Charm offensive! Four moves that betray Buhari’s fixation with 2019 election

The Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government has recently taken some steps it says are aimed towards ensuring better life for Nigerians, but many think these are all part of charm offensive to recoup some lost goodwill for the APC ahead of the 2019 presidential election.

Here are four of such moves that be well-intended by the government but are seen by critics as campaign tactics because they could have been made way long  before now.

RESTRUCTURING

More than halfway into its four-year tenure, the Buhari administration did not take any significant step to restructure the country, even though the APC manifesto clearly promised to. The two chambers of the National Assembly both voted against restructuring during the constitution amendment exercise of 2017.

But all of a sudden, in January, an APC committee on restructuring headed by Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, submitted a report recommending devolution of powers and resource control.

“We have recommended that the first schedule, part one and two be amended to transfer some powers to the states,” el-Rufai said among other things.

“We are recommending that police should be both federal and state.

“There will be certain constitutional amendments. The Petroleum Act will be amended to show that states can now issue oil mining licences; the Land Use Act, Nigeria Minerals and Mining Act, the Petroleum Profit Tax Act, 2007 would all need to be amended.

“So, we have proposed amendments that will ensure that minerals, mining and oil are vested in the states except offshore minerals.”

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The news was received with more of cynicism than enthusiasm by many Nigerians, including APC members.

“El-Rufai’s APC restructuring committee is self-serving, political gimmick aimed at diverting attention away from Obasanjo’s letter. It’s also a campaign document for 2019. It’s not a report worthy of the paper it was written,” Shehu Sani, a serving APC Senator, was quoted as saying by Premium Times.

“When eventually the el-Rufai restructuring committee reaches the senate, it will be photocopied to 109 pieces and shared to the senators to use as Toilet paper. If there are extra copies, it will be shared to Suya and Akara hawkers outside the National Assembly to use it to wrap their products.

“El-Rufai restructuring report will be shredded and modify to serve as a good toilet paper for senators. If there’s seriousness in restructuring it could have started in 2015.”

MINIMUM WAGE

In November 2017, the Ministry of Labour and Employment said President Buhari had approved the formation of a tripartite committee to negotiate an upward review of the national minimum wage.

The committee, comprising representatives of the government, organised labour and private sector, is chaired by Ama Pepple, former Minister of Lands and Housing.

Many think this is a welcome development, given that the current N18,000 minimum wage equals N600 per day — an amount that cannot provide three square meal in a day for one individual, much less for someone with dependants.

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But many others also say the move, coming so close to 2019, is another ploy by the APC government to woo voters in order to win reelection.

RELEASE OF BOKO HARAM VICTIMS

The Presidency announced on Saturday that 10 persons who were being held hostage by Boko Haram had been released. They include three University of Maiduguri lecturers who were kidnapped on an oil-exploration assignment for the NNPC at the Lake Chad Basin, and seven policewomen abducted when the terrorists ambushed their convoy as they were travelling to bury a deceased colleague.

No detail was given by the government with regards to the circumstances that led to their release, even though unconfirmed report by Sahara Reporters say huge sums of money, in foreign currency, was paid the terrorists as ransom.

What was puzzling to many Nigerians, however, is that the release of the Boko Haram captives came just four days after Abubakar Shekau, leader of the insurgents, released an online video in which he dared the Nigerian government to show proof that it had defeated the insurgents. Shekau specifically dared the Nigerian military to rescue the policewomen if indeed the insurgents had been crushed like it claimed

“So where are the policewomen, if you have overpowered us, since they are being held by our brothers in the same Sambisa? Why haven’t you rescued them, you liar?” Shekau said in the clip.

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With previous releases of Boko Haram abductees clashing with moments when the government didn’t seem to be in the good books of the public, their could be some merit in the perception of the latest release of hostages as government trying to assure Nigerians of its grip on the security, and its qualification for re-election in 2019.

JOB CREATION

The APC promised to create millions of jobs for millions of Nigeria’s unemployed youth if it won the 2015 election. Available statistics, however, show that millions of Nigerians have lost their jobs since Buhari assumed office.

But FG launched a new National Employment Council last Thursday with the aim of moving the country away “from past approaches where strategies for employment creation and poverty alleviation were a response to a crisis or a temporary measure to mitigate the impact”, according to Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment.

“I have no doubt in my mind that you have what it takes to proffer solutions that will ultimately halt and in the medium and long-term reverse the current unemployment situation in the country,” Ngige told members of the council.

Well, not all Nigerians believe him. Some think all of Ngige’s medium-term and long-term talk are about the 2019 election.

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