Date first published: 16/02/23
Key sectors: all; oil and gas
Key risks: political stability, policy uncertainty
On 15 February two Nigeria based research organisations, ANAP Foundation and Kwakol Research, published a poll that identified presidential candidate Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) as the most likely candidate to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari following the 25 February presidential elections. Most polling data indicates that the presidential election has come down to a three-way contest between Obi, former vice president Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (ACP) party. The upcoming vote is expected to be the closest contest in recent years. However, AKE expects the APC’s Bola Tinubu to claim victory in this year’s vote.
Why it matters
The APC and Tinubu enjoy support from the country’s largest voting blocs in the North-West and South-West regions. The ruling APC has been able to mobilise vast amounts of resources to ensure than Tinubu’s campaign had a nationwide reach.
Tinubu is also expected to benefit from a split opposition vote. Abubakar’s candidacy has prompted significant infighting within the opposition PDP and five governors from the party’s stronghold in the South-South regions have refused to endorse him. Abubakar’s inclusion of the PDP ticket violates an unwritten rule in Nigerian politics – that dictates the presidency rotates between northerners and southerners – as Abubakar is a northerner attempting to unseat Buhari who is also a northerner. Additionally, Obi’s popularity among urban and youth voters in the south-east – another PDP stronghold – is expected to further split the vote in favour of Tinubu.
Voter apathy will benefit Tinubu. Electoral participation has steadily been declining since 2007 – and voter participation is particularly low among youth voters. In the 2019 presidential election, voter turnout stood at 35.6 per cent with youth voters, aged between 18-35 years-old, accounting for less than half of all votes cast. Failure to mobilise the youth is expected to push the vote in Tinubu’s favour.
The election comes as the country battles with multiple exchange rates, widespread insecurity, low levels of oil production due to theft and high levels of corruption. All three candidates have proposed variations of similar policies. These include foreign exchange reform, boosting the economy, improving security and fuel subsidy removal or phase-out, to tackle the country’s slew of security and economic challenges.
Expensive fuel subsidies continue to place a burden on state coffers and drives debt repayment costs. However, the APC appears have a limited appetite to remove fuel subsidies given the impact it would have on its candidate. In 2012 the PDP tried to remove the fuel subsidy but was forced to back down from its decision following mass unrest.
The election has been characterised as a personality driven contest rather than a battle between differing polices and solutions. A victory for any of the three candidates is unlikely to see major policy shifts. A smooth transition of power is expected if Tinubu is elected given that he comes from the ruling party. A victory for either Obi or the more business friendly Abubakar will drive political uncertainty in the near-term as power shifts, although no major radical policy shifts are expected.