election. I want to remind Abubakar that the elections will be right here in Nigeria and not in the US.”