The most important presidential election in Africa in 2019 is finally about to happen. And as expected, many people are agitated, especially members of the two main political parties in the country who are making last minute efforts to ensure that their flag bearers win.
A winner will, indeed, emerge after Saturday’s election. And whoever that might be, their job is already cut out for them. They will be expected revive and position the economy of Africa’s most populous country which, for the most part, has leap-frogged over the past four years. It is needless to say that the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, has been unable to accomplish this between 2015 and now. Does he need another four years to try again?
A failed promise?
Recall that prior to the 2015 presidential election that defeated People Democratic Party’s Goodluck Jonathan, the then All Progressive Congress’ flag bearer, Muhammadu Buhari, made a lot of promises. One of these promises was about revamping the economy and specifically making sure that it grew at the rate of 10% per annum. This promise was never fulfiled, not even once in the course of four years.
Instead, the country’s Gross Domestic Product contracted for the most part, with rising inflation rates, and the consequent hunger and poverty gripping much of the population. According to recent statistics from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment rate in the country also kept rising; increasing from 18.8% in Q3 2017 to 23.1% in the same period last year.
And as always, the country’s young population was mostly affected by this.
Meanwhile, the Government was ‘fighting corruption’
The Muhammadu Buhari-led administration focused a lot on its fight against extreme corruption in the Nigerian system. And while this is not a bad thing to do (seeing as corruption is basically the bane of the society), some have argued that the Presidency put in a lot of effort into this whilst accomplishing very little result. According to a Professor of Nigerian Politics at the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan, who chose not to be named:
“This Government wasted four whole years deceiving Nigerians in the name of fighting corruption. Tell me one positive outcome of his so called corruption fights. We all know that he wasn’t fighting any corruption. Instead, he used that slogan as a veil for his political vendetta, targeting political opponents while leaving those in his party untouched. Oh yes, he is harbouring some of the most corrupt politicians in his party, yet determined to allow rival politicians like former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, to perish in detention.”
To be fair, the Government initiated favourable economic policies
The Economic Recovery Growth Plan, ERGP, can arguably be said to be President Buhari’s most prominent economic policy. This Federal Government policy was conceived as an all-inclusive development initiative, which was supposed to help restore economic growth in Nigeria by investing in the citizens and also building a globally competitive economy.
Expectedly, this policy had a lot of components which ranged from stabilising the macroeconomic environment, to achieving food security, ensuring sufficiency in electricity supply, driving industrialisation, diversifying the economy, and ensuring overall development.
The introduction of the Voluntary Asset & Income Declaration Scheme, VAIDS, is one component of the ERGP. And the successful implementation of the scheme, to a large extent, helped to revive the effectiveness of the country’s tax collection system. As a matter of fact, the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, said in December last year that it had generated as much as N5.3 trillion from tax collection. This is an all-time-high record, by the way.
The relative success recorded with VAIDS has helped the Government to maintain its public debt level at a relative low of 21% of the GDP. Little wonder the CIA World Factbook classifies the country as having one of the lowest public debt levels in the world.
In the same vein, the Government has tried to shift away from borrowing by issuing billions of dollars’ worth of Eurobonds in the past few years. However, to sustain this trend, the Government will have to actually perform the all-important task of diversifying the economy because this is the only way it can improve corporate performance and unlock private credit, just like the International Monetary Fund, IMF, had advised in the past. However, doing this depends entirely on whether or not Buhari wins this all-important election.
But not everyone is a fan of the ERGP
Still on the Economic Recovery Growth Plan, macroeconomic indicators have fluctuated between Q2 2017 when the initiative was launched, and December 2018. For instance, latest GDP figures published earlier this week by NBS shows that the country’s Gross Domestic Product increased at the rate of 1.93% year on year.
While this is good news for the President Buhari administration, the truth is that it hasn’t always been this nice. In 2017, the GDP rate stood at 0.8%, and in 2016, it was -1.6%. When compared, therefore, with the 2015 figure which stood at 2.7%, it becomes obvious that the latest GDP figure isn’t something to dance about, after all.
Moreover, some Nigerians do not exactly feel the impact of the so called increase in GDP. Take for instance, a small business owner at Computer Village, Lagos, who identified himself as Mr Ebenezer, was asked if he thinks the latest GDP figure is indicative of good things to come. He said no, because he never gets to feel the impact when the economy is supposedly doing well, only when it is not.
“From 2015 till around early 2017, most of us were affected by the worst economic recession this country ever experienced in years. Again, that affected us all, and the CBN did not even help the situation with its controversial FX policies. So, how come after we felt the recession and the inflation, we are not feeling the rise in GDP? I mean, this is common-sensical, right? We see people suffering in abject poverty. We see unemployed graduates and we experience epileptic power supply. And here they are, presenting statistics to show that things are better when they are not. Who are they deceiving?
“We need to vote out this Government by all means and allow someone else the chance to try and restore the economy. Apparently, the APC has tried at this but failed. Now, we need someone who can achieve tangible results instead of dishing out unsubstantiated statistics.”
The main opponent, Atiku Abubakar, who could defeat the incumbent, is no angel
Today, many Nigerians are very critical of Nigeria’s current Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who has basically been the poster child for some of the Government’s economic policies. After all, it has been him who has gone all over the country talking about the millions of jobs the Government supposedly created over the past four years. Moreover, it is the Vice President who has been busy launching the Government’s TraderMoni initiative, which Transparency International recently branded a vote-buying scheme.
But while we criticise Professor Osinbajo, let us not forget so quickly that a former Vice President with a far worse damning political past, is now at the forefront of the race to head the most important position in the country. You guessed that right, we are now talking about Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential flag bearer of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. Many see him as a strong contender, who could potentially defeat the incumbent president. And they are right because, not only does Alhaji Abubakar have the political experience and clout, he is also preaching some economic messages which some voters seem to like. But is he really the man that can lead Nigeria to Eldorado?
Agreed, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar is an astute businessman, whose many business concerns have provided jobs for many Nigerians. But he is also a man with a sketchy past, whose alleged transgressions were supposedly so much to the extent his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, “disowned” him. Ever since 2007 when he left office as Vice President, Mr Abubakar has been trailed by many corruption scandals; none of which he has been convicted of anyway.
Does he plan to continue the job he left uncompleted as VP?
One of Alhaji Abubakar’s most important assignment as Nigeria’s Vice President was to supervise the National Council on Privatisation, which sold off many under-performing and ill-managed state-owned companies. While the privatisation drew widespread criticism back in the early 2000s when it was happening, many praised the process. And now, Alhaji Abubakar has promised that one of his economic policies as Nigeria’s president would be to, among other things, reform public institutions. The man specifically has his eyes set on the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission, NNPC, which he accused of operating as a mafia, at the expense of the Nigerian public.
In the meantime, while Alhaji Atiku’s proposed economic agenda for Nigeria enjoys support from some people, it has also been criticised by some. These proposed policies include monetary and fiscal reforms such as floating the naira, positioning the manufacturing sector, solving the country’s epileptic power problem, actualising public-private partnership for the country’s infrastructure, etc. All these are election promises which may never even get fulfilled if he wins. But then again, can he actually win?
In conclusion, Saturday is Election Day
From all indications, Saturday’s presidential polls is definitely going to be a keenly contested one. And whoever becomes victorious at the would be expected to accomplish quite a lot; doing everything possible to position the Nigerian economy for success. Indeed, the winner will be expected to diversify the country’s economy, drastically reduce the unemployment rate through the creation of actual jobs of various kinds, and also, ensure a reduction of the country’s inflation rate, etc.
The inability to accomplish these and more would amount to failure. And Nigerians do not deserve to experience more of such. Therefore, as the candidates and their political parties ready themselves for Saturday, they should also bear in mind that the task ahead is a serious one. If they are not prepared to deliver, it is never too late to stand down.