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The choice before us

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This Saturday, the 16th of February, Nigerians will march to the polls again to elect a President for the next four years. Just as in the last election, there is a marked difference between the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), and the leading opposition candidate and People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar.

In the last three years on this page, I have consistently made four arguments, and I will now repeat them for the purpose of this forthcoming election.

The first of the arguments is that the President did not read, nor understand the manifesto of his presidency. Consequently, he did not govern in accordance with that manifesto. The genesis of that is that the President was not in control of his campaign in 2015, and I believe the whole details are out now. The manifesto included proposals to amend the constitution with a view to devolving powers to the states, strengthen the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to reduce/eliminate electoral malpractices, consultations towards the amendment of the constitution to enable states employ police, and bring permanent peace and solution to the Niger Delta and other conflict prone areas such as Plateau, Taraba, Bauchi, Borno and Abia. In the last four years, there has been no progress in these directions.

The second argument I have made in the past is in relation to the lethargic response of the President to the herdsmen crisis in the North Central. While clashes between herdsmen and farmers in recent years is simply an escalation, especially following pressures from climate change and population growth, increasing competition for resources in the Sahel region, the prevarication of the President on the matter cannot be explained away. Consequently, according to the data by Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, there were more related deaths in just the first seven months of 2018 than in 2016 and 2017 combined.The insensitivity of the President promoted the infusion of religious and tribal sentiments, further polarizing the nation. Given this background, there are two very ugly potentials. One is that the lethargic response of the President, interpreted by many as complicit indulgence, provides a long-term basis for further injustice and division. The other potential is the risk that the herdsmen crisis will follow the destructive patterns of the Niger Delta militancy and the Boko Haram terrorism. Both of these crises have precipitated the collapse of growth in their respective regions and the potency of the recent herdsmen crisis has the potential to create a similar collapse in the North Central.

My third argument and summary of the last four years is that President Muhammadu Buhari has presided over the increase in poverty. Following the release of a damning report by Brookings in June 2018, the government initially dismissed it as lacking merit because it felt it used old data. But the report actually used April 2018 data and found that Nigeria has overtaken India to become the country with the largest population of people living in extreme poverty. The report claims that Nigeria has 87 million people in extreme poverty category and that this number is increasing by 6 people every minute. The report concluded that the rise in Nigeria’s poverty is driven by three parameters – low economic growth, high inequality, and population growth. Every kindergarten economist knows that poor and weak growth, less than population growth, means poorer and poorer people. Nigerians have become poorer in the last four years, and it is not down to the fake fight against corruption, but bad economic policies of the government.

Not also surprising, the data on unemployment confirmed what the report on poverty said. In November 2018, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released the report that showed that unemployment increased from 18.8% in Q3 2017 to 23.1% in Q3 2018, up by 5 percentage points just in a year. Obviously, rather than create the 3 million jobs they promised Nigerians, the Buhari administration was shedding jobs at an unprecedented rate. Now, the economy requires the creation of 5 million jobs on an annual basis just to maintain the current level of unemployment. That is not going to happen in the absence of economic reforms, foreign direct investment, and a socialist mindset economy.

The final summary and the thin thread that runs through all these developments is the insularity of the President, The President, perhaps deliberately or not, has displayed gross hypocrisy in the matters of corruption and national imbalance. He has fought the corruption of the past with gusto and vigour, but feigned ignorance in the cases of corruption close to him. In the matters of critical appointments, especially in the military, he has demonstrated that only a section of the country is fit to hold such positions. Generally, therefore, more than any previous government, his presidency has further divided us, rather than unite us.

In conclusion, I do not think Nigeria should reinforce failure. That is what another four years of Buhari’s presidency will mean. Every indices of development are currently in reverse gear. Therefore, I do not want to experience, nor imagine what the next level of that will mean. And it is certainly not the road I will like to travel in the next four years, so lets have a better Nigeria and vote Atiku Abubakar.

 

I thank you.

 

Ogho Okiti

 

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