The struggle for power in 2019 got more complicated today with the re-birth of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) at the Supreme Court. The strategy of incapacitating the PDP in intractable internal wrangling has failed at this point. Newer attempts at incapacitating the party might soon surface but this victory might also be converted into power resources too quickly as to make the party unconquerable. How it does this as well as overcome the image of the party that has run the most corrupt governments in the history of Nigeria is what observers are keenly watching out for.
Some people find it interesting that in the July 2017 Country Report on Nigeria by The Economist Intelligence Unit, (EIU), the analysts there have already predicted a close call between the PDP and the APC in 2019, saying victory would be determined by which of the two can present the most united front. While the EIU doubts that Nigerians would have too quickly forgotten the legacy of brazen corruption under the PDP, it nevertheless reckons with the PDP as still having strong grass roots support and experienced campaigners.
What the EUI ‘forgot’ to add is how the election would be decided by the quality of candidate each of the two parties comes up with. In 2015, people voted more for the Buhari persona than for anything called the APC. Buhari had the history of being a statist, the ideological ground many filed behind him along with those who sided with him for regional, religious and professional reasons.
The tragedy is that neither Buhari nor the APC anticipated the re-appearance of the same realities that Buhari confronted in the aftermath of the 1983 coup in which Buhari‘s integrity was relied upon to push out the Shagari government when the NPN caucus would not give in to the kind of devaluation the IMF was demanding. As well put before in this medium, Buhari stalled after the coup, uttering words to the effect that no nation devalued its currency and came out of it unscathed. He did add that the IMF infuriated every patriotic Nigerians with its conditionalities. That is the same position he has maintained in 2015 after being relied upon again to get Goodluck Jonathan out of power. The only difference this time around is that the forces involved in 1983 such as the rice merchants, gentlemen farmers and traders of 1983 and their ‘Form M’ politics have transformed into oil and sundry cabals in 2015. And that, in 2015, they are a much more formed and consolidated cabal around and about the jugular of the Nigerian economy. And that they had programmed him to fail.
Coupled with the politics of playing along with the foreign powers that played crucial roles in the 2015 elections and whose solidarity were needed in prosecuting the Boko Haram insurgency as well as the anti-corruption war, Buhari regime has been a case of ‘Diverted Mandate’. His regime, unlike 1983, has been more neoliberal than any previous one. Even if the president didn’t fall sick, 2015 would have been tough for him although he would have won. Now, it is compounded by the prospects of the PDP coming unconstrained and with some chance of finding a statist somehow. That can complicate matters for the APC.
The EIU did not go into these in the Country Report because the report is overflowing with market criteria which determined the meaning of the data that the report was based upon. At some point, the average reader would want to throw away the report through the window. There is nowhere in that report the reader would find a word or concept such as transformation. Yet, that is what the nation needs to get out of the woods, not the sterile concept of growth that dominates the report. To give another example, there is no mention of the informal character of the economy and the corresponding cultural milieu. Yet, these are the pillars of the survival of Nigeria so far, not the one per cent formal economy it focused upon. Thirdly, there are criticisms of the Nigerian elite buried here and there in the report but it did not single out the elite as the most decisive force in terms of whether current wranglings would result in ungovernable spaces the analysts forecast in the country. There is a mystique around and about the word intelligence that sends even the most sophisticated persons running for cover. Without suggesting that the typical modern state can now do without intelligence, it is also important to note that intelligence is no less discursive. In other words, as established and as powerful as The Economist and its intelligence analysis, it is no less involved in writing the world. That is not to say the report is not to be taken seriously.
So far, the Country report does not appear to have enjoyed rave review in the Nigerian media. That is most likely to be because the report is substantially a grim portrait, including its claim of the risk of anti-democratic forces gunning for power and so on. The attitude in the Nigerian media appears to be that a reality that is not talked about is a dead reality. Whether this ought to be the attitude is open to question because the report barely has Nigerians in mind. It is addressed to a specific audience out there that is bound to find it very useful, sometimes to the point of a hook, line and sinker consumption. It is such that a more nationalistic position would have been to engage the report and raise question such as whether it is early warning or typical product of the intelligence wager. Or both? That is the geopower task for all national media.
To come back to the PDP, it is still too early to know the direction the wind would blow. The next few months would give a clue as to the prospects of the PDP overcoming what it has gone through and if it is capable of transcending mediocrity and re-imagining Nigeria along the deepest popular democratic aspirations rather than take the country for granted for 16 years in the first instance.