A quiet protest by Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, against his inclusion on the President Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidential Campaign Council was what pushed the presidency to quickly remove him, The Guardian learnt yesterday.
Also, Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have been accused of seeking to drag Dangote’s name in the mud, and coercing him onto the presidential campaign committee.
The APC on Friday made public the names of members of its Presidential Campaign Council for the 2019 elections through a press statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adeshina.
On the Special Advisory Committee To the President, which the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo chairs, Dangote was initially listed as a member, alongside Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan; Leader of the House Femi Gbajabiamila; APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomole and Mr. Femi Otedola.
But in a remarkable volte-face, the presidency, in a scantily worded two-paragraph statement endorsed by Adeshina titled “Dangote Not Member of APC Campaign Council,” said, “It has become imperative to further clarify the status of Alhaji Aliko Dangote, named under the sub-head advisory members in (sic) the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council announced on Friday, December 28, 2018.
“Africa’s richest man, not being a card-carrying member of APC, cannot, and is not member of the PCC. He is also a member of the Peace Committee, and thus cannot be in (sic) a partisan campaign council.”
The rebuttal rather than explain the circumstances that led to Dangote’s inclusion, further heightened the confusion that it generated, especially since it failed to explain the root of such a development.
Some leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who spoke off record on Dangote’s inclusion on the campaign council were of the view that the APC merely attempted to play politics with the billionaire’s name. They also warned that such actions could have dire implications for business and foreign direct investment.
A PDP source said: “There is no other reason the APC has for including the name of Dangote on its campaign committee other than seeking to gain undeserved popularity. But in doing so, the APC and the Presidency have been so wicked and mischievous.
We are aware that the businessman has protested against his inclusion but won’t want to make a media issue out of it.”
Another source hinted that Dangote’s quiet protest was what prompted the reversal by President Buhari late Friday.
“Also, information at our disposal is that Dangote threatened to open up against the Presidency and the APC if they failed to publicly remove his name and offer a public apology to him.
“This is the kind of thing that happens when a ruling party loses credibility and acceptance. In their desperation, they have begun to do all kinds of things to be relevant even though all efforts continue to fail because the party is built around fraud,” he added.
Shortly after the announcement that Dangote was one of the members of the APC Presidential campaign council, President Buhari issued a statement clarifying that the business mogul was not.
Opinions have continued to be divergent on the inclusion of business moguls on the campaign council.
While some argue that it has the capacity to close the gap between the public and private sectors in the country in terms of complementarity of plans and policies, another school of thought is opposed to it, saying the development in the long run may lead to the abrogation of national interest for the pursuit of personal interest to the disadvantage of the citizens, as the government would be so compromised to enforce fiscal and other policies that can better the lives of the citizens.
A development economist and Lead Consultant to ECOWAS, NEPAD, and other multilateral institutions Prof. Ken Ife said bringing tycoons, who operate in diverse sectors of the economy close to government at the highest level, deepens private-public sector dialogue, consultation, engagement and public-private partnership.
He continued: “I know your concerns about ‘policy capture’ and ‘political economy factors’ that are potentially ‘anti-competition,’ but I can assure you that people like Dangote of today are different. He has taken a long-term view of Nigeria and Africa economic opportunities and huge unparalled financial risks in strengthening and diversifying our economies, tackling structural rigidities, infrastructure deficiences and access to micro-credit, to mention but a few,” he argued further.
But for civil society/anti corruption activist, Mallam Auwal Musa, who is the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) the invitation and inclusion of key actors in the private sector is capable of compromising government, thereby making it ineffectual, especially in enforcing rules where they concern the activities of the actors because they would have become major stakeholders in the affairs of policies, which they can even influence.
Musa, who is also Head of Transparency International Nigeria added: “There is a huge implication for directly involving these two businessmen in the presidential campaign of Mr. President and the ruling party both for national economic interest, and their personal investment interests.
He stressed that the inclusion of businessmen would give birth to a situation, where “they will influence government policies for the advancement of their investments and the nation will suffer economically, therefore creating opportunities for grand corruption in Nigeria and personalisation of governance for the highest bidder.
“On the negative side, it will be a big loss for them if the 2019 is won by an opposition party because they will remove all the favours that this current government is giving them and even introduce other stipulations. I think this idea marks the end of moral superiority that this government is preaching and is a total departure from what Nigerians expect from them.”
Musa added that the ruling party’s desperation to retain power may have contributed to their welcoming people with huge integrity deficit into its fold, some of whom are facing corruption charges. “The president and his ruling party are happy to associate with them encouraging more looting in governance because once you move to support the president, you are not a threat and you are free to enjoy looted public funds. This is disappointing to anti-corruption activists and I believe even the agencies fighting corruption, as well as, our reputation in the international community is being mortgaged for selfish political power,” he said.
Although the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and other members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) had urged the participation of their members in the electoral processes maintaining that wealth distribution decisions cannot be left to a few, some operators are, however, kicking against partisanship for the sake of business sustainability.
Noting that people with capacity for influence are often side-lined in decision making processes when they chose not to participate in politics, the LCCI at an earlier forum with the INEC had advocated the involvement of the private sector operatives in the democratic and electoral processes to ensure the growth and development of the nation.
In an interview with The Guardian, the Director-General of LCCI, Muda Yusuf, stated that on the basis that the political environment has an impact on the business environment, businesses should show interest in politics.
According to him, there is a thin line between politics and business as it is politicians that formulate policies, manage most government institutions and their activities affect business institutions.
But according to him, while business people are interested in a good business environment, as well as, politics, they cannot be partisan.
“It is not good to be partisan. The kind of policies and institutions that people will like to see should be made open before electioneering through engagements with the political class.
“In other climes, corporate organisations sponsor people to parliaments or contribute to support parties that further their interests and their investments. In this part of the world, whatever support any business entity is giving shouldn’t be partisan in nature and has to be subtle and not dramatised because politicians could be very vindictive.
“If the party you have come out openly to support does not win, such an action could haunt such a business person. We have to contextualise all these things to know how to interact with various stakeholders. The private sector should be interested in government, politics and policies because of the relationship and impact such politics have on the economy and business environment,” he said.