Conversation with Azu
In an article entitled “2019: How Atiku will lose – and other matters,” published this time last year, I made six predictions: 1) Atiku will lose 2) despite Access Bank having Diamond Bank for supper, there won’t be a rat race for size among banks and liquidity will get tighter 3) Super Eagles will reach the semi-finals of the Nations cup and Gernot Rohr will still be in charge 5) Manchester City will win the premier league, despite being third on the table and seven points adrift at the time 6) the telcos may finally get licences to upgrade to status of payment service banks.
It happened 100 percent – every single prediction. Google it.
Here we go again. I’m shooting at a few things that I’ve been thinking about and shooting straight. If I goof, I goof. A betting man can take this to the bank – no ifs, no buts, no mays.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, will survive as party chairman, despite the nasty war with his party man and protegee, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo.
It sounds counter-intuitive because the odds appear stacked against Oshiomhole. His mismanagement of the party primaries that cost the APC four states with accusations in a number of states that the primaries were mostly a bazaar; his iron-fist style of resolving disputes; and most potently, allegations that his resort to godfather politics in Edo is making former PDP strongman, Tony Anenih, look like a saint, should, ordinarily, finish him off.
To top it all, his recent red-carpet reception in Edo for a politician he once openly described as a thief; while at the same time reaching across the border to grab a coveted post in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), as bribe for his former deputy who he muscled out of a fair contest for the party’s governorship ticket in Edo in 2016, ought to make Oshiomhole past tense in the new year.
But that will not happen. It’s not because the APC chairman will – or can – save himself in the heady days to come. Two major incidents will conspire to keep him hanging by a thread as the party’s chairman this year.
One, big APC guns interested in 2023 will fight tooth and nail to keep Oshiomhole beyond 2020, at least. And by big guns here, I’m thinking specifically of President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Some APC governors will intensify efforts to remove Oshiomhole, but this cat will have his ninth life, at least, till year-end.
Buhari and Tinubu have different interests for wanting Oshiomhole to stay on a bit longer, and their voices remain the most consequential in the party. While Buhari’s reluctance is large as to result of his legendary lethargy about sacking people generally once he has appointed them, Tinubu’s case is more strategic.
If indeed he is interested in running for the presidency in 2023, as has been widely speculated, it would be foolish to instigate the removal of the party chairman over whom he maintains considerable leverage, almost three full years to the general election.
The average lifespan of party chairmen in Nigeria’s major parties in the last two decades is 18 months. If Oshiomhole is removed in 2020, his successor will be removed before his party’s election convention, perhaps in 2022.
With two governorship elections – Edo and Ondo – coming up in 2020, sacking the party chairman who is just in his second year will have implications for party cohesion, loyalty, and electoral math. It’s a risk that APC will be very reluctant to take.
Keep in mind, too, that it’s in the nature of our politics to retain in office the vulnerable, the wounded and the blighted for as long as possible. Oshiomhole’s weakness and shortcomings are a familiar parable in the APC household, a parable known to him and to those who will continue to use it as leverage for now.
Two, the governorship election in Edo has been framed as the make-or-mar, the peak of all events in Edo this year, with consequences on the national stage. I predict that it will be an anti-climax.
The charade of Oshiomhole receiving Osagie Ize-Iyamu into APC on a red carpet, and Obaseki drawing a line in the sand, are political gimmicks meant by one side to test the endurance limits of the other.
The certainty of mutually assured destruction should the APC fail to resolve the problem before the end of this quarter, will compel the two sides to pull back from brinksmanship before the primaries likely in April. They will then bury the hatchet in the back of the PDP and the press, leaving only a small redeeming window for the hapless state lawmakers who have been the cannon fodder in this long, dirty war.
But the scars will linger on. They will pile on the mountain of grievances against Oshiomhole’s continued stay as chairman and feed the growing anxiety that APC may not survive a post-Buhari era; at least not in its present form or shape.
That anxiety is not misplaced. By the last quarter of this year, the cracks in APC will be clear as daylight; the PDP will also be in shambles and the disruption will pave the way to another coalition.
The closed land borders will be re-opened, partially, in the first quarter of this year and all the campaigns about the billions being saved will end abruptly without any concrete alternative plan.
Although the official explanation will be that neighbouring countries have repented, domestic inflationary pressure on top of criticisms that the prolonged closure is incompatible within Nigeria’s obligation as a signatory to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, and the introduction of Eco, will force the government to budge.
2020 is the year when the government will see only the colour of money. With a deficit nearly the size of the 2020 budgets of Chad, Benin and Togo combined or roughly half of Ghana’s 2020 budget, the Nigerian government will be hard-pressed to find avenues to plug the shortfall of nearly N2.2trillion. The government is coming for your wallet.
In a highly restricted tax digest newsletter by Banwo & Ighodalo called “Grey Matter,” subscribers were informed that the 2020 appropriation law, imposes higher rates for certain existing taxes and subjects some previously exempted incomes like the Petroleum Profit Tax, company’s excess profit, dependents’ reliefs from personal income, to tax. Add to that the knock-on effect of increasing VAT from 7.5 percent to 10 percent, and you will begin to get an idea just how deep the government will dig into your wallet.
On the global stage, those who are betting that the entry of Michael Bloomberg into the presidential race will be the saving grace for the Democratic Party will lose their bet. Sure, the Democrats need Bloomberg to save the party from its self-sabotaging swing to the far left, but Bloomberg is coming too late in the day.
The US Senate will save Donald Trump from removal and he will go on to win re-election on November 3 by a bigger margin than he won in his first term. To borrow the Trumpian phrase, Trump will win bigly.
He will be judged not by the serial scandals and catastrophic flip-flops of his first four years in office because his critics have loud voices but weak numbers. Trump would win because on his watch the economy – which will decide the vote – has performed remarkably well, in spite of his spectacularly dysfunctional presidency.
The summer Olympic Games in Tokyo will be a truly amazing spectacle to usher in the new decade for sports lovers. I predict that the US would retain its position as an all-time highest medal winner, but unlike in 2016, China will topple the UK to second place.
As for Nigeria which has won only three gold since 1952, the best performance will still be in its past – Atlanta 1996. Even bronze, the only medal at the last Olympics in Brazil, will be a distant dream in Tokyo.
Our medal-less outing in Doha, presaged by a pregnancy of multiple catastrophic births including our failure to go beyond the Round of 16 in the U-17 FIFA World Cup in Brazil; failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the African Nations Championship in Cameroun; and the failure of the Falcons and the U-20 to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, only mean that this is the year of the spectator.
Millions watching on TV and tourists lucky to make the trip to Japan will have a reward more valuable than medals: a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the world’s most coveted sporting shrine.
Ishiekwene is the Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview