TWO political veterans in their 70s are vying to be Nigeria’s next president, promising pro-business policies to revamp Africa’s largest economy by fixing its oil sector and curbing widespread security threats.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) this week chose Bola Tinubu to be its candidate to replace President Muhammadu Buhari in next year’s vote. He will face Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and veteran politician who is the main opposition People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) flagbearer.
Abubakar previously ran on a commitment to privatise the state-owned oil firm and establish a fund to stimulate private infrastructure investment. For his part, Tinubu is vowing to boost manufacturing to reduce Nigeria’s dependence on imports, build a deep sea port in the south and increase gas and oil exploration in the continent’s top crude producer.
“No matter what the election outcome, the policy trajectory will change fundamentally,” the Financial Derivatives Company said in a note to investors. “The protectionist policies of the last decade are likely to be discarded.”Advertisement · Scroll to continue
Under Buhari, the central bank has come up with a priority list of imports to curb dollar outflows and imposed exchange controls, which Tinubu and Abubakar want to do away with.
They also want to clean up the oil sector by either privatising the state oil firm or removing a costly petrol subsidy.
Crude theft and vandalism of pipelines has seen the government cutting its budgeted oil output to 1.4 million barrels per day from 1.8 million bpd initially, meaning Nigeria is missing out on a boom in oil prices unlike some other oil producers in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine.
Nigeria lost 434 billion naira ($1 billion) to oil theft in the first quarter of this year alone, the oil regulator says.
In their favour at the ballot box, both Tinubu, 70, and Abubakar, 75, are established figures who have built vast tribal, religious, and political networks that have chosen the election winner over the previous two decades.
But the two candidates will have to contend with the image of geriatric men running a young nation.
Nigeria’s tech savvy youths accounted for half of the voters during the 2019 election and the number is expected to rise. They want jobs and business opportunities and complain of being excluded from decision making in Nigerian politics.
The winner will also face a slew of security issues, including a widening Islamist insurgency that has left many dead in its wake as underlined by a massacre in a Catholic church on Sunday in which 40 people were killed.
Banditry and kidnappings, long-running unrest in the Niger Delta, confrontations between herders and farmers, and separatist Biafra movement in the southeast are other risks.
Tinubu and Abubakar say they will end the cycle of violence, but this will not be the first time Nigerians have heard such promises, and many are dismayed at how insecurity and poverty levels have grown since voting for Buhari, who pledged to alleviate insecurity and boost the economy.
“These are establishment candidates, the system made them so I doubt they are going to be reformists or revolutionary,” said Abiodun Adeneyi, a professor of mass communication at Baze University in Lagos. “I do not see how they can do anything different to overcome the security situation.”