ABUJA, Feb 24 (IPS) – All indications are that President Muhammadu Buhari will hand over a fractured nation deeply divided along ethnic and religious lines when he formally hands over to his successor on May 29, 2023. This would-be successor will inherit a country mired in economic woes that threaten the existence of its businesses unless he takes the job prepared to tackle those problems head-on.
Since the inauguration of the Fourth Republic in 1999, the upcoming vote scheduled for February 25, 2023 will be the most challenging in so many ways.
Apart from the fact that the three leading presidential candidates – Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are Yoruba, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is Hausa/Fulani, while Peter Obi of Labor is from the Igbo ethnic tribe, tribe and religion may not be the deciding factors in who wins the vote after all.
Nigeria, Africa’s once giant, is at a turning point. Almost all economic indicators are negative. Safety for life and property is at an all-time low. Non-state actors are having a field day.
With unemployment at more than 33 percent, the national currency devalued separately, the inflation rate at the end of January this year put at 21.8% by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the corruption index spiraling with the organized theft of the nation’s major foreign exchange earner – revenue earner crude oil , at a record high, the outgoing administration is suffering from a trust deficit.
The picture is bleak if one considers the agitation by some ethnic nationalities such as the outlawed Independent People Of Biafra (IPOB) and the Oduduwa Ethnic Nationality Movement pushing for secession as independent states.
Worse still, the insecurity and banditry ravaging the northern parts of the country is a significant challenge. The porous borders, especially in the northern flank, along with climate change and the aftermath of the crisis in Libya, have increased insecurity in the country. Consequently, the clashes between herdsmen and farmers and kidnapping for ransom have made the country a questionable destination for foreign direct investment (FDI).
The business climate does not favor local investors either. They instead migrate offshore to invest, leaving an army of unemployed university graduates to roam the streets in search of unavailable jobs.
In November 2022, the Nigerian government announced that 133 million Nigerians out of an estimated population of 211 million live in multidimensional poverty. The October 2020 #EndSars protest, triggered by police brutality of the civilian population, although a non-partisan protest, reawakened youth awareness of the police.
Its organization and implementation of the objectives, especially to mobilize youth across most parts of the country, showed that if mobilized under a political platform, these youth can play a decisive role in political leadership.
In fact, of the 93.5 million registered voters by the Election Commission, the youth demographic is about 70 percent. The implication of this demographic dominance is that youth votes could largely determine the outcome of the February 25 presidential election.
Under the 2022 Electoral Act, the three leading presidential candidates have been on roadshows criss-crossing the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, wooing voters.
Remarkably, the usually dominant campaign issues of religion and tribe have been largely relegated to the background, with the twin issues of economy and insecurity taking center stage.
The nation’s economy is in a bad state, with uncertainty ravaging most parts of the country.
Corrupt practices are changing in all sub-sectors of the economy, while unemployment is at an all-time high.
National Coordinator of the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), Emmanuel Onwubiko, warns that voters should not be swayed by soap box promises by these candidates. Instead, he recommends that voters be guided by their predecessors regarding the country’s socio-economic problems.
“I think what Nigerians need to look at before making their choices is the antecedents of the candidates in relation to the socio-economic realities on the ground and the prospect of offering solutions in the short or long term. These qualities will include accountability, competence, capacity and ability to achieve what they promise.”
The Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC) and Director of Transparency International (Nigeria), Auwal Ibrahim Musa, fears that voters are not faced with different genuine choices given the processes that threw up some of these candidates.
Nonetheless, Musa challenges voters to vote for “a candidate who has the capacity and ability to pull the country from the brink.
“It is important that Nigerians do not elect a person who will mortgage their future, plunder our common heritage and trample on the rule of law. It is instructive that they do not vote for a person with responsibility, so the international community will not laugh at us. Nigeria is a key player in the civility of nations, and it will be gratifying if she is given the right leadership.”
Whether this vote is decided on the first ballot or goes into a poll, apart from being a referendum on the ruling All Progressive Congress, the winner will inherit a lying country that needs quick solutions to maintain its corporate existence.
IPS UN agency report
Follow IPS News UN Bureau on Instagram
© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service