ABUJA, Feb 24 (IPS) — From all indications, President Muhammadu Buhari will be handing over a fractured nation that is deeply divided along ethnic and religious lines when he formally hands over to his successor on May 29, 2023. This would-be successor will be inheriting a country mired in economic woes threatening its corporate existence if he’s not assuming the job prepared to address these problems headlong.
Since the inauguration of the Fourth Republic in 1999, the forthcoming poll slated for February 25, 2023, will be the most challenging in so many ways.
Besides the fact that the three leading presidential candidates – Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is Yoruba, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) is Hausa/Fulani, while Peter Obi of the Labour Party is of Igbo ethnic stock, tribe, and religion after all, may not be the deciding factors in who wins at the poll.
Nigeria, the once giant of Africa, is at a tipping point. Almost all the economic indicators are negative. The security of lives and property is at its lowest. Non-state actors are having a field day.
With a more than 33 percent unemployment rate, the national currency severally devalued, the inflationary rate as of the end of January this year put at 21.8% by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), corruption index spiraling with the organized theft of the nation’s major foreign exchange earner – earner crude oil, at an all-time high, the outgoing administration is suffering trust deficit.
The picture is grim if one considers the agitation by some ethnic nationalities, such as the outlawed Independent People Of Biafra (IPOB) and Oduduwa Ethnic Nationality Movement pushing for a breakaway as independent states.
Worse still, the insecurity and banditry ravaging Northern parts of the country pose a significant challenge. The porous borders, especially in the northern flank, coupled with climate change and the aftermath of the crisis in Libya, have heightened insecurity in the country. Consequently, the herders/farmers clashes and kidnapping for ransom have made the country a doubtful destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
The business climate does not favor local investors, either. They are instead migrating offshore to invest, leaving an army of unemployed university graduates to roam the streets in search of non-available jobs.
In November 2022, the Nigerian government announced that 133 million Nigerians out of an estimated population of 211 million are living in multidimensional poverty. The #EndSars protest of October 2020, which was triggered by Police brutality of the civilian populace, even though it was a non-partisan protest, reawakened youth consciousness in the polity.
Its organization and execution of the goals, especially in mobilizing youths across most parts of the country, indicated that if mobilized under a political platform, these youths can play a determining role in political leadership.
Indeed, out of the 93.5 million registered voters by the Electoral Commission, the youth demography is about 70 percent. The implication of this demographic dominance is that votes cast by youths could largely decide the outcome of the February 25 presidential poll.
Per the Electoral Act 2022, the three leading presidential candidates have been on roadshows, traversing the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, wooing voters.
Remarkably, the ordinarily dominant campaign issues of religion and tribe have largely been relegated to the background, with the twin issues of economy and insecurity taking center stage.
The nation’s economy is in a parlous state, with insecurity ravaging most parts of the country.
Corrupt practices are mutating in all the subsectors of the economy, while the unemployment rate is at an all-time high.
National Coordinator of the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), Emmanuel Onwubiko, warns that voters should not be carried away by soapbox promises by these candidates. Instead, he advises that voters be guided by their antecedents concerning the country’s socioeconomic problems.
“I think what Nigerians need to look at before making their choices is the antecedents of the candidates vis-à-vis the socioeconomic reality on the ground and the prospect of proffering solutions whether in the short- or long-term. These qualities will include accountability, competence, capacity, and capability to accomplish what they promise.”
The Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Head of Transparency International (Nigeria), Auwal Ibrahim Musa, fears that the electorate is not presented with various genuine choices given the processes that threw up some of these candidates.
Nonetheless, Musa challenges the electorates to vote for “a candidate who possesses the capacity and capability to pull the country from the brink.
“It’s important that Nigerians do not elect a person who’ll mortgage their future, loot our common patrimony and trample on the Rule of Law. It’s instructive that they do not vote for a person with liability, so the International community will not laugh at us. Nigeria is a key player in the comity of nations, and it will be pleasing if she gets the right leadership.”
Whether this poll is decided on the first ballot or runs into a run-off, besides being a referendum on the ruling All Progressive Congress, whoever wins will inherit a prostrate country that needs quick fixes to retain its corporate existence.
IPS UN Bureau Report