House of Cards: Nige­ria edi­tion

Finweek English Edition - - IN BRIEF -

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.

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