Presidential Election: Knotty Nigerian factors that may decide outcome
It is not too early to know the likely direction in which this presidential election on which many have committed serious efforts and resources will go.
Notwithstanding the overwhelming clamour for improvement in governance because of serious decay in all sectors of the Nigerian system,
Nigeria is still ruled by sentiments relating to region, ethnicity and religion.
Today, Nigeria has declined in most developmental indices. The annual inflation rate accelerated to 21.82 per cent in January 2023, the highest since September 2005, from 21.34 per cent in the prior month, against market expectations of a further slowdown to 21.3 per cent. Soaring food prices and a weaker naira currency were the main drivers. Unemployment rate keeps soaring at 33 per cent today, a development that forced the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) to predict that the country’s unemployment rate will hit 37 per cent in 2023. The group in its 2023 Macroeconomic Outlook report titled “Nigeria in Transition: Recipes for Shared Prosperity, said the country’s poverty headcount will also rise to 45 per cent.
Also, the incessant depreciation of Naira against major global currencies has left our currency almost valueless, leaving importers at the mercy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the black market exchange, especially for the Dollar, is unimaginable.
Apart from the economy, which has been struggling, especially after the pandemic, insecurity has taken an unprecedented turn, with many dead, more likely to die, properties lost, businesses closed, local and foreign investments declined as bandits, kidnappers and Boko Haram seem to have overrun the country.
Yet, the government keeps borrowing to fund security without result. Nigeria’s debt profile has once again risen to an all-time high under the present administration, leaving a bleak future for the country.
The last seven and half years have also left the country more divided as the leadership has made less effort at building bridges.
The latest is the naira redesign and currency swap policy which although well intended have been hijacked to inflict woeful scourge on ordinary citizens.
However, reports show that the country’s politics, which revolves around three knotty elements of region, ethnicity and religion may still produce the next President.
The North, which is dominated by the Hausa-Fulani is the largest region and it has two presidential candidates in this election. They are Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). This region also has the largest number of voters.
The latest release from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shows that 22,255, 562 million persons have been registered to vote here. The North-East currently has 12,542,429 up from 11,289, 293 voters it had in 2019. Atiku and the vice Presidential candidate of the APC are from this zone. Both are Muslims.
On the other hand, the South West with Yoruba as predominant ethnic group, has the second largest number of registered voters of 17,958,966. The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is from this zone. The North-Central, which had 13,366,070 registered voters in 2019, now has 15,363,731.
The electoral body’s figures also show that the South-South has 14, 440,714 registered voters. The region boasted 12, 841,279 registered voters in 2019. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa who is the vice presidential candidate of the PDP is from this zone.
The South-East has 10,907,606 up from 10,057,130 registered voters it had in 2019. The candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi is from here.
The sentiments of religion, which are stronger in the North favour Atiku, Kwankwaso and Tinubu who has picked another Muslim, Ibrahim Shettima from the North East as running mate.
However, it must be pointed out quickly that Peter Obi of the LP has a stronger appeal to youths across the country.
But what about the issues of performance, credibility and integrity of candidates and their political parties? This disturbing question attracted responses from foremost religious leaders in an effort to cure fundamental problems that arose from Nigeria’s knotty political culture.
Sultan of Sokoto and President of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, (NSCIA), His Eminence, Muhammed Abubakar the III, and the President of the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN), Archbishop Daniel Okoh, did not miss words in calling on Nigerians to eschew ethno-religious sentiments and vote credible candidates that will revive the economy and ensure fairness and justice in the country.
The two religious leaders who are also co-chairmen of the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP), made the call at the 5th Annual Peace Conference and General Assembly of the IDFP themed “Religion and Ethnicity: Safeguarding the 2023 General Elections” and was held in Abuja.
In his remarks, the CAN President noted that beyond the individual and religious considerations, Nigerians must ensure that they vote according to their consciences in an honest and prayerful manner, knowing that it is only God that can give the national leaders that are credible.
He said: “We must vote honestly; we must vote prayerfully without allowing our religion or our ethnic sentiments to control us. We must know that God is bigger than all these realities. Only then shall we have a leader that will guide us because the poverty in our country now does not know religion, the sufferings we face and insecurity of all sorts do not know religion.”
The CAN president urged Nigerians to avoid acts that can destabilise the system as no progress can be made in an atmosphere of anarchy.
While speaking on the importance of unity ahead of the elections, Sultan Abubakar III said: “We have so much in common in Nigeria that will benefit us as a people if we stick together than playing out religious and ethnic negativities to divide our country.
“I wish to see a situation where every Nigerian counts himself first as a Nigerian before counting his religion or ethnicity. I am not unaware of the negative roles religion and ethnicity could play in a polity but we must galvanize and harness the positive roles they also play in driving national unity.”
Represented by the Director of Administration, NSCIA, Zubairu Usman, the Sultan said his message to Nigerians was that “all should go and get their PVCs, conduct themselves peacefully, go to the polling units, vote with wisdom and according to their conscience and should not be swayed by any other primordial sentiments but according to their conscience.”
Of all the 18 political parties, only two: the PDP and the APC have been privileged to be in power. The PDP ruled for 16 years and left power for the APC, which took over in 2015 and is still ruling.
Tales of how the two fared in government are still subject of crucial debates across the country though government has continued to perform very poorly since 2015.
Exchanges between the APC and the PDP on the declining performance of government have continued to be bitter. As the ruling party blames the PDP for laying the foundation of poor performance, the PDP has continued to narrate the woeful story of how the APC mismanaged the country’s socio-economic development.
National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Debo Ologunagba, just on Wednesday declared that today’s presidential election would provide opportunity for Nigerians to pass a resounding verdict on the failures of the
APC since the party came to power.
“This Presidential election is about the issues that affect Nigerians on a daily basis and a simple comparison of statistics from 1999 to 2015 under the PDP and from 2015 to 2023 under the APC.”
According to him, a thorough review of the nation’s life in the last eight years shows that the lives of Nigerians have been massively discounted.
“These are the issues on the ballot in this election. Nigerians are invited to take these into consideration as they go into the polls this Saturday. These issues relate to the safety and wellbeing of our citizens, the future of our children and the continued corporate existence of this country.
“The PDP handed over a $550 billion economy (largest in Africa and 26th globally) to the APC in 2015. Today, Tinubu’s APC has ruined the economy and turned our nation into the poverty capital of the world where over 100 million Nigerians can no longer afford their daily meals”.
The PDP spokesman also noted that matters were compounded by debt accumulation by the APC government from N12 trillion in 2015 to a staggering N44.06 trillion today. He lamented that inflation rate has risen from 9 per cent in 2015 to over 22 per cent in 2023 in addition to an exchange rate of about N197 to a dollar under the PDP to over N750 to a dollar today.
All these, according to the opposition party, have produced a consequential negative effect on Small and Medium Scale Enterprises which were forced to close down resulting in massive unemployment from about 8 per cent in 2015 to 37 per cent in 2023.
“The life discounting experiences were worsened by the harsh economic policies of APC which saw the pump price of fuel rising from N87 per litre under the PDP to about N400 to N500 per litre in various parts of the country today,” PDP added.
Ologunagba further observed that “Today, under the APC, a bag of rice which sold at N7, 500 in 2015 under the PDP now sells for almost N50,000; a measure of garri which sold at N100 in 2015 now sells for over N450 while a measure of beans which sold at N250 in 2015 now sells for over N1000 under the APC.”
According to him, under the APC, Nigeria became the second most corrupt country in West Africa and 154 out of 180 in Global Corruption Index with APC leaders allegedly stealing over N15 trillion oil revenue meant for infrastructural development in the country.
“On security, under the APC, our country became one of the most dangerous places to live in the world; ranked 4th in Global Terrorism Index report; third country with the highest level of terrorism after Iran and Afghanistan with over 55,430 Nigerians killed by terrorists and criminal gangs between 2015 and 2022 according official reports,” he added.
Meanwhile, the spokesman of APC Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, has branded PDP a leopard that has been unable to change its spots.
Keyamo, who is the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, was responding to a statement credited to his PDP counterpart, Dino Melaye, on the ruling party, which he described as unorganised and retrogressive without a solid leadership structure. Keyamo urged PDP to rescue itself before thinking of saving the country.
In a statement, Keyamo said: “Our attention has been drawn to a statement by the PDP Campaign Council alleging that the APC is not ready to govern Nigeria.
“This most outlandish statement, coming from the PDP at a time it has become the theatre of the most absurd in this country, is most ironic and unfortunate. It reminds us of the Yoruba parable of the audacious thief summoning the effrontery to accuse the farm-owner of illegal trespass before the farm owner could raise the alarm.”
He also berated the opposition party over corruption allegation involving its national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu.
“The PDP has entertained Nigerians with scandalous issues that show the party remains a clear and present danger or threat to Nigeria’s treasury and equity. In the last few days, the public space has been inundated with allegations made by no less a person than a prominent governor of the PDP accusing its national chairman of being patently corrupt and of collecting a bribe of N1 billion from one of its candidates.
“The governor even threatened to ‘reveal more’ if there was a denial. The party chairman, Ayu, is yet to deny or debunk this allegation for fear of being stripped totally bare in public. Is this the party that claims it is ready for governance and that Nigerians can trust? A party without any iota of shame.”
The minister alleged that instead of hiding his head in shame, the same Ayu went on a bribing spree, crediting the accounts of members of the NWC in a desperate and laughable attempt to hang on to office.
“Is this the party Nigerians can trust? Is this the party ready to govern Nigeria? Every week, we are treated to a new revelation about the PDP crises and its profligate and thieving nature. A leopard can hardly change its spots, which means that the PDP is not repentant of its old ways. Certainly, Nigerians are not ready to be deceived again by these comic characters.
“On our part, our party has shown its commitment to be fair to all regions in the country. Whilst the PDP was breaching its own Constitution on power rotation and fairness, the APC governors rose above primordial sentiments and rejected a move to zone the APC presidential ticket to the North, insisting that power must shift to the South after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure. This is a party that believes in fairness and equity and all Nigerians can attest to that,” Keyamo wrote.