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Why is the 2023 Election in Nigeria so Decisive?

Never before did the presidential elections in Nigeria matter this much than this year. Why? What is at stake for the election to reach such a level of magnitude? The incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari cannot seek re-election because he is term-limited by the Nigerian federal constitution. The presidential elections in Nigeria are structured into a two-round electoral model. The first round was the primaries. The Party primaries were conducted between April 4 and June 9, 2022, with the Peoples Democratic Party nominating former Vice President Atiku Abubakar on May 28, 2022, while the All Progressive Congress nominated former Governor of Lagos State Bola Tinubu on June 8. Peter Obi, leader of the Labour Party, was nominated on May 30 and former Governor of Kano State Rabiu Kwankwaso was nominated on June 8. Thus, the presidential election opposes Bola Tinubu to Peter Obi.

Source: World Bank Data

So what is at stake here? The Nigerian economy slowed under Buhari’s leadership. As we can see in this graph, the Nigerian economic growth significantly once Buhari came to power. Prior to the Buhari presidency, the Nigerian economy was growing at 6%. Between 2014 and 2016, the Nigerian economy contracted from 6% to -1.5%. Then it rebounded into positive percentages between 2016 and 2019 then declined again in 2020. However, the economy grew again in 2021, but that growth was timid. Unemployment and inflation have soared. Unemployment right now is at 32.1% and inflation has accelerated to 21.28% in January 2023. In a nutshell, the Nigerian economy is on the brink of a serious downturn. The economy is depleted, many Nigerians live in abject poverty, and poverty has been rampant. Beyond the economic debacle, Insecurity has grown in Nigeria. The level of concern related to different crimes in Nigeria has augmented as of January 2023. Indeed, in a survey measuring levels of concern, 67.28% of Nigerians are worried about things from cars stolen, and 65.22% of Nigerians are worried about being mugged or robbed. Nigerians want change and they want it now. And this change will be decided between Peter Obi and Bola Tinubu.

Peter Obi is a wealthy Nigerian businessman who built his wealth from the financial sector. He has been in politics since 2006. His candidacy has been very appealing to the youth. They find him accessible and dynamic. He carries reformative policy proposals. Obi has publicly demanded that the federal government name individuals responsible for financing terrorism and oil theft in Nigeria, and he also expressed his support for the End SARS social movement against police brutality. Moreover, Governor Obi has prioritized women's issues. He promotes women's empowerment. He believed that women are less prone to corruption in public office than men, and states that his gubernatorial staff was predominantly women. Obi represents hope and youth.

Bola Tinubu, on the other hand, is seen as the epitome of the status quo. Governor Tinubu is a trained accountant. He has an extensive political career. Prior to being Governor of Lagos States, he was Senator of Lagos West. Governor Tinubu has been under investigation many times for illegal activities. For example, in 2007, the Nigerian federal government brought Tinubu before the Code of Conduct Bureau for trial over the alleged illegal operations of 16 separate foreign accounts. He is also considered the political godfather and hooligan of Lagos State. He exerts political and financial power over the city of Lagos. He is seen as the logical successor to Buhari since they are from the same political party.

Whoever is elected president, will be under a lot of pressure to recover the economy. If Tinubu takes power, we can expect the perpetuation of corruption and perhaps a decline of the rule of law in Nigeria, which could to political instability. This does not mean that Peter Obi is perfect or flawless. But if Obi takes power, Nigeria will seem to be evolving in the right direction to reestablish its prosperity. Overall, Nigeria’s democracy is at stake.


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