Nigeria’s recent elections were a great democratic success for the country—notably more transparent than previous elections and, for the first time, the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan openly conceded defeat to his opponent, Muhammadu Buhari. Expectations are high but enthusiasm will be tempered as the All Progressives Congress (APC) seeks to address and implement its three particularly challenging campaign promises of (1) tackling corruption, (2) providing jobs, and (3) improving security.
It also remains to be seen whether the APC will manage to become a robust and streamlined government, given its formation as an alliance of necessity. Within the APC co-exist competing personalities with seemingly divergent interests, a recipe for a potentially dysfunctional government.
There is a degree of uncertainty about the extent to which Buhari will tackle corruption by re-opening old corruption cases and bringing new ones to the fore. His campaign centred on an anti-corruption platform; however, commentators believe he will not conduct a corruption witch hunt, especially as many senior leaders within his own party have been tainted by corruption in the past.
Buhari has publicly said that only corruption cases that are already ongoing will be continued rather than any retrospective investigations although sources in Nigeria have said that Buhari has already set up task teams to look into some of the most high profile scandals of the Jonathan presidency.
Buhari announced this week that he would investigate the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), once he is sworn in on 29 May 2015, for an alleged “$20 billion” hole in its finances. This was exposed by former Central Bank governor Lamido Sanusi, now the emir of Kano. Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison Madueke appears to be a likely target of this investigation into the NNPC and missing oil revenue.
Jobs and Economy
Years of NNPC corruption and mismanagement of revenues, coupled with the decline in oil price, have put tremendous pressure on the Treasury and the President-elect to find ways of regenerating the economy. Investment in the oil sector has slowed, whilst debts to international oil companies have increased. Policy reform of the sector is widely anticipated but concessions to oil majors and the privatisation of state-owned companies and assets may attract significant backlash.
The APC is in fact more focused on the urgent need for reform of the power sector. Power shortages have suppressed economic growth and in order to meet supply goals, the power sector must reportedly grow by 40% per annum. APC policy director and former Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said at a recent event in London that reforming the power sector was the “number one infrastructure goal” for the new APC government.
Ethnic factions in Nigeria will likely clash over Buhari’s decisions over allocation of resources, demonstrating the existence of deep-rooted divides along ethnic lines.
PDP voters in the south-east and south-south fear a “Northern conspiracy” which will see spending concentrated in the North. The North has been neglected for decades: manufacturing has been in historical decline; the region scores worse on education than the south; there is a lack of infrastructure investment; and the security situation has not been adequately addressed.
The last four months have seen a concerted effort to drive Boko Haram out of the urban areas in the North, pushing the fight into the rural areas. Boko Haram is still very capable of retaliating—an attack in Damasak in Borno State on 27 April has reportedly left hundreds dead. Buhari’s progress going forward will depend on his ability to tackle corruption within the army and his management of the defence budget. Buhari is personally incentivised—he survived an assassination attempt by Boko Haram last July in Kaduna, and he will seek to counter allegations lodged by the PDP that he is a religious fundamentalist.
Another major source of instability is in the Delta, which—despite sustaining the Nigerian economy—is underdeveloped, and the region’s economic mainstay is now largely based on the theft and handling of stolen crude oil. Breaking this mafia controlled industry will be as great a challenge as maintaining the amnesty payments that have kept the region relatively quiet over the last few years.
The Ijaw Youth Council produced its own conditions for keeping the peace recently, including the continuation of an amnesty programme and the reform of the federation to raise the amount of oil revenues allocated to producing states from 13 to 25 percent. Although many in this region are wary of Buhari as a Northerner dictating policy towards the South, they also consider Jonathan’s rule to have been a wasted opportunity for Nigeria.