Written by: Nusanta Samayel Audri
After almost eight years in office, Muhammad Buhari is leaving Nigeria’s presidential office, and he is leaving behind instability and widespread unrest as many people struggle to get the money they need to buy food due to a botched banknote rollout. The recent year has been characterised by struggle and sorrow, including soaring inflation and tragic shootings of innocent civilians, so the cash shortage is not the only issue Nigerians are facing.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu won this election with 8.8 million votes, defeating former ally turned adversary Atiku Abubakar (of the People’s Democratic Party) and unexpected front-runner Peter Obi (Labour party) who received 6.9 million and 6.1 million votes, respectively. He was elected president hours after three opposition parties demanded the cancellation of the so-called “sham” election. The elected president, who is the most powerful political figure in recent Nigerian history, lost his home state of Lagos to Labour Party candidate Peter Obi, but ultimately prevailed in his campaign to become the country’s fifth president since democracy was restored in 1999.
During the election campaign, his “Emi Lokan” or “it’s my turn” slogan demonstrated its potency. Tinubu used a conciliatory tone in his acceptance speech as he urged his opponents “to band up together.” In addition to thanking the voters, Tinubu expressed his “deep humility” and urged everyone to cooperate. In a statement on Wednesday, Buhari praised his incoming successor, calling him “the best person for the job.” Following the announcement of the results of the February 25 presidential election by Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), other representatives from various nations offer their congratulations to the citizens of Nigeria, President-elect Tinubu, and all political leaders.
Nigerian politics and democracy are entering a new era as a result of this close election. A unique first in Nigeria’s modern political history, each of the top three contenders received the most votes in 12 states, showing the range of viewpoints that defined the campaign and the preferences of the country’s electorate. The manner in which the procedure was carried out and the shortcomings of the technical components, which were used for the first time in a presidential election cycle, have been criticised by many Nigerians and some of the parties. Nigerians should have high expectations for their election processes and are certainly within their rights to express such concerns. Ahead of the March 11 gubernatorial elections, international observers urged INEC to strengthen the regions that require the most attention.
The Nigerian government has made an effort to debunk the rumours and calm the populace, but this just serves to highlight the growing amount of international involvement in Nigeria, from diplomatic missions to residents and workers there. Because of this, an important aspect of this election is examining how it will affect Nigeria’s neighbours, allies, and future projects in terms of its foreign policy. While the INEC Chair’s assurance in their safety precautions is comforting, it also helps to emphasise how crucial these elections will be to foreign interests. Let’s describe some dimensions of foreign policies regarding this-
- The three-point direct appeal from former US President Barack Obama to all Nigerians—first, to abstain from violence; second, to tackle Boko Haram, which seeks to obliterate Nigeria; and third, to maintain Nigeria’s unity as a necessary task—is one significant aspect of foreign policy.
- Second, the involvement of the former president of Sierra Leone and head of the ECOWAS election observers, Mr. Ernest Koroma, and the former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta-led AU observation missions are equally relevant. The ECOWAS and African Union election monitors’ insistence and plea to all Nigerians not to treat the elections as a matter of life or death (as they anticipated the “non-peaceful transition”) suggests that they were aware that the country’s 2023 general elections would not be fair, just, and peaceful.”
- Even if the President-elect has already been portrayed as a drug lord in an Austrian newspaper, world leaders still claim to be pleased with his election.
No action or incident occurs in isolation because of the nature of politics around the world. So, recently elected president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, previous “Godfather of Lagos” and torch bearer of the ruling party APC (All Progressives Congress) will have to deal with some significant issues:
- Recent events have highlighted the fact that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues to affect oil prices and even export pricing. The impact of governmental actions will be a factor in limiting the price increase.
- In the 23 years since Nigeria restored democracy, there have been 30 coup attempts in the area, with 17 of them succeeding. Nigeria’s elections are thus a significant occasion in the area that aims to reaffirm democratic ideals and stop the tide of unlawful transfers of power. Given the current state of turmoil in the nation, establishing a transparent democracy with proper democratic involvement from the civilian population will be extremely challenging for him.
- The president should be aware that a contested outcome might also result in a serious problem with displacement and have a big impact on regional trade agreements and migratory trends.
- Via the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), this administration may have to deal with a growing trade area while making sure that Nigeria’s sizable population and industry can leverage and be leveraged to ensure the success of the trade bloc.
The election’s growing reliance on technology also emphasises how open and susceptible it is to foreign policy considerations. Unintentional misinformation is spread when some people, including media outlets, spread false information. Even though the ruling party was embroiled in numerous issues and crises, it was predicted that accusations of corruption would eventually surface.
Another post-election effect should be the controversy around the outcome. Notwithstanding The Independent Foreign Observers Mission’s (IFOM) declaration that the election was “peaceful and transparent” in The Nation on March 1, 2023, the outcome was riddled with issues such as “pretentious vote casting” in the election. The recently held off-cycle governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun were subject to server hacking efforts, according to the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), which said that some of the hackers were from as far away as Asia.
- Some organisations actively engage in disinformation campaigns, which is when fabrications are purposefully aimed at a goal. Yet this has always been a part of our elections.
- By discrediting governments and promoting a shift in power, they have attempted to topple governments. They can be obtained through specialised reporting, sponsored media outlets, and even social media bots. More than ever, it’s critical to carefully consider the information and news source, especially when it comes to one of the most significant civic duties a citizen can perform: choosing leaders.
- Fake news reports have been closely monitored by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD-West Africa), especially during election seasons, and frequently reflected in its reports. For instance, a “withdrawal” statement from Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in favour of the People’s Democratic Party candidate was extensively circulated on social media on the eve of the Ekiti State governorship elections this year. Although numerous organisations have made attempts to verify this development, it is hard to know the full extent to which it may have affected the elections.
- Clear evidence of foreign organisations actively funding disinformation efforts and fostering illiberal influence in the region have surfaced. Idayat Hassan, Director of the CDD, and independent researcher Kyle Hiebert recently published a report titled “Illiberal Influence Fuels Disinformation” that examines the rise of outside actors in the West African disinformation market. To contradict myths following coups or to foster support for a new ruler, certain nations have intentionally propagated favourable views of authoritarian regimes.
- Inadequate planning and communication from INEC, according to E.U. observers, damaged trust in Nigeria’s democratic process, according to Afrobarometer, which found that 78% of Nigerians had little to no confidence in INEC. The technology has also sparked worries about election fraud from hacking and manipulation in neighbouring nations like Ghana and Kenya.
Following the investigation, both Abubakar and Obi rejected the election results and called for a new election. The election’s flaws “were very few in number and were inconsequential to alter the outcome of this election,” Tinubu claimed in his victory address, adding that his challengers had every right to dispute the results in court.
Nigeria’s sheer size—it has the largest economy on the continent and a population of around 220 million—along with the importance and global reach of its creative class, guarantee global attention. But, there are also similarities between Nigeria’s problems and those other African democracies face, when regular elections don’t produce the kind of governance, accountability, and service delivery that the public wants.
They offer Nigerians the chance to reverse course and discover new solutions to the insecurity, dysfunction, and economic misery that have prompted nine out of ten of them to believe that their nation is going in the wrong path. Considerate commentators have noted that any successful candidate will confront enormous obstacles and significant, potentially dangerous opposition to reform.
Bola Tinubu will be the next president, and the nation he will rule over is one that has, quite honestly, been driven into some of its worst inter-ethnic, social, and economic conditions. So, how he will work on bringing stability is the crucial point here. He’s expected to work on:
- Substantial cash shortage brought on by a failed attempt to replace all currencies
- High inflation, corruption and syndication
Apart from the economic aspect, there are also deadly shootings of citizens by armed persons against a background of turmoil and widespread discontent. While Bola Tinubu published an 80-page platform outlining his economic policies in October 2022, his administration must first deal with the social, political, and ethnic upheavals that the acrimonious election campaign has further stoked. The recent unrest should not be allowed to feed ethnic and religious conflict as Nigeria already faces separatist and insurgent violence in various locations.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a clever negotiator, to say the least, and right now, he needs to work on a power-sharing agreement with the Nigerian people. A government of national unity, or wide coalition government, made up of all pertinent and cooperative opposition groups, is the first (and less significant) stage of this. In order to allay concerns about tyranny and support his efforts to boost the economy, the second and more crucial component of this power-sharing is a swift agreement to obtain a devolution arrangement that distributes some powers from the federal government to the states.
This devolution proposal would also enable Bola Tinubu to establish himself as a genuine successor to the federalism-based legacy of Obafemi Awolowo. A successful sale of a devolution project would give Tinubu significant political capital and offer a centripetal force that unites Nigerians around an idea that is highly valued, especially in the South and Middle-Belt regions, which support much of the opposition. Currently, centrifugal forces that push outward are tearing Nigeria apart.
There’s a scope to figure out some significant new moves in the Nigerian political arena during and after this election:
- The media and civil society are actively working to advance electoral norms.
- Discussion of political topics that concern citizens.
- The high number of young people who are still very new to politics and who have shown a strong commitment to democracy.
- Obi won by a slim margin in Lagos state, which is home to Africa’s largest city and was historically a key supporter of Tinubu (582,454 votes to Tinubu’s 472,606 votes), demonstrating how young and urban voters are fed up with traditional politics. It is only a matter of time until the new leaders take over.
In a drive for change, Tinubu’s party first came to power in 2015, and he won in 2023 by waging a campaign for rekindled optimism. Yet, a lot of the concerns that the Nigerian electorate had in 2015 are more pressing concerns in 2023, mostly as a result of the self-inflicted fiscal and monetary policies made by the president he would succeed. To restructure and reconcile a divided and unstable Nigeria in the months before his oath of office, Tinubu would need to mobilise an incredible amount of political capital, goodwill, and consensus.
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