Nigeria, the Giant of Africa, will hold it’s presidential election on February 25, 2023. The next president will be determined by over 90 million registered voters, as well as the two Chambers of Nigeria’s parliament. There are 18 presidential candidates but four frontrunners, namely Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Party (APC); Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party; Peter Obi of the Labour Party; and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party. The presidential election is controlled by some vital issues.
The first of these issues is security. The outgoing President, Muhammadu Buhari, assumed presidential seat in 2015 as a former general with experiences of war and with the aim of combating insecurity in Nigeria and particularly in the northeast which has been dominated by Boko Haram since 2009. Instead of experiencing the end of insecurity, Nigeria has witnessed the insurgence of multiple armed groups. There have also been a continuous kidnapping epidemic carried out by gangs of armed bandits. Given that each of the frontrunners have assured security reforms, Nigerians believe a new president would curb violence and instability.
Country should expect a democratic renaissance.
Another vital issue to consider during the election is the current state of the economy. The Nigerian currency, the naira has drastically declined to a third of its value in 2015. Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has diverse exchange rates to the United States dollar, while the rate for black market is almost twice the official one. This is one of the results of low oil production due to oil theft in the Niger Delta region and fuel subsidy regime. Prior to the election, there has been a nationwide shortage of cash and fuel due the CBN’s introduction of new banknotes. Investors therefore look forward to a business-friendly government for reduction of bureaucracy in the country which is ranked 131 of 190 economies.
According to experts, a democratic renaissance is likely to happen in Nigeria with its rank as having the world’s largest youth population and a median age of 18. Youths used to be a demographic group that have typical association with voter apathy, but in this election, these set of people seem ready to make their voices heard. Approximately 37 million of Nigerian voters are aged 18 to 34 and it has been discovered that the passion that drove the Afro beats music genre and the Nollywood film industry into globally recognized forces has been diverted on politics. The youth have grievances at the current administration for the seven month Twitter ban, the eight month public universities strike, and the killing of protesters by the military at an anti-police brutality protest led by the youth in October, 2020.
2023 election is the first since 1999 without an ex-gen. on the ballot.
An analyst at the institute for Security Studies, Oluwole Ojewale, asserted that the plight of the youth is affected by a crashing education system and increasing unemployment, adding that it is expected to see the mostly affected set of Nigerians becoming politically conscious to ensure a change. The analyst added that the grievance has largely contributed to the “Japa wave” — a Nigerian phrase for immigration — but has also built massive support for the frontrunners like Peter Obi of Labour Party, particularly on social media. Given the fact that Nigeria politics always remained between the establishment political party of APC and PDP, Ojewale is interested in witnessing how the social media campaign led by the young population would birth an electoral victory for their preferred presidential candidate in the election.
This election, according to history, will be the first election since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999 without a former general on the ballot. Three of the frontrunners and at least two other presidential candidates became nationally relevant for the first time in the 1993 election which was regarded as the “freest and fairest” in Nigeria’s history but cancelled by the military. Analysts have therefore described the election as a change of guard. Until 2018, Nigerians below 30 years were unable to run for state or federal office, having to wait until 40 before attempting a presidential position. Although a change is surfacing in lower offices. 115 of governorship candidates are in their 40s while 53 are in their 30s. However, of the frontrunners for the presidential seat, Peter Obi is the youngest — at 61 years old and born after independence in 1960.
The result of the election would have great impacts on Africa.
Across West Africa, there is an issue of confidence in democracy even as Nigeria suffers internal crises. Three years ago, there was a series of coup and attempted coup in neighboring countries — Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Guinea — which led to the naming of the region as the “coup belt”. Civil society leaders and experts stated that Nigeria is being recognized as an establishing force in the West African region. Nigeria Country Director for ONE.org, a campaign for eradication of extreme poverty and preventable disease, acknowledged that as much as Nigeria is likely to become a beacon for Africa, it has the tendency of darkening the continent from repercussions of whatever happens during the election. To enable positive impacts, observers said the country’s electoral body must be impartial.