Last month, with Nigeria’s 2014 budget under consideration in the Senate and House of Representatives, the growing opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) flexed its political muscles by declaring that it would “block all legislative proposals, including the 2014 Budget.”
The APC urged its representatives to stand firm until the “rule of law” is restored in Rivers state − whose governor fell out with the president last year before defecting to the APC − and complained about the lack of consultation that went into the drafting of the budget and clarity in the figures.
The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) responded by crying foul and accusing the APC, somewhat hyperbolically, of a “devilish plot to undermine the nation’s security system…and cripple the economy.”
The blocking of the budget − an unprecedented occurrence in Nigeria where the ruling party has been heavily dominant since the return to electoral rule in 1999 − is the APC’s most confrontational legislative move to date and possibly a sign of things to come in Nigeria’s increasingly volatile and unpredictable political landscape. President Goodluck Jonathan has seen his authority challenged from many fronts recently, and last year, a spate of defections saw five state governors and dozens of lawmakers decamp from the PDP to the APC.
The APC itself is a new party. It formed a year ago when several opposition parties merged, and with former PDP members swelling its ranks, it looks to be the first genuine challenger to the PDP’s 15-year reign. With the 2015 elections on the horizon, the political field is more open than it ever has been and the budget looks to be a major battleground.
Politics of numbers
The budget, which is usually presented by the president, was tabled before the National Assembly by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on 19 December. The president’s absence points to the fractious relationship between the executive and the legislators.
“President Jonathan has been extremely cautious when dealing with both arms of the National Assembly and perhaps hoped by sending out the minister of the economy it would somehow douse tensions and remove him from the firing line,” Abubakar Mohammed, Professor in Political Science at Ahmadu Bello University, told Think Africa Press.
Okonjo-Iweala presented the 2014 ‘Budget for Jobs and Inclusive Growth’ as one geared towards supporting a push in agriculture, kick-starting the housing sector, creating more jobs in manufacturing, and boosting industries in the mineral sector. But Okonjo-Iweala has become a lightening rod for criticism with politicians from both the APC and PDP criticising the level of consulation for, manner of communication about, and figures within, the proposed budget.
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By Lagun Akinloye – Think Africa Press