On February 25, Nigerians voted for their next President in what was perhaps the most contested elections in the country’s history. The people hope the new leader will solve the many ills currently plaguing Africa’s biggest economy. Some reactions on the just-concluded polls.
The 2023 Nigerian elections, held on February 25 and largely peaceful with 93 million registered voters, were significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was the first time in the country’s history that none of the candidates vying for the top seat was an incumbent or a former military leader.
It was also the first time a candidate not affiliated with either of the leading two parties – All Progressives Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – is seemingly in poll position.
That candidate is businessman and two-time governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, running under the Labour Party. His teeming youth followers, who call themselves ‘Obedients’, are hoping to usurp power from the ruling two-party power paradigm by leveraging the power of social media.
“The only person that has shown capacity, capability and interest to solve these problems and make Nigeria great is no other than the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi. He would definitely win this 2023 presidential election as he has shown that he would be the voice of the everyday Nigerian citizen. Major polls including Bloomberg and Anap have shown that Peter Obi is the choice of the Nigerian people and would most likely win this election,” comments Balami Isaac David, an aviator and business executive who defected from the PDP party.
Obi presents a refreshing proposition for Nigeria’s disenfranchized youth population. He has been known to fly economy class instead of business class whenever he travels by air and has shunned the large entourage his wealthy counterparts are known for – perhaps a signal to his followers that he will manage Nigeria’s vast resources with financial prudence. This, among other things, has also won him support from key Nigerian personalities such as author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. However, he has his work cut out for him.
Nobody has ever won an election in Nigeria without being a candidate of the two leading parties. And the competition is as stiff as it can get.
Bola Tinubu, 70, the flagbearer for the APC party, is widely known as a political kingpin and former governor of Lagos State and has immense influence in the south-western region of Nigeria and along with his deep pockets, is seen as a shoo-in for the top seat by most political pundits.
The third candidate, equally formidable, is Atiku Abubakar, 76, a former vice president of Nigeria who is attempting to win for the sixth time and is also popular in the north and equally wealthy. These two candidates are seen by many as veterans in the political landscape with the power and influence to make things happen in Nigeria. But these are trying times.
The winner of the 2023 election will have to contend with a number of economic hardships and insecurities that have left the country’s 200 million inhabitants frustrated and in desperate need for a solution. One of the major concerns is the shortage of cash in the economy as the country’s central bank has swapped its old notes and restricted distribution of the new currency notes in the country in what many believe is an attempt to prevent over-hoarding of cash by wealthy political parties and corruption in the election process.
“People are at their worst this time around because of shortages and non-availability of cash, fuel scarcity and routine events that have destabilized every structure in the society. While everyone is struggling to adapt to the changes and perceived temporary challenges, everyone is unhappy with the
timing of the government’s monetary policy even though it may well be in good faith,” observes Tonye Rex Idaminabo, a lawyer and reputation management expert in Nigeria.
There are also wider factors to consider. For instance, the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 significantly impacted Nigeria.
The ongoing war in Ukraine has also exacerbated the situation and created significant challenges when it comes to security. This is evident in the frequent cases of kidnapping, banditry and insurgency in the north-east and north-west regions of the country. Also, recent natural disasters such as flooding, which has posed significant risks of food shortages, threaten the country’s food security and all this is against a backdrop of rising inflation.
Dauda Lawal is a governorship candidate for the PDP government and former banker looking to win the Zamfara State seat. Key to his agenda was addressing the issue of insecurity that would prevent millions from voting due to fear of violence.
“Insecurity has remained one of the most significant concerns. This is primarily because, without security, other vital sectors cannot thrive. In past and recent years, there has been an increase in concerns about electoral violence, voter intimidation, election rigging, and voter safety,” says Lawal.
He also highlights the decline in education and healthcare systems, and youth employment as another dominant concern for Nigerians.
“These sectors and systems have been plagued by challenges such as inadequate funding, poor infrastructure, inadequate teacher training, and a shortage of healthcare workers, resulting in a cycle of poverty, unemployment, and underdevelopment. Overall, these issues and concerns are interrelated. Still, failing to address them has resulted in declining living standards for many Nigerians despite our wealth and numerous natural resources,” says Lawal.
For many, the problem is a leadership issue. As Lawal puts it: “Bad leadership and the inability of our leaders to rise to their responsibilities has been one of the major contributing factors to Nigeria’s plight. Nigeria, therefore, needs a good captain to navigate it in the right direction. We need leadership that promotes a sincerity of purpose. This is because the country faces numerous challenges that require genuine commitment and dedication.”
“What Nigerians need is enlightened and selfless leadership who mean what they say and say what they mean,” adds Idaminabo.
David believes that these issues have forced Nigerians to look for ways to solve these issues themselves. He also highlights good leadership as the first integral solution.
“The Nigerian people currently need a good leader, a leader who would feel their plight and solve it, a leader who is not corrupt, who would not steal their national treasures for himself, a leader that they can at least trace his wealth, a leader who is strong enough to face the situations ahead, a leader who would provide education and make it accessible, a leader who has a track record of improved healthcare, a leader they can trust and speak to, a leader that would ensure that no Nigerian is more Nigerian than any Nigerian,” says David.
According to the Financial Times, Nigeria’s population in the next 25 years could reach 400 million, surpassing the United States as the world’s third most populated country.
“The major challenges faced by Nigerians is as related to geopolitical zone, occupational jurisdiction, age group and even religion and gender. I call these major issues that would be the climbing force to the upcoming elections the Big 7 and these issues are: the economic crisis of the country, insecurity, corruption, restructuring, unemployment, inadequate basic amenities and education,” says David.
“The economy of the country is currently in so much disarray that even the purchasing power of the country’s currency has been reduced to almost nothing. This is a country that once had its currency higher than the dollar but as at today, the Naira cannot even stand side by side with currencies in Africa that do not even have as close to the manpower or economic and natural resources controlled by Nigeria.”
As a country that doesn’t produce so much but consumes a lot, the economic viability of the country has excruciatingly depreciated leading to a rise in prices and reducing the country’s currency purchasing value.
“This has affected everything in the country, from feeding, to trading, from studies to even hand skills, everything is on the rise as the inflation value is currently outrageous. Nigeria’s GDP has seriously dropped and now growing at a very slow pace and the annual inflation rate has increased to a whopping 21.82% which has left citizens scampering for survival,” says David.
There are a number of factors to consider. The new leader of Africa’s most populous economy will have to not only exhibit the right leadership skills to move Nigeria swiftly out of these challenges, but also will need to gain the confidence and trust of a population in the political system.
So, the question remains who will emerge leader?
“Three different polls have been released with the latest being POLAF predicting that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar would win the elections with 38% of the votes, thereby winning the presidential elections. Another Bloomberg poll which predicted a Buhari victory in 2015 now says Peter Obi could win with a resounding 60% of the votes. Then, a poll by a group of data analysts said the ruling party candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu would win the elections,” says Idaminabo.