In the next three days, the world’s first big election of 2023 will be held, as Nigerians head to the polls to elect President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor.
Buhari, who emerged as President in 2015 amidst heightened hope as a messianic figure that would rescue the country from downslide, will head home for retirement on May 29.
Also, the 2023 election’s impact will reverberate worldwide, being Africa’s biggest economy and most populous black country.
Although the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, disclosed that 18 presidential candidates would participate in the February 25 election, only four candidates have qualified as frontrunners.
These are Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC; Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP; and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian Peoples Party, NNPP.
Some statistics have shown, unlike past elections, which had two major contenders, the 2023 presidential election features a third force; the battle for votes is between Bola Tinubu, APC; Atiku Abubakar, PDP; Peter Obi, LP; and Rabiu Kwankwaso, NNPP.
According to various permutations, there is a slight probability that none of the above candidates will secure 25 per cent of the vote in two-thirds of the states – a constitutional requirement for a winner – which is needed to win outrightly. If that happens, it would be the first time the country would see a run-off election.
According to the London Economist, Nigeria has been cursed with bad rulers. It noted that since the military regime gave way to democracy in 1999, elections have offered voters an ugly selection of the ancient, the incompetent and, most recently, albeit a former military dictator.
“Parties have stoked ethnic divisions, intimidated their opponents and bought votes. Many federal, state and local candidates seek power to grab a share of the country’s oil wealth. Successive governments have been deeply corrupt,” the Economist wrote in its 12th February election.
Meanwhile, preparations for the 2023 elections have been in top gear, with many candidates rounding off campaigns in most of the 36 states of the federation. Although not without spectacular drama, there have been major moments and events that would, in one way or another, shape the forthcoming general elections.
PDP discarding zoning
The debate over the zoning principle in Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, came to a close in May 2022, following the party’s decision to open its 2023 presidential ticket to all sections of the country.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, disclosed the party’s position following the end of the PDP National Executive Council meeting.
He said the decision to throw open the ticket was in line with the recommendation made by the party’s zoning committee.
“After extensive deliberation, NEC aligned with the recommendation of the PDP National Zoning Committee that the Presidential Election should now be left open. The party should also work towards a consensus candidate where possible,” Ologunagba said.
He said the NEC noted the recommendation of the Zoning Committee that in the interest of justice and fair play, the party should decide on zoning timeously to prevent complications to the process.
Tinubu and the Emilokan
Tinubu (APC) has been largely associated with the now famous Yoruba phrase’ emi lokan’, which means “It is my turn”.
The former Lagos State governor came about the words while campaigning to delegates in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, in the build-up to the APC presidential convention.
At the meeting, Tinubu narrated how his support guaranteed Muhammadu Buhari to become Nigeria’s President after three failed trials. He said he was the next person to become the President of Nigeria, repeating, “It is my turn.”
Although Tinubu has often been slammed for the statement by some Nigerians, many still believe the attack was unwarranted, considering the role he played in the emergence of Buhari as the President.
Introduction of BVAS
On February 25 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2022 Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law, which repeals Electoral Act No. 6, 2010.
The Act was intended to bring innovations to the regulation of Federal, State and Area Council elections in Nigeria.
From the era of manual processes, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has continued introducing technological interventions to improve elections.
The INEC, following the new electoral Act, introduced the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS.
BVAS, to an extent, fulfils Nigerians’ craving for more transparent, free, fair, and credible elections since the return of democracy in 1999.
Although these interventions haven’t been without challenges, they have, in turn, brought about more confidence in the electoral system.
The G-5 phenomenon
The G-5 members are Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Governors Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), and Samuel Ortom (Benue). They have been in a running battle with Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential candidate following the party’s presidential primary.
The governors, angered by the outcome of the party’s presidential primary election won by Atiku Abubakar, have demanded that the party Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, should step down.
But the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and a majority of the party’s leaders have refused to succumb to the demand, insisting that if at all possible, it would happen only after the election.
Permutations were rife in the wake of the primary that Atiku would pick Wike as his running mate, but in a twist of events, he settled for Okowa, which some stalwarts consider less strong in the party compared to Wike.
The G-5 phenomenon has also escalated the crisis in the PDP, which has rattled the presidential bid of its candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, announced in October last year that it planned to redesign, produce, and circulate new series of N200, N500 and N1,000 notes. The three notes represent the highest denomination of Nigeria’s eight legal tenders.
Following the launch of the new designs on November 23, 2022, by President Muhammadu Buhari, the new currency notes were circulated from December 15 2022, with both the new and existing notes considered legal tender until January 31 2023.
However, many Nigerians have expressed worries and disappointment over the scarcity of the new naira notes and the apex bank’s handling of the process.
Meanwhile, the Ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is in turmoil over the naira redesign. The Presidential Candidate of the APC set the tone for the crisis when he protested the policy in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, last month.
“They don’t want this election to be held. They want to sabotage it (elections). Will you allow them?”, Tinubu asked the teeming supporters at the rally, to which they responded, “No.”
“Even if they changed the ink on Naira notes. Whatever their plans, it will come to nought. We are going to win,” he said.
However, the Naira redesign policy of the CBN assumed another dimension when three State governments, Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara, sued the federal government at the Supreme Court over the hardship occasioned by the scarcity of the redesigned naira notes.
The Supreme Court granted an interim order restraining the apex bank not to end the use of old naira notes on February 10.
A seven-member panel of the court, led by Justice John Okoro, gave the order of interim injunction amid an acute scarcity of the newly redesigned N200, N500, and N1,000 currency notes.
Surprisingly, the federal government did not obey the Supreme Court’s injunction but went ahead with the CBN deadline for the swapping of the new notes.
For the past few months, Nigerians have been subjected to agonising pains imposed on them by the scarcity of petrol ravaging the country.
The problem is worsened by the seeming lack of lasting solutions from the authorities and industry managers, especially the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.
At the moment, despite the subsidy regime being operated in the country where the government spends a humongous amount of money on imported petrol annually, the pump price of the product has hit the roof.
Depending on the location one lives, petrol has been selling for between N250 and N650 per litre for the past few months, even when the government claimed that the official regulated pump price was N165 before it secretly adjusted it to N185 last January.
As the 2023 general elections come close, Nigerians are coming to terms with different fuel prices, ranging between N250 to N650 per litre, as obtained in many filling stations.
APC NWC & Govs Vs Buhari
The fallout of the Naira redesign policy has further pitched President Buhari against his party, the APC.
The National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and the governors of the party had last week, called on Buhari to obey the Supreme Court order on the Naira redesign policy.
The governors and the party openly expressed their disappointment against the policy and kicked against the directive by the president.
“We note very seriously that the programme and its implementation are causing tremendous difficulties to the people of Nigeria and to the national economy.
“That we urge the Attorney General of the Federation, (Abubakar Malami) and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to respect the supreme court order of Interim injunction, which is still subsisting.
“That the meeting is urging his Excellency, Mr President, to intervene in resolving issues that are causing this great difficulty to the economy,” Adamu said.
Obi, Labour Party & Obidients
According to Al Jazeera news, Nigerian politics might be on the verge of total disruption. The world news platform noted that Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, is leading most polls ahead of more established candidates, mentioning Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu.
Obi emerged as the LP flagbearer on May 30, 2022, days after resigning his membership in the Peoples Democratic Party.
Obi was the running mate to Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 election, who again won PDP’s 2023 presidential ticket at the Abuja special convention.
But will he win in a country where polling data is a new phenomenon?
The paper also noted that the popularity of the former Anambra State governor surged after he joined forces with the LP, with a section of the youth (popularly known as the ‘obedients’) taking his ambition as a personal project.
Obi is famously known for his consumption-to-production rhetorics. He advocates and promises to fight corruption and insecurity, create jobs, a conducive environment for businesses, and improve education, healthcare, infrastructure and the economy.
Lawan vs Machina
In another twist in the run-up to the general elections, the Supreme Court restored the Senate President, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan as the Senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for Yobe North Senatorial District.
In a split judgement of three to two, the apex court affirmed Lawan as the authentic Senatorial candidate of the APC in the Yobe North Senatorial district.
Justice Centus Chima Nweze, who delivered the majority judgement of the Apex Court, held that Machina ought to have commenced his case at the Federal High Court with a writ of summons given the grievous allegations in his suit against the defendants.
However, Justices Adamu Jauro and Emmanuel Akomaye Agim disagreed with the majority judgement. They held that the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal were correct in their findings, which affirmed Machina as the authentic candidate.