A forecast of key events in critical sectors that could alter national configurations in reverberating scales.
By Charles Kumolu
DEVELOPMENTS in the later part of the last year predicted that 2016 would substantially be momentous in every sense.
With so many unresolved fundamental national questions spilling into the New Year, the polity is poised to be awash with tension, anxiety and vaulting expectations that had characterised the previous year.
It would especially be so given the high expectations from Nigerians on President Muhammadu Buhari to deliver on his key promises on security and the economy.
Findings by Vanguard reveal that issues that could have reverberating effects on the polity in the year being previewed include budget benchmarks, subsidy removal, Supreme Court verdict on governorship elections, ruling on Kogi State governorship conundrum, ongoing probes/Dasukigate and President Buhari’s performance.
Others are Biafra agitation, national convention of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Edo and Ondo states governorship elections, payment of N5000 electoral promise, Bayelsa State governorship supplementary poll, volatile exchange rate and unsteady oil prices among others.
Expected Supreme Court verdicts
With the verdict of the Supreme Court on Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Taraba states governorship elections being expected in the first quarter of this year, it is envisaged that whatever becomes the outcome would alter the political configuration of the affected states.
In Akwa Ibom, a victory for the All Progressives Congress, APC, can simply set the stage for an epic governorship contest in a state assumed as politically volatile. Same stroke could amount to a boost for the PDP’s acclaimed spread in the state.
Nearly same scenario may play out in Nyesom Wike’s Rivers State in the aftermath of the expected judgment.
Following yesterday’s Court of Appeal reversal of the tribunal judgment that earlier sacked Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State, a final judgment from the Supreme Court would put an end to the issue.
Kogi Governorship conundrum
The legal confusion created by the demise of the governorship candidate of APC in Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu in the middle of an election, may either be resolved or accentuated by the eventual verdict on the court cases filed by Audu’s running mate, Mr. Abiodun Faleke.
Like in the past when judicial pronouncements on governorship election cases in the state, modified Nigeria’s electoral calendar, the finality of the matter may create an awkward precedent.
Budget benchmarks: Despite being benchmarked mostly on non oil revenues, there are concerns on how the government could fund the Federal Government’s N6 trillion budget with non oil revenue.
While the proposed annual expenditure pegged the price of crude oil at N38$ per barrel, the commodity currently sells between $31 and 32 in the international market.
According to the latest report of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, oil may further sell at $20 per barrel thereby increasing the likelihood of more difficulties for the Federal Government funding budget 2016.
Going by IMF’s predictions, Nigeria would generate $44 million per day in 2016, amounting to $16.060 billion in the year.
That implies that the projected N820billion oil revenue and production of 2.2 million barrels of crude oil per day may not be realized.
Oil revenue and production
There are also fears over the feasibility of the budgeted N433.4 billion for Power, Works and Housing, N396 billion for Education, N294 billion, N221.7; Defence, Health; N202 billion and N145 billion for Police/Interior.
It is feared that if crude oil prices fall in line with IMF prediction, none of the critical sectors aforementioned could receive the exact appropriated funds.
Subsidy removal: The much talked about plan to remove subsidies on importation of petroleum products, would certainly be a big issue this year.
Indeed, the government’s renewed resolve to carry out the threat is already unsettling the detente between the Buhari administration and labour. If the government also rescinds its decision and oil prices rise, the payment of subsidy claims to marketers would have a lethal impact on country’s already lean finances. In fact, the bleak financial prospects of the year indicate that payment of such claims may not be sustainable this year.
Performance rating: President Buhari’s performance rating is a matter that would prominently take the centre stage all year round.
Of course that is as a result of the high expectations from the man, who campaigned for the presidency on the mantra of change.
Already, the question of whether the administration has made remarkable impacts six months after inauguration is a subject of intense public debate with many claiming that change is yet to berth.
Same could play out in no small measure as the year progresses, particularly against the backdrop of the fact that the prevailing cash crunch may further make the administration struggle to attain parameters of the change agenda.
The ongoing probes into alleged pilfering of public funds by highly placed Nigerians would certainly climax this year. This is given the commitment of President Buhari to curb corruption.
Definitely, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, would go after more suspects, while there is the likelihood of having further mindboggling revelations regarding the looting of the commonwealth.
One of the cases that would not fail to make screaming headlines, is the ongoing prosecution of a former National Security Adviser, Lt Col Sambo Dasuki, retd, and others over alleged embezzlement of $2.2 billion. In fact, Nigerians are waiting anxiously for what could become the eventual outcome of the prosecution.
N5,000 stipend for the unemployed: This year the administration is expected to start implementation of the its key campaign promise of paying N5000 to vulnerable Nigerians.
It is an issue that may earn the Federal Government more knocks than kudos, given the belief that embarking on the scheme amid uninspiring economic realities, amounts to misplacement of priorities.
Already the government has said that the project is to be financed from monies saved from plugging of revenue leakages and other ancillary sources.
“We believe that the money for this project will come from savings, budget and prudent management. And also we are going to have support from multilateral organisations especially in the area of cash transfer. Again some of these projects are not just recurrent, they are also capital in a way,” the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed exclusively told Vanguard.
However, whichever way the programme is handled, it has become one of the parameters for measuring the success and failure of this administration in 2016.
PDP convention: In March, the PDP is expected to hold its National Convention for the election of a new national executive. The exercise would climax the ward, local government and senatorial congresses that are expected that are also expected to produce new executives at those levels.
State Congress are slated for March 12 after which the Zonal Congress would take place on March 16 before the March 19 National Convention.
For a party that lost its 16-year grip on power through overwhelming defeat at the last general election and yet, still bogged down by internal crisis among its National Working Committee, NWC, members, the convention would present another opportunity for self reinvention.
The emergence of a new National Chairman is surely going to be the high point of the event, since the party needs a generally accepted chairman to pilot its affairs on the path of redemption. But the prospect of a hitch free exercise appears threatened by the perceived frosty relationship between the National Executive Council, NEC, and NWC.
Edo State governorship election: The question of who succeeds Governor Adams Oshiomhole at the end of his tenure on November 12, 2016 would further attract national attention this year.
Oshiomhole, whose tenure ends on November 12, while setting the prerequisite condition for those aspiring to succeed him, recently said that someone who believes in the state with the capacity to govern it would emerge the candidate of the APC.
The high standard of performance created by the incumbent is such that the Edo electorate would not settle for the less among the aspirants, who have indicated interest.
Interestingly, the contest promises to be hotly contested between the APC and PDP on account of the latter’s somewhat strong presence in the state.
Those believed to be interested in job from the ruling APC include , Kenneth Imansuangbon Dr. Pius Odubu, Osaridion Ogie, Dr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere, Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, and Don Pedro Obaseki.
Others in the PDP are Senator Ehigie Uzamere, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Solomon Edebiri and Matthew Iduoriyekemwen.
Ondo State governorship election: The state would conspicuously be in the national consciousness as a result of this year’s governorship poll.
Drawing analogy from the last two exercises in the state, which were hotly and bitterly contested by the APC and PDP, analysts foresee a repeat.
Being one of the two bastions of the PDP in the South-West geo-political zone, the party would be seen putting its best at ensuring that it retains the governorship seat.
In the estimation of observers, the PDP may be relying on the popularity of the incumbent governors, Dr Olusegun Mimmiko while the APC stakeholders would be looking up to Abuja.
Bayelsa supplementary election: Undoubtedly, the January 9 scheduled supplementary election in Bayelya State would be the first major event of the year that is capable of arousing so much public interest.
The election, which is a fallout of the violence that marred the December 5 exercise in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, LGA, is certainly going to hold in same area and 112 polling units in an atmosphere of fear.
Instructively, the LGA with about 120,000 registered voters holds the ace in determining who becomes the next governor of Bayelsa.
Whichever party the result favours in the final analysis the outcome would either amount to a consolidation for the PDP or a profound boost for the APC.
Strong base of the PDP
The peculiarity of the Bayelsa contest lies in the state’s reputation as a strong base of the PDP and as well the home state of immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan.
Biafra agitation: There is a strong feeling among observers that issues surrounding the agitation for the sovereign state of Biafra, are not likely to take the back stage in the early quarters of the year.
With the disquiet provoked by the detention of the leader of the Independent People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu spilling over from last year, concerns about Biafra would continue to make the headlines.
Volatile exchange rate: The sustainability of the naira at the officially pegged rate of N197 to the dollar will continue to be an issue in the year especially if the price of oil does not rise.
However, some posit that the economic outlook could be positive with the right mix of fiscal and monetary policies to stimulate the economy and attract investments.
Boko Haram: Though the military was supposed to have stopped the insurgency at the end of last year, few doubt that the Boko Haram insurgents would not try to make appearances now and again.