• Sunday, December 10, 2023
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2023: Manifestos fall short as Nigeria faces critical juncture

2023 Nigeria’s presidential election: Matters arising

Nigeria’s next president would inherit a country where at least 133 million people suffer from multidimensional poverty as well as high unemployment rate and double-digit inflation rate, but analysts are taking the frontrunners’ manifestos with a pinch of salt.

The presidential candidates in the forthcoming general election have been urged to focus on programmes that will turn Nigeria around for the better, even as some pundits asked Nigerians not to put too much hope in parties’ manifestos.

The programmes that will revive the Nigerian economy, according to political analysts, have been revealed by most of the polls conducted between April and September 2022, including those of ANAP Foundation and NOI Polls, where Nigerians listed insecurity, economy, electricity, unemployment, education and poverty as major problems the next president must addressed.

“It is worth noting that manifestos in Nigeria (as in other countries) might be an electoral campaign tool, rather than a promise that a government would be expected to deliver on. They remind me of the story I heard about campaigning in one Nigerian state, where one governor promised a new road and bridge to a village to the consternation of an economic advisor who knew the money was not available to do either,” Charlie Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital, said.

“‘No problem,’ said the governor, ‘the crowd doesn’t expect this; they’re just happy to take the free food and drink at the political campaign event and cheer the promises.’”

Nigeria’s GDP grew by 2.25 percent in the third quarter of 2022, representing a slow growth when compared with 3.54 percent real growth in the second quarter of 2022. Inflation surged to 21.09 percent in October from 20.7 percent in the previous month, further worsening the purchasing power of Nigerians.

“Electricity is a major challenge to Nigeria’s economic development. If the next president can revive the sector, then followed by support for small and medium enterprises, and the manufacturing sector, the problems of insecurity, poverty and unemployment will reduce drastically,” human rights activist, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, said.

A look into the manifestos of Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Bola Tinubu of All Progressives Congress (APC), Peter Obi of Labour Party, and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, revealed the different approaches each of them plan to employ to address some of the problems facing the country.

“I have been monitoring political manifestos since 1999. The truth is manifestos are just tools to win elections in Nigeria. Politicians do not keep to their promises,” Monday Ubani, a human rights activist, said.

Petrol subsidy payment has made the Nigerian economy less productive. Atiku promised to remove fuel subsidy while the funds saved from such endeavour will be channelled back into the economy. Tinubu favours the full deregulation of the downstream sector as this will engender phased removal of subsidy while Obi regards subsidy as a criminal matter that has become a huge burden on the nation’s budget.

Kwankwaso only promised to review the subsidy in the interest of Nigerians without a definitive position stating whether he will remove it or not. In the first three months of 2022, subsidy payment gulped $6.2 billion, compared to $3.8 billion incurred last year.

Atiku and Kwankwaso suggested they will pursue debt restructuring to reduce the burden of huge monthly debt servicing on the country’s revenue. Obi promises to implement radical reforms to reduce debt while Tinubu said he would seek debt only if it is attached to revenue-generating projects.

Nigeria’s total debt stock amounted to N42.84 trillion as of June 2022, according to the Debt Management Office.

On foreign exchange crisis, Obi promises to dismantle the multiple exchange rates regime through proper coordination between fiscal and monetary policies. Atiku said he would adopt managed float exchange rate policy supported by capital control with focus on exchange rate that promotes exports. Tinubu said his administration, in coordination with the Central Bank of Nigeria and other financial sector players, would optimise an exchange rate that promotes growth.

On job creation, Atiku said he would float an entrepreneurial development and job creation programme to address the high unemployment rate in the country.

He said he would “create incubation centres, clusters and industrial/commercial hubs to provide a market place for MSMEs and SMPs. Champion the repositioning and streamlining of the activities of the existing federal and state government job creation agencies.”

He added that grants, loans or equity investments in small enterprises would be provided either as start-up capital or to scale up innovations.

Tinubu favours enhancing access to credit for businesses to be supported by business mentorship for youth and business incubation centres in the country.

“A Tinubu government will expand existing programs and introduce new social investment policies to create jobs and business opportunities, particularly for youth and women. We shall introduce commodity boards to establish minimum prices for strategic crops such as cashew, cocoa, sesame, soya, cassava, yam, rubber, palm kernels, groundnut and okra. This will guarantee minimum incomes for farmers,” the APC candidate said.

While supporting granting credit to SMEs, Obi’s plan focuses on the exploration of economic opportunities available in the oceanic and marine resources endowed in Nigeria’s blue economy.

Read also: Why Presidential candidates’ manifestos do not excite us, by OAL

Kwankwaso supports expanding the number of personnel in the nation’s armed forces, police and other security agencies, with an agricultural mechanisation programme to help create over two million jobs during his first term in office.

“Over two million job opportunities will be created in the Armed Forces, Police, and other security agencies; our mass housing plan will provide opportunities to more than one million Nigerian youth annually; our Agricultural mechanization agenda will create over 2 million opportunities annually to place our youth in gainful and productive engagement across the agriculture value chain,” Kwankwaso said.

The candidates differed on how the infrastructure deficit will be addressed and financed. Atiku proposes to develop 5,000km of roads by 2025 through public-private partnerships (PPPs). He said he would construct up to 5,000km of modern railways through privatisation, PPPs and public investments.

Obi said he will create a highway trust fund account to be financed jointly by the federal, states, and the private sector.

“This account will be funded jointly by the federal government, states, and private sector on a ratio to be agreed with government participation limited to those areas where there is a manifest need for government intervention,” he said.

Kwankwaso plans to encourage the private sector players to invest in road reconstruction, and their investments to be recouped through tolling.

He said he will “employ consortia of companies, support and empower them to invest in the reconstruction of all federal roads and the construction of new ones and thereafter get them to redeem their investment from toll collections over a fixed period of time.”

“All inaccessible places will be opened up with the provision of roads and rails to be constructed by the military,” Kwankwaso added.

Tinubu said he would accord rural access roads priority if he wins the next presidential election, and they are to be conducted through federal incentives established in cooperation with local government areas in the country.

“We will, therefore, work with State and Local Governments to establish a Federal incentive or counterpart funding scheme by which we shall support the construction of vital rural infrastructure. We shall accelerate the construction of new roads as well as the rehabilitation of existing ones via creative funding mechanisms, including accessing capital markets and PPP,” Tinubu said.