By Mideno Bayagbon
Email: [email protected]
he long expected year, 2022, is here and momentous events are expectedly ahead. Without mincing words, it would be a tough year for both the governed and the government. A lot of things will either begin to fall into place or we can turn the corner, into a wrong alley, into political, economic and social Armageddon. As a precursor to the General Elections of 2023, 2022 holds in its womb potentials and possibilities.
New alignments forged by, sometimes, strange political bed fellows are on the card and political parties as we know them today might be different entities as we go into the election year. As usual, the quest for political power as an end, will heat up the polity. Given our lack of strategic ideological base, it is power for power sake; and at all cost. As the gladiators are loosed upon the land, interesting political times are ahead.
But for our peculiar political scenario, this should have been the year President Muhammadu Buhari will begin his exit out of power as a lame duck. But this is Nigeria. Our President is an all powerful emperor, constitutionally. So, his every sneeze will still spread like a pandemic virus. This is especially so among his party men who will throng, or look up to Aso Rock villa for his endorsement and or sponsorship. Most will be shocked by the man they thought they could hinge their hope on. As the military dictator, ibrahim Babangida, famously noted during his time, President Buhari sure knows those he wouldn’t want to succeed him as President. He will disappoint many, and many will disappoint him. Emperor or not, his final demystification has begun.
To watchers of the political space, one of the major issues they see unraveling is the relationship between the Asiwaju, Bola Tinubu, the President and his handlers. To those who think that the President is under obligation, and rightly so, to support the aspirations of the one his followers describe as the Jagaban, they are in for a rude shock. Presidential handlers are quick to let in that though the President will not outrightly ask Bola Tinubu not to contest, he is not likely to lift an undue finger to ensure his emergence. The president is projected to stand aloof, seemingly inured to the troubles Tinubu and others will face, in a bid to show that he is allowing the field to determine who should emerge. Were that to be the case, Bola Tinubu will see himself as being in a good place. He has the wherewithal, the financial dunlop, to bulldoze his way into all the states delegates base. But many shall be the troubles of Bola Tinubu.
Which is why the oft postponed APC party convention, whenever it holds, is going to be a do or die affair. Currently, the party structure, though interim is not in his firm grips. The belief is that whoever controls that structure will have a good say in who emerges the party’s candidate. The brick brats will soon start. The fear is that there will also be a sustained attack on the Jagaban by some in the corridors of power, currently, who do not favour his emergence. But Bola Tinubu is a man well tutored in battles and will surely cause an implosion if he feels hard done by.
Observers are, however, on the look out for how he will handle the trouble in his home front. As it is, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, is being heavily prompted to make a go at contesting for the candidacy of the party. His body language so far indicates that he is all for it. Handlers around Aso Rock are beginning to worm their way to the idea. Osinbajo and Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi, who has been consulting round the country, are seen by them as lesser, acceptable “evil’ than the Asiwaju. How Tinubu handles this two threats will help to boost or burst his ambition. Even Tunde Fashola is waiting in the wings.
Among the six South West states, Lagos, Osun, Ogun and to some extent Ondo, will back the Jagaban. It is speculated that Kano and Katsina might be favourably disposed to his ambition too. The North being the battle ground for 2023, if the All Progressive Congress, APC, zones the presidency to the South, Tinubu has Chibuike Amaechi, the Transportation minister; Governor Fayemi who is also the Chairman of the Governors Forum and Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo to contend with. Apart from Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege and his faction supporting him in Delta state, the South South and South East are seemingly out of the reach of the Jagaban; at least by current projections.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is a different kettle of fish, as they say, altogether. Since we last projected a repeat battle between former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, some slight shifts and cracks have emerged. For example, the romance between Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and Tambuwal seems to have hit the rock. They were projected to run together, but a crack has since emerged and there are emerging new romances between some Northern Governors and some South South Governors. For example, Bala Mohammed is in a new suspicious romance with Governor Wike, just as Governors Ifeanyi Okowa and Udom Emmanuel are also in lovey dovey relations with Tambuwal and others.
Second thoughts are ongoing on Atiku Abubakar ,the major issue being his age. He is currently about 74 yeas old and would be 76 should he win the PDP primaries and eventually the Presidency. Though he seems to be the most prepared, and seemingly most connected among the candidates, insiders are beginning to question having him as the flag bearer. Governor Wike too is no longer the strongman of the past era. His brash, uncouth ways and his attempt to muscle leaders to defer to him because of the perceived financial resources he can provide through his state for the running of the party and eventually the elections, have alienated him from some of the leaders who now want to put him in his place.
So waiting in the wings is Bukola Saraki inspired National Rescue Group. It is projected to be the third base into which those discontented with the goings on in both the APC and PDP will naturally coalesce. All except Bola Tinubu. If he doesn’t get the APC ticket, he will position himself again as the go to force to deliver the South West votes: transforming from spoiler to beautiful bride.
Where does this leave the average Nigerian? The short answer will be in the abyss of despair, sprinkled with light rays here and there: In all, a hard year. Let me explain. This is the year the Buhari government said it will summon the boldness to completely remove subsidy on fuel. As most economists know, it is not whether the subsidy should be removed, but when. No government in the last thirty years has had the courage to do it. Not even a President Olusegun Obasanjo with all his caustic bravado. The Nigerian Labour Congress and opposition politicians ensured that the policy never came to fruition. Yet this is a cancer that needs urgent surgery. Add this to the fact that the government has also indicated a programmed increase in the cost of power or electricity, if you like, sometime this year.
Would the Buhari government, short of goodwill on many fronts, be able to carry out these increases in a year preceding the general election; at a time Nigerians are facing monumental hardship, hunger, insecurity and the effects of bad governance? As all know, a tinkering with the price of fuel automatically spirals into uncontrolled increases in the cost of every item of survival: food, transport, accommodation, health, education, employment and so on.
There will of course be disruption to the social milieu. Strikes and protests will be the order of the day and a large chunk of the middle class will kiss the new indices of poverty as they are crunched into it. Some of the few factories still in existence will be forced to offload staff, cut wages and put in various tricks to ensure survival.
With the Naira on a free fall against all the major currencies of the world, life is about to go into the Hobbesian state for the poor.
But there will be attenuating factors. President Buhari will not want to leave office as the most hated President in the nation’s history. Bad enough the myth around him, the halo of a messiah upon which he swept to office, has since been demystified. Having not scored too high in the areas of security, economy, he and his handlers are likely to look for a soft landing. I don’t see him being able to fully deregulate fuel prices. Yes there will be increases. Yes the pressure on the Naira from the humongous debts this government has accumulated will still send the Naira into a tailspin, but there will be conscious efforts to do something to ameliorate some of the identified plights of the poor. But whether the outcome will deliver the intentions is something else.
There will be more efforts to confront the hydra headed terrorists and bandits making life unliveable for the average Nigerian. But whether these efforts will lead to a marked reduction in the killings, kidnappings and general insecurity in the land no one can safely say now.
With political campaigns, Nigerian style, comes a lot of money into the economy. With politicians bringing out money, acquired by whatever means, to fund their campaigns, oil their political machinery and bribe their way into office, crumbs will surely fall on the laps of the poor. Politics will be a booster.
Nevertheless, food will still be scarce and costly but hope of a new dawn will perhaps ameliorate the expected sufferings
Truly this is a momentous year in which Nigeria and Nigerians stand at a crossroad. May our rough road lead to a better place come December, 31st, 2022.