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Promoting Good Governance.

REPORT: Buhari, an ‘elderly, infirm leader’, Atiku would enrich self, cronies

THE Eurasia group, an internationally recognised political risk consultancy organisation, has painted a grim picture of the two major contenders for the 2019 Nigerian presidential election, describing the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari as elderly and infirm, while saying that his challenger, Abubakar Atiku would enrich himself and his cronies if he wins.

It will be a huge surprise if any candidate other Buhari or Atiku emerges Nigeria’s president after the election which will hold on February 16, 2018. Many fresh persons have thrown their hat into the ring to try to wrest power from Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congres (APC), but many still believe that the election will be a two-horse race between Buhari and Atiku.

In the 2019 edition of its annual risk report, the Eurasia group listed Nigeria as number 10 on the list top geopolitical risk for the year, predicting that the 2019 election will be Nigeria’s “most fiercely contested election since the transition to democracy in 1999″.

ON BUHARI

The group acknowledges that he is “the frontrunner” in the election, but noted that he is “an elderly, infirm leader who lacks the energy, creativity, or political savvy to move the needle on Nigeria’s most intractable problems”.

“A second term for him would mean the country at best muddles through the next four years, with little progress on critical policy priorities like tax reform or a restructuring of the energy sector,” the report read in part.

The group also stated that should Buhari’s ill-health which kept him away for a long time during his first tenure come up again, it would mean bad business for Nigeria as investors would begin “to wonder who is calling the shots and whether they’re qualified for the job”.

The report also predicted that “Buhari would be a lame duck from day one, with powerbrokers in his own party quickly shifting their focus to the next electoral cycle in 2023”.

ON ATIKU

The former Vice President did not get any favourable review either as the report forecasted that a victory for him would more or less mean a return to the old order.

Except for a few complimentary remarks (that Atiku has “better health and keener intellect” than Buhari), the Eurasia group report noted that Atiku “would focus on enriching himself and his cronies, avoiding the difficult and politically unpopular tasks necessary for reform”.

“A win for Atiku, would create a brief, superficial boost to the country’s image… but it would also pose the risk of a return to an even more rent-seeking governing style,” the report read.

“Atiku’s policy priorities are unclear and untested: He had previously promised to deregulate the oil and gas sector but recently pledged to reduce gasoline prices by 50% from already below-market levels. That would swell subsidy costs and endanger long-term debt sustainability.

“He’s also unlikely to champion a tax reform that’s critical to Nigeria’s fiscal sustainability.”

The report also predicted that Atiku is likely to retract his pledge that he would do only one term in office, thereby leading to “significant infighting within his People’s Democratic Party”.

ON THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

“The election will be close, and a challenged or inconclusive result is possible. That, in turn, could trigger a political crisis in which neither candidate has a legitimate claim to power.

“If the vote is close enough to trigger a runoff, Nigeria’s constitution requires the second round of voting to occur within seven days of the first, a tough timeline to meet given the complexity of organizing national elections in the country. This could be a recipe for severe uncertainty in Africa’s most important market.”

Founded in 1998, the Eurasia Group publishes a “Top 10 Risks” report every January of the year. These, many say, form part of top considerations for many international investors.

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