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2014: A watch list

2014 will be critical in shaping Nigerian politics in the next decade. A combination of significant political developments, widespread dissatisfaction with management of the economy…

2014 will be critical in shaping Nigerian politics in the next decade. A combination of significant political developments, widespread dissatisfaction with management of the economy and the failure to defeat an increasingly localized but vicious insurgency will provide opportunistic avenues for exploiting the weaknesses of the democratic process, and the limitations of the administration. The elections in 2015 will be the major focus of much of the administration, and tensions will rise as President Jonathan and his party take on a resurgent opposition that shows a potential to cause a major upset . The following are some of the issues and events that should be watched closely in view of their significance for the nation’s future.
1.           President Jonathan.
Although he says he is yet to decide whether to run for another term in 2015, it seems most likely that President Goodluck Jonathan will be a candidate in the 2015 elections. Not to run again will be interpreted as succumbing to pressures from the North, and this is likely to trigger hostile reaction among his core supporters and possible violence. The President himself and his close associates will worry over their fates and fortunes without political power after 2015. This will be a major impetus for him to run.
If he does run, it be on the platform of the PDP, which is fragmenting and exposing deep geo-political divisions. His party is already effectively a minority in the national legislature, and further defections   will weaken it and confine its main support to his South-South zone and areas in the North where religious and ethnic pluralism are played up with potentially-dangerous consequences.
President Jonathan will be hard put to sell a candidature on solid achievements in management of the economy, reducing corruption, tackling an insurgency or providing a strong personal leadership in a nation expressing worrying doubts over its future. This will not stop him from trying, but he may have to reinforce his poor record by exploiting smouldering fault lines that will expose the nation to further threats to its security. President Jonathan has a difficult choice to make, but it is most likely going to be made for him by a powerful circle of ministers, aides, political godfathers and beneficiaries of a weak management capacity in the presidency.
2.           Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
The PDP is likely to undergo further fragmentation and more defections. It is unlikely to undergo the type of radical overhaul in its leadership guaranteed to reduce or reverse its internal problems. It will most likely provide President Jonathan with a ticket for 2015, and risk further alienation of support from the North and parts of South East and South-South. The PDP will attempt to retain support through massive inducement of opinion leaders in the North and South East, and through the intensification of campaigns around faith and ethnicity. Its activities in many parts of the country will be accompanied by increasing hostility and violence. Next year, PDP will confront the real possibility that its dominance of the national political landscape is over.
3.           The opposition (APC)
The political opposition will make further incursion into PDP territory, but could be hurt by failure to manage sensitive intra-party developments. It has lost valuable time in improving harmony within the party, registering members and establishing lower-level structures. Damaging quarrels involving factions of legacy parties could prevent emergence of credible and unifying leaders and candidates at state and lower-level structures. Unresolved issues arising from the manner defected nPDP governors and other bigwigs are treated (or rewarded) will pose serious threats to party cohesion and preparations for the 2015 elections. Sensitive issues such as presidential and gubernatorial flag bearers will provide flashpoints that may seriously damage the party’s chances. In 2014, APC will have to take some very important decisions that will determine whether it defeats PDP, or it fritters away a good opportunity to form governments in Abuja and state capitals.
4.           Judiciary
The judiciary will be dragged into some of the intense political quarrels arising from the fragmentation and defections in the PDP. The judiciary will have to rule on major issues over the status of defected governors and legislators, as well as hundreds of cases on intra-party disputes in both the PDP and the opposition. The year 2014 will challenge the judiciary to redeem its poor image among Nigerians. The manner it responds to the demands for integrity and independence will substantially affect the build-up to 2015 elections, as well as the quality of the elections themselves.
5.           INEC
Virtually all preparations for the 2015 elections will have to be concluded within 2014. INEC is facing a major crisis of credibility, although its leadership claims that bad politicians are painting it worse than it is. With the Anambra elections still afresh as a lower benchmark, one or two key elections in 2014 will again test INEC’s capacity to improve on its performance. The nation has been alarmed at the hint that the insurgency in the North East could threaten elections in the region in 2015. In 2014, INEC will ask for, and receive most of the funds and other support it will need to conduct the 2015. All its preparations will be very closely followed by the nation and the international community. Violence will be a major factor in all campaigns and elections.
6.           The Economy
The management of the economy is unlikely to see a radical improvement in 2014. With elections in 2015, patronage and leakages in the manner public finances are managed are likely to be more pronounced. Revenues from sale of petroleum resources will remain high, but industry-scale theft of crude will continue to deprive the nation of vital resources. Disputes over lack of openness and transparency in the manner public resources are managed will intensity, but it is unlikely that President Jonathan will raise the current standards of accountability.  Poverty, youth unemployment and decaying infrastructure are unlikely to be substantially addressed.
7.           Corruption and crimes
President Jonathan has not shown a strong will to fight corruption, and the general perception that too many of his closest associates, advisers and Ministers are beyond reproach on suspicion of corruption will deepen. The nation will watch how he responds to the scandal involving the purchase of bullet-proof cars and other scandals around pensions, petroleum subsidy and others. Anti-corruption agencies such as EFCC and ICPC will be assessed in terms of their capacities to operate with independence and integrity, rather than as political weapons to be deployed by the President against political opponents and threats. In 2014, corruption will assume a pride of place in campaigns for 2015 elections, and public funds will be specifically targeted as election campaign funds are harvested. Violent crimes such as kidnapping and armed robberies are likely to increase as policing assets are stretched around political concerns.
8.           Legislature
The National Assembly will go through turmoil as the changing political landscape is reflected in its membership and disposition. PDP will find itself in increasingly defensive position as it loses legislators to the opposition, and the legislature as a whole is likely to be more hostile to the executive. With 2015 in the horizon, however, both arms will focus more on saving political careers, making compromises and stocking-up on campaign resources. The year 2014 will witness tension and stresses in the legislature as legal battles rage on defections and careers, and opposition members, seeking to flex muscles, take on colleagues from the PDP and the Presidency.
9.           Insecurity
The federal government is unlikely to bring an end of the insurgency in the North East in 2014, going by current disposition and the words of the President. Part of the nation is shocked and offended by the plan to spend N2b in the region by the federal government in 2014 as its contribution towards reviving the economy. Insurgents appear to retain capacity to make spectacular attacks using porous borders and intimidated communities. With little evidence of change in tactics or new strategies in the horizon, the nation and the insurgency will continue to bleed in 2014. Other internal security challenges may feed-off intense politicking and the exploitation of ethno-religious fault lines to deepen, or re-emerge. In 2014, national security will most likely be severely challenged.
10.        National Conference
The President appears bent on organizing a National Conference in 2014. In spite of widespread suspicion and hostility to the idea, most Nigerians will follow its deliberations and outcome with intense interest. The political opposition is likely to scuttle efforts to create any legitimacy in terms of representation or outcome of the Conference. The presidency may be forced into organizing a forum involving largely hand-picked delegates who may work towards a pre-determined goal. Even then, the Conference will suffer setbacks if issues such as tenure elongation or review of revenue allocation formula are tabled.
11.        The World Cup
Nigeria will participate in the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. Most Nigerians expect it to do well. While the Eagles’ participation lasts in the tournament, it will give Nigerians one of those rare moments when they are only Nigerians.
 Happy New Year!

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