Security is not the only issue that will shape the year 2019. There are a number of other issues. There are also prominent Nigerians who will shape the year
Monday night extraordinary meeting summoned by Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, which saw stakeholders from the military, government, traditional institutions and other security agencies converge on Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, to take a look at the fight against Boko Haram insurgency is a clear indication that, as the country prepares for another round of elections, the issue is again dominating the political space, same way it did in the build up to the 2015 elections, four years ago.
But security is not the only issue that will shape the year 2019. There are a number of other issues. There are also prominent Nigerians who will shape the year 2019, which, incidentally, will see Nigerians either ushering in a new president for the country or retaining the current occupant, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is seeking a re-election.
This is one issue that will shape the year 2019, beginning from next month when the first set of elections is expected to take place. Barring any last change of date, the presidential and National Assembly elections are just 44 days away. They will be followed, in March, by the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections. But if for whatever reason the presidential election is shifted, a thing that is most likely to happen, considering the renewed insurgency in Borno and Yobe states, the two sets of elections would now likely hold in March and April respectively.
Regardless, in most states, with the exception of one or two, the contest for the governorship will be a straight fight between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the leading opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Although, there are several presidential candidates, investigations suggest that the contest will largely be between the incumbent, Buhari of the APC and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, who is the candidate of the PDP. Since the presidential election is going to come first, whatever happens in that election will have a ripple effect on the other elections.
Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have been on strike for about 56 days now. There are no signs to indicate early suspension of the strike. But their action may be fatal to the conduct of a credible election next month, because the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) draws its presiding and returning officers from among the academic community.
To underscore the importance of members of the union to the country’s electoral process, a meeting has been scheduled for this Friday, between INEC and the union, for the purpose of devising means by the union to assist the electoral body in the forthcoming elections.
INEC had raised the alarm that the lingering ASUU strike would have a serious impact on the preparations for the conduct of the 2019 elections, saying: “They are one critical resource and their absence will have adverse effects on the ad hoc staff requirement of INEC.”
After the strike by the organised labour in October last year, many Nigerians had thought that the dust over the national minimum wage controversy had settled, until last December when President Buhari’s 2019 budget speech triggered another round of controversy.
While submitting the report of the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee report in October, a draft bill, accompanied it. But rather than send same to the National Assembly, the president, in his budget speech, disclosed that he would be setting up a “high-powered Technical Committee,” to take another look at the issue. This is coming at a time many thought the minimum wage issue had been settled. This has been compounded by the declaration by governor that they would not pay N30, 000 earlier recommended. The governors reiterated their position on December 31, 2018 through the Governors Forum.
Organised Labour is, however, not taking it lightly. The notice it gave to the Federal Government to do the needful expired on Monday, December 31. With the expiration, Labour had declared that it would shutdown the economy. Workers are, therefore, expected to begin another round of strike today, January 2.
This is one issue that will dominate the political space throughout the year. Before 2015, the fight against Boko Haram insurgency was a major political issue. The group’s activities were so intense that its negative impacts were felt in states outside the North-East, including the nation’s capital, Abuja, thereby heightening tension and apprehension ahead of the polls at the time. In fact, it necessitated the shift in dates of the 2015 elections by six weeks.
But once the election was won and lost, the onus fell on President Buhari, to match words with action in his resolve to rout the insurgents.
Under former President, Goodluck Jonathan, the Special Military Force, fighting insurgency in the North-East was codenamed “Operation Zaman Lafiya, meaning, Let Peace Reign.” However, Nigerians knew little peace at the time as the Boko Haram insurgents were on rampage, claiming territories, sacking military formations, carting away military hard wares, and, in fact, having more like a field day.
With the appointment of Lt. General Tukur Buratai as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), by President Buhari, he renamed it, “Operation Lafiya Dole, meaning, Peace at all Cost.” That was in July 2015. And in a matter of months, Nigerians, especially those in the North-East and in Borno in particular, began feeling the impact of the reinvigorated Nigerian Army in its fight against Boko Haram insurgents, to the extent that all the councils hitherto under the control of the insurgents were liberated by the army.
Unfortunately, however, in the last couple of months, Boko Haram appears to have regained its fighting spirit, killing soldiers and sacking military formations again. As at the last count, Baga and six other surrounding towns appear to have been seized by the insurgents.
Speaking on the renewed threat at the Monday’s night extraordinary meeting, the Borno State governor said: “I will like to start by saying that the aim of convening this important meeting is not to pass blames or to pass any kind of verdict on our security agencies. I think the most inhuman way to go is to gather and condemn those who are putting their lives on the line and giving their lives in efforts to find peace. We are principally here as a family, as a people all affected by the situation in Borno State, to discuss suggestions that will hopefully contribute to combined ongoing efforts towards addressing the problem.
“For seven years, we held our regular security council meetings. I from to time consult with some of the participants here. However, I never for once convened an extraordinary meeting of this nature because, frankly speaking, I was avoiding a sort of dramatisation or being sensational about our challenges in Borno State.
“Without being insensitive to the realities of our situation, I feel deeply pained whenever Borno is being discussed on the basis of helpless weakness. I prefer to assume a position of strength, a position of normalcy and a character of being incurably optimistic. It was in these regards that we created a full-fledged Ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement and deployed enormous public resources to rebuild more than 30,000 homes of citizens, hospitals, water installations, local government secretariats, schools and palaces of traditional rulers. It was with the same mind that we kept on pushing for voluntary and dignified return of displaced citizens to safe and rebuilt communities.
“My greatest wish was and still is, not to bequeath Boko Haram challenges and IDP camps to my successor. We wanted to, and still want to get Borno fully back to normal days. Sometimes, I unconsciously find myself boasting that Borno is safer than Lagos. I simply feel very bad to sound pessimistic about Borno. I so much believe in optimism. Of course, I know that in governance, responding to some situations demand a combination of being both optimistic and realistic.”
Interestingly, apart from the Boko Haram challenge, there are also herdsmen challenge in the North-Central and part of North-East, and armed banditry challenge in the North-West, with Zamfara State being the worse hit.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki has dismissed the budget as one that is “hopeless.” The budget details would no doubt elicit discussions among Nigerians, especially that it is an election year. For instance, in the budget, N1, 001,318,171 was budgeted for Buhari’s local and international travels, while N83, 974,710 was budgeted for the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo’s local travels, with N217, 060,883 set aside for international travels.
For foodstuff/catering materials supplies, N98, 306,492 was budgeted for Buhari and N50, 888,218 for Osinbajo. All these and other details in the budget would no doubt help to shape 2019.
Although the year 2023 is still four and half year away, the issue of who would be president then will be an issue this year, especially on the heels of this year’s elections. There appears to be a fight between the South East and South West over which zone would produce the president in 2023.
The South East leaders in APC have been telling their people that a support for Buhari would ensure they get a shot at the presidency in 2023. This is the reason such Igbo leaders have been doing everything possible to make APC get a strong root in the South East. And they appear to be getting many converts until the twist about who would actually take the presidential slot in 2023. Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had told his people, in the South West, that they would produce the next president in 2023 if they support Buhari in this year’s election. Vice President Osinbajo had also lent his voice to this when he also declare that the South West would produce the president in 2023 if the zones ensures Buhari wins.
The Fashola and Osinbajo declarations that the South West will produce the president in 2023 is at variance with what Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, told the South East. The SGF was unequivocal when he declared that the South East would produce the president in 2023 if voters in the zone support Buhari. Now, the question is: Which zone will APC zone the presidency to in 2023? This will be an issue this year ahead of the election.
South East leaders had declared, after a meeting last month, that the Igbo presidency 2023 project was under threat and they proposed to meet with President Buhari this month to know the real position. The outcome of that meeting will determine whether the South-East will support APC or not.