2023: Peter Obi’s Forte, Bola Tinubu’s Fourth and Atiku Abubakar’s Send-off? (Part 1)

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2023: Peter Obi’s Forte, Bola Tinubu’s Fourth and Atiku Abubakar’s Send-off? (Part 1)

By Dataphyte

The 2023 election is a decisive moment for Nigeria, given the nation’s sensitive fiscal, security and economic conditions. But far beyond that, the election is a defining moment for each of the three leading candidates of perhaps the three most visible parties.

With the victory of former Lagos State Governor and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, all is now set for what’s possibly a three-man show-down in next year’s election. Tinubu won the election by a landslide after beating the likes of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan.

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Tinubu polled a total of 1,271 votes – more than four times the votes scored by his closest rival, Rotimi Amaechi, who had 316 votes. Osinbajo, Lawan, and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State came far behind with 235, 152, and 47 votes respectively. More than 2,300 delegates voted in the drama-filled contest that produced the former governor of Lagos as the presidential flag bearer of the ruling party.

He is now scheduled to face the Peoples Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar, Labour Party’s Peter Obi, and other candidates from other parties, in the February 25 presidential ballot.

Atiku had emerged candidate at the PDP presidential primary held penultimate week after polling 371 votes to defeat the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, who scored 237 votes. Other aspirants with the number of votes polled include Bukola Saraki – 70; Sam Ohuanbunwa – 1; Anyim Pius Anyim – 14; Udom Emmanuel – 38 votes; Bala Mohammed – 20.

Obi, on his part, was declared Obi winner and presidential candidate of the Labour Party for the 2023 general election having polled a total of 96 votes out of the 97 valid votes with one invalid vote. He joined the party after defecting from the PDP.

Now what do the numbers say about the candidates and their chances?

Fixing an Ailing Economy: Obi’s Forte

With an election campaign premised on messages designed around “Route to take Nigeria from consumption to production”, Peter Obi’s campaign is expectedly resonating with Nigeria’s middle class and urban-dwelling, digitally compliant younger generation. The reasons are not far-fetched: Nigeria’s major economic indicators are quite grim.

Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product grew by 3.11 per cent in the first quarter of 2022, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Although the NBS said the economy showed “…a sustained positive growth for six consecutive quarters since the recession witnessed in 2020,” the growth was still quite insignificant in the context of Nigeria’s economic potential. Take, for instance, GDP performances under the various leaders Nigeria has had since 1999.

Data from the World Bank showed that Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s first democratically elected president since the return to democracy in 1999, grew the economy by 0.58% in his first year of presidency. But in 2022, he recorded his highest rate of a whopping 15.33% growth! By the end of his tenure in 2007, Obasanjo’s presidency averaged a GDP growth rate of 6.95%.

As president for three years (2007-2010), Umaru Yar’Adua who succeeded Obasanjo grew the economy from 6.59 to 8.01 per cent. Both men’s economic success have been attributed to steady rise in oil prices. But the argument falls flat on its face given that Yar’adua successor, Goodluck Jonathan, earned more from oil and couldn’t sustain the tempo of economic growth.

According to the World Bank data, despite earning a whopping N51 trillion from petroleum resources (per data crunched from Petroleum Inspectorate, NNPC, CBN Annual Report and Statement of Account, Nigeria Bureau of Statistics and the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, NEITI between 2010 and 2015, Jonathan grew the economy by a meagre 2.65 per cent. On the flipside, both Messrs Obasanjo and Yar’adua earned N27 trillion and N9 trillion from crude oil, respectively.

Meanwhile, President Buhari’s tenure has seen the nation record a miserly 0.41 per cent in growth rate.

Battered Economy

Now, in addition to the poor GDP numbers, a combination of grim economic realities has pushed many Nigerians to the wall. Hence, what resonates with them are talks around fiscal frugality, productivity and economic re-engineering.

Interestingly, Peter Obi has mastered this art of speaking to the numbers, rolling out statistics to paint a gloomy picture of a dangerous slide down to economic abyss if unchecked. Relying on personal anecdotes and his records as Anambra State governor for eight year up until 2014, Mr Obi has masterfully warmed his ways into the hearts of Nigerians, especially the younger generations who dominate political discourse on Twitter.

With rising inflation (16.82% in April 2022, according to NBS), high unemployment rate (33% as of 2020), skyrocketed food prices (18% food inflation in April 2022), battered currency (N415 and N610 to $1 in the ‘regular’ and black markets, respectively) and poor GDP per capita (around $2,097.09 in 2020, according to World Bank), all of which affect political reality and choices, Mr Obi is easily the most sellable candidate among the trio on Nigeria’s social media platforms, especially Twitter.

Sellable Candidate; Weak Structure?

The downside, many observers have noted, is the relative obscurity of the Labour Party in Nigeria. To conveniently win a presidential election in Nigeria, beyond a candidate’s personal charisma and alliance formations across political divides, there is the place of party structures across Nigeria.

There are 774 local government areas (LGAs), with each LGA further subdivided into a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 20 wards. A potential winner of the general election MUST have presence in at least 80% of these wards across the country.

In the 2019 general election, LP presidential candidate, Muhammed Usman Zaki, polled a miserably low 5,074 votes, representing 0.02 per cent of the entire votes. He came a distant 30th!

In 2015, the situation was even quite worse as the party’s National Executive Council members, after months of denial, failed to present a presidential candidate and unanimously endorsed the then incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan.

Yet, LP’s filthy baggage aside, if the 2023 elections are a verdict on acceptability based on economic ideas, especially on social media, Mr Obi is the candidate to beat: economic analysis layered with personal anecdotes remains his forte.

The big question remains: how far can Obi’s LP and his army of independent volunteers go in penetrating the nooks and crannies of the country to sell their candidate?

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