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CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele and the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed

From December 15, 2022, Nigerians would welcome a newly redesigned naira currency notes which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said would replace the ones currently in circulation in N200, N500 and N1000 denominations.

Citing currency hoarding, inflation, and counterfeiting as key reasons for its decision, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele had argued that an estimated N2.73 trillion of the N3.23 trillion currency in circulation in Nigeria, representing about 85 percent of the total had remained outside the bank vaults.

In addition to this, Emefiele spoke on the imperative of enhancing the security features of the Nigerian currency in a move that would give fakers of the Naira a bad deal going forward.

Even as the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed attempted to distance the supervisory authority from the project while appearing before the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent affirmation that the initiative has his backing appears to have taken the debate far beyond the realm of speculation and conjectures to action points.

Consequently, all things being equal, the notes are expected to go into circulation from December 15, alongside the old ones which will cease to be a legal tender by January 31, 2023.

To avoid a possible loss of value that could befall holders of the old notes, commercial banks have on the directive of the CBN have made special arrangements and in most cases extended their business hours to weekends to enable customers deposit their old notes and from December 15 receive new notes.

Although recent reports have that close N80billion held outside the banking system had since been lodged back into the bank treasury, observers believe this is still a far cry from an estimated N2.7trillion said to be in individual vaults outside the financial system.

From the CBN’s analysis of the monetary aggregates, volume of cash outside the banking system has severe implication for policy formulation especially in present inflationary dispensation where too much money is chasing too fewer goods and services.

Two other moral high grounds that tend to justify the redesign of the naira according to economic experts include the high corruption index as established by several global agencies such as transparency international (TI) which insists Nigeria run a corrupt bureaucracy and political system.

According to TI Nigeria’s Corruption Index is expected to hit 28 points. The index offers an annual snapshot of the relative degreeof corruption by ranking countries from across the globe.

It’s believed that huge physical cash in the hands of corrupt political and business elite has badly mitigated the Buhari government’s ongoing war against corruption.

In the opinion of some analysts, the current naira redesign would further take the Central Bank of Nigeria cashless policy initiative a nudge higher by raising the bar for more stakeholders’ onboarding of the Central Bank Digital Currency CBDC.

They had argued that since its launch on October 25, 2021, the CBDC had struggled for recognition and adoption even among the Nigerian business community given commercial banks’ apparent reluctance to buy into the vision behind the scheme.

Meanwhile Nigerians in the public and private sectors have been commenting on the CBN’s decision to roll out new naira notes in the weeks ahead.

Speaking on the issue, the President, of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines And Agriculture (NACCIMA) Chief John Udeagbala said the chamber supports the redesigning and reprinting of Naira notes announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

According to him at a recent press conference, NACCIMA wishes to commend the apex bank for this development aimed at controlling the quantum of Naira in circulation.

NACCIMA is totally in support of redesigning of naira notes because it’s long overdue. This will help our economy and also reduce crime. Though the time is short, the security and the presidency know the reason.

The redesigning of the Naira notes would help the banks to retrieve about N2 trillion that is outside the banking system. Also, banks will be able to give loans to businesses.

When the redesigned notes are released, it would curb crime and the N2tn cash outside the economy would be brought in, making more loans available to the manufacturers.It is going to dry septic tanks and other places where the notes have been piled.

There is no doubt that the measure will significantly help to control currency circulation outside the banking system and enhance monetary policy control as a measure to further control inflation, improve currency security, improve electoral transparency and reduce corruption arising from possible vote trading during electioneering campaign towards 2023 elections and improve use of technology in our banking system and enhance a growing adoption of cashless money transfers.

While we note this useful decision of the CBN, NACCIMA encourages appropriate mix of both monetary policy and fiscal discipline and expenditure by both the government and political gladiators.

It is important that the current government focuses on governance and achieving election promises made during the last elections while current political players should deemphasise vote buying and focus their campaign on socio-economic issues of importance to the ordinary Nigerian.

NACCIMA is willing and ready to work with various agencies of government to achieve economic growth and prosperity of the nation through policy recommendations that will enhance ease of doing business and improve the GDP.

Also reacting, Dr Frank Onyebu, Chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Apapa branch, said “If the CBN governor’s statement to the effect that a very huge percentage of the money in circulation is out of the banking system then obviously the redesign of the Naira, reissue of the Naira or whatever name it’s called, is the right thing to do. The important thing is that a substantial percentage of the currency gets back into the banks.

This initiative, in addition to other objectives, would aim to boost Naira digitalisation, expand the tax net as well as expose monies being held by criminal elements.

But the extent top which, these goals are accomplished would be determined by the effectiveness of the process and the integrity of the officials who would implement it.

Unfortunately, there are always collateral damages to any good initiative that come with a cost both to the economy and to the people. The cost of printing new money and the logistics of handling the withdrawal of the existing currency is huge. But most of all, the cost to the people of Nigeria in terms of human suffering could be overwhelming”.

He noted “Based on the experience of India some years ago and our previous experiences here in Nigeria, Nigerians should expect some tough times ahead. People are going to be queuing up in banks for hours on end just to change their currency. Corruption, as usual will take centre stage.”

The CBN would need to be on top of its game and guide the entire process to avoid grounding of the economy. This initiative, if properly managed could boost the economy but if poorly managed would do a lot of damage to our already weak economy

But according to the CEO/ Founder, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprises (CPPE), Dr Muda Yusuf, it is rather difficult to see any compelling value proposition of this currency redesign idea. The cost of such an action would be outrageous and disproportionate compared to the expected benefits advanced by the CBN.

At a time when the government is grappling with high fiscal deficit, debt crisis, severe revenue crisis and underfunding of many government projects and programmes, it is most inappropriate to embark on such a profligate exercise.

“Currency in circulation as a percentage of money supply is less than seven percent. Currency as percentage of GDP is less than 2 percent.

The exercise therefore has no monetary policy significance.

Besides it will come with huge logistics costs, and avoidable dislocations to small businesses, most of whom are in the informal sector. The pronouncement on the Currency redesign has worsened the dollarisation of the economy. Our local currency is facing a major crisis of confidence.”

“This is one intervention we can do without. There are more urgent issues demanding the attention of the CBN. We have issues with liquidity in the foreign exchange market, the depreciating currency the recent Moody’s downgrade of nigeria, soaring inflation and many more. The CBN should save the citizens and the economy the trauma of this currency redesign. It is a distraction we can do without”. He concluded

Also reacting to the debate, Chairman, SMEs Group of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Daniel Dickson -Okezie.

One of the advantages of the redesigning of the naira by the CBN is that it will reduce the rate of counterfeiting of the currency.

Presently the counterfeiting of the currency has increased as a result of modern technology which makes it easier for counterfeiters of the currency.

Another economic benefit is that

It will cause reduction of money supply and further tighten money supply. The is one of the measures to use to counter the effects of excess money supply. Nigeria is in a state of hyper inflation and one of the measures to curb hyper -inflation is to curb excess liquidity in the system, which the redesigning of the naira will tend to do.

He said “If it leads to large deposit in banks, it means banks may have more money to lend which may reduce interest rate. That is the economic theory. The more money you lend the more you reduce interest rate. It may have the effect of reducing speculative attacks on the naira in the parallel market which has been the order of the day”.

Financial intelligence will be up as banks will be on the watch out for huge deposits, monitoring illegitimate transactions including ransome taking and terror financing which will be exposed by the exercise.

“It will help to tackle ransome payments which has now become the order of the day in Nigeria.

Today, we all know that a lot of money is starched away by kidnappers and people demanding ransome payments”.

For the disadvantages of the redesigning of the currency, there is this issue of naira value errosion.

The moment the announcement was made, the dollar to naira increased to #800 to a dollar.

That is another consequence of the naira redesign. Customers will rush to the banks, which will affect the bankers because they might not be able to meet up with the rush from customers coming to return their notes

The naira in the interim will lose value because those starching away the currency presently both criminal and those who are into illicit drug business who have so much stored outside the banking system will rush to convert their money rather than coming to deposit them.

They will rush to the parallel market to buy dollars, this will put pressure on the value of the naira. So the naira will suffer in the interim.

“In the next few months, there will be more pressure on the naira and we should be looking at #1000 to a dollar by December 2022.

The new policy will put a lot of operational pressure on commercial banks and the financial system in general.

As a matter of fact, the window for this exercise should have been a 90-day window which would have been better, but obviously because of its likelihood to affect the election cycle, the CBN decided to reduce the period for the exercise.

Hopefully, on the positive side of it, all politicians that have starched trillions of naira ready for rigging elections and other activities have a bad deal with the redesign. But with the policy now, they will be forced to bring those funds. Some will then have to buy dollars and use dollars to bribe voters, which will cost them more.

Meanwhile, Group Head, Transaction Banking, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Osilama Idokogi believes the redesigning of the naira is something that the CBN is pushing. He said “As an institution we report to the CBN, so we would do exactly what has been instructed. There are positive aspects, and so we don’t focus on the negative aspect. To a large extent the country will benefit from it. We are here to support the policy.

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[FILES] Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) taking materials to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the Edo State gubernatorial election in Benin City… yesterday PHOTO: NAN

Disappointing as the postponement of the governorship elections in the country may seem, given the anxiety and preparedness of Nigerians to cast their votes tomorrow, the rescheduling of the elections from March 11 to March 18, 2023, may be a blessing in disguise. T

The postponement followed a ruling by the Court of Appeal in Abuja, sitting as the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, granting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the right to reconfigure the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machine; and the commission’s statement that it will need five working days to reconfigure BVAS used in the 176,974 polling units where voting will take place for the election.

The development provides perhaps a rare chance and privilege for INEC to execute a credible election that will be acceptable to majority of Nigerians and the international community. This time around, Nigerians expect nothing short of a free and fair election. In the long run, if all the chequered events are anything to go by, the 2023 elections may well be the litmus test for the survival of Nigeria’s fragile unity and democracy.

It is gratifying that the court took reasonable steps to protect the rights of political parties challenging the result of the presidential election to preserve and inspect election materials to support their claim of a flawed election of February 25, 2023; while at the same time making it possible for INEC to conduct the gubernatorial election. Specifically, the court ruled that the two political parties disputing the presidential election results, Labour Party (LP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), can apply for certified true copies of backend data of BVAS.

The ruling, delivered by a three-member panel, led by Justice Joseph Ikyegh, effectively removed fears that the aggrieved parties might not get justice if INEC was allowed to reconfigure the BVAS machines. No doubt, many Nigerians are disappointed with the postponement of the election, but it seems to be inevitable if the commission is to be held accountable for the election’s conduct.

Already the stakes are high and last minute permutations are taking on frenetic and violent dimensions in many states of the federation. On the one hand, a new political consciousness generated by youth social media advocacy is wrestling power with the old politicking class. Regrettably, none of the two divides appear devoid of money politics, nepotism and cronyism.

On the other hand, incumbency is in a desperate fight not to succumb to change; and this fact has been noticeable in many states including Lagos, Ogun, Delta, Rivers and Kano. Sadly, pockets of violence and tragedies springing up are being given political colouration that may complicate the prevalent high tension.

Never before has the southern elite been so bitterly polarised along ethnic and religious lines as this present moment. The bigotry has been so inanely conjured that it is worth questioning why such bitterness has been pent up for so long in the minds of the elite. This is sad for a country with so much potential and a promising youth population seeking guidance.

With a generous budget provided for the general elections amidst biting economic crunch, INEC could have performed better than it did at last Saturday’s presidential election, particularly in the light of obvious malfunction and technological drawbacks of the BVAS machine which the commission described as ‘technical hitches’ Moreover, INEC had assured Nigerians that the results would be transmitted electronically to prevent any suspicion of fraud. Now that the commission has assured that all data of the last elections are secured, it must ensure that its configuration of the BVAS machine does not distort the rights of the complainants to preserve election materials.

This distrust does not befall on INEC alone, as security officers appeared to have been overwhelmed or caught napping in the last election. Notably, however, some arrests of troublemakers were made nationwide; the police should follow this up to ensure that the guilty is sanctioned appropriately.

Some security personnel neither enforced the law nor secured their polling units as some voters were reportedly attacked or assaulted by political thugs in some polling units, and in the presence of security operatives.

Despite efforts by the government and well-meaning Nigerians to ensure that citizens exercise their civic responsibility without fear of molestation, there are unscrupulous Nigerians bent on truncating this democratic process by intimidating people and violently compelling them to vote for candidates against their wishes.

To ensure adequate delivery of proper law and security enforcement, police officers and civil defence operatives must be satisfactorily mobilised for the task. Security operatives should be disciplined enough not to be partisan and be willing to deter miscreants from fomenting trouble at the polls.

It is important for the courts and judicial authorities to manage grievances on the elections professionally and without bias. Public sentiments now indicate apparent distrust for the establishment as well as perceived misgivings for the capacity and willingness of the judiciary to execute justice.

Past events of judicial infelicities in which courts became the handmaids of politicians and the recent supposed disregard of the Supreme Court ruling by state authorities are examples of executive rascality that sends dangerous signals to the public.

The argument here is this: if courts as sacred temples of justice could be wantonly abused, disregarded and desecrated by the power and financial weight of politicians, then they cannot be trusted to execute justice for the insignificant common man.

Nevertheless, Nigerians should be aware of the power of their voices and votes, because the triumph of the people’s power is evident in the turn of events. This is the time for Nigerians to be calm, orderly and circumspect. Elections as means to an end, should not be taken as a matter of life and death. All hands must be on deck for the common good.

It is time also for legal teams representing politicians to rise above the narrow-minded interests of their clients or the pecuniary benefits of their services as they pursue the cause of justice. They should put on the moral armour of sagacious thinking, courage and a sense of the public good. This is the time to think Nigeria. And all these demand sacrifice, patience and persistence.

The postponement of the governorship election provides Nigeria with a second chance to reverse the missed opportunities of past elections. Much as the electorate and party officials should organise themselves to elect the candidates of their choice, they should be diligent in exercising their franchise in accordance with laid down rules as provided by the Electoral Act.

They should be reminded that the right to campaign for candidates of their choice is not a licence to engage in criminality and whip up ethnic and religious sentiments. Party chieftains, religious groups and community associations should enlighten their members on the extant laws against hate speech and all forms of discrimination.

While INEC deserves commendation for the management of the election process by many of its well-meaning staff and field partners, the much acclaimed BVAS machine that was touted as the game changer performed below par.

Nigerians expect that with the approved reconfiguration, the BVAS machine will perform with far better output than last Saturday’s elections. Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu and his staff must deliver credibility and justify the resource and excellent manpower expended on the 2023 election.

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DIRISU YAKUBU writes about the game-changing performance of the candidate of the Labour Party in the just-concluded presidential election, Peter Obi, who polled over six million votes

What started as a joke a few months ago has morphed into a national movement labelled by many as the third force expected to produce a new government in the next few years.

Not many gave him a chance when on May 24, 2022, he communicated to the leadership of Nigeria’s largest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party,  his intent to resign his membership in pursuit of a presidential ambition on the platform of another party.

For Peter Obi, the enigmatic political figure loved by the young and the old in equal measure, the move meant it was time to unchain himself from the shackles of politics of the old order.

Riding on the wave of mass support, symbolised largely by youths tired of the system that had seen them toil for years with little to show for it, Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the just-concluded poll, has demonstrated the inelastic power inherent in true love. Spending less than a fraction of what the President-elect, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party spent during the campaigns, Obi won in 12 states including Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory.

A few weeks before election, many pundits wrote him off, citing his “no shishi” (a candidate not given to monetary inducement) disposition as the reason only a few would eventually vote for him. How wrong they were!

His “no shishi” political philosophy singlehandedly changed the national campaign landscape where hitherto politicians used to shamelessly share money, foodstuffs, clothing, etc. Every politician became extremely careful not to be caught dolling out cash or gift of any kind to persuade voters to support him.

Born on 19 July 1961, Peter is partly Okonkwo, the main character in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart as his fame “rested on solid personal achievements.” At a relatively young age of 61, Obi has brought honour to the nation’s politics through a combination of hard work, honesty and records uncommon with politicians in this part of the world. Obi is integrity personified.

An alumnus of the prestigious Christ The King College, Onitsha, Obi studied at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, bagging a degree in Philosophy in 1984.

His quest for more academic laurels further took him to the London School of Economics and Columbia Business School, earning postgraduate degrees in Financial Management/ Business Policy and Marketing Management respectively.

Obi’s resignation from the PDP and pitching tent with a less fancied, less respected and less formidable Labour Party saw a meteoric rise in his political fortune. Few politicians and naysayers gave him a chance given the popularity of the two candidates of the political behemoths, the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.

To worsen matters, Obi’s home state governor, Charles Soludo,  came short of writing the former Anambra State governor off when he declared the race a two-horse contest between Tinubu and Atiku.

Obi’s huge support base derives in part from the sundry youth groups made up of artisans, students, musicians, entertainers and social media influencers who deployed their mastery of social media to drum up support for him.

Unlike the support base of Atiku and Tinubu who were waiting for “logistics” to hit the streets to mobilise for their candidates, Obi’s supporters who dubbed themselves as ‘Obi-dients” used their personal resources to sell the LP’s manifesto to Nigerians.

On Twitter and Facebook, Obi-dients held several educational sessions, enlightening Nigerians on the dangers of pitching tents with the old order. Many heeded the message, which culminated in his impressive outing on Saturday.

Peter Okoye, one half of the P-Square musical group literally put his life into the Obi project, earning himself commendation and condemnation in the process. His fallout with Seun Kuti, a fellow musician and son of late Afrobeat founder Fela Kuti,  readily comes to mind.

Worthy of mention too is Mr Macaroni, skit superstar,  who never hesitated to remind anyone who cared to listen that he was for Obi in rain and shine.

With the political stage set, Obi kept his eyes on the ball towards the goalpost. He had garnered a worthwhile experience as a two-term governor of Anambra State. He was not a neophyte in the management of political stardom.

Peter Obi had contested the governorship election in Anambra state in 2003 on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and ‘lost’ to PDP’s Chris Ngige. He challenged the victory in court and almost three years later, he was declared the authentic winner of the poll.

Seven months in the saddle, he was impeached in controversial circumstances. Not one to give up without a fight because of his belief in the rule of law, the soft-spoken Philosopher-King sought legal redress in court, leading to the nullification of the impeachment by the Court of Appeal on 9 February 2007.

In 2010, he won a second term in office beating PDP’s Charles Soludo (incumbent Anambra state governor).

Questions have been asked about who truly is the authentic political leader of the Igbo nation after the demise of Chukwuemeka Ojukwu. With many Ndi Igbo laying claims to that title, it was to Obi that Atiku Abubakar turned to in 2019 for his choice of running mate when he ran against Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election of that year.

Full of experience and hindsight, as skeletal preparations for the 2023 presidential election began, Obi was quick to realise that the process for the selection of the party’s candidate would be anything but transparent in the PDP.

As a result, he communicated his intention in writing to the Iyorchia Ayu-led National Working Committee to resign from the party. He subsequently joined the Labour Party in a defection that can be described as one of the smartest political moves in Nigeria’s recent political history. Soon after joining, highly respected Pat Utomi, a Professor of Political Economy perished his presidential ambition for Obi, a huge testament to the latter’s rising popularity.

As can be seen from the February 25 Presidential election, those who wrote him off were forced to have a rethink when at the end of collation, Obi polled a total of 6, 093, 962 votes in 12 states comprising Edo, Cross River, Delta, Lagos, Plateau, Benue, Imo, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Anambra, Abia and Enugu states.

It is shocking that the so-called behemoths,  Tinubu and Atiku, barely managed to win the same number of states.

Obi’s 25 per cent score of total votes cast has been interpreted as a statement of intent as many see him as a future president if he sustains the tempo.

Meanwhile, the Vice presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Datti Baba-Ahmed, who worked tirelessly with Obi with the aim of changing the face of governance in the country one and for all, has vowed to seek legal means to contest the electoral process that produced the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

Baba-Ahmed made the pledge at a press conference held at the party’s national headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday.

A livid Baba-Ahmed stated that LP was determined to fight the injustice that dashed the hope of distraught Nigerians through all legal and peaceful means.

This is even as the LP presidential campaign council claimed that the manner the Independent National Electoral Commission hurriedly announced the results and gave out Certificates of Return to both Tinubu and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, reeks of collusion.

The development is coming barely 24 hours after Tinubu was announced as the winner of Saturday’s presidential poll.

The APC standard bearer polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat his closest rivals, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and Labour Party’s Peter Obi by 6,984,520 and 6,101,533 votes respectively.

Baba-Ahmed decried that the election did not meet the minimum standard as prescribed by INEC guidelines and the Electoral Act 2022.

He said, “It is our position that the purported result did not meet the minimum criteria of a transparent, free and fair election. In addition to the most condemnable attacks, violence, voter intimidation and suppression, the election was conducted in clear violation of agreed and promised INEC rules and guidelines, the Electoral Act 2002 as amended, and indeed the Nigerian Constitution. As evident, the institutions of the state and leaders that were supposed to ensure the sanctity of the election, again and as in the past,  collaborated and colluded to subvert the will of the good people of Nigeria.

“Please be assured of our determination to fight the injustice that has been perpetrated on Nigerians through all legal and peaceful means. While painful, we implore you to please remain peaceful and calm. As our fight and determination for a New Nigeria is just beginning, we equally encourage you all to continue with the campaigns and vote massively for Labour Party in the forthcoming governorship and states house of Assembly election on Saturday 11th March 2023.

“Our Principal, His Excellency, Mr Peter Obi,  will in due course speak to you all and indeed the nation.”

In a related development, the Chief Spokesman for the LP Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, said the drama leading to the presentation of a certificate of return to Tinubu was a well-rehearsed script

“It was pre-planned. But, of course, we have just concluded a meeting with His Excellency Peter Obi and we are moving in our legal team who are compiling our pieces of evidence and results.

“There are other Civil Society Organisations planning to go on civil disobedience to show their displeasure in terms of seeking a political solution to the problem.

“The truth is that we are fighting the process and not necessarily those who have already been elected. The process must be fought to give resilience to those who hope to contest future elections. This level of impunity and shenanigans cannot be allowed to continue in our country. This is why this battle must be fought to a logical conclusion,” he stated.

On a call for a unity government in the new administration, Tanko said that the party was not interested in any of such moves.

He said, “We said that we are going to court. We are not interested in discussing anything on a government of national unity. What we have so far resolved is to head to the court for redress.”

Tinubu may have won the poll but there is no gainsaying that the  President-elect is fated to live henceforth in fear of the “little boy” from Anambra who exposed his vulnerability in Lagos for the first time since the return to democracy. He beat the famous Jagaban in Lagos, his hitherto fortress.

That’s not all. The man who prides himself as the landlord of the FCT, Senator Philip Aduda,  lost his tenancy of the Senate to Mrs Ireti Kingibe of the LP. Mrs Kingibe, a serial contestant of the FCT seat won only because Obi made it easier for voters to vote for anyone on the ballot on the platform of the Labour Party.

In the South-East, the quest of Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Okezie Ikpeazu to retire to the Senate after two terms in their respective Government Houses hit an impregnable wall as LP candidates won convincingly. The same for Abia State where the LP candidates had a field day by riding on the Obi fame.

In the South-South, Governor Ben Ayade’s impeccable English was not enough to win him a seat in the Senate. He lost to the Obi factor as were the likes of Tanko Al-Makura and Ndudi Elumelu amongst others.

He may have lost the election but only a political greenhorn will write off Obi going forward. Nigerians can’t wait for too long for this philosopher-king to take over the saddle at the centre to showcase the true essence of governance.

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When two brothers fight, a stranger inherits their house.– African proverb

By Hakeem Baba-Ahmed

BY the time you read this, there will be three days to the Presidential and National Assembly elections. By Tuesday 28th, the All Progressives Congress, APC, would be involved in damage assessment. The result of the on-going civil war would show in votes, hopes and regrets. It would be the job of Nigerian voters to make the judgement over the party’s performance, but the party leaders, managers, beneficiaries, stalwarts, persons whose political careers depend entirely on the voter’s verdict would be remembered as people who set the barn on fire on the eve of the feast. There are few innocents in this, unless they are buried deep in the mountains of grievances and high-stake manoeuvres. A party that was entitled to assume a fairly good chance of succeeding President Buhari’s administration despite the gaping holes in the inheritance is left to scramble for crumbs from fights over its very foundations.

If the APC wins the presidential contest, it will almost entirely be the result of the weaknesses and failures of the opposition rather than its credible finish in the campaigns. Its candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has run the best campaign money can buy. If he does not become President, it will be entirely to the credit of the most damaging unscrambling of a party that had always been built on the ego and whims of one person: Buhari. Tinubu was the second half of a contraption meant to capture power and make Buhari president. The moment that goal was achieved his portion of the influence in that contraption shrank to the size of the designs of the other owner. Buhari became APC, now managed by other beneficiaries and opportunists who crowded out Tinubu today and opened a bit of the door for him the next day.

He did pick some of the spoils of the victory of 2015, including a rickety understanding that he would succeed Buhari as President. A deal to treat the leadership of the country like a relay baton, between two people defined and bound only by finely-honed ego and personal ambition waited for time and antics of palace fixers to be tested.

It has been a long race in which many spectators, officials and managers joined at will. The rules changed many times, except the one that kept Buhari ahead so that other participants in the race could benefit from being left to their devices. It was good enough for an increasingly smaller circle, except for Tinubu who now finds that he has fight for space among many others who have also assumed roles as kingmakers or powerful courtiers.

It got worse for Tinubu when he found out that there was a scramble for his position as anointed successor. He must have remembered the borrowed phrase used by Buhari at his swearing ceremony which warned that he owed no one a debt, and was available to everyone. Many politicians would have walked away, murmuring treachery and betrayal. Not the old fighter that is Tinubu. Ego and ambition that matched Buhari’s reinforced a strong sense of indignation, and he threw everything into a fight for what he believed was his, but was about to be snatched by an assortment of all-comers.

It was an expensive and bitter battle, made more difficult by the appearance of hostility at Tinubu’s access to the ticket from Buhari. If Tinubu felt bitter that he was reduced to grovelling and deal-making with APC governors from the North, many of whom would not have answered his greeting a few months earlier, no one would have blamed him. By then the reality that Buhari was APC, and APC was Buhari must have firmly registered on Tinubu. He then had to fall back on a few Northern governors who had learned the art of twisting arms from Buhari. They made their deal, went in, killed the notion of an anointed Northern candidate in Buhari’s grasp and made the ground a little more level for Tinubu. It was a key bend in a long marathon.

The nation watched a party in all its political disarray show the power of a few political fixers and tremendous wealth which bought power. Tinubu emerged from a bruising selection process and ran into a storm over his choice of a Muslim as his running mate. The distinction between political correctness, principled stubbornness and risky foolhardiness were lost in his decision to run with a Muslim in a country that had turned faith into an expensive political commodity. Tinubu lost many friends and gained only a few over his choice of a Muslim running mate. Large sections of the targeted Muslim voters were not impressed. The Christian community was divided between seeing his choice as a supreme act of hostility, and others who saw it as a political risk they could live with.

By the time Tinubu’s expensive campaign to succeed Buhari left port, the impression of a party that had no respect for loyalty or sensitivities of the population was spreading faster than insecurity under Buhari. It was already burdened by the empty legacy of the party’s administration under Buhari. That means it had to start from below ground zero. To denounce the record of its own sitting president who was at best indifferent to its success at that stage was dangerous. To whitewash it and attempt to sell it to a nation that knew a lot better was to take a very poor risk.

Tinubu had to run on his own steam and manoeuvre between huge obstacles. He was running for the first time for the presidency against an experienced PDP candidate who just beat Buhari’s record by running for the fifth time. The North was not going to be an easy ride with Atiku’s presence there. His own primary constituency in the South-West was going to require some work to substantially line up behind him. Labour Party’s Obi was going to eat deeply among offended Christian communities in the North, and its barricades in the South-East were going to keep him almost entirely out. The South-South is up for grabs to all three, so he could not expect too much there. The appearance of some limitations on his health, real or exaggerated, has not helped his campaign around providing a strong leader who will pull the country out of its current mess. The North is at best ambivalent against him.

Still, it would have been wrong to write off Tinubu’s chances if the on-going civil war in his party, which is compounding the misery of most Nigerians, is not eating deeply into the sympathies of Nigerians for his party. The circumstance and events triggered by the implementation of the Naira redesign policy is a cruel turn of the knife at the back of the Tinubu project.

Those who think the final rug has been pulled from under Tinubu’s feet will not be blamed for being conspiracy theorists if the timing, the process and the high stake actions of the president, key appointees and governors cannot be proved as normal coincidence. It will be difficult for Tinubu’s campaign to avoid being smeared by a president who ignores the Supreme Court, a CBN governor who appears to live in his own world with only Buhari’s photo on the wall, APC governors treating the Constitution and the president with disdain, a distressed nation groaning under additional burden and an election that is imminent. It appears that Tinubu himself has received the legacy of a party he helped form: a political contrivance around the ambition of only one man. He did inherit Buhari, but it will be a cruel trick if it turns out to be an empty inheritance.

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