Column Opinion

How Buhari’s Second Term Is Evaporating In the 2023 Discourse, By Zainab Suleiman Okino

Barely one year after President Buhari was sworn in for his second term, unfolding events have tended to tilt in only one direction — where the pendulum would swing in 2023.

We should recall that former President Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) killed their own established rule of engagement, in the form of rotating the presidency between the North and South in 2011, when he insisted on running (a mistake which eventually cost him the presidency in 2015). Since there is no certainty about the zone or region to produce the president, it is open to all, or so it seems.

So, the question of where the president will come from in 2023 is varied. Which zone among the six geo-political zones will take the highest office in the land? Is the presidency going to be in the North or in the South? If it is the turn of the South, is it going to be South-West or South-East? Assuming power is retained in the North, will the North-East grab it or the North-Central, bearing in mind that Buhari is from the North-West? Okay, if astute politicians of the North-Central are clear-headed enough to fight for their zone, the lack of coordination and cooperation among them will even make it impossible to present a consensus candidate.

I dare not say a minority from the North-Central can be the president of Nigeria; wishful thinking that is? Who cares about minorities in the Nigeria of today? When we talk of the South, it is either Yoruba or Igbo, and when we look up North, we only think of the Hausa Fulani of the North-West. Part of the bane of Nigeria’s politics is the skewed configuration of the federation, such that we are now wired to think that minorities are not good enough to take a shot at the helms of government.

If you are in doubt, ask ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. With the benefit of hindsight, one of the reasons why he failed, besides his famed lack of capacity, was because of his minority baggage. Take it or leave it, a minority is a political orphan in Nigeria.

When you are being lampooned from left, right and centre and you look back and see no pillars of support, you will crash. If incompetence alone is the determinant for electoral failure, perhaps the present government should not have been voted back to power. Anyway, there will be more questions than answers in the days ahead.

Why is 2023 manifesting in 2020? It was an American clergyman, James Freeman Clerke, who coined the famous quote: “A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman, of the next generation.” The Nigeria of today fits perfectly with this thought-provoking maxim. Make no mistake about it, we do not have statesmen among our present crop of politicians; hence our focus is clear from the beginning.

For the president, the loss of focus now can affect the chances of his party in the coming election, thus he prefers to work with people he knows so that the boat will not be rocked; the same reason why he stuck with the same cabinet before the last election. Even before his (Buhari’s) election, political gladiators started permutations about 2023 and the whole North-South debate, in line with Nigeria’s “turn by turn” presidential system of government.

Upon Buhari’s victory in the 2019 general election, the campaign for 2023 started almost immediately with names such as Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the APC national leader; and Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State and others, dominating discourses.

Till this moment, every step taken by the Buhari government, from the retention of service chiefs to the opposition to Amotekun among others, as well as the inter- and intra-party realignments, have all pointed to the 2023 calculations.

Tinubu’s double-speak about Amotekun has a 2023 imprimatur. Here is a man who had talked about restructuring, including state and community policing, all his political life, until his party captured power at the centre. He is now cleverly refusing to align with his South-West governor-kits-and-kins to pursue the first concrete effort at tackling insecurity locally. It is even more instructive that his lackey-government in Lagos stopped the pro-Amotekun demonstration, while it held in the five other states. After his visit to the Villa penultimate week, Tinubu said there was no threat to the corporate existence of Nigeria, which implied there was no reason to launch Amotekun. Did I hear you say Amotekun is dead on arrival? Tinubu had to be smart about it, so that the powers that be would support his candidature in 2023.

Owing to its current internal crisis, the All Progressives Congress (APC) could face imminent disintegration; therefore it is just as well that the government is strategising ahead with the ongoing amendment of the Constitution to accommodate local government autonomy, of which the establishment of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) served as precursor, in order to reposition the party for 2023.

The NFIU guidelines, effective from June 1, 2019, gives financial independence to local governments to avoid the bottleneck of the past between governors and local government administrators and guarantee accountability and transparency.

In the face of the waning popularity of the party towards 2023, the NFIU and its concomitant financial autonomy for local governments could ensure grassroots support for the party and bounce it back to reckoning. There is no doubt that this is a welcome development, besides the fact that it will once again engender massive support for the party at the local government level, as it was in the days before the 2015 elections that saw to the defeat of the ruling PDP.

It thus appear that everything that the Buhari government will do in its second term is about taking a position ahead of 2023 politics and unsurprisingly, appointments have remained lopsided and good governance has since assumed the back seat.

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