The Nigerian elections have shown a rare example of an African country playing (mostly) by the democratic rules, often seen as an essential condition for long-term investment decisions. Over 11 million first-time voters were registered in a total of 93.4 million voters, 40% of whom were 18-35 years old.
The incumbent, President Buhari, stepped down according to the constitution (although he was 80, and 40 years ago been Nigeria’s military Head of State). However, in his eight previous years of office he had lost most of the political capital he had earned with his opening promises on corruption, poverty, and counter-terrorism.
But the Nigerian security situation has degenerated sharply since 2014, the farmer-herder conflict is as violent, divisive, and costly as ever, and separatist movements increasingly challenge national unity. The recent failure of currency reform caused horrendous cash shortages and brought the largely informal economy to a near standstill. The campaign against corruption is failing, and regular fuel shortages together with billions of Forex still being spent on petrol imports are exacerbating poverty for ordinary people in Africa’s largest economy.
However, while change was in the air during the campaign, it seems unlikely to happen soon. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the former governor and ‘godfather of Lagos’, and 70-year old friend of Buhari, won the national Presidency with just 36.6 per cent of the votes cast. Tinubu’s win owes little to young voters, and for many he represents a determined continuation of self-serving policies that risk more social insecurity, inequality and corruption.
The revitalised opposition, including a new and well-supported Labour Party, has so far refused to recognise the result and is calling foul on several fronts, but it is unlikely that the Election Tribunals will act on the many objections. In the end, the elections later this month for two thirds of the federal governorships and the State Houses of Assembly will confirm whether Nigeria can get back on the path to economic viability and wealth creation under their new but old-style ‘godfather’ President.