Nigeria’s president begins his second term in the footsteps of his first
President Muhammadu Buhari has begun his second and final term this month with a strong hold over parliament and the supreme court. This could help the government to instigate change more quickly than in the past. But, Buhari still has not picked his own cabinet; one of many signs that he intends to continue for the next four years in the footsteps of the last four.
So much of government efficiency depends on cohesion between the executive and the legislature, and there is now an opportunity for this to happen in Nigeria over the next four years. A new leadership emerged in parliament this month comprising alliesof the newly re-elected Buhari, whose All Progressives Congress (APC) presently controls 60% of senate seats.
That said, Buhari still has not formed a cabinet three weeks after his inauguration and the presidency has not announced when a cabinet will be formed. This is reminiscent of the president’s first term when he picked his ministers five months after he was sworn in. On the other hand, the president has renewed the appointment of the central bank governor Godwin Emefiele for the next five years.
Nigeria’s GDP dipped in Q1 this year from 2.4% in the previous quarter to 2.01% due to oil sector slowdown. Inflation has also been hovering around 11%. Meanwhile, President Buhari told the Nigerian people on a rather somber Democracy Day last week that improving the economic situation will be top on his second-term agenda alongside tackling insecurity and corruption. But as the president spoke on TV, one executive in the hospitality sector told our analyst in Lagos: “The president’s way of doing things obviously hasn’t worked out and so there’s a serious need for some new ideas. I’m not sure how much uncertainty the economy can cope with this time, but if the president actually lets smarter people join his cabinet on time and do their job, it’s very salvageable.”
The friction between Buhari and the parliament leaders in his first term hampered cooperation and got in the way of reform—for instance, the president did not assent to the petroleum industry bill that the senate passed and the senate once refused to screen presidential nominees. However, this time the president’s own subordinate allies are heading the parliament raising the likelihood for cooperation that could lead to reform. But the subservient nature of this relationship also raises the likelihood for less parliamentary scrutiny of the executive such that any increase in efficiency may be accompanied by a weakening in the quality of governance.
Elsewhere, policymakers have scarcely proposed any new monetary or fiscal policies for the next four years and Emefiele’s reappointment further indicates that decision-making will be chiefly inclined toward preserving political stability and patronage. This means a retention of current subsidies and controls that are manifestly inefficient and prone to corruption. For instance, Emefiele has all but ruled out a change to the multiple exchange rate system, saying it “will not favour the poor” and “the [central bank] would be disobeying the law establishing it if it sat idly and allowed the naira to be determined wholly by those so-called market forces.”
Cabinet appointments will eventually happen. Already a long line of party associates (including unsuccessful gubernatorial candidates in this year’s elections) is expecting to be compensated with seats at the table. But in terms of capability, there is little proof that the incoming cabinet will be selected in a better way than the outgoing one or be allowed political room to pursue business and security reforms. The presidency’s recent move to pack the supreme court with five new judges is also not evidently tied to any plan of judicial reform that could help quell corruption.
In broad terms, the pace of policymaking is likely to remain modest, with those who hold political power averse to changes that could minimize government intervention and allow private enterprise more freedom. As such, the market is unlikely to benefit directly from any improved relations between arms of government.
Ahmed Lawan (APC northeast) is the new Senate president while Femi Gbajabiamila (APC southwest) is the new speaker of the House of Representatives.