By Nduka Nwosu* Washington DC — The much-advertised invitation to a public lecture by the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) by the United States-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has been put on hold. This is as the US State Department, THISDAY was told, might send Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry, on Sunday to confer with President Goodluck Jonathan, Buhari and the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, on the need to ensure a hitch-free polls acceptable to both parties during the February 14 presidential elections and the governorship on February 28. According to Ambassador Robert Perry, the Vice-President of the prestigious Corporate Council for Africa (CCA), which was also scheduled to host Buhari at a luncheon, it is very certain that the January 26 date is no longer feasible. Perry, in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, said a top member of the State Department was heading for Abuja next week to hold talks with the president, Buhari and the INEC chairman and was waiting for the APC presidential candidate to confirm an alternative date for his visit. Further investigation revealed the State Department was sending Kerry for crucial discussions with that the two top contenders – Jonathan and Buhari Buhari, who is holding a rally next week Tuesday in Jigawa State, was billed to address the centre on Nigeria’s future as it stands on the edge of a pivotal national elections. A letter written to him by the centre’s Director of African Programmes, Jennifer Cooke, had asked the APC candidate to choose a convenient date for the much anticipated lecture. Although both the centre and the CCA may not have stated obviously their reasons for inviting Buhari for an interactive session, an anonymous Nigerian lobbyist in Washington circles hinted that both bodies would not want to be caught off-guard in the event of a Buhari victory next month. According to Ms. Cooke, “The event would be on-the-record, and given the importance of Nigeria’s elections it would be certain to attract a large audience of US policymakers, academics, business leaders, and Nigerias in the Diaspora. “In addition, we invite you to take part in a private, off-the-record briefing with a small group of senior officials from the US government and US Congress. This will be an excellent opportunity to develop contacts and articulate your key messages to an influential audience of foreign policy decision-makers.” However, THISDAY learnt that such meeting had nothing to do with the State Department which may not accord Buhari any special recognition during the visit since its interest at this time is three pronged-to hold a free and fair election, an election that is devoid of violence and that will not create disunity in the country At a roundtable discussion titled: ‘Nigeria’s Outlook for 2015 Elections, Economic Growth and Security,’ showcasing three guest speakers: Nigeria’s Ambassador to the US, Professor Ade Adefuye, Ambasssdor Johnnie Carson, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and Dr Carl Le Van, Assistant Professor, American University’s School of International Service (SIS), Perry set the stage for a robust discussion that agreed that the 2015 elections would not bring the disintegration of Nigeria with Adefuye telling his audience it is our way of life to quarrel, jaw-jaw and make up at the end. Adefuye said: “The political atmosphere in Nigeria is currently charged, but it is no more charged than what happens in major democracies especially during an election season. “International interest in the elections happening in February 2015 has been aroused mainly by the strategic importance of Nigeria in Africa.” According to Adefuye, “Friends of Nigeria and Africa are hoping that with the successful outcome of the elections, a government based on the will of the people would further the cause of democracy in Africa in the same manner that the government that emerged from the 2011 elections secured the legitimacy to push for democracy in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali and is currently doing same in Burkina Faso.” Adefuye, who said in spite of the charged atmosphere of the campaigns there was a level playing field for all contenders, concluded his speech by adding “Nigeria will emerge from these elections stronger, united and more prosperous.” Carson on the other hand, said he had no good news for whoever emerges victorious just as speaker after speaker, agreed there would be violence after the elections with both candidates likely to run neck to neck with a contentious but slim victory likely to go all the way to the Supreme Court with lawyers having a field day and smiling to the banks. Carson said: “With APC building an increasing support base across the country, it is going to be a close and contentious election and whoever emerges winner will neither inherit a golden fleece nor a superhighway that allows for speedy progress.” There will be economic challenges with continuous oil revenue decline, a currency currently standing at 17 per cent fall in the last few months forcing a devaluation, a stock market whose bench mark has gone down by 30 per cent and a steep fall in government spending. Carson’s bad news went on: “The inflation rate is rising with the cost of living index and will continue to rise. Imports are being affected as forex is in short supply. The current strategy in fighting Boko Haram insurgency has not brought the situation under control and must be checked before the terrorists move down south with Chad, Cameroun and other regions under threat. Government must deal with the enormous expansion of the country’s population affecting housing, general infrastructure, employment, a falling growth rate of six to seven per cent and the fall in oil price affecting the GDP.” More importantly, Carson added that there was need for a better management and implementation of state resources. A country of 170 million people, he added, sadly cannot generate the same kind of electricity that powers the City of Chicago. This must be addressed, he insisted, while observing the political and economic implication of climate change affecting various parts of the country using Lagos and the Middle Belt as his reference points.
Levin whose book, ‘Dictators And Democracy in African Development, The Political Economy of Good Governance in Nigeria,’ has received rave reviews, saw the rise of the opposition as a mix of several factors including good governance pointing to Lagos and Rivers States, which until recently was under a PDP governor. He emphasised the opposition was leveraging on popular discontent as a result of poor delivery of democracy dividends with 70 percent of the population, by his studies, believing government was moving in the wrong direction as a result of poor economic performance. Yet he asked: “Can a 72-year old presidential candidate capture the imagination of 10 million new voters representing the youths, a new generation of Nigerians?” Sonny Iroche, an executive director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) renewed his call for American investors to key into the power privatisation project which he admitted had suffered the projected turn-around as a result of poor development in gas infrastructure primarily because the unit price of $1.80 which has gone up to $2.50 remained a far cry to the price at the global market, making it difficult for investors to move their resources into the Nigerian gas industry.
*Source Allafrica/This Day