2023 Presidential Candidates: Major Challenges Before Them
2023 Presidential Candidates: Major Challenges Before Them
Wednesday, August 10, 2022 9:09 am
Presidential candidates: Kwankwaso, Obi, Atiku and Tinubu.
As the 2023 Presidential election gets closer, the major candidates have some difficulties to overcome
BY RICHARD EKESHO
Nigeria is a giant chess board with the people as pawns. After the storm of the Primaries for the selection of candidates in the 2023 general elections, the country returned to relative calm. Intraparty acrimony is reduced as stakeholders move back to the drawing board, plotting their routes to victory. The people’s vote, disguised as their welfare, is the target of the strategists.
With the conclusion of Primaries, successful candidates began a frenetic hunt for Running Mates. Not a few party bigwigs lost sleep over the Vice Presidential tickets. The search led to ingenious inventions, hitherto unknown to the Nigerian constitution and political lexicology. Words like placeholder, surrogate or proxy candidate and procurator found their way to the political space.
For the man on the street, however, preparations for the polls or rather his expectations therefrom, are welcome distractions from the tales of insecurity and economic woes that daily retard him. Thus, the imminent polls are likely to dominate discussions, wherever and whenever people are gathered, across the country this season.
According to the schedule of activities for the polls released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on 25 February, while Governorship and State Assembly’s will hold on 11 Mach, 2023. New governments will be inaugurated on the 29th day of May, next year.
All hands are on deck for the Presidential poll, in which Muhammadu Buhari, having served two terms as President, is statute-barred. But his party, All Progressives Congress, APC, is among the eighteen sponsoring candidates in the election. The number is a drastic reduction from the 73 which featured in the last exercise of February 2019.
The political parties conducted primary elections for the number one office in the land in May and June. As of the close of work on June 9th, being the deadline for conduct of Primaries, 16 parties had successfully nominated their respective Standard Bearers. The duo of the African Democratic Party, ADP; and Action Peoples Party, APP, were unable to beat the ultimatum.
The list of candidates included a former Vice President, three former Governors, businessmen and technocrats. Despite a large number of candidates, analysts posit that only four of them are in contention or sturdy enough to win an election as Buhari’s successor.
* Adewole Adebayo, Social Democratic Party, SDP
* Atiku Abubakar, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP
* Bola Ahmed Tinubu, All Progressives Congress, APC
* Peter Obi, Labour Party, LP
* Yusuf Mamman Dantalle, Allied People’s Movement, APM
* Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP
* Chekwas Okorie, All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA
* Okwudili Nwa-Anyajike, National Rescue Movement, NRM
* Dan Nwanyanwu, Zenith Labour Party, ZLP
* Christopher Imumolen, Accord
* Hamza Al-Mustapha, Action Alliance, AA
* Malik Ado-Ibrahim, Young Progressive Party, YPP
* Sunday Adenuga, Boot Party, BP
The notable players are Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu of APC, Atiku Abubakar, People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Peter Obi of Labour Party, LP and Rabiu Kwakwanso of New Nigeria People’s Party, NNPP.
TheNEWS cover design on the 2023 presidential candidates
The following are the frontline candidates and the landmines separating them from Aso Villa.
APC’s Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu,
The former Lagos State Governor, Senator Tinubu, is a household name in Nigerian politics. He showed the quality of his politics in the manoeuvres that characterised his emergence in the June 6-8 Primary election of his party which was held at the Eagle Square Abuja. He resisted sustained efforts to edge him out of the race through a failed consensus arrangement.
The Jagaban won the election landslide, winning more than half of the 2,322 votes available for grab. He polled 1,271 votes to defeat his closest challenger and former Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi who had 316 ballots and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who received 235. Tinubu was promptly given the party flag by President Buhari.
Tinubu is coming from a populist background of pro-democracy activism laced with a sterling public service record. Going by his rising profile and formidable political machinery, Tinubu is favoured to win the general election. He has however faced criticisms over his choice of running mate and the need for genuine reconciliation of aggrieved party members.
Muslim/ Muslim Ticket:
Tinubu, who is also the National Leader of his party, had a headache picking who will be by his side on the invaluable APC ticket. He needed to reflect the religious pluralism and multi-ethnic nature of the federation. He is a Southern Muslim, and as such, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, wanted him to pick a Christian partner from the predominantly Muslim north for geographic balancing, in line with the federal character principle.
Although there were pockets of Christians in the region, his dilemma was that those who could add the much-needed Electoral value were scarce.
After days of indecision, he submitted the name of Ibrahim Masari a Muslim party chieftain from Katsina State as a Vice Presidential placeholder to beat the INEC deadline. The nominee eventually resigned to pave way for Kashim Shettima, another Muslim and former Governor of insurgency-infected Borno State. CAN accused the candidate of marginalising its members by his choice.
Tinubu and Shettima, his running mate
Matters degenerated on Thursday 21 July, when some Christan clerics attended the official unveiling of Shettima at YarAdua Centre, Abuja. The apex Christian body disowned the group. Rev. John Hayab, Vice President of the group in the north, reacted: “The people we saw at the unveiling of Shettima paraded as Bishops are people who did not have enough time to learn how to wear Bishop garments. Take a closer look at their photos and you will see another Nollywood movie…BAT is free to hire mechanics and other artisans and sew clerical garments for them. An effort that will only add to their many ropes when the political exercise is over but will not change the need for fairness and justice that CAN is calling for.
CAN appreciate that we are in a democracy, no need to do funny and dubious things just to prove a point because it will in the end bounce back. BAT team should simply do what is right and stop the drama.”
The BAT Campaign Organization absolved its principal from the charge of religious bigotry and marginalization. It said the major consideration in the choice of Shettima is not a religion but his competence, proven track record and the overall interest of Nigerians.
The spokesperson of the campaigns, Bayo Onanuga, said the Clerics who attended the public presentation of Shettima were not hirelings. He blamed the opposition for twisting the facts in response to the intimidating credentials of the APC candidate.
“We want to say that those clergymen were not fake, not mechanics or yam sellers as the purveyors of hatred have made Nigerians believe in social media. They are not big names in Christendom yet, they are gradually building up their missions.
“They are Church leaders who genuinely believe that Nigerians must eschew politics of hatred and religious bigotry and rather embrace politics of peace and nation building.
“We, therefore, deplore the hysterical twisting of the presence of these men and women in cassocks and the false accusation against our candidates, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Sen. Shettima,” Onanuga said.
Health challenges and age
Traducers of the APC candidate within and outside his party claimed he is too old and may not be healthy enough to shoulder the complex burdens of a President. In 2021 when Tinubu travelled abroad for a knee injury, many people spread the rumour of his death. From the moment he shared his lifetime ambition to transit from being a kingmaker to a President, his health has been under focus.
Earlier this year, a video in which Tinubu was alleged to have peed on his clothes trended on social media. Another doctored one showed his limbs shaking repeatedly after he became the candidate of his party. The concerns stemmed from the experiences of Nigerians under two sickly leaders, former President Umaru YarAdua and Buhari.
But Tinubu and his supporters say he is fit as a fiddle. During a campaign trip to Kaduna, the Jagaban took the wheel, driving through the ancient city to show that he is healthy.
“A President’s job is not to climb a mountain, a wrestling match, or carry concrete; it is to think and perform with his brain.
“We are not looking for a WWE wrestling fighter; we are looking for a thinker to provide security for us; we are looking for a doer who will look at economic opportunities and turn things around.” Tinubu later told party members in Minna, Niger state. He added that the people insulting him over his health status do not match his mental capacity.
Corruption, drugs and education
Tinubu has also come under the radar as the source of his stupendous wealth. His detractors accuse him of enriching himself with public funds and drugs. They claim he was investigated for drugs while living in the United States.
Similarly, they accuse Asiwaju of inconsistent academic records and multiple identities. A group threatened to exhume a stale certificate forgery case that has long been rested by the courts.
Onanuga set the records straight exposing that his boss had been in money before tasting public office. He said Tinubu made his money from the importation of food items and his accountancy career. Not from drugs or stealing public funds.
“There’s no record of conviction anywhere. In the US, anybody can have issues with the police and with the authorities, but it has to go to the law court before the accusation can stick on you, ” he said.
How the APC candidate navigates through the web of allegations and unites members of his party to a good measure, will determine the final destination of his presidential dream.
L.P’s Peter Obi
A successful businessman and former Governor of Anambra State, the Peter Obi phenomenon has taken the political landscape with notable force. He became a candidate for LP following his sudden resignation from the PDP about three days before the primary election of the main opposition party.
Obi initially submitted the name of Dr Doyin Okupe, his campaign Director General as his Running Mate. Okupe later resigned and he picked Senator Datti Ahmed, an impressionable academic and fellow PDP decamped, from Kaduna State as a replacement.
Obi is a dogged fighter as evidenced in his several battles to crystalize his mandate in Anambra State between 2003 and 2014, during which he served as Governor a record three separate times. Obi is not new to presidential contests. He was Atiku’s Running Mate in 2019 when they lost to Buhari.
Born in 1961, Obi is a graduate of Philosophy with outstanding knowledge of the economy. He draws from his vast experiences in banking and trading to daze his fans. He is exceptionally popular with the youth demography – people below 35 years – who have coined the #Obidient as a campaign sobriquet.
Obi and his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed
Obi is the rallying point of the apostles of zoning, described as the demand for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction. His famed prudence and conservativism are factors that gel well with many Nigerians. But Obi’s ambition runs into troubled water over allegations of tight-fistedness, weak political structure, and lack of nationwide appeal among others.
Politics gulp money in Nigeria. A politician that does not spend during campaign season is mostly viewed as unserious. The LP candidate is believed to be using his conservative lifestyle to hide his reluctance to part with money.
Fiery Catholic Priest and Director of Adoration Ministries Enugu Nigeria, AMEN, Fr. Ejike Mbaka hit the nail on the head recently when he dismissed Obi’s ambition as dead on arrival on account of stinginess.
“A stingy man cannot be our president. We are already hungry. We need a generous person. Nigerians are hungry. Are we not hungry?”
The Priest said to have an old man as President than “a stingy young man. It is now that Atiku is seriously contesting for President; now that he is contesting without Peter Obi; it is now that he is serious. We want somebody serious.”
It is instructive that Mbaka later apologized for those comments and prayed for Obi, with the latter accepting him as “my father in the Lord.” But, that will not be the first time the Priest will describe Obi as stingy. Analysts think his decision to chicken out of the PDP presidential race may not be unconnected with his attitude to funds.
Weak political structure
A major challenge for Obi is the platform under which he seeks to actualise his ambition. The LP is a fringe party that does not boast representation in government in any part of the country. Without a doubt, transforming the party from zero representation to the majority will not be a tea party.
But Obi thinks differently. He replies to the bookmakers: “Whenever I hear of NO STRUCTURE, my answer to it is simple; the 100 million Nigerians that live in poverty will be the structure. The 35 million Nigerians who don’t know where their next meal will come from will be the structure.
The elderly, our mothers, fathers, and the old ones dying or being owed gratuity/pension will be the structure. ASUU; the lecturers that are being owed, and the students who are not in school will be the structure.
We’ll create the structure, and they’ll see what the structure is all about. The structure is about human beings.”
The LP candidate does not enjoy popular support among certain classes of people and in other parts of the country beyond the southeast. Even when he has displayed his pan-Nigerian credentials, there is a growing scepticism that his presidency might embolden secessionist agitations championed by the Independent People of Biafra, IPOB.
In addition to this Obi has a group of parties faithful to pacify over his emergence. The group loyal to Samson Uchenna Charles, a presidential hopeful, kicked against Obi’s defection to the party. The group accused party leaders of betrayal.
Failed alliance talks
To boost his grassroots and nationwide appeal, Obi tried an alliance talk with the New Nigeria People’s Party, NNPP. But the collaboration dialogue crashed midway.
Members of the #Obidient Movement are fast acquiring a poor public image of rudeness and intolerance. There have been instances of social media attacks on persons considered antagonistic to Obi’s presidential ambition. The experience of Reno Omokri, a social commentator is a case in point.
If the supporters are not tamed, they may end up hurting Obi’s chances at the polls.
NNPP’s Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso
Born in 1956, Senator Kwakwanso is a former Governor of Kano State. He has made his mark in politics and public service. He had served in Ministerial, Ambassadorial and other positions. His Kwakwansiya Movement is well known across the country.
Kwakwanso, who holds a PhD in Water Engineering has become a familiar face in Aso Villa politics. In 2014, after the formation of the APC, he came second in the party primary that produced Buhari as a candidate. He later returned to the PDP, where again, he aspired for the Presidential flag in 2018. He came a distant fourth to Atiku, who won the primary. His third and current mission began with his formation of The National Movement in February of this year.
Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso
The National Movement promptly fused into NNPP. Founded along with other like-minded people by Boniface Aniebonam, the party has been in existence since the return of democracy about two decades ago.
Kwakwanso who has added a lot of colour and impetus to the party had no problem becoming its Presidential candidate. He emerged unopposed as other hopefuls, notably Olufemi Ajadi, withdrew from the race for him.
Kwakwanso has since announced Edo State-born Pastor Isaac Idahosa as his Running Mate. He is the Presiding Bishop and Senior Pastor of God’s First Ministry, popularly known as Illumination Assembly, Lekki Light Centre (LLC), Ajah, Lagos.
Going by the level of interest it has garnered in recent times, the party is among those on the frontline in the struggle for the State House. But it is not all smiles for the party as it has the following issues to sort out:
Discontent over Running Mate
NNPP members from the south-south, Idahosa’s geopolitical zone, are not happy about his nomination. Stakeholders of the party from the zone grumbled that they were not consulted before the nomination. They argued that strong members of the party who have been labouring for it in the zone were ignored or marginalised by the nomination.
The party needs to nib the complaint in the bud so that it does not get out of hand.
Kwankwaso, right, and his running mate, Bishop Isaac Idahosa2
Despite being an old party, the NNPP does not have a strong structure. For instance, except for recent defectors, the party did not have elected public office holders at both national and state levels. Although Kwakwanso ‘s emergence has led to other big politicians like another former Kano State Governor Shekarau joining the party, the rate of defection may not be tangible enough to win a presidential election.
Indeed, Kwakwanso may receive a controlling vote from Kano’s large electorate, among who he enjoys popular support, but it will count for little in his contest for the throne.
Failed merger talks
To shore up its spread, NNPP and the Kwakwansiya Movement went into merger talks with LP. But the discussions did not see the light of the day because neither of the candidates agreed to step down for the other. Buba Galadima, a Kwakwanso apologist, blamed Obi for a breakdown of the talks. He argued that since the LP candidate is younger than Kwakwanso, the former should have withdrawn for the latter.
Analysts believe that none of the parties standing alone can become the third force needed to snatch power from the ruling APC or main opposition PDP.
The debate over power rotation between North and South is a big clog in the wheel of Kwakwanso ‘s presidential ambition. Since outgoing President Buhari is from Katsina in the north, it is widely understood that his successor should be from the South, from which the candidate’s Kano State is excluded.
PDP’s Atiku Abubakar
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from Adamawa state is an old political war horse with an incomparable record in the Presidential race. His ambition for Aso Villa is indeed legendary, as he is making his sixth appearance in the usually fierce contest.
The Adamawa-born former Customs officer made his debut entrance in 1992, during the aborted Third Republic. He bided for the ticket of the then Social Democratic Party, SDP, which he lost to Bashorun Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola, of blessed memory. He has since maintained a strong presence in presidential politics, like Polaris, the constant northern star. He was once a candidate for the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. He was also a candidate for PDP in 2019.
But dreams die hard. Atiku renewed his foray into the race for the PDP ticket. He won the Saturday 28 May primary with 371 votes. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State came second with 236 votes, while former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki polled 70 ballots to come third, in an election that had 767 voting delegates.
Atiku’s party is not strange to governance. It was the ruling party for 16 years, still controls 13 of the 36 states and is certainly in a hurry to return to power at the centre. Intraparty wranglings, zoning and poor corruption profile are the wall of Gibraltar separating it from its desired destination.
The choice of Atiku’s Running Mate proved a difficult one. Against the expectation of a selection committee that he set up, Atiku opted for Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State. The committee which had recommended three names including Okowa, but with Wike as first, cried foul.
The Rivers Governor, therefore, became the rallying point of a dissident group. The aggrieved group which included Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue, Seyi Makinde of Oyo and former Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti threatened to spoil things for the party if they are not assuaged. Other parties started wooing the group to facilitate the crash of the PDP house.
Okowa and Atiku
Atiku who described Wike as a powerful politician however revealed his efforts at reconciliation. “We are reaching out to Governor Wike and we are talking with him, and I believe very soon we will find a reconciliation. We’re also speaking with his governor colleagues. I am confident that we will resolve our internal crisis and move on,” he added.
How well and quickly Atiku can achieve genuine reconciliation with the Wiki team may affect the outcome of his participation in the general election.
Zoning/ power rotation debate
Some stakeholders in and outside the party in the south harbour bitterness against Atiku’s candidature. They argue that his emergence was against the run-of-play and zoning arrangement enshrined in the party constitution.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State
The party practices power sharing between the north and south. Since the outgoing President is a northerner, there is an understanding that a southerner should succeed him. Anti-zoning apostates however posit that a candidate with the ability to win should be a priority of the party and not zoning.
The candidate must pacify those who feel cheated by his candidacy.
Corruption imagery/ Obasanjo factor
There is a strong perception in certain quarters that Atiku is corrupt. People who hold the opinion attribute his commendable wealth to sleaze.
Atiku’s former boss, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo seems to fuel the poor image. Although he extolled Atiku’s wizardry in economic matters and supported him against Buhari in 2019, he has not been generous with his support in the current venture.
But the former Vice President denied the corruption tag. He said his political opponents were the originators of the allegation insisting that he earned every penny he owns legitimately.
“I have challenged people of this country over and over again. If anyone has any corruption case against me let him bring it. I was investigated and found not culpable.” He said he made money from business adding that “as a young officer, I bought vehicles on hired purchase and went into the transportation business.”
But his critics insist his explanation is a confession of wrongdoing. They accused him of conflict of interests and cheating the system since he was supposed to be barred from running any personal business as a customs officer.
On Obasanjo, he said they are in good contact and he has no reason to doubt his support.
Old age and poor health
At 76, Atiku is no longer young. He was born in 1946. Shortly after he attended the final rally of his party in the recent Osun Guber poll, he was said to have fallen sick. A report and video purporting to be of an “ailing” Abubakar strapped to his car seatbelt and being helped by an aide went viral.
But Paul Ibe, the candidate’s spokesman debunked the reports insisting his principal was hail and hearty. “Nothing can be further from the truth. For the records, the Presidential candidate of the PDP is in robust good health,” Mr Ibe said.
Urgent tasks for the incoming President
With the race for the Villa gathering steam per time, what is more, paramount to the electorate is how whoever emerges winner will resolve the hydra-headed problems confronting the nation. Beyond politics, there is an urgent need for Nigeria to negotiate the corner in its search for the right path to safety and economic wellness.
Indeed, Nigeria is in dire straits. Perhaps, the country has never been this challenged since it became Independent in 1960. The new President and his Vice must possess core competence to tackle the issues and turn them around for good of the over 200 million citizens. The new team must roll up the sleeves and urgently attend to the following:
Unarguably, the biggest problem that Nigeria’s next president will have to tackle head-on is insecurity. The recent security scare which led to the closure of Federal Government owned colleges in Abuja as well as the killing of officers of the elite Brigade of Guards also in the capital city were pointers to this fact.
In another vivid demonstration of the difficult situation, Nigeria is in terms of security, relatives of over 20 passengers kidnapped by bandits over two months ago converged at the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Transport in Abuja in protest over the failure of the government to rescue their loved ones.
While some progress has been made in tackling the challenges of Boko Haram/ISWAP insurgency in the Northeast, bandits/ terrorists are spreading to other parts of the country where they were holding people in many communities by the jugular through unrestrained killing, kidnapping and pillaging. Many communities in Northwest and Northcentral parts of the country are also under the control of bandits or more appropriately, terror kingpins who regulate the daily lives of the people, including imposing taxes on them and determining when they should go to their farms.
Worse still, the terror kingpins regularly attack the communities, killing people in their scores. The attack on the Catholic Church, Owo, and Ondo State which claimed over 60 lives, kidnappings, attacks by ‘unknown gunmen’ and killings by cult gangs are some of the recent strong markers that the security situation in the Southern part of the country is also not much better off.
A report released by the Centre for Democracy and Development some weeks ago indicated that at least 60,000 people have been killed in 18 Northern states of Nigeria in the last ten years due to insecurity. The report titled: “Multiple Nodes, Common Cause: National Stocktake of Contemporary Insecurity and State Responses in Nigeria,” covers the North-Western states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, and Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara said about 14,000 people lost their lives between 2011 and 2021.
Also, the report said conflict-related casualties in the North-Central states of the Federal Capital Territory, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau, revealed claimed around 11,000 people in the period under review. According to the report, about 35, 000 persons were killed in the North-East states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe.
CDD said there were also similar casualties in the other zones traceable to lack of education, absence of state actors, economic war, security forces, cultism, land use dispute, ethnicity, religion, failure of the justice system, and overstretched security forces among other, according to CDD.
The country’s security situation has been worsening despite trillions of naira budget for security since the inception of the Buhari administration. The terrorists even had the cheek to issue a threat to kidnap the president. Yet, there is no hint that the Buhari administration will significantly tackle the security problem before the expiration of its tenure. Hence, the new government that will take over on 29 May 2023 will inherit humongous security challenges.
Nigerians are hungry and crying for help. Agriculture or food production is the first casualty of general insecurity. There is a no love lost relationship between herders and farmers leading to regular violent clashes between them. Farmers can no longer visit their farms for the fear of Ak-47 carrying Fulani herdsmen.
Prices of food and other items have gone up exponentially, making life very difficult for people. The trend must be reversed by the next government.
In the over seven years of the Buhari administration, the Nigerian economy has slipped into recession twice. Perhaps, it is to the credit of the administration that it was able to bring the economy out of recession after one quarter at each of the times. Still, there is no doubting the fact that the Nigerian economy, despite all efforts of the government is still in very bad shape.
A report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had in the past year put Nigeria’s inflation rate just below 20 per cent, a fact which most Nigerians can also confirm any time they go to market with the continuous rise in prices of goods and services they are confronted with daily.
The worsening exchange rate of the naira to the dollar, poor access to foreign exchange, unavailable raw materials, rising inflation, frequent collapse of the national grid, increase in the price of diesel, and unavailability of inputs have hobbled the manufacturing sector with operators closing shop daily.
Also, the government has not been able to respond effectively with initiatives capable of boosting the economy because it is incapacitated by poor revenue while it has huge debt servicing obligations.
Ongoing rampant oil theft in the Niger Delta had not allowed Nigeria to use the rise in the price of oil, its main source of foreign exchange to boost its revenue. Indeed, a red flag on the economy was raised in the 2022 fiscal performance report for January to April that indicated that Nigeria’s total revenue for the period stood at N1.63 trillion, while debt servicing stood at N1.94 trillion, showing a variance of over N300 billion.
Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed subsequently warned that urgent action is needed to address the nation’s revenue challenge and expenditure efficiency at both the national and sub-national levels. That challenge must be taken up by a new set of rulers that will take over the country in 2023.
Fuel prices and Refinery
Analysts believe that one of the ways Nigeria can conserve revenue is to stop the wasteful expenditure on petroleum subsidies. The Nigerian Government has estimated petrol subsidy payment at N6.72 trillion for full-year 2023 while the budget for the ongoing 2022 is above N4 trillion.
The Federal Government has continued to maintain a regime of fuel despite recording a fiscal deficit of N7.3 trillion in 2021 as its actual expenditure of N11.69 trillion exceeded generated revenues of N4.39 trillion.
Yet, intermittent and sometimes prolonged scarcity of petroleum products across the country indicates the inefficiency of the corruption-laden subsidy regime. While most analysts agree that the Federal Government must stop subsidizing petrol, there are fears that this may drive up the cost of the product and inflation if Nigeria still depends on importation.
Hence, the challenge for the new government is to complete the ongoing rehabilitation of Nigeria’s four refineries in addition to encouraging other ongoing ones by private investors to come on stream. With this, the bold step of removal of petroleum subsidy and complete deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry can be undertaken.
An energy expert, Musa Ohiare advise the winner of next year’s election “to do all that it may take to fix the refineries, eliminate a dubious subsidy regime on petroleum products and guarantee regular supply of products.”
Robust attention to education
The education sector has not received the attention it deserves for a long period. At the time of this report, thousands of students of government-owned universities were staying their sixth month at home due to industrial action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU and other unions in the system.
Infrastructure development and brain drain
Decayed infrastructure state the country in the face. To seek greener pastures and escape from the rot in the system, not a few Nigerian professionals, especially in the health sector have fled abroad. The result is poor health services.
War against corruption
Analysts recommend that to move the nation forward and restore its dignity, the new government must not treat corruption with kid gloves
Cover Box on Muslim- Muslim Ticket Debate
Religion, The Nigerian Demon
Physically remote but fully involved in the processes leading up to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s victory at the APC primaries and also in the power play that led to the emergence of Senator Kashim Shettima as the vice presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, it was with quixotic astonishment and predictable derision that the mere suggestion of a controversy over a same-faith presidential ticket provoked my angst and anger.
When are we going to stop laying the foundation of every new experiment in national development on trivia? When will we stop chasing the shadows of selfish greed and particularist obsession with power and embrace the task of national transformation that has become our generational opportunity or imminent apocalypse?
Whatever the permutation- Christian/Christian, Muslim/Muslim or even Animist/Animist – reducing the gargantuan task of taking the country from the brink of socio-economic chaos to a debate over faith reflects the numbness of the elite to the flaring anger of the swarming throng of the hapless and hopeless.
It is an involuntary suspension of reason when in great need. How many of us, on board a plane, enter the cockpit to interrogate the religious identity of the pilots? Or do women in labour insist on the faith of the midwife before delivery? In critical situations such as these, we trust the expertise of the persons in charge, convinced that we are in safe hands.
Just to remind us and jerk us out of our reverie, look at what the figures are saying.
In terms of poverty, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics has reported that foreign investment, a principal source of industrial production and jobs in our liberalized economy, declined by 81.46 per cent from $8.49bn in the first quarter of 2019 to $1.57 billion in this year’s first quarter.
No wonder NBS could report that unemployment increased from 27.1 per cent in the second quarter to 33.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020. In this period, NBS reported that 12,160,178 Nigerians had no work to do!
Among the youths aged 15-34 years, the unemployment rate was 42.5 per cent. Embarrassed by the worsening situation of job scarcity, the NBS has cleverly kept the figures for 2021 and the two quarters of 2022 to its chest.
These statistical admissions are the cosmetics of grinding and crushing poverty in urban homes and rural households amidst inflationary spikes because the suffering of our people is beyond what these figures capture. They viscerally illustrate that the economy needs to be overhauled urgently and make an emergency of our ‘normalcy’.
Nobody needs a soothsayer to see the connection between the economic recession and crime, unemployment and kidnapping and between hyperinflation and the citizens’ desperation to run from pillar to post to survive even if it means using children, brothers or neighbours for money rituals whose efficacy is false.
From individual anarchism to sub-national rebellion, from separatist movement to fundamentalist invasion, Nigeria is pulled taut at the seams by centripetal forces even as her legislative, executive, judicial and bureaucratic managers are busy sharing the national cake that remained after the creditors have taken their interest for the month.
And that is why the controversy over a Muslim-Muslim ticket, Christian -Christian ticket or any same-faith permutation is so provocatively out of tune with the needs of a country ridden with poverty and insecurity and threatened by the daredevilry of those who sold the country seeking to return to plunder.
Who gains from the current faith-induced anti-Tinubu campaign? Certainly, not the millions of devout parishioners and congregants whose meek surrender to fate and hope of a better tomorrow lies in the conviction that Christ has died for their sins. They know they will not be invited to the Villa to attend service with the Chaplain or share Holy Communion with ministers and permanent secretaries. They know they will not leverage on any pastoral claim to the earthly acquisition of wealth to ask for contracts or juicy appointments. And they know that when state banquets or weddings of the President’s children hold, they would be content to watch their leaders laugh and grin excitedly in conversations with the high and the mighty.
So It is the golden layer of Christendom that fears it will suffocate if it has no one to call to circumvent one government policy or the other or consolidate access to authority and the public purse. However, once we refuse to reduce our elected officials to their religious identities, we establish a civic code that enables all of us to engage as citizens and restrain them from violating their oath of office by favouring one religion or another. It will enable them to face the urgent task of rescuing the country from poverty and insecurity by casting away the distractions of religion.
We should have learnt our lessons. The history of our present predicament, particularly since 1999, cannot be told without the roles of presidents and vice presidents who disguised their real personalities, with religious cloaks. A President once made us believe he was born again. He preached in prison and even built a church. But when his Christian values were put to test by the Courts for wrongfully seizing the revenue allocations to Lagos State, the meanness of his spirit showed boldly. He did not care if Christians in Lagos State who would be affected by his unconstitutional act starved to death.
With all his pretences, Goodluck was promoted by Obasanjo as a good Christian from the South-South first as Vice President and later as president. The reign of the Boko Haram and herdsmen slashing the throats of farmers became ferocious under his watch. As the simple, poor faithful folks flocked to cemeteries to bury their dead, many of their faith leaders were clinking glasses of champagne in Aso Villa and purchasing jets in the name of the Lord.
For each of these leaders -Christian, Muslim or Animist – that mobilised us based on faith to gain power, the public office has subsequently exposed them as mere mortals with the same peccadilloes to succumb to temptations, the arrogance of power and oftentimes, gross incompetence.
Many of the antagonists of the same faith ticket argue as if the specific electoral context that led to the decision of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to pick Senator Kashim Shettima is irrelevant. They must realise that the All Progressives Congress delegates made Asiwaju the flagbearer because he has demonstrated the tested capacity to win for the party. The concrete, visible evidence is Lagos State, where for 23 solid years, he has led the party to victory. In 16 of these years, the party that he consistently defeated in Lagos was in full control at the federal level with unfettered access to humongous resources and control of the coercive apparatus of the Federal Government.
To justify this huge confidence, Asiwaju is challenged to demonstrate that if he could help the party end the inglorious era of the PDP as the ruling party, he commands the strategic and tactical capacity to consolidate the control of the Federal Government by the APC to tame the hydrheadedded monsters bedevilling Nigeria currently. It is electorally, a game of numbers focused on the history of the voting behaviour of citizens for the party. When you crunch the numbers, the APC has relied on the Northern states to win the presidency. It was the repetition of the feat of 12 million votes that made the merger of the founding parties so realistic in the first place. It worked in 2015 and 2019. As it is said, you don’t change a winning formula.
For consistently delivering for the party, the Northern states have become the strongholds of the APC. President Muhammadu Buhari continues to hold sway, particularly in the North Western zone. To further consolidate the votes, the vice presidential ticket in the North East is a tactical offensive to share the votes of the rival PDP in the zone of its presidential candidate rather than give him a free ticket.
Any concerned party man who looks at the matter more from these power perspectives will likely sympathise with Asiwaju for taking a difficult but smart decision than resort to threats or tantrums. The vice presidency is significant but the Presidency is elaborate executive machinery in which many offices will require loyal and competent hands. Getting down to brass tacks, how does picking a Christian Vice President improve the general welfare of the average Christian in Zungeru, Ikoro Ekiti, Awka, Badagry or anywhere else? How has a Christian vice president stopped or suppressed the persecution of Christians in the last seven years to justify the current cacophony? Yes, Nigeria is multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multicultural etc, but should we be perpetually trapped in the quagmire of pervasive religiosity devoid of actual spirituality?
I was born a Christian and remain a Christian for life and no force on earth can convert me to any other religion but my faith does not enslave me to the wily self-aggrandizing manipulation of some strident politico-commercial faith merchants!
This is the period Nigerians should seriously interrogate more germane governance issues like security, infrastructure, economy etc vis a vis the capacity, capabilities, track record, experience, vision, knowledge and courage of the presidential contenders rather than dissipate energy on sabre rattling, unedifying, strictly unproductive controversy over the religious tag of a ticket!
The presidential election is crucial but it will take place simultaneously with governorship, national and house of assembly elections. These are the tents that people will return to when the elections take place in February. Therefore, there is no basis for the zero-sum tension that those who lost out in the vice presidency bid are orchestrating. It’s about time Nigeria broke the chains tying her economic, political, social and spiritual progress.
*Mr Dele Alake, former Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, writes from the United States
Will Economic Collapse Precede Political Transition In Nigeria?
A bizarre situation is playing out in Nigeria. If you fix your attention on the political space, things have never been more stable. The major political parties have picked their candidates for next February’s all-important presidential election, who in turn have selected their running mates.
From this angle, as the commentariat picks over the bones of the “Muslim-Muslim ticket,” the most urgent consideration is the ethnoreligious affiliation of the standard bearers and their running mates; and its likely impact on the outcome of the 2023 presidential race.
The conduct of the political elite reinforces the appearance of politics as usual. For instance, in the past week, as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate Bola Tinubu and his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart Atiku Abubakar traded accusations, it was as if one was watching an amicable quarrel between two longstanding political allies who suddenly found themselves on different sides of the political divide (which is true, in a sense), rather than an earnest showdown between gladiators who fundamentally disagree on policy and economic ideology.
Professor Ebenezer Obadare
A different view emerges as soon as one looks outside the political space and considers the state of the Nigerian economy. Here, not only is the picture less sanguine, but there is also genuine cause for apprehension as a dire combination of falling revenue, bloated deficit spending, massive borrowing, and spiralling inflation threatens to topple the country’s economy.
Dependent on oil for more than 95 per cent of its foreign exchange earnings and 80 per cent of its budgetary revenues, Nigeria has always lived dangerously and, notoriously, beyond its means. At different times over the past few years, various international bodies have warned the Nigerian government about the unsustainability of the situation, particularly its excessive borrowing.
“Nigeria’s public debt has risen the most under the Buhari administration when compared to previous governments since 1999, and foreign debt has grown three times more than the combined figure recorded by the past three administrations,” according to a report in the Nigerian media.
In June 2021, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) issued a stark warning after the country’s debt to GDP ratio increased from 29 to 35 per cent. In the first quarter of that year alone, Nigeria spent 35.7 per cent more than it had in the previous year on foreign and domestic debt servicing during the same period.
This April, the World Bank warned that “increasing fuel subsidy was putting the Nigerian economy at a high risk as subsidy payments could significantly impact public finance and pose debt sustainability concerns.” A politically explosive subject, the fuel subsidy is expected to cost 9.6 billion USD this year, ten times more than budgeted. The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Economic Outlook Report released last month echoed similar concerns, warning that “the Nigerian government may spend nearly 100 per cent of its revenue on debt servicing by 2026.”
The fiscal performance report released last week by the Nigerian government confirms the accuracy of these projections. For example, in the first four months of 2022, the government borrowed over N3 trillion, of which only N773.63 billion went to capital projects. The remainder went towards non-capital expenditure in the form of recurrent costs, public salaries, and debt repayment.
The ripples of the economic downturn are being felt across the length and breadth of the country. Last week, Aero Contractors, the country’s oldest airline, suspended operations indefinitely citing “the impact of the challenging operating environment on our daily operations.”
Shortly after, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) grounded Dana Air after revealing that the airline was “no longer in a position to meet its financial obligations and conduct safe flight operations.” In May, airline operators in Nigeria only shelved plans to suspend all flights due to high fuel prices following a last-minute government intervention. Airline operating costs have gone up by as much as 130 per cent following a spike in the price of jet fuel in the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
With inflation currently at 18.6 per cent according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), prices of everyday consumer items have increased astronomically.
Last week, bread makers under the auspices of the Premium Breadmakers Association of Nigeria (PBAN) began a four-day warning strike in protest over an “incessant increase in the price of baking materials” and a raft of “unfriendly” government policies, including “a 15 per cent wheat development levy on wheat import.”
For the average Nigerian, acute fuel shortages and widespread blackouts compound the daily misery. For the sixth time this year, a collapse of the power grid caused power generation to drop, this time from a high of 3,921 Megawatts to as low as fifty Megawatts. The country’s electricity sector is beset by rampant corruption and acute mismanagement. A report by the Centre for Health, Equity and Justice (CEHEJ) estimates that since 1999, “corruption in Nigeria’s power sector has gulped N11 trillion.”
The Nigerian government has launched a “full-scale investigation” into the latest collapse.
On the whole, the worsening economic situation, combined with deepening insecurity, is producing a level of social unrest that has not been seen since the prolonged turbulence that followed the militarcancellationtion of the 1993 presidential election.
Barring any last-minute change of plans, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) will embark on a two-day solidarity strike tomorrow aimed at calling attention to the ongoing strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU). ASUU has been on strike since February 14 after an earlier warning strike aimed at bringing the government to the negotiating table went unheeded.
The government has accused the NLC of planning to cause anarchy.
Quite how Nigeria gets out of its logjam is anybody’s guess. First, the country’s economic contradictions are such that they cannot be properly sorted out in one stroke. Second, even if it requires no special training to grasp what needs to be done—increase revenue intake, borrow less, reduce dependency on oil, and reduce government corruption—there is nary an indication of the political will to follow through.
While the recent transformation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) into “a fully commercial entity” is a step in the right direction, it remains to be seen whether the corporation will be allowed to fully operate shorn of government intrusion.
On the contrary, the proposed ban by the National Security Council on all mining activities and motorcycles as a way of curbing the activities of terrorists smacks of desperation, and can only deepen the economic precarity of the average Nigerian.
A version of the proposed ban has been in force in the northwestern state of Zamfara since 2019.
Growing support among disaffected urban youth for the candidacy of Peter Obi, the Labour Party standard bearer, offers the most tangible evidence that Nigerians have had enough. Whether that frustration can be ultimately converted into political capital is a different question. In the meantime, Nigeria needs an economic miracle.
*Professor Ebenezer Obadare is Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow for Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). This article was originally published by CFR as part of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Project on the Future of Democracy: https://www.cfr.org/blog/will-economic-collapse-precede-political-transition-nigeria