Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The PDP and the North

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is making frantic efforts to reposition itself, rebrand its image and recapture its lost fortunes and supporters, but the party is facing serious power wrangling.

The PDP seems to be focusing its attention to the North- it wants its National Chairman and the 2019 presidential candidate to come from the region. However, the party has been met with some setbacks in its recent attempts to start the process. Certain factors are responsible for that.

After losing the 2015 elections; without proper analysis of the situation, the PDP, in haste, asked its then National Chairman, Ahmed Adamu Mu’azu to resign. The PDP failed to see that its woeful performance in the north during the 2015 elections was strongly due to the unprecedented Buhari ‘Tsunami’, the failure of the then central government to effectively tackle the Boko Haram insurgency and the name Goodluck Jonathan.

It is commendable of the PDP to have realized early that its resurrection, re-imaging and a ‘restart’ must begin from the north. It was not a coincidence that Ali Modu Sheriff’s three months in office brought the PDP back to life in the north. Though, hate him or love him- Sheriff is one of those adventurous politicians in the north who have grabbed the nitty-gritty of the politics in the north and have connections in the south. So, for the PDP to really begin a new start, it must take advantage of some of its bigwigs in the north who have adept understanding of the nexus of Hausa-Fulani and the minority politics in the north. Late MKO Abiola’s inroad in the north was ‘motorized’ on the basis of utilization of the experience of individuals who understand that nexus.

The PDP must bring on board people from the north to help the party to ‘come to life’ in the north. Most of the party’s fortunes in the north are lost. Thus, the party needs someone who understands how politics play out in the north. Apart from having a chairman who has such capacity, the PDP also needs its founding members who understand the fundamentals of northern politics. People like Sule Lamido, who is a product of the Aminu Kano radical politics of the north. Lamido is from the core Hausa-Fulani states and has large followers. When Sherrif visited Dutse, the capital of Jigawa State on Monday, April 25, 2016, the mammoth crowd Sule Lamido attracted was a strong political statement. Furthermore, his ‘cousins’ in the northeast will have nothing against him. The middle-belt and many northern minorities share his politics of radicalism. Lamido greatest shortcoming is the corruption case hanging on his neck. But with his excellent performance as governor of Jigawa State and his name is known throughout the country, just some ‘little packaging’ is what he needs.

The PDP’s resurgence depends on whether it recaptures its fortunes in the north and how well it takes advantage of its bigwigs from the region. However, for the PDP to make a full come back, some external factors has to play to its advantage; Buhari’s cult-like popularity and supporters in the north fades out; the APC grossly mismanages its political fortunes. Some members of the New PDP from the north pulls out of the APC – the outcome of the case against Senate President Bukola Saraki in the Code of Conduct Tribunal will determine that; the APC fails to ‘settle’ the disgruntled members of the New-PDP in the north - many members of the New PDP in the APC from the north feel that the Buhari government has not offered them something tangible, claiming that most of Buhari’s appointments have gone to people he personally knows and those connected to his friends, confidants or relatives. These new-PDP members are also of the belief that, their members from some states in the south who got appointments from Buhari are simply fortunate because Buhari have no option- he does not have longtime confidants from those states.

Nevertheless, PDP’s future depends on whether it recaptures its lost fortunes in the north and how well it takes advantage of its experienced members who have gone through mills of the politics of the north.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Aisha Buhari and the North East Development Commission

Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, the Wife of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has shown passionate support for the bill for creation of the North East Development Commission (NEDC).

Aisha’s unique interest in the NEDC Bill has aroused few questions: is Aisha’s exceptional interest in the creation of the commission because she is from the region? Is it politics or mere show off that she cares? Is it because she is the wife of a President who is very loved and cherished in the North East; thus, she has to show commitment to the cause of the people having been ravaged by the Boko Haram War?

People who know Aisha can certainly attest to her passion for the welfare of women and children- especially those that have been ravaged by the Boko Haram crisis. So, she will fully support the creation of a commission that will provide comprehensive and feasible post-war programmes and projects to restore communities to their pre-war peaceful and productive status. Most people believe that, the Wife of the President support the creation of the commission because peace is gradually returning to most of these areas and the government of Nigeria is planning on how to smoothly return internally displace persons (IDPs) to liberated areas.

The role of such commission will be critical in sustaining the fragile peace and long-term stability, as well as provide a well-planned guide and procedure in the design of projects and programmes for communities’ protection and avoiding future conflicts in these communities.

Mrs. Buhari, a Master’s Degree holder in International Affairs and Strategic Studies and granddaughter of Alhaji Mohammed Ribadu, Nigeria’s first Minister of Defence, she definitely knows that restoring communities in the North East to their pre-war peaceful and productive status cannot be successful without putting in place a structured commission to coordinate programmes and projects. Furthermore, programmes and projects for the Northeast need to be carefully-designed in such a way that there is a strong synergy between affected states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe including Bauchi, Taraba and the federal government of Nigeria, while also involving donor agencies and NGOs in the areas of funding, monitoring and evaluation.

At the First Public hearing of the bill, Aisha said “I believe that for rapid development to come to the region, a concerted and organized effort must be made”. Most people in the northeast agree with Mrs Buhari, because the military is winning the war, the ideal step to take next is the application of soft approach to winning wars- programmes and projects to tackle the original factors that facilitated the growth of Boko Haram and helped the group in its recruitments and indoctrinations i.e. abject poverty, illiteracy and the absence of employment opportunities in these states.

The North East Development Commission Bill seeks to empower the commission to “receive and manage funds from the allocation from the federation account and international donors for the settlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, houses, and business premises of victims of insurgency; and for other matters connected there with”.

Mothers will definitely support the creation of such commissions, not only for the North East, but anywhere in Nigeria when the need arises. With such unalloyed support shown for the creation of the commission by Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, the people of the northeast will be happy and hopeful, that the bill will sail through and the commission will be made up of not only the right people but people with a passion for the rehabilitation of the war-ravaged northeast. 

Since, the mother of the nation has accorded her 100% support, when the commission is finally created, its management it will for sure strive for a collective and transparent approach, efficiency, and effectively utilize opportunity to easily mobilize substantial amount of funds for the commission. After all, Aisha’s philosophy is: If there is no corruption in governance and public life, there would be enough resources in any nation to meet the important needs of the common people, including women and youths.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Governor Bindow, Babachir and the Opposition Within

The Adamawa state governor, Muhammadu Umaru Jibrilla Bindow is facing a formidable opposition, or better said, a ‘threat’ within his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Bindow’s two adversaries within the APC are the former governor Murtala Nyako and son-led group and the ‘Abuja Group’- aggrieved members of the legacy parties, led by Secretary to the Federal government (SGF) Babachir David Lawal. The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) still remains an outside threat which cannot be written-off, though it seems to have no clear leader and is a ‘sleeping giant’.

Each of the groups is mainly composed of elites. Political fight among Adamawa elites is not new; but it takes different dimensions depending on the political leanings of the sitting governor. Elitism is so much rooted in the politics of Adamawa to the extent that most political fights are centered on ‘government patronage.’

The Nyako and the Babachir groups share almost same interests apart from belonging to the APC. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s alleged over-bearing influence on Bindow’s government and the obvious sidelining of Nyako and Babachir political associates is one of the main reasons for the current political hostility between them and Bindow. The Nyako and Babachir groups will definitely work together to accomplish their common goals.

Before becoming the SGF, Babachir was said to have called Bindow on phone many times, but the governor ignored the phone calls. Thanks to providence- few days after the incident, Babachir was appointed SGF-. The political hostility between Babachir and Bindow became very obvious during Babachir’s daughter wedding. There was a visible absence of Bindow and his entire government- some political observers said that it was even a command from the Governor that no government appointee should attend the wedding. It was so bad that Bola Tinubu, APC national leader had to use the vehicle of one of his friends when he came to Yola to attend the wedding.

For the Nyako group, they definitely have to be aggrieved. In the build-up to the 2015 elections; a very small committee was setup to shop for a saleable governorship candidate- three names emerged- Dahiru Bobbo former Director General of National Boundary Commission, Boss Mustapha, APC chieftain and Tahir Mamman former DG, Law School, Yola campus. Bindow’s name was not even in the list. The Nyako group had to field Bindow during the primaries because they did not have an option, because among all the contenders, it was only Bindow who openly opposed Nyako’s impeachment and the group felt they could be at home with him. Atiku in his political reasoning opted for Ibrahim Yayaji Mijinyawa, probably because of loyalty. In fact, the APC governorship primary election was a contest between Atiku and Nyako. Governor Bindow won ‪APC governorship primaries solely by relying on former governor Nyako’s political structures. And twice, Bindow beat Atiku Abubakar’s preferred candidate Yayaji Ibrahim Mijinyawa in the primaries. 

Though, the Nyako/Atiku rivalry dates back to 2003, Governor Bindow could have taken ‘advantage’ of both sides and simply used the presidency’s influence to reconcile Atiku and Nyako and remain the ‘son’ of both camps. After all, when the chips are down; everyone answers his father’s name. Well, Bindow is not to be blamed entirely, because no right-thinking politician can ignore Atiku’s well-established vast political structure, immense war chest and history of successes in political legal battles that easily scares off his opponents. Some political observers are of the view that Governor Bindow appears ‘self-assured’ in the murky waters of Adamawa politics, because he thinks, once one has Atiku’s group by his side- most political opponents can easily be dealt with. There is even insinuation that Bindow has started reaching some of his governor-colleagues to support Atiku’s quest for presidency come 2019. Well, it is politics.

There is need for Bindow to look inwards and start re-engaging all APC stakeholders, instead of just local government party chairmen once in a while. Looking at the current atmosphere of Adamawa political settings, the Babachir and Nyako group may have an edge over Bindow if they play their cards together and smartly, they will sway aggrieved members of the APC; they may also have ‘Abuja’ as all three senators from Adamawa are not Bindow’s men- Abdul-Aziz Nyako is Nyako’s blood son, Ahmed Abubakar Mu Allahyidi is Nyako’s relative, while Binta Massi Garba was very close to Nyako.

Both supporters and antagonists of Governor Bindow share a common view- they agree that Governor Bindow has performed and is doing excellently well in terms of critical infrastructure development, but he has a shortcoming in payment of salaries for primary school teachers, health & LGA workers and the failure to manage the widening division within his own party. There is ample time for all the groups to consider reconciliation, realignment and the spirit of give and take, most especially with the forthcoming June 2016 local government elections.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980.

Monday, May 2, 2016

As Buhari Welcomes China, Lets Beware of the Chinese

China has knocked on the doors of many African countries, Nigeria inclusive. Gladly African leaders have opened all the doors for them. Africa has opened its doors to the Chinese in a quest to tap from the mouth-watering offers from them. Most development enthusiasts admire the growing Afro-Sino relationship and the way China is ‘helping’ many African countries in the development of their economies and infrastructure. However, keen watchers of the Chinese’s explore of Africa have an aversion to the way the Chinese approach Africa. They come with everything- The Yuan, labour force, machinery and even their language- the Mandarin. I admire mandarin- sweet language.

Nigeria occupies a special place in China’s relationship with Africa, because of the country’s potentials and market size. Nigeria can thus take advantage of its special position in China’s relationship with Africa. When dealing with the Chinese, the Nigerian government and private entrepreneurs should specifically not forget the need for local content development. And, we should be aware that the Chinese are not coming for nothing, mutual benefits and sharing of responsibilities should be key.

For example, instead of flooding the Nigerian markets with cheap Chinese textile, the Nigerian government should implore Chinese investors to build textile factories in Nigeria or help to revive the moribund ones. We have many cotton farmers, fertile land, thousand of skilled textile workers and a very large market. President Buhari was very right when he said to the Chinese investors: “Do not see Nigeria as a consumer market alone, but as an investment destination where goods can be manufactured and consumed locally”

The currency (Yuan) deal between Nigeria and China will surely boost Nigeria’s economy- Nigerian businesses that import from China will have access to the Yuan easily. However, we should look at other ways to use the Chinese to make Nigeria a manufacturing nation. For instance, Nigerian can push for major Chinese investment in agro-allied industrialization being that based on the prevailing economic reality; agricultural development should be our main target now. Nigeria should use the relationship with the Chinese to advance building prototype agricultural equipments and machinery. Plants and factories for the manufacturing of these can be established in Nigeria. It pains to see that millions of tonnes of tomatoes and other perishable crops get wasted in northern Nigeria due to the absence of simple preservation and packaging equipment.

Another area that Nigeria can utilize its relationship with the Chinese for mutual benefits is in building modular petroleum refineries – the recent call by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for investors to invest in the oil and gas sector by co-locating refineries within premises of any of the four existing for state owned refineries – with mouth watering incentives is a major boost in this regard. The Chinese investors can within short period come-up with modular refineries. The NNPC can encourage investors to site more than one refinery per refinery premises. This will make investors feel more welcome and boost investment, competition and improve refined products supply for national consumption.

There are already good reports that the Yuan deal is yielding positive results- as pressure on dollar is easing. Thus, we should look to explore other aspects of currency agreement to help leapfrog the economy of Nigeria. Nigeria can also use the Chinese to harness the country solar and wind energy. Nigeria can negotiate with the Chinese investors to site critical manufacturing industries that will free large chunk of foreign exchange. For instance, the Chinese can collaborate with Nigeria investors to build solar panel and wind vends producing factories accompanied with tax waivers for some years. Thus, the solar panels and wind vends can be used for electricity generation in many states of Nigeria, especially rural areas.

There have been concerns about the Chinese exploring all beneficial avenues of agreements they sign with African countries, while most Africa countries do not. We cannot blame the Chinese; they negotiate their way to get what they want, while African political leaders negotiate while keeping our minds on one or two things. For example, on the currency deal between Nigeria and China, we keep on emphasizing on the benefit of easing pressure of foreign exchange for import purposes; while there are hundreds of other benefits of currency agreements which we can gain from on the long term.

The budding Afro-Sino rapport is a gold mine for Nigeria because of our potentials and strategic position in Africa, however we might find ourselves shortchanged if we do not, in our local parlance; ‘wise up’ and beware of the Chinese.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980