How money and life’ll shape 2019 polls

Posted by News Express | 20 October 2018 | 1,113 times

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The most significant election since independence in 1960 will take place in February next year, approximately four months away.

The year 2019 presidential election particularly is significant for a number of reasons and extenuating circumstances. 

First, the election is being intensely contested by two northerners:  the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a retired major-general and one time military head of state; and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former vice-president between 1999 and 2007.

Another factor that has made the forthcoming presidential election very historic is that only three years ago, Nigeria witnessed what was considered around the world as a very peaceful transfer of political power: from President Goodluck Jonathan to the opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari who scored about 15 million votes to the 12.5 million votes recorded for the incumbent.

The forthcoming presidential poll is closely monitored to see how transparent, peaceful, free and fair it will be, given that the incumbent president is the beneficiary of a very peaceful hand-over of power, which is a model for Africa – a continent known for sit-tight presidents.

The 2019 presidential poll has already attracted widespread cynicism because of a number of negative indices, such as the unusual fact that the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Mahmoud Yakubu, who was appointed by President Buhari, is also his kinsman, who desperately wishes to win the coming election. Therefore, there is the suspicion that the chairman of INEC could sway and manipulate the process to railroad his kinsman and benefactor to be the winner. 

Again, this election period is the first since independence that the umpire of the election is from the same tribal and religious affinities with the incumbent president. Additionally, the incumbent president also appointed his niece, Mrs Amina Zakari, as a national commissioner of INEC.

This national commissioner who is a biological relation of President Buhari has come under increasing criticism for her unsavoury roles during the serial electoral heists that happened in Ekiti and Osun governorship polls, as well as National Assembly by-elections elections in Bauchi, Katsina and Kogi states, during which the police aided and abetted the manipulation of outcomes in favour of the ruling political party. 

Mrs Zakari headed the Operations Department of the Independent National Electoral Commission, until recently when due to overwhelming public pressure she was moved to another department. But information from INEC says that the Presidency has started mounting pressure on Yakubu and the hierarchy of INEC to restore Mrs Zakari to the Operations Department in time for the February elections.

Aside the very weighty issue of apprehension by millions of Nigerians - who do not repose any confidence and trust in the leadership of INEC to do what is right and legal during the February presidential poll - there are two main campaign issues that would inevitably shape the outcome of the election.

These are: Money and the fundamental human right to life. So, money and life are the two key determinant factors. In another way, the economy and security are the two key issues that should determine who wins the 2019 presidential election.

In the area of economy, it is a notorious fact that the current administration led Nigeria to economic recession in 2016, due to poor policy implementation. Buhari took nearly half a year to put together a cabinet. And till date most agencies of government are administered on ad hoc basis. Perhaps, this snail-speed process of administration informed the allegation by the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, that President Muhammadu Buhari is a surrogate President: because, members of his family resident in the presidential mansion are calling the shots.

According to a factual account by the BBC, Nigeria slipped into recession, as the latest growth figures showed the economy contracted 2.06 per cent between April and June in 2016. The country has now seen two consecutive quarters of declining growth, the usual definition of recession. Besides, the vital oil industry has been hit by weak global prices, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS). But the government says there has been strong growth in other sectors. Crude oil sales account for 70 per cent of government income.

The BBC reported that outside the oil industry, the figures show that a fall in the value of the Nigerian currency, the naira, has hurt the economy. It was allowed to float freely in June 2016 to help kick-start the economy, but critics argued it should have been done earlier.

The government, however, has found some positive news in the figures.

“There was growth in the agricultural and solid minerals sectors... the areas in which the Federal Government has placed particular priority,” said presidential economic adviser Adeyemi Dipeolu.

Nigeria, which vies with South Africa for the mantle of Africa's biggest economy, is also battling an inflation rate at an 11-year high of 17.1per cent in July.

“A lot of Nigeria's current predicament could have been avoided,” said Kevin Daly of Aberdeen Asset Management.

“The country is so reliant on oil precisely because its leaders haven't diversified the economy.

More recently, they have tried, and failed, to prop up the naira, which has had a ruinous effect on the country’s foreign exchange reserves and any reputation it might have had of being fiscally responsible.”

In the analysis reported by Martin Patience, BBC Nigeria correspondent, the economic recession is said to have happened as no surprise to millions of Nigerians. Many say they've never known it so tough.

But critics say government policies made a bad situation even worse. The decision to delay devaluing Nigeria’s currency meant many businesses struggled to get foreign currency to pay for imports, which had a cooling effect on the entire economy.

The economic recession lasted nearly a year even as millions of Nigerian families became much more impoverished with the spiraling costs of living and lack of economic opportunities for millions. Many who graduated from tertiary institutions can’t find jobs. 

Indeed, even when the Nigerian government announced that the economic recession had ended, the economy of over 100 million Nigerians did not improve; instead, Nigeria became home to the largest number of poor people in the world.

The lady who headed the finance ministry for President Buhari, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, was forced out of office due to forged credentials she obtained purportedly as her exemption certificate from the National Youth Service Corps. During her tenure, the government borrowed excessively and returned Nigeria to the inglorious position of a heavily indebted Third World nation. This is the shape of the Nigerian economy, which should define the election. However, the President, in his wisdom, has implemented a small-scale interest-free loan scheme that poor traders are targeted.

The government had earlier, against all rational opposition, decided to “share to poor Nigerians” the sum of nearly $400 million that the Swiss government returned to Nigeria from the humongous loots by the late maximum ruler, Gen Sani Abacha.

Those who opposed the decision to “share” the returned loot had questioned the transparency and accountability that would characterise the so-called redistribution of the national wealth. The identities of beneficiaries are shrouded in secrecy. The opposition to the sharing of the Abacha loot is also boosted by the fact that the proposed “sharing” is coming just before the 2019 general election, which means that the incumbent president might deploy such huge fund to buy over voters.

Another seemingly pro-campaign economic policy being implemented by the government is the interest-free loan scheme, which was only last month inaugurated by Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo, who is also the running mate to Buhari in the next poll. According to Osinbajo, the scheme is aimed at “spreading prosperity and reducing poverty”, especially for petty-traders, irrespective of their socio-political background.

In a statement by the Vice President’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, Osinbajo said that the programme is part of the Social Investment Programme of the Buhari administration. He explained that it has been launched in Lagos, Kano, Katsina, Abia and Osun states, and would be extended, in quick succession, to traders in all the states of the federation by the end of 2018.

Speaking to traders at the Utako market shortly after witnessing the disbursement of funds to beneficiaries, the vice-president said every petty-trader was eligible to benefit from the scheme. He urged petty-traders across the country to take advantage of the scheme to improve their businesses.

“This programme is for the petty-traders selling in the markets, it is not for bigger traders. It is for the petty-traders to improve their businesses. For now, we are giving you N10, 000, if you pay back in six months or less, you will get another N15, 000. We want to encourage petty traders so that they can have sufficient amount to improve their businesses,” he stated.

He assured beneficiaries that the amount given to them would be increased if they paid back their loans within the stipulated period, adding that President Buhari was interested in the welfare of the traders.

“The one we did before was for big traders under the GEEP programme; we gave them as much as N100, 000. If you do well with this one we are giving you now, we will increase the amount.

Everybody can benefit from this scheme. The President himself has said that he wants to make sure that those who are selling small items in the markets benefit from this programme.

“When we give you this money, we want you to pay back; no interest is involved,” he added.

Earlier on arrival at the market, Prof Osinbajo went round, interacting with petty-traders before he proceeded to address traders who had thronged access roads around the market to receive him.

He was accompanied to the programme by two Ministers of State: Industry Trade and Investment, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar and Zainab Ahmed, among other top government officials.

Obviously, these 11th hour attempts to placate poor Nigerians by the incumbent is only but a drop in the ocean; because the state of general infrastructures which are supposed to improve wealth creation on a grand scale is very poor and dysfunctional. Millions of Nigerians lack access to electricity and good roads just as millions of rural farmers have not really benefitted from the media-celebrated pro-farmers' credit schemes by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The much celebrated credit scheme only exists in the imagination of government’s spin doctors. 

In the second issue, which is the state of security, the last three years can be regarded as the worst in the sense that armed hoodlums, including armed Fulani herdsmen, upped the ante of their attacks, even as the Federal Government failed spectacularly to arrest, prosecute and punish these mass-killers.

The Boko Haram terrorists have also continued their serial bloody violence with hundreds of soldiers becoming the latest set of victims of their violent attacks. Scores of civilians, including hostages seized by them have been killed, while the government is not sure of what measures to put in place to curb these attacks. 

However, it could be recalled that defence and national security was the pinnacle of electoral promises made in 2015 by the President, but his All Progressives Congress administration has failed. The next strategic item that should shape the election is the protection of the right to life of Nigerians, which has deteriorated rapidly. But this item is strategic going by the cardinal position it occupies in the hierarchy of human rights. Stressing its significance, an international law scholar wrote as follows:

“Certain rights may not be derogated from in the various human rights instruments, even in times of war or other public emergency threatening the nation. In the case of the European Convention, these are the rights to life (except in cases resulting from lawful acts of war), the prohibition on torture and slavery, and non-retroactivity of criminal offences.”

 The author, a professor of law, also averred: “In the case of the Inter-American Convention, the following rights are non-derogable: the rights to juridical personality, life and humane treatment, freedom from slavery, freedom from ex-post-facto laws, freedom of conscience and religion, rights of the family, to a name of the child, nationality and participation in government. By article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the rights to life and recognition as a person before the law, the freedoms of thought, conscience and religion and the prohibition on torture, slavery, retroactivity of criminal legislation and imprisonment on grounds solely of inability to fulfill a contractual obligation are non-derogable.

“Such non-derogable rights clearly are regarded as possessing a special place in the hierarchy of rights. In addition, it must be noted, many rights are subject to a limitation or claw-back clause, whereby the absolute right provided for will not operate in certain situations. Those rights, that are not so limited, may be regarded as of particular value.” (International Law by Malcolm N Shaw, 7th edition).

The two mainstream presidential candidates Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar and a sprinkling of other important presidential hopefuls - including erstwhile vice-president of World Bank, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili; Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Mr Omowole Sowore; former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke and ex-deputy governor of CBN, Dr Kingsley Moghalu - are expected to dwell more on these two key campaign issues, as they are billed to commence full blown campaigns.

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist (www.huriwanigeria.com, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com), is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).


Source: News Express

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