Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Atiku at 70 and the Long Walk to 2019

On Friday November 25, 2016, former vice president Atiku Abubakar turns 70 years old. Atiku means different things to his critics and supporters.

As expected, Atiku Abubakar has started a very difficult and long ‘journey’ to 2019- he has commenced under-ground campaign for his quest to be president come 2019. Atiku’s opponents are always quick to describe him as opportunistic and a desperate serial presidential contestant.

They often argue that his core reason for venturing into politics is like that of a typical Nigerian politician- the quest for power and self enrichment. His supporters however believe Atiku is not defined by mere politics, rather his style of doing it. Atiku is politically adventurous and his strategies in politics are always audacious- they surpass those often employed by ordinary Nigerian politicians.

Atiku has always been accused of being corrupt, but no one has ever proven or provided evidence to support the accusation. One may say; Atiku is simply a victim of his love for philanthropy and he has also been fortunate in investments he ventured in.

Students of politics admire Atiku’s style of politics- the man loves political adventures, often not well-thought ones, especially when it comes to the politics of the contest for the presidency of Nigeria. Atiku so far has spent nearly half of his age doing politics. Atiku has fought many tough political battles; the most daring being the one against his former boss- Obasanjo. Atiku was labeled a disloyal vice president.

Over the years, Atiku has been the most visible politician, especially in the politics of Nigeria’s presidency. His opponents are always quick to describe him as a desperate serial presidential contestant. His supporters see his unrelenting participation in party politics as a clear sign of Atiku’s passion to serve his fatherland.

Many observers are of the opinion that Atiku has shown his desperation by commencing campaign for the presidency at this time and also being a member of the ruling APC which has the sitting president.

Atiku’s numerous political decisions were excellent and sound, but not without flaws, especially regarding his presidential ambition. Of recent, Atiku appears to be in rush and reads his 'political map' up-side-down.
With the current scenario, age will not be against Atiku, but party platform to contest on and the directions of President Muhammadu Buhari, Ahmed Bola Tinubu and the opposition PDP. Whether Buhari will go for second or not nobody knows, but whatever happens, Buhari and Tinubu will decide who gets APC presidential ticket. Apart from President Buhari, Tinubu is the only individual now in Nigeria that has some governors with solid control of the southwest. President Muhammdu Buhari has ‘everything’ in the APC. The Northwest and Northeast will definite not be an easy spot for Atiku- Northwest will definitely go for what Buhari goes for while the northeast, Atiku’s constituency does have a common course.
Atiku’s biggest political error is, instead of him to quietly reintegration himself firmly in the APC, he is busy over- blowing his trumpet. The likes of vice president Yemi Osinbajo, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Governor Nasir El-rufa’i, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, are some strong presidential materials in the APC that will give Atiku nightmare, and If Buhari decides to contest, the game is over for Atiku.

Atiku’s unique style of politics may have favoured him; but he is gradually losing his rightful place in the political arena. Atiku is not well-grounded in APC; he may not make strong impact in the North-East. In fact, for now, Atiku does not have the capacity and confidence to announce the party platform he intends to contest on. Therefore, Atiku’s greatest obstacle to his presidential ambition will still be on how to get a strong party platform to contest on.

Love him or hate him, Atiku has immense war chest that easily scares off his opponents- vast political network and connections, but he has started a very difficult and long ‘journey’ to 2019. There are many odds against him, compared to those in his favour, taking into consideration the present realities in the polity. As Atiku clocks 70, it appears that he would surely put in a strong fight for presidency. After all, politics has become Atiku’s number one hobby. Happy birthday Turaki Adamawa.

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Buhari, $29.96 billion Loan and the Masses

Whenever the word ‘foreign loan’ is mentioned, many Nigerians become troubled- the debt traps of the past still haunt us.

Some Nigerians are now asking quite a few questions on the Federal Government of Nigeria proposed 29.96 billion dollar loan. The Government of President Muhammadu Buhari says that within the next three years, it plans to borrow $29.96 billion from the World Bank, African Development Bank, and Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) to execute key infrastructure projects across the country between 2016 and 2018.

Some people are asking: Will the masses enjoy any benefit from the proposed $29.9 billion loan? Will the Muhammadu Buhari government judicially utilize the monies? Is it the right time for the loan? Will the whopping 29 billion dollar loan not take Nigeria back to the league of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC)?

Nigeria is in a recession mainly due to the reckless mismanagement of the country’s abundant resources by previous regimes and the failure of the political class to save for the rainy days. Experts and public commentators alike believe that these loans are one of the fastest ways to get out of the recession.

A former senior colleague of mine at African Petroleum Plc (now Forte Oil), Aliyu Nuhu said: “There is hardly any economic reason to fear long term loan at low interest rate. In relation to GDP, Nigeria is not even a debtor nation. A loan with tenure of 20 years at 5-10% interest handled by a financially prudent and responsible government is a welcome idea anytime”. President Muhammadu Buhari’s global image as a no nonsense fighter of corruption and international approval of Nigeria’s capacity to handle such a huge loan at this critical time, is something that all Nigerians must flaunt.

Most experts who understand where Nigeria is coming from and the challenges and expectations ahead, must also share Nuhu’s thoughts that; “Of‎ course there are economic issues like inflation, high interest rate, high taxes, crowing out and interest repayment to worry about, but the loan Nigeria is seeking is not the type to lead to such problems. The truth is, every nation needs a leverage of loan to fast track its development. There is no developed nation without a debt on its head.

The biggest and richest countries are the most heavily indebted. The UK for instance is in debt deficit of 11% of its GDP and has 43bn pounds of interest to pay. In United States, if you share national debt among its citizens, each man, woman and child will owe about $42,998 according to Money and Time survey by Time magazine. But there is huge difference between national debt and family debt. What most people do not understand is that national debt is not family finances. The difference is that government has the central bank to control the economy. It has more financial and monetary flexibility to get out of trouble. Also government lives a long infinite life unlike a family with average life span of 75 years. Today US National debt is $19trillion, more than quarter of its nominal GDP, yet it paradoxically has the largest economy in the world and remains the richest nation on earth. The fact that institutions are willing to lend Nigeria $30bn tells much about its economic viability and credit rating. Kenya had sought and failed to secure $200m loan”

President Buhari’s plan to borrow will definitely stimulate the economy; quickly take the country out of recession and fast-track the much needed infrastructure development.

Buhari’s government has in place good policies and framework for fiscal and public debt sustainability. So, those people worrying unnecessarily about the $29.9 billion dollar loan should put their minds at rest. President cannot be a party to the type of reckless and ineffective external borrowings of the past which resulted in a debt burden that Nigeria could not manage.

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