A deeply gloomy image is ingrained in the minds of most Nigerians as the biting recession kills flame of hope.This elicits equally terrible predictions for the New Year. Will President Muhammadu Buhari turns the corner in 2017?
Many analysts and opinion leaders will immediately answer in the negative. Already some leaders are issuing near death wishes for the nation, concluding that 2017 is going to be another year of economic pains and political turmoil. That negativity has elements of reality in the life of the nation.
The economic crisis is deepening even as questions are been raised about policy choices and actions in the electoral process, human rights, public governance, anti-corruption war and national equity and justice. Multiple errors are committed and reluctance to effect corrections compounds and worsens governance shortcomings. Even the best of allies of the administration agree that the state of the nation is unhealthy.
Unhealthy rivalry within the ruling party deepens the complications as chieftains of the ruling party are engaged in fierce, cut throat battle threatening governance and even the polity. Enemies within the house weaken and poison the ruling caucus just as a pattern of collaboration between antagonists within and outside are emerging with deadly consequences for the ruling mega party. The All Progressive Congress is almost in opposition to itself in power while the opposition is engaged in its own self destructive war.
The apparent weakness to fire and hire is becoming almost a repeat of Jonathan era. The inefficiency of many public officials ,the apparent lack of synergy in many sectors, the excessive deployment of propaganda even when ineffective and the reprehensible insensitivity of some officials to public pain, all taint and dent the image of the administration. Many allies in the north are now critics. Many unthinkable figures are joining the family of wailers to the consternation of many original, traditional opposition elements. The sound and images of 2016 cannot be worst.
But what is likely to be the outlook for 2017? In an era of national crisis, only optimists provide light out of the darkness. When darkness envelopes the land and all succumb to it, collective disaster awaits. Checking across the sectors, can there be any light that can brighten the gloomy landscape?
Yes, there should be cheering news like the Lake rice in Lagos, exposure of corruption cases even now, the new very enticing whistleblower policy, the progress in some sectors like water, agriculture, roads, among others. It appears the darkness is too thick to allow any flicker of hope.
Why is the national climate so dark-clouded?
My impression is that four key areas account for the mounting pressure on the administration. At times, I am tempted to think that if those factors are treated, Nigerians are likely to be more receptive to the administration’s efforts in tackling the recession.
First of the factors is the handling of the anti-corruption war. A pervasive sense of witch-hunt against the opposition has developed and is getting validated on daily basis. There is the perception of mismanagement of the anti-graft war in term of approach, procedures and dimensions. This point accounts for more than 65 percent of negativity perception of the administration.
On the second level, the issue of human rights and rule of law is an albatross hanging on the administration. While many accepted that anti-graft war is hampered by judicial rigmarole and even as national security often clashed with rule of law, Nigeria is still a democracy. The multiple errors in handling suspects and responding to court orders set disconcerting and discomforting precedents. Those perceived infractions provide very potent blackmailing tools for enemies of the administration within and without.
More importantly is the treatment of religious minorities. Here a costly mistake has been wittingly or unwittingly committed. Playing into the sectarian divide in the Islamic world as evidenced in the treatment of the Shiites is a time bomb. The unresolved farmers- herders’ war and the symbolism of southern Kaduna Killings both portrayed the administration in negative light and empowered waiting opponents and critics.
The last one has to do with the treatment of the old Eastern region. Self-determination movements and the approach to Niger Delta conflict create a strong regional base for opposition against the administration. It was abnitio an error not to have fashioned a coping mechanism for the Igbos and Niger Delta minorities.
These four factors-skewed anti-graft war, rule of law for human rights, mismanagement of old Eastern region agitation and religious sectarianism-constitute major sources of the increasing unpopularity of the Buhari Presidency. The economic pain then provides cover to vent deep seated anger.
If the above are tackled, there is tendency for economic issues to be treated more on merit. Policy choices presently seen as error filled can be taken care of . Incompetent ministers and corrupt sit tight Directors-Generals can be weeded out. A national sense of justice and inclusiveness can be attained and a collective mobilisation to resolve the recession can be attained.
Still on 2017,I refuse to be a pessimist. I still think miracle is a possibility. Oil price can suddenly go up. Belt tightening can yield fund for infrastructure. The President’s inner caucus can wake up to addressing identified lapses. Judges can curtail delay in corruption trials even as we await special anti-corruption courts.
The nation can step back from world sectarian conflict which is alienating Sufis, Shiites and moderates Sunnis. An inclusive rapprochement with old eastern region can be implemented. The President can finally crack down on corrupt allies within the house and issue of rule of law can be tackled more positively.
On the economic level, help can come from great hands presently out of the system. Better coordination can be effected between budget and finance ministries. More collaboration like the Lake rice between Kebbi and Lagos states can come on stream. Ambitious social palliatives programme rather than existing tokenism is a must. Meritocracy can be elevated as governance philosophy allowing the best minds to contribute to national recovery.
I don’t accept that 2017 will be a year of further hardship. We can get it right provided we can see clearly the dangerous turn of event within the polity.
*Olawale Rasheed, the CEO of Sahel Media Group, writes from Abuja.