BUHARI'S LAST LAP & THE RENEWED OFFENSIVE

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Photo: Reuters
Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) began the last lap in the four year term given to him by the people of Nigeria to lead the Nation. Though PMB has expressed a wish to have his mandate renewed, no one can be sure if this request will be granted, until after the Presidential elections in February or March next year (depending on which schedule will rule- INEC or NASS) and hoping that all things remain equal. You may ask me what I mean by "all things remain equal" I have read resolutions by some Ethnic nationality groups insisting that Nigeria must be restructured or there may be no elections. In view of the fact that no one knows if the restructuring will take place on one hand and the fact that nobody knows whether the ethnic nationalities can carry out their threat on the other hand, that's what I mean by "all things being equal"
  
Nevertheless, the chances of granting PMB's request will certainly depend on what he does or what he does not do in this last lap. Watching recent heightened level of activities within the polity, I get the sense that PMB and his team have realized that if the elections were held this moment, his chances are not as bright as they were in 2015. Never mind the huge political crowds in Kano or Yobe. Every Nigerian knows that political crowd is commodity in Nigeria,in addition to the fact that it will require votes from both the North and South, East and West for the mandate to be renewed. And it does not matter if one region gives 97%, we will still need the 5% to make up 100% (ala PMB's arithmetical formula)
  

In the last few weeks, Lai Mohammed, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and some of the other ministers in PMB's cabinet have been crisscrossing the Nation inspecting road and rail projects and drawing attention to the infrastructural exploits of this administration. Press conferences were being held in Abuja and in Lagos and on the democracy day, 29th May, PMB took time to list the achievements of his administration in the last 3 years and was kind of beating his chest and expecting the applause of Nigerians. Of course, some members of APC who have benefitted from the administration applauded, while some other segments like the nPDP were busy complaining that they have not received any "return" on their "huge investments" in the party and PMB's victory in 2015. Many other Nigerians comprising the growing army of the unemployed, the bereaved from the unmitigated onslaught from the militant Fulani herdsmen and sundry marauders, the traumatized  & dispossessed farmers, internal refugees in the IDP camps and many hungry could not applaud.
  
PMB has asked Nigerians to judge him on three issues: the economy, security and anti-corruption. Certainly on the three key issues, we are not where we should be, based on the promises made to the people of Nigeria. Though the Economy is in the recovery mode (1.9% GDP growth in QI), it is still performing below the May 29, 2015 levels in all ramifications. What is most frightening is that Unemployment has doubled over the period from about 9% to 18% as at end of Q1 2018. And we are not talking of making the Nigerian Naira equal to one US dollar. I have long convinced my wife not to hold this against PMB, which is one of the promises she has eagerly awaited its fulfillment. Nigeria today is the 6th most economically miserable country in the World. On security, the success achieved against Bokoharam insurgency in the North East has been fully eroded by the Militant herdsmen onslaught mostly in the Middle Belt. Nigeria is currently rated one of the most unsafe places on the planet Earth  .
  
On anti-corruption, PMB seems frustrated that despite all the noise, dance and drama, Nigeria' position on the transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) has worsened in the latest ranking. What is worse, not much convictions have been obtained on those charged to court regarding PDP's 2015 campaign funding. It therefore looks to me that PMB has mounted a renewed offensive in this area putting pressure on both EFCC & the Judiciary. The decision of Justice Abang to go ahead with the case against Olisa Metuh, whether he is alive or dead sign posts the present desperation to get convictions by all means. In one week alone, several former office holders who belong to the PDP were arraigned in courts in what looked like a major joint campaign by the EFCC and the judiciary. Former Governor of Kano State and former Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau, Ambassador Aminu Wali and the campaign director of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mansur Ahmad, former deputy governor of Sokoto State and Minister of Water Resources,Mukhtari Shagari, Ibrahim Gidado, a former commissioner, PDP State chairman, Ibrahim Milgoma, PDP Treasurer, Nasiru Dalhatu as well as the State PDP governorship candidate in the state in the 2015 election, Abdallah Wali were all charged to court in an unprecedented blitz of arraignments. Others were former governorship candidate in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu, state party chairman, Chief Dan Orbih; former deputy governor, Lucky Imaseun, a member representing Esan South East and Esan North East in the House of Representatives, Tony Azegbemi, and Mr Efe Anthony. 

Meanwhile, former Governor of Plateau State and a serving Senator, Jonah Jang was recently arraigned in Jos and former governor of Kaduna State-Mukhtar Ramalan Yero is set to be arraigned soon on corruption charges. One would have applauded this renewed onslaught if not that it is patently one sided and absolutely partisan. No member of APC is on the list including members of the nPDP or politicians who have decamped from PDP to APC. Therefore many people including international observers see this as essentially a political strategy to discomfiture the opposition, to keep them distracted and occupied with defending themselves in court and thereby whittling down their energy and resources to oppose APC in the forthcoming elections. I am personally saddened by this apparent clampdown and harassment of the opposition which actually makes a mockery of the anti-corruption fight.
  
Whether this strategy will work in improving Nigeria's ranking on the CPI is yet to be seen and whether it will help to make Nigeria less corrupt may be determined perhaps after PMB's tenure or when another Party comes to power and follows in this footstep of covering own sins and exposing the opposition's sins. Whatever may be the case, it is clear that what actions PMB takes in this last lap will either make or mar his chances in 2019. It is essentially up to him.

Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR

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