House of Cards: Nigeria edition
Just when you think you have the lie of the land in Nigeria, t here’s a not her pol i t i c a l tremor. And just when you think you’re used to life with tremors, Nigeria wil l give you a polit i ca l earthquake.
The s i multaneous beaut y a nd discomfort of this is that no one can ever quite settle to something. You’re always looking over your shoulder at the younger guy or the person in t he chair next to you who is more ambitious. You cannot ever assume you have sussed the system’s ability to shock and therefore you cannot ever know what will happen tomorrow, much less the next day.
As I am writing, Nigeria is reeling, giggling, gasping and rubbing its hands together following the goings on at the country’s National Assembly on 9 June that saw Bukola Saraki elected senate president, a role perceived as less powerful only than the president and vice-president.
Saraki, a senator of the incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC), but notably not the APC’s f irst choice for senate president, won the leadership of Nigeria’s upper chamber after f inding support from within the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who left government last month.
Nigeria watchers have noted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s APC comprises many former members of the PDP, following mass defections over the past t wo years of the PDP administrat i on. Notably, Sara k i himself is a former PDP man.
One defection might have left you suspicious of that man’s intentions – either for leaving your party or for joining your party, but imagine tens of defections. How much trust can there be in the upper echelons of Nigerian politics when there’s little clarity day to day about whether you’re on the same side or opposing sides, brief ing against one another or in favour of one another?
It would take more space than this page affords to describe the agendas that led to these results, but if you’re watching you can imagine the sort of scene. The goingson have left Buhari, who was given a clear mandate by t he population i n March’s election, with a tough legislative job on his hands.
All this in a country that is crying out for stability, for predictability and for t he enforcement of t he radical legislative agenda Buhari promised during his campaign. It might be fun to write and argue about in theory, but in practice there are 170m Nigerians waiting for their politicians to do better by them.
The goings- on at the Senate are t hought to be as much to do with positioning for t he 2019 Nigerian general election as they are to do with disrupting the law-making process of the next few months and years.
Knowing how fast and dramatically the Nigerian political arena changes, I wouldn’t be so naïve as to draw predictions for 2019 on the basis of these latest developments. But I would advise investors and observers to keep a close eye on Bukola Saraki.
Right now, all I can say for sure is that we need to hold on tight: it’s going to be (another) bumpy ride.