By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian president, recently proved the point that all politicians are the same. And that power is “sweet”, as we say in local parlance. Just this week, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party held its third national executive committee (NEC) meeting since coming to office. (The penultimate one was held in March 2016.) President Buhari used to occasion to announce plans to rejig his cabinet, appoint more ministers, and make long-awaited ‘juicy’ appointments to the boards of parastatals and agencies. Having resisted overtures to do these hitherto, there is only one conclusion that can be inferred: Mr Buhari has decided to run for a second term. Just so no one is left in any doubt about this, some one proposed the adoption of Mr Buhari for a second term at the NEC meeting. In what was likely a well-choreographed move, the chair stood down the proposal for a later time. But the point had been made. Newspaper headlines afterwards were confusing, though. Some suggested state governors from the ruling party endorsed the president for a second term. Others said they opposed it. The former is more likely, in my view.
Still in charge
It has always been the practice to use patronage to appease influential party members in view of elections. This is not meant in a negative sense. People join political parties in the hope that when they win, they would be able to serve (or have influence) in government. Savvier politicians do what Mr Buhari is about to do belatedly, much, much earlier; when their intentions would not be so writ large. It may also have dawned on Mr Buhari, that no matter how powerful a president is, he still has to abide by party processes and rules. At least, he has to appear to. If you wonder about this, just ask former president, Olusegun Obasanjo. His deputy, Atiku Abubakar, demonstrated how with careful and deft scheming, a sitting president can literally be brought to his knees when such things are treated with levity. Ordinarily, a second 4-year term for Mr Buhari would not be up for question. But considering he spent a great deal of time trying to recover from undisclosed illnesses, it was assumed he would not contest. Lately, however, Mr Buhari has been brimming with confidence, on account of better health clearly. He is not likely totally out of the woods yet; still works from home, for instance, even though this is attributed to ongoing renovations at his supposedly rat-infested office. Even so, is Mr Buhari healthy enough for a second term? Since his medical history remains secret, he is the only one that can answer that question. Relatively younger presidential hopefuls from the north within the APC who were already gearing up to fill his shoes are perhaps now not so happy, though; albeit they are likely to support him without question if he decides to run again. One who may not be so obedient, that is, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, did not show up for the NEC meeting.
Lucky man that he is; the World Bank released its Ease of Doing Business rankings on the day of the NEC meeting. Nigeria moved up 24 places to 145th out of 190 countries. But like Bloomberg aptly put it: it is still tough to do business in Nigeria. Trust the president and his team to make as much hay from it regardless. Information minister Lai Mohammed was in his best form, taking interviews with local and foreign media so that no one forgets how the efforts of the administration led to the feat. Well, on this one, they got it right. And the vindication came from a source outside of their influence. Bear in mind, it is not often that a government, especially a Nigerian one, sets out to do something and records a verifiable quick win in such record time. Mr Buhari set up the so-called Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) under the headship of his diligent deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, just over a year ago. Incidentally, the recent validation of the administration’s efforts came not long after a second 60-day national action plan (NAP 2.0) to December was launched. But it is not uhuru yet; far from it. Clever man that he is; Mr Buhari acknowledged the myriad challenges that continue to exist. Still, it was an excellent way to make the point that his administration was working, and without having to say it out loud; he would be deserving of a second term.
At what cost
I like Mr Buhari for one major reason: he is as honest as a politican can be allowed to be in this country. He rightly reasoned there should not be as many ministers and political appointees as was the case in previous administrations. And even though the constitution insists there should be at least one minister from the 36 states of the federation, it is wasteful and unnecessary to appoint that much. Mr Buhari can still win without giving up his soul.
Also published in my Premium Times Nigeria column. See link viz. https://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2017/11/02/buhari-needs-not-change-to-win-a-second-term-by-rafiq-raji/