In this piece, OLUSOLA FABIYI writes on social-political issues that will shape 2018
- Fuel pump price
For Nigerians, 2017 was a year of many colours: the good, the bad and the ugly. To cap it all, the unending petrol scarcity that made them think that the country had indeed returned to the Biblical Egypt was a sad commentary on the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. For many months, the ability to end fuel queues at filling stations across the country had been one of the selling points of the present administration.
But suddenly, the monster which Nigerians felt had been defeated reared its ugly head again about a month ago. Since then, there has been nothing to back up the many assurances from both President Buhari and other government officials that the situation would not continue in the New Year.
The President admitted that 2017 was a tough year for Nigeria and by extension, Nigerians. He had expressed the hope that 2018 would be more prosperous for the country. Nigerians however believe that any Friday that would be joyous would be known on the Thursday preceding it. Be that as it may, and going by the feelers from government circles and those managing the economy, the President’s optimism may not be a reality for all. The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had on May 10, 2016, defended the jacking up of the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit, also known as petrol by the Federal Government from N86:50 to N145, saying that it was the only way out of the exorbitant prices of N150 to N250 Nigerians were subjected to at many filling stations across the country. Now, marketers are said to be complaining that the landing cost for the fuel is N171. With this, they said there is no way they will be selling at N145/litre. The opposition is saying that the government has been secretly paying subsidy on the product. Will the President increase the pump price again? If he goes ahead to do it, will Nigerians accept it without a fight, as they did during his first increment? Or, will the President wait till the end of the general elections in 2019, if he wins, before taking a decision on it?
- Buhari’s declaration for second term
He is the first President to be speaking to the electorate through what is now known as body language. He has yet to officially speak about his desire to re-contest for the presidency in 2019, but Nigerians and members of his political party, the All Progressives Congress, are aware that barring any last minute change of mind (which is unlikely), the President will throw his hat in the ring, and plead with Nigerians to allow him ‘finish what he has started.’ Already, his lieutenants have started compiling what they consider to be his achievements in the about three years that he has been in the saddle. Whether those achievements will be enough for majority of Nigerians to trust him again to captain the ship of the nation for the next four years from 2019, remain to be seen. But as the year progresses, Buhari is expected to show his ability to lead the nation through the ballot once again.
- Ekiti and Osun governorship elections
Two governors, Ayodele Fayose and Rauf Aregbesola of Ekiti and Osun states respectively, are expected to leave office this year. Elections into their offices are to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission. Fayose will leave first, Aregbesola will follow later. The conduct of the two elections is expected to signal what to expect from the electoral commission in 2019. The recent conduct of the governorship election in Anambra State by the commission which was adjudged to be be free and fair, is expected to be replicated in the two South-West states. Though no political party complained about the outcome of the Anambra State governorship election, the same may not be said of the elections in Ekiti and Osun states where the two dominant political parties are in charge. While Ekiti State is governed by the Peoples Democratic Party, the APC is in charge of Osun State. Funnily enough, each of these two parties believes it has the capacity to win in both states.
- Cabinet reshuffle
A few months ago, President Buhari gave an indication that he would rejig his cabinet when he told members of the National Executive Committee of his party that he would appoint more people to his cabinet. Nigerians had thought that he would match his words with immediate action. But as the journey towards 2019 becomes shorter, there are indications that the President would make new ministerial appointments and also rejig his cabinet. As that action is being awaited, it is expected that the list would not contain names of dead and buried Nigerians as witnessed on Friday in the board appointments he made two years after the names were submitted to him.
- Political parties’ primary
Nigerians will be eagerly waiting for how political parties will conduct their primaries to select their flag bearers for the 2019 general elections. With Buhari’s body language, it is expected that anyone who tries to compete with him for the APC presidential ticket, is merely doing so without the hope of winning.
Attention will however be on who will fly the presidential ticket of the PDP. Is it going to be a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who had dumped the party on many occasions? Or, will it be the Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Damkwambo; former governors Ibrahim Shekarau, Senator Ahmed Makarfi or those still in APC now but have yet to return to the party, like Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso or some serving governors in the APC who are being rumoured to be interested in returning to the PDP? Apart from this, the nation may also be curious to know how the two parties will pick their governorship candidates in states where they are not ruling. It is expected that first term governors will be giving automatic tickets to return.
- High-profile defections coming
For those who want to change political parties like Atiku Abubakar, this year is their year. Many politicians will be expected to either join the APC or leave the ruling party while others will also find solace under the PDP umbrella or prefer to hold the APC’s broom. The PDP has maintained that the APC will be empty before the conduct of the 2019 general elections while the APC on the other hand, has been boasting that majority of those returning to the PDP will still leave. However, this year is believed to be the year for defectors.
- Possible registration of more political parties
Going by the feelers from the INEC, there are possibilities that more political parties may be registered this year. Already, the commission has registered 67 political parties. It, however, said that there are other 80 political associations’ applications before it, seeking registration. If the commission succumbs to pressure from the promoters of these associations, then it may need a larger sheet to be used as its ballot papers for the 2019 general elections.
- Saraki’s trial
The trial of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal as ordered by the Court of Appeal,is expected to resume this year. The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal had nullified the acquittal ruling of the CCT in favour of Saraki, in June this year.
Delivering a unanimous judgment in the appeal filed by the Federal Government against the Senate President’s acquittal, the three-man panel of the Court of Appeal headed by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson dismissed 15 out of 18 counts filed before the CCT on the grounds of lack of evidence. But the court ruled that Saraki, a former Governor of Kwara State, had a case to answer with respect to three of the counts numbered 4, 5, and 6.
In Count 4, which was sustained by the Court of Appeal, Saraki was accused of making false assets declaration at the end of his tenure as the governor of Kwara State in 2011 and on assumption of office as a senator in 2011 in respect of a property at 17A McDonald, Ikoyi Lagos. The prosecution contended that the defendant falsely declared to have acquired the property at 17A McDonald, Ikoyi, Lagos September 6, 2006 from the proceeds of sale of rice and sugar.
In Count 5, the prosecution accused Saraki of making false asset declaration at the end of his tenure as governor of Kwara State in 2011 and on assumption of office as a senator in 2011 when he declared that he acquired No. 17B McDonald, Ikoyi Lagos on September 6, 2006 from proceeds of sale of rice and sugar.
In Count 6, the prosecution also accused Saraki of making a false declaration in his Assets Declaration Form at the end of his tenure as Governor of Kwara in 2007 and on assumption of office as Executive Governor in 2007 by failing to declare his outstanding loan liabilities of N315,054,355.92 out of the loan of N380,000,000 obtained from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc. Though the embattled strongman of kwara politics has gone to the Supreme Court to contest the decision of the appellate court, whatever he passed through afterwards is expected to be a turning point in his future political aspirations.
- Magu’s fate
The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has passed through turbulent waters since he was appointed. Apart from his numerous clashes with the Senate, his travails in the hands of some of those in the kitchen cabinet of the President is also worrisome. As the nation moves closer to another general elections, Nigerians will want to know if Magu will allow his agency to be used as a weapon to harass opponents of the regime thereby attracting more enemies to himself and his agency. Will other sister agencies also cooperate with him and allow the anti-corruption agency function without hindrances from them? Will the Senate soft-pedal on his rejection and confirm him as the substantive chairman of the anti-graft agency? Will the court rule in his favour that headship of the agency does not need Senate confirmation to function ? The eyes of the public and international community will no doubt, be on the workings of the agency and its head.
- Passage and signing of the 2018 budget
No budget has been passed by the two arms of the National Assembly without drama. This year’s own is not expected to be an exception. Already, opponents of the regime in both chambers have gone to town to describe the budget estimates as empty and full of errors. It is also expected that Saraki will use the budget to also ‘shine’ and take his pound of flesh on the executive, which he believes is behind his criminal trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Nevertheless, Nigerians will look forward to the early passage of the budget with the hope that the President will also not hesitate in signing it into law.
- Constitution amendments
The ongoing constitution amendment by states houses of assembly is expected to receive national attention, especially in areas such as autonomy for local governments and fiscal independence. It is expected that the grassroots would prefer autonomy for the local governments, but it is left to be seen if the governors would not mount pressure on the state lawmakers to reject the move.
- Implementation of anti-open grazing laws
Miyetti Allah, the umbrella body for herdsmen has been threatening anarchy in states that have enacted laws to curb the activities of herdsmen in their states. However, states such as Benue, Plateau and Taraba have vowed to implement the law, which was first enacted by Ekiti State, in their states.
Culled from : http://punchng.com