Featured, Opinion, Politics

Opinion Piece: Nigeria Decides 2023! A Wider Look

Michael Antonorsi


April 1, 2023

Nigeria will go to the polls to elect a new government this Saturday, February 25th and the situation is getting precarious. Societal tension across Nigeria have never been higher in previous election cycles as front-runner candidates foment identity politics and draw support from their ethnic, religious, and regional bases. This has politically divided Nigeria’s population along more tribal lines. Each has projected a ‘landslide’ victory at the polls. This greatly undermines the quasi-stable social fabric of Nigeria as the election victory is seen as ‘destiny’. When an election runs its full course there is only one winner. Invariably two ‘Messiahs’ in this campaign will lose the election. 

Nigerian elections have long been suspected of being rigged or influenced by invisible forces, legally and illegally. This has led to widespread distrust in the legitimacy of the system and declining voter participation. The average Nigerian is facing very real economic hardship, lack of security and confusion regarding the Naira. The confusion about the Naira is proving to be a catastrophe for the Nigerians everywhere. It is also blurring the lines of authority between government institutions. Matters of currency and monetary policy should be left to the CBN. Following the disastrous rollout of the new Naira notes, the supreme court intervened and suspended the expiry of old notes. I think this was a necessary move to restore order in commerce and allow Nigerians to continue about their business. Since then, the outgoing president Mr Buhari has contradicted the court order saying only the old N200 notes would remain legitimate. Governors in Nigeria, including allies, have condemned this afront to the judiciary voicing their support and enforcement of the supreme court ruling (all old notes will remain legal tender). Such infighting between government institutions increases suspicion and confusion when Nigeria needs stability to successfully carry out a fair election. 

The security situation in Nigeria has deteriorated over the past four years. Nigeria has a history of unrest and violence during elections. It will be up to the Nigerian military and security apparatus to remain impartial and subdue violence, whether its terrorists/gangsters taking an opportunistic chance or between political parties. This introduces another variable of uncertainty because if polling stations are closed for ‘security’ reasons a losing candidate may fire up their base and decry it as a political manipulation to ensure the others win.

I would like to at least acknowledge the possibility that a losing candidate will graciously bow out of a race, however I know that is a pipe dream. I would like to draw a comparison with the US, a country with a 247-year history of civil elections. The last presidential election, the populace was factionalised and had faith in their ‘Messiah’. The resulting pandemonium may seem trivial to a country like Nigeria, but for America it was a catastrophe. The losing candidate never admitted defeat and drew out a long legal fight in  the courts. His acolytes attempted to overturn the results by storming the capital (the White House). Such a thing was unimaginable to the average citizen, until it happened.

The three leading candidates all have a strong base of supporters almost guaranteeing that for the first time, there will be a runoff election. Whichever candidate does not make it to the runoff will almost certainly begin legal action or cry out ‘manipulation’. Does the runoff get delayed until there is irrefutable proof of the two winning candidates? Or does it carry on and ignore the voice of many voters? Such a scenario will certainly destabilise Nigerian society. If large scale violence breaks out and the military successfully stabilises the situation, there would in theory then be the runoff election with all the same problems except with only two remaining candidates and, putting it mildly, a disgruntled base of the losing candidate. Immaterial risks are always easily discounted until they become material, as they were in America and unfortunately how it may unfold for Nigeria. I want the election to run smoothly and the ‘rightful’ candidate to win. Unfortunately, I believe the situation to be too volatile and for major instability to materialise between the polls on February 25th and the runoff election, leading to a ‘forced’ coup by the military to ensure security and hopefully a fair runoff and peaceful transition to a new civilian government.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles