President Buhari - the hopes of a nation and the challenges that lie in wait
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - President Buhari - the hopes of a nation and the challenges that lie in wait
President Buhari – the hopes of a nation and the challenges that lie in wait
On the 31
March history was made in Nigeria, as Muhammadu Buhari became the first
democratically elected opposition leader to assume the country’s Presidency. But while on the streets
there have been celebrations and jubilation, in boardrooms both in and out of the country, businesses
and investors have sought to assess what the ascension of Buhari to the Presidency means for the
country, and those looking to do business in it.
When Buhari assumes power at the end of May, he is going to have a thick in-tray. The country he
takes control of is deeply divided, and while its GDP places it as Africa’s richest economy, it is a
country full of very poor people. Of further economic concern, oil, long the mainstay of the Nigerian
economy, has lost half its value over the last year. The impact of this has been felt across the country
– from rising prices due to the Naira falling 20%, to local governments struggling to pay their civil
servants and state workers.
Away from the economy, security is a constant problem, most notably in the north. Boko Haram
continues to be a plague that threatens to further undermine confidence and security in the country,
and the recent passing of the 1 year anniversary of the Chibok school girls kidnapping, with the
associated limited progress made to locate them, is a depressing landmark.
The country’s chronic infrastructure deficit poses a further challenge to its future prosperity. Power, or
a lack of it, is a constant issue, and while the sector has seen substantial privatisation reforms in
recent years, output is still woefully low, with current levels at under 3000MW, compared with a total
national demand estimated at 10,000MW.
Underlying much of these challenges is the pervasive influence of corruption in Nigeria. From looted
oil revenues and a compromised power privatisation process, to questions of integrity over the
military’s handling of Boko Haram, and challenges western investors face in identifying suitable local
partners, corruption in Nigeria is insidious. Addressing this must be the single greatest priority, but
also the single greatest challenge, for the new leader.
Buhari – looking ahead
Now the hangovers from the victory celebration have passed, questions must be answered of
Buhari’s intentions, as while near infinite hope is held by the electorate, little insight has been given of
his policy ambitions. His economic priorities, his views on privatisation, and who he will have feature
in his cabinet, all remain substantial unknowns. Notably his last spell in power was characterised by
authoritarian leadership, wage freezing, large scale redundancies, currency controls and price
freezes. The result was a damaged economy, a reduced standard of living, and his forceful removal
from power after only 20 months of government.
This time around, hopes are high that Buhari can offer an antidote to corruption, poverty and
unemployment, and provide a comprehensive solution to the Islamic terror threat in the north. Many
feel that given Buhari’s power base is drawn in large part from the Muslim north, he will have far
greater success dealing with Boko Haram. However, while news in recent days of moderate
successes against the Group may be seen as a positive early sign, Boko Haram has been allowed to
grow so powerful that dismantling it will likely prove incredibly difficult.
Buhari has also spoken out very strongly on the issue of corruption in Nigeria, and appears keen to
follow a trend of his first term in government in pursuing corruption aggressively. However, he joins a
long line of leaders who have voiced similar ambitions, and it remains to be seen how effective he can
be in truly combatting it. At the time of going to press, Buhari’s 19 person Transition Committee had
just been announced. Early observations of the committee are that it appears to have integrity and
might offer insight into the new government’s future approach to battling corruption.
On the economy more broadly, the markets responded positively to the news of Buhari as President.
The Nigerian Stock Exchange, one of the worst performers globally, rose over 20% on the news of his
victory, and has stayed relatively stable since. However, precisely how his new government might
reshape the wider economy, with oil prices and government revenues still low, and inflation still high,
remains a mystery.
Nigeria has a rapidly growing middle class, a vibrant entrepreneurial culture, and some of the best
minds on the continent. With the right leadership, the country has the potential to become not just a
shining light in Africa, but a major global player, with included admission to the G20. Buhari carries
the hope of not just a nation, but of an international business community as well, and all eyes will be
on Aso Villa come May 29
to see if he truly is the man they all want him to be.
Article by Hugo Williamson of IPSA International, a root9B Technologies company
About IPSA: IPSA International, a root9B Technologies, Inc. company, is a regulatory risk mitigation
firm delivering advisory and investigative services globally in the areas of Anti-Money Laundering,
Investigative Due Diligence, Enterprise Risk Management and Litigation Support. Our clients include
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