The rise of Peter Obi within the marketing campaign for Nigeria’s presidential election on February 25 has shaken up the nation’s politics, hitherto dominated by two main events for the reason that finish of navy rule in 1999. However analysts say that Obi nonetheless faces an uphill battle.
Promising a different way of doing issues, Obi hopes to defeat the 2 favourites and political heavyweights from conventional events: Atiku Aboubakar of the Folks’s Democratic Social gathering (PDP) and Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
With speeches hailed as contemporary and unifying – however criticised as populist by his detractors – the 61-year-old businessman has caught the eye of Nigeria’s younger inhabitants, 60 p.c of whom are below the age of 25.
“The present authorities is in a nasty state of affairs, and the best way many younger individuals see it’s that folks like Abubakar and Tinubu are a part of the issue,” mentioned Dele Babalola, a Nigeria knowledgeable at Canterbury Christ Church College in Kent. “Obe is 61 however he’s the youngest of the candidates [the other two being in their 70s] and a contemporary face.”
Over the course of the five-month presidential marketing campaign, Obi has gone from minor curiosity to credible candidate, with huge social media assist amongst Nigeria’s youth turbocharging his standing. Obi has additionally loved endorsements from outstanding Nigerian figures comparable to ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo and famend novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
As Nigeria endures an financial hunch and a troubled safety state of affairs, Obi’s supporters (nicknamed “Obidients”) see him as an antidote to a political class they accuse of corruption and unhealthy governance.
On this context, Obi has cultivated a picture as the image of integrity and prudence. “I’ve two youngsters, they’re graduates, they’ve by no means participated in any public life. I’ve a son that’s going to be 29, 30 quickly, he doesn’t personal a automotive as a result of he has to purchase his personal automotive, not me,” Obi mentioned in a speech final 12 months to his supporters’ applause.
Obi’s candidacy first emerged in October 2020 as Nigeria noticed the #EndSARS protest motion – during which younger demonstrators demanded the disbandment of the SARS police unit they accused of violence and noticed as benefitting from complete immunity, a motion Obi largely supported.
The #EndSARS motion then took its calls for additional, denouncing corruption and financial inequality. These are burning points in a rustic the place oil revenues lavishly reward a small proportion of Nigerians whereas almost half of the inhabitants stay beneath the poverty line, based on the World Financial institution.
A Nigerian Macron?
Born to Christian dad and mom from the Igbo ethnic group – Nigeria’s third-largest – Obi’s background is a standard one within the nation’s financial elite: research in Lagos, at Harvard and on the London College of Economics, adopted by a enterprise profession together with administration roles in a number of Nigerian banks.
As an ex-banker who needs to smash by means of the outdated two-party system and reinvigorate his nation with a technocratic type of politics, Obi has prompted comparisons to French President Emmanuel Macron – who described himself as “neither left nor proper”, created his personal political get together and swept apart the normal automobiles of social democracy and conservatism when he took the Élysée Palace after which gained a crushing parliamentary majority in 2017.
Obi turned chief of Nigeria’s Labour Social gathering final 12 months. Not like the established British get together bearing the identical title, it’s a somewhat marginal get together – with out a lot political equipment nationally, nor governors with energy bases in Nigeria’s provinces.
However “likening Obi to Macron is a mistake”, mentioned Ladipo Adamolekun, a Nigerian public administration knowledgeable and Francophile. “Macron created his En Marche! get together when France’s conventional events have been already in decline – it’s not like that for Obi.”
And in contrast to Macron – whose sole political expertise when he ran for the Élysée was a brief stint as François Hollande’s economic system minister – Obi could be very removed from a political neophyte.
Obi was governor of Anambra, a southern Nigerian state, from 2006 to 2014, earlier than standing because the PDP’s vice-presidential candidate on the final presidential elections in 2019. He has modified his political allegiance 4 occasions since 2022, resulting in accusations of opportunism.
Obi’s critics additionally query his probity, since he was talked about within the Pandora Papers in 2021. Nonetheless, his supporters say he has confirmed his integrity with efficient governance of Anambra throughout his eight-year tenure there, which ended with big financial savings within the state’s coffers – a compelling argument in an economic system burdened by heavy public debt.
Igbo vote ‘gained’t be sufficient’
However for all of the hype surrounding Obi, many analysts doubt he can pull off a victory – even regardless of robust polling figures.
“In actuality, a whole lot of the younger individuals who’ve created all that social media buzz stay overseas and might’t vote in Nigeria,” Babalola mentioned. “As for polls, the numbers aren’t as dependable in Africa as they’re in Europe,” he added.
Then there’s the traditional phenomenon of younger voters’ poor turnout – which could be amplified in Nigeria, which tends to have low turnout total, with simply 33 p.c going to the polls within the 2019 presidential elections.
Lastly, analysts doubt Obi can transcend the problems of ethnicity, faith and regional id, all of which are usually essential elements in Nigerian voters’ decisions. “The Igbo vote gained’t be sufficient for Obi to win,” Babalola emphasised, whereas highlighting the significance of successful votes within the predominantly Muslim north.
Whoever wins on the poll field, they’ll face colossal challenges. Nigeria’s economic system is Africa’s largest however is troubled by inflation operating at greater than 20 p.c, gasoline shortages, a lack of cash throughout the ill-timed introduction of latest financial institution notes, and an power disaster inflicting frequent blackouts.
Public funds are in a nasty form, with debt servicing consuming 41 p.c of public spending in 2022. The nation’s sovereign scores downgrade by Moody’s on the finish of January is unlikely to assist issues.
“As issues stand, I doubt the brand new president will be capable of put in place good governance,” mentioned Adamolekun – who favours a “extra decentralised federal system” to switch the present political constructions.
“The brand new president should settle for that the present political system isn’t conducive to the efficient governance,” Adamolekun mentioned. “The 1999 structure was too centralising, particularly when it got here to the police, and that may be a massive think about Nigeria’s safety issues.”
Certainly, President Muhammadu Buhari’s final time period was suffering from a marked deterioration in Nigeria’s safety state of affairs, fuelled by inter-ethnic conflicts, prison gang exercise and jihadism. In response to the UN, jihadist violence has killed greater than 40,000 individuals and displaced some 2.2 million in northeastern Nigeria since 2009.
So no matter whether or not Obi pulls off an almighty political upset, the brand new Nigerian president will discover loads of challenges ready of their inbox.
This text was translated from the original in French.