Arduous task ahead for new Nigeria administration


Nigerian President, Bola Tinubu t

from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
Nigeria Bureau
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – CONFLICT and instability are synonymous with post-independence Nigeria politics but not since the advent of democracy 24 years ago has the inauguration of a president left the world’s largest Black nation teetering on the precipice.

The swearing-in of Bola Tinubu (71), scheduled for Monday, is the culmination of a controversial presidential election, subsequent court challenges and general unrest in a country already searing under a troubled economy, ethnic divisions and insecurity.

On Friday, the Supreme Court paved the way for the inauguration after it dismissed a suit lodged against the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

PDP, a ruling party at the advent of democracy in 1999, had filed the legal challenge alleging the double nomination of Kassim Shettima, the Vice President-elect. PDP argued the nomination of Shettima for the Vice President position and Senator for the terror-prone Borno violated the Electoral Act, thus appealed to the court to nullify Tinubu’s and Shettima’s standing.

This is just the latest twist in a series of the troubled February 25 presidential poll, whose outcome PDP and the Labour Party have challenged in court, citing vote rigging.

Tinubu garnering 36,61 percent to the 29,07 percent by his closest rival is the slimmest victory margin in Nigeria’s presidential election history. It is also the lowest percentage a winning candidate has garnered. That 29 percent of the 93,4 million voters participated also does not make for good reading.

Therefore, a Tinubu presidency will resume shrouded in legitimacy issues. This is contrary to the high hopes Nigerians had and the international acclaim that preceded the ascension of his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015.

That time, the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, accepted defeat and assumed the role of statesman.

APC was not gracious in the recent court victory, further inflaming an already volatile atmosphere.

Femi Fani-Kayode, a chieftain of the ruling party, accused the opposition of attempting to scuttle the swearing-in of the president-elect through “foul and any other means.”

“Whether they like it or not, the inauguration and swearing in of the new President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will take place on Monday,” Fani-Kayode said.

PDP candidate, the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, argued the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the PDP’s case was not a setback to his quest for justice.

If his response is anything to go by, the runner-up would not acknowledge Tinubu as president.

“Our legal team are primed to robustly prove that the election of February 25 was fraudulent, did not comply with the constitutional requirements and the electoral guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission and that the announced winner was not even qualified to contest the poll,” Abubakar stated.

A six-time losing contestant, he urged supporters to exercise patience and conduct themselves peacefully as the party’s ongoing litigation at the Presidential Election Tribunal Court.

The Department of State Services (DSS) stated it was aware of plans by “subversive elements” to disrupt inauguration day programmes in parts of the country.
New governors will also be inaugurated in most of the 36 states, where security has been beefed up.

“The aim (of subversive elements) is to undermine security agencies’ efforts at ensuring peaceful ceremonies as well as creating panic and fear among members of the public,” said DSS spokesperson, Peter Afunanya.

He advised citizens, the media and civil society organisations to adhere to security and civil protocols as well as shun fake news that could inflame division, tension and violence prior to and after the exercises.

“This is more so that such undesirable acts will serve no purpose other than destroying national unity and cohesion,” Afunanya added.

The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, also appealed for peace.

“The minister charges Nigerians to shun any form of violence and other untoward acts, assuring them that with all hands on deck, the future is very bright when the nation will attain greatness in all facets of human development,” Permanent Secretary, Shuaib Belgore, said.

Amid legal tussles and constantly rejecting recurrent claims of ill-health around the incoming president, the next administration now faces a more daunting task in ensuring that bright future in Africa’s most populous country (estimated at 220 million) and its largest, albeit struggling, economy.

The West African country has in recent months suffered cash shortages and intermittent fuel problems, despite its being the largest producer of the commodity.

The introduction of the new naira, in the form of the N200 ($0,46), N500 and N1 000 sparked an economic disaster as cash disappeared from the formal economy. There were protests around the country as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) injected fewer naira than it mopped up from circulation.

Some normalcy was retained after courts ordered that the old notes could still be used as legal tender until the end of 2023.

Nigeria has struggled to diversify its economy from an over-reliance on the oil sector.

Latest national accounts released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that while gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2,3 percent year on year, it declined by 15,7 percent in the first quarter of 2023.

The oil sector contracted by 4,2 percent yearly, marking the twelfth consecutive contraction in the sector.

Chinwe Egwim, chief economist at Coronation Merchant Bank, attributed the decline to the impact of the naira scarcity amid elevated production costs.

Egwim noted the incoming administration intends to achieve an average double-digit growth in eight years, with intent to diversify into agriculture, manufacturing, technology, real estate, transportation and power.

The issue of corruption is set to pose a headache for Tinubu’s administration. Some politicians, including those in the ruling party are implicated.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in March revealed its readiness to prosecute, specifically saying arrests would be made immediately after May 29.

Some 18 outgoing governors and their deputies as well as at least two ministers are reportedly under the EFCC radar.

It is believed those under probe are behind a campaign of calumny against EFCC chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, to pressurise Tinubu to sack him.

The Conference of Nigeria Parties and the Coalition of National Civil Society Organisations have dissuaded Tinubu from such.

“Suspending Bawa under any guise will certainly send a wrong signal to Nigerians and the international community that the incoming administration will be corruption-friendly,” the stated.

Another area in need of reform is human rights.

Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted Tinubu is set to take the reins amid deep uncertainty about the nation’s affairs including poverty and inequality, high levels of insecurity, and recurrent violations of civil and political rights.

“Once in office, the president-elect should focus on these critical issues and make efforts to reverse course on significant human rights backsliding,” Ewang said.

In his campaign manifesto, the former mayor of Lagos emphasised “security of life and property” as a top priority for his administration.

While the Islamist armed group, Boko Haram, a nd splinter groups have been an issue since 2009 in the northeast, Nigeria is experiencing a surge of gangs, commonly called bandits, carrying out widespread killings, kidnappings, sexual violence and looting in the northwest.

Buhari came into power on a pledge to eradicate the Boko Haram insurgency, but has met mixed success. He however said the group had been “technically” defeated.

There is also the recurrent issue of clashes between farmers and nomadic livestock herders over land and water resources.

Farmers are mainly Christian, in the South, and the latter are mostly Muslims, in the North.

The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association called on the incoming government to address the clashes.

“Those who hold the agenda of inciting violence must be identified because we believe this ethnic cleansing agenda is not winnable nor sustainable in this time when efforts are being made to revive the nation’s economy,” the organisation’s secretary, Bello Gotomo, said.

At the inauguration lecture on Saturday, Shettima delivered Tinubu’s notes, stating “We stand at the precipice of a new era, where the ideals of democracy will guide our path towards sustainable development.”

Government has declared Monday a work free day. African leaders have confirmed their attendance while the United Kingdom and United States governments confirmed delegations to the swearing-in ceremony.

– CAJ News



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