Obinna Chima in Lagos, Omololu Ogunmade and Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research unit of The Economist Magazine, has predicted that the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, will defeat President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 presidential election.
This prediction is coming as the Governor of Kogi State, Mr. Yahaya Bello, on Wednesday night in Abuja, told President Buhari and the APC that the PDP “will not be a push over” in the general elections.
The Economist’s forecast came less than two months after it had earlier predicted that Buhari would lose the election.
The EIU made the latest prediction in its country report on Nigeria, dated October 17, which was obtained yesterday.
The London based magazine said, “The Economist Intelligence Unit expects that the President, Muhammadu Buhari, will lose power at the February 2019 elections and that the next government will be led by Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, although his administration will be fragile.
“Mr. Buhari is the APC’s presidential candidate and his main challenger is Mr. Abubakar, who was recently nominated PDP’s candidate with overwhelming backing from the party.
“Abubakar’s pledge is to reinvigorate the economy with pro-market reforms. Both candidates are from the northern Nigeria, where Buhari’s support base lies, presaging a fierce contest there.
“With the vote likely to be split in the North, Abubakar will find it easier to garner support from the country’s south, which has traditionally been a safe haven for the PDP.
“This gives Abubakar an edge, as does popular frustration over the rise in joblessness and poverty (two of the biggest voter concerns) on Mr. Buhari’s watch, as well as growing insecurity in central Nigeria.
“Nonetheless, strong incumbency advantages in Nigeria imply that it will be a tight race.
“If Abubakar loses – a distinct downside risk to our forecast – there may be a rejection of the result by the PDP, which is convinced that election will be rigged.
“In this scenario, a state of national paralysis could arise with severe national security implication.”
The EIU, which gave an array of reasons for its prediction, also noted that without a party system based on shared principles, it would be difficult to overcome Nigeria’s multi-layered security threats.
It added that instability and legislative paralysis would affect many aspects of the economic forecast.
EIU anticipated that the policy reform of the predicted winner would be based on pro-market measures and diversification of the economy away from oil.
However, it stressed that progress in this area would be hampered by vested interests, ideological opposition and bureaucratic inefficiency.
In its five-year outlook on Nigeria, the EIU projected that Nigeria’s growth rate would average 2.7 per cent per annum between 2019 and 2023.
“We forecast that currency depreciation will keep annual inflation elevated at an average rate of 13.9 per cent in 2019 -2020.
“Following this will be a period of disinflation in 2021- 2023 as the naira stabilises. Export growth will be slower in 2019-2020, as oil prices dip in these years, than in 2021-2023, when world crude prices are expected to rise. Import demand will also be held back in 2019-2020, as the naira depreciates before picking up in 2021-2023 as the currency stabilises,” it added.
Furthermore, the EIU predicted “ongoing severe outbreaks of instability, given slow progress on tracking numerous security and societal challenges at a time of economic difficulty.”
According to the report, with tight national elections expected in 2019, the ruling APC would be focused on intra-party politics and security concerns would be sidelines.
“The election period itself will be a time of high risk; as a recent election in Osun demonstrated, small scale violence at the polls is highly likely, as is disputation of the results.
“Parliamentary rift will remain the main problem and this applies no matter who is in charge, given competing priorities between representatives from different regions and the absence of common ideology within parties.
“Without a collective resolve, it would prove impossible to bring permanent peace to the large parts of Nigeria hit variously by an insurgency in the north, ethno-nationalism tensions and disputes over land access across the centre of the country.
“It will prove to be hard to build a more effective security apparatus while also creating economic opportunities for local population; poverty lies at the root of much of the instability.
“Our central forecast is, however, that the 2019 elections will be completed without a widespread breakdown of stability – with Nigeria’s democracy proving once again to be robust enough to endure.
“Given the severe risks to stability, speculation over the threat of a military coup or a civil war is likely to surface periodically.”
Continuing, the EIU stated: “Nevertheless, as the country’s leadership struggles to shift Nigeria into a more sustainable path to economic development, the risks to stability will intensify as more Nigerians question what they have to lose from pushing for violent change.”
In terms of its medium term outlook for Nigeria’s fiscal policy, it projected that it would centre on attempt to diversify the country’s sources of revenue away from oil while directing more expenditure to pro-poor activities and infrastructure investments. Non-oil revenue will rise because of efforts to widen tax coverage and collect overdue taxes, but from a low base and over a longer time period than projected by the government, it added.
“Although higher oil prices will give some reprieve, longer-term public sustainability will remain in doubt. Monetary policy will also concentrate on bolstering economic recovery while limiting inflation and maintaining currency stability.
“However, this will generate contradictory pressure in the early part of the forecast period. The private sector is desperate for cheaper credit to spur growth, but inflation will be running higher than the targeted upper limit of nine per set by the Central Bank of Nigeria and monetary tightening in the US will threaten to put pressure on the naira if a looser stance is adopted.
“On balance, interest rates will not move much in 2019, but they will dip in 2020 as the wider global economy slows and monetary authorities attempt to stimulate, with Nigeria following suit.
“The economy will for the most part be mired in a low-growth cycle, although there will be improvements over time.
In 2019, what are expected to be fiercely contested elections in February will hold back business and consumer confidence that year, and although markets are likely to approve of Mr. Abubakar’s economic reform agenda – meaning the disruption is likely to be short-lived- we forecast a growth rate of 1.9 per cent – the lowest rate of growth in our five-year outlook period,” it added.
PDP Will Be Difficult to Defeat, Says Kogi Gov
In a related development, the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has told President Buhari and the ruling APC that the opposition PDP “will not be a push over” in the forthcoming 2019 general election.
Bello, who gave this warning on Wednesday night when the president hosted his young political appointees to dinner in the Presidential Villa, added that only aggressive marketing could give the APC an edge over the opposition PDP.
Bello, who said even though the president remained the best choice for the country till 2023, added that the issue of perception must not be overlooked.
The governor, however, insisted that PDP would not be a walk-over for APC in 2019 and listed security crises as some of the challenges that may be good instruments in the hands of the opposition to fight the party.
According to him, the APC has a lot to do to convince the masses about what the president had done for Nigerians and win their votes.
He said, “A good product sells itself and Mr. President is a very good product. And his competence is definitely needed for the progress of this nation. But we need to go out there and sell him to the people.
“Public relations practitioners will tell you that at some point, having a good product without excellent advertising is a winking in the dark. You know what you are doing but no one else does.
Perception is reality but when it comes to politics and campaigning, perception management is therefore critical in a time like this. “We must market the incredible accomplishment of Mr. President and of his administration to every voter and in a language he or she understands.
If we fail, God forbid, the adverse narrative being put out by the PDP and other propaganda machine will dominate the land and shape perception.
“If we don’t market our product very well, a tough and progressive victory against a terrorist threat which continues to cost the lives of our brave military and law enforcement agencies will be mistaken for inactions.
“If we don’t market our product very well, try our politically exposed offenders using long extant laws, which previous leaders were not willing to deploy against cronies, accomplishes will be mistaken for extra-judicial measures and disdain for the rule of law.
“If we do not put Mr. President’s achievements before our people so that they can sight it themselves, we will be agreeing with the PDP that in fighting corruption, which he is offering again, is somehow better than the alleged incompetence of the APC which has accomplished everything I have enumerated above. “In summary, all may be lost if we don’t get Nigerian people to see why they must vote and allow Mr. President continue his great work as we go to the poll in 2019.”
But Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, argued that PDP didn’t deserve to return to power because it didn’t achieve one-tenth of what APC has done in its 16 years in power. He said, “As a government arm, we have achieved so much and I am going to make available to you a document that we have put together, which captures what the government has been able to achieve in just about two and half years, what I called a midterm report.
“If we have to make a comparison of what has been achieved in the last couple of years, the 16 years of PDP administration will not constitute one-tenth of what we have been able to achieve in the last three and half years.
“We went to the 2015 elections with promises, but we will go to the 2019 elections with our scorecard.” In his submission, the president assured the youths that Nigeria had all they needed to live good life.
He criticised the illegal migration of many Nigerian youths out of the country, saying his administration would make the country a better place.
He said, “If people don’t feel good about this country, let them go and find out what is happening elsewhere but we are going to stay here and we are going to salvage this country together. “I have gone through a lot, I have been Governor, I was in charge of our petroleum sector for over three years, I was Head of State and now I have come without the uniform and have visited each of the 774 local government areas in this country. “The intention of this administration is to do the infrastructure and give education and healthcare to our people especially the poor.’’
Fashola: President Will Hand over to South-west in 2023
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, has urged the people of the South-west zone to vote massively for President Muhammadu Buhari next year, so that the President will cede power to the zone in 2023 under the power rotation formula of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Fashola stated this yesterday at the 14th Special Town Hall Meeting on Infrastructure held in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Fashola cautioned the zone that rejecting Buhari would amount to political miscalculation.
“We should not allow this opportunity to slip because after Buhari, it is the turn of the South-west, going by the arrangement under APC. I implore you to think about it and never be the cause of your own misfortune. Therefore, you must vote for the incumbent president,” Fashola said.
He also asked south-west electorate to vote for the ruling party in appreciation for the number of federal projects in the road, power and housing sectors in the zone.
Fashola revealed that 68 road construction and repairs were ongoing in the zone, including the approval granted by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for the construction of the Agbara-Seme border road.
He berated the PDP for not keeping to its promise to the people.
“The importance of democracy is to see whether what you have chosen has worked for you. We have kept our promise and are not changing in the middle. “You must choose between the one that has been there for 16 years and the other one that has been there for only three and a half- years,” Fashola said.
The minister disclosed that when PDP was elected in 2015, the budget for the Ministry of Power, Works Housing and was N25.6 billion while the entire budget of Lagos State then was N70 billion.
He stressed that under the current dispensation, more funding had been budgeted for the three ministries with Works receiving N394 billion; Power, N69 billion and Housing, which used to receive a meagre N1. 2 billion, getting an allocation of N64.1 billion.
“All the problems of the country—grand corruption, kidnapping, suicide bombing, pipeline vandalism- started when Jonathan was in power,” Fashola alleged. On his part, Amaechi disclosed that the federal government is pushing to complete the $1.6 billion Lagos- Ibadan standard gauge railway line by December this year or latest January 2019 as the laying of track was ongoing.
He disclosed that the federal government is waiting for the Oyo State government to make available 45 hectares of land along the Ibadan- Iseyin road for a Chinese company to construct a $500 million Transit Park/ Container Deport.
According to him, after the construction of the transit park, an enabling law will be promulgated, to make it mandatory for long haul drivers to stop and rest before traversing the northern part of the country.