Can a contrived Naira shortage stop Bola Tinubu
Since July 2022, once the major presidential contestants were known, the strategy, policy and economic consultancy which I run, RTC Advisory Services in conjunction with Stairways Communications and Advocacy, a political and communications strategy consultancy has conducted monthly analyses on the profiles, strengths, weaknesses, policy orientation and campaigns of the major candidates; and we have attempted to monitor and project the outcome of the elections.
We have, until now not published most of our analyses only sharing them with clients in the business community who were interested in political risk analysis and scenario planning. I have decided to share some of our analyses as a public service as elections are now imminent and most voters should have made up their minds on who to vote for.
Rising Risks to the Political Transition and Elections
We have consistently identified three (at first largely notional) risks in relation to the election-the risk that the elections could be aborted or prevented due to socio-political disturbances was a primary concern.
Initially, the focus of our concern was mostly the Northern and Eastern regions of Nigeria where we wondered if the activities of Boko Haram, ISWAP, so-called “bandits” and IPOB (Independent People of Biafra) and other pro-secessionist groups could threaten the success of the polls.
When insurrectionists threatened Abuja leading to international involvement in the matter, a slightly more vigorous response from Nigerian security agencies meant the risk from Northern Nigeria receded somewhat. IPOB militants may also have been distracted by Peter Obi’s surprisingly stronger-than-expected showing as the campaigns unfolded threatening the narrative of marginalization especially as Obi carefully refrained from openly condemning the Biafran militants, but recent events suggests the risk remains.
In the event, the biggest socio-political risks to successful elections emerged from two most unlikely of sources-Nigeria’s national oil company, NNPC and its central bank! The twin afflictions of fuel shortages and Naira scarcity seemingly deliberately inflicted on our people have constituted the gravest threat to the successful elections.
When the CBN released its Naira Redesign Policy, I spoke at a webinar at which I concluded that given the rushed implementation timelines, emergency policy posture and mostly tenuous economic arguments underpinning the CBN policy, the policy was more likely to be motivated by security, anti-corruption and political considerations rather than monetary or economic policy!
Subsequent developments have made it clear that the CBN policy was a “Single Purpose Policy” (SPP) designed for political ends. It is indeed possible, even likely that the policy was conceived with a single individual/candidate in mind!!! The damage to CBN’s institutional integrity and policy credibility as well as the banking sector will take years, probably decades to repair.
We also identified early-on the risk of an uncompleted transition due to poor preparedness, domestic political turmoil or a military intervention. I recall that until recently, whenever I shared those presentations, I went out of my way to downplay the possibility of this scenario so as not to undermine the credibility of the transition and escalate perceptions of political risk.
Unfortunately, I can no longer do so as even senior politicians within the ruling party have voiced concerns that perhaps there are “fifth columnists” around who may be opposed to democracy and perhaps have an agenda for an interim government or other unconstitutional or undemocratic systems!
Some in my various audiences have also insisted that there is a risk around biology or mortality given the advanced ages of some of the presidential candidates. Interestingly the candidate around which such concerns are most incessant has run the most vigorous and intense campaigns!
These risks are worsened by the chaotic and dire pre-existing social context of high poverty, unemployment and underemployment, crime, insurgency, banditry, terrorism, rising ethnic and religious tension and social dissatisfaction. The bottom line is that the risk profile of Nigeria’s political transition and elections has risen considerably in recent weeks and months!!!
The Four Main Candidates
It is easy to agree with the consensus that there are more-or-less only four substantive or de facto candidates contesting the 2023 presidency in spite of the longer nominal list of candidates-Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP) and Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP).
Tinubu has a professional background in finance/treasury at Mobil and entered politics in the early 1990s on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). He was affiliated to the Peoples Front faction led by late General Shehu Yar’adua and was elected a Senator in 1992.
He was a strong supporter of M.K.O Abiola winner of the annulled 1993 presidential elections and went into exile as a member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) which resisted the dictator Abacha, who supplanted Abiola’s mandate.
In 1999, Tinubu became governor on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and gradually became the foremost Yoruba politician founding Action Congress (AC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and All Progressives Congress (APC) in partnership with President Buhari.
Tinubu has built a strong, nationwide network of political contacts and network and has maintained de facto political control of Lagos State since 1999. His opponents question his health; point to alleged discrepancies in his resume and point to his presumed immense wealth as evidence of corruption.
To his credit, his record as governor of Lagos State for eight years is formidable relative to his peers and co-contestants and he appears to have institutionalized competent governance in Lagos State through his various successors.
Atiku also started politics in the Yar’adua faction of the SDP and was regarded as one of the closest loyalists of the late general. He was a customs officer who became a very wealthy businessman and later formidable politician.
He was the de facto leader of the followers of Yar’adua which had metamorphosed into the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) and may have been pivotal to Obasanjo’s emergence as presidential candidate of the PDP in 1999 in alliance with and at the behest of the military component of Nigeria’s ruling class led by Ibrahim Babangida and General T. Y Danjuma.
Atiku was elected Adamawa State Governor in 1999 but got uplifted to Vice President due to his selection by Obasanjo as his running-mate. He has essentially sought Nigeria’s presidency in virtually every election since 1992! His weaknesses are consequently his perceived longevity, unsuccessfully in presidential electioneering and his almost cast-iron branding as corrupt by his former boss Obasanjo. He also has extensive, nationwide political contacts and network and was reputed to be very wealthy.
Peter Obi has without doubt been the surprise of the 2023 transition regarded by most analysts as having turned this elections into a three-horse race breaking the duopoly of APC and PDP through his own “Single Purpose Vehicle”, the Labour Party.
It remains to be seen whether Obi will both match these optimistic expectations in his actual vote tally and whether LP will become a permanent feature as a “third force” in Nigeria’s politics. Obi had attempted to secure the PDP presidential ticket after running as Atiku’s running-mate in PDP in 2019.
It is possible to accuse both Obi and Atiku of opportunism regarding their choices of political vehicles, Obi having moved from All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to PDP and at the last-minute LP.
Atiku on his part has moved to and fro PDP, ACN, PDP, APC and PDP and is almost certainly running for the last time as a presidential candidate. To his credit, Tinubu has stayed focused and consistent in the AD/AC/ACN/APC evolutionary wing of Nigerian politics.
Obi has enjoyed strong support from youths and civil society elements but suffers from the so-called “structure” deficit. He has attempted to earn propaganda benefits from support from Obasanjo, Afenifere and its partners in the Southern and Middle Belt Forum.
Despite his enthusiastic support base, it is not clear what his coherent policy platform is beyond emotive speeches and his appeal as the non-APC/PDP candidate. It is remarkable that Obi has successfully positioned himself as a fresh face in Nigerian politics in spite of serving for eight years as Anambra Governor; running as PDP vice presidential candidate and serving on PDP’s President Jonathan’s economic team.
Kwankwaso has like Obi created his own Kano-centric political movement though his transition to NNPP was more deliberate and planned. He has been in both PDP and APC and also started in the then SDP’s Yar’adua wing. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 and has served two non-consecutive terms as Kano State Governor under PDP. He was also Minister for Defence and is regarded as quite popular in Kano, a vote rich state in Nigeria.
In terms of policy orientation, we characterize Tinubu as “market/welfarist”, Atiku as “market/capitalist”, Obi as “market/entrepreneurial” and Kwankwaso as “statist”. We believe all the three market-inclined candidates satisfy the policy imperative for more sensible market-oriented policies focused on private capital and investment while the degree of poverty and degeneration regarding citizens’ welfare mandates aggressive social policy going forward.
Candidates’ Risks and Upsides
Tinubu faced initial pushback from his choice of former Borno State Governr, Senator Kashim Shettima as his running-mate on account of the so-called “Muslim-Muslim” ticket. Those concerns appear to have mostly receded except in Nigeria’s North-Central and Northern Christian regions. He has largely ignored questions about his age, certificates and other perceived discrepancies in his life story.
The two most tangible risks Tinubu faces are inter-related-will Northern voters stay loyal to his candidacy above that of Atiku Abubakar and will President Buhari reciprocate Tinubu’s support in 2015 and 2019 without which Buhari could not have been president?
The issues arising from the CBN Naira Redesign and petrol shortages and the increasing credibility to perceptions that Tinubu was specifically targeted especially by the CBN have increased the weighting of these risks. On the positive side, Tinubu has managed to retain the support of the preponderance of Northern governors and politicians within the APC and if he wins may herald an unprecedented opportunity for national unity.
Atiku Abubakar’s campaign has consistently been battered by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and his G5 colleagues, but Wike in particular has been the nemesis! Wike has now thrown his support behind Tinubu and this will undoubtedly give Tinubu a strong beach-head in the South-South and to some extent South-East too.
Atiku also suffers from the widespread reservations including in Northern Nigeria, of another Northern Fulani taking over from Buhari, also a Northern Fulani.
Peter Obi’s emergence has also mostly been at the expense of Atiku, taking votes away from him in PDP strongholds in the South-South, South-East and North-Central. It appears clear that Atiku hopes to benefit from the denial of cash liquidity to Tinubu’s campaign and there are unverifiable speculations in some quarters that Atiku’s running-mate Ifeanyi Okowa has secured privileged access to large amounts of new Naira. Atiku does not appear to have run an aggressive and enthusiastic campaign.
Peter Obi has without doubt been the preference of urban, middle-class voters and some elements in civil society. He is the overwhelming winner on social media but clearly his support base in the South-West, outside Lagos and in North West and North East Nigeria, outside Christian dominated areas is thinner than social media suggests.
His alliance with Afenifere and Southern and Middle Belt Forum have brought propaganda benefits, and probably some votes. His core votes will however come from Igbo voters who appear excited and energized about his candidacy.
We have already mentioned that Kwankwaso’s base and where he is quite popular is the Kano/Jigawa/Kaduna axis and he is expected to perform well in these areas and some other parts of the North. My hypothesis is that Kwankwaso’s real strategic objective may be to secure the governorships of Kano and Jigawa as a base for future political credibility.
What Criteria Will Determine Victory?
My analysts and I have developed a matrix around six (6) critical factors that will determine victory in the presidential elections.
These six factors are one, Incumbency, Party Cohesion and Critical Stakeholders (President, Governors, Political Leaders, Traditional and Religious Institutions to which we must now add CBN and NNPC!) to which we attach a weighting of 25 percent; two, Funding, Party Structure and Organisation to which we also allot 25 per cent weighting; three, Regional Electoral Power also weighting 25 percent; four, Candidates and Coalitions (10%); five, Electoral Systems and Institutions (INEC, Police, DSS, Military, Judiciary, Media, International Community) (10%); and six, Youths, Civil Society and Social Media (5%). Let me make a comment on each of these factors.
Until recently the incumbency, party cohesion and critical stakeholders’ factor was overwhelmingly in favour of APC’s Tinubu. The advantage remains his, but the imbroglio over Naira redesign pitching the candidate and the powerful Governors against the President, Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele has shattered all illusions of cohesion.
Some governors led by Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai and Kano Governor Ganduje have accused persons around the President of working against their party/candidate and having another agenda.
Funding, Party Structure and Organisation is also largely in favour of Tinubu. The whole purport of the CBN Naira Redesign was to remove the funding advantage but the APC’s structure and organization remains a major advantage over its peers.
The criteria around regional electoral power similarly favours APC and that is their unchallenged advantage-the bulk of the votes are in the North-West, North-East and South-West which are the party’s strongholds! How voters evaluate and react to the candidates and the coalitions they have built is more nuanced and will be a factor that will be more equally shared among the candidates.
The key question around electoral systems and institutions is to what extent the voting will be free and fair. Buhari appears determined to organize fair elections and INEC’s BVAS system is believed to enhance that possibility. It remains to be seen what will happen on election day, and its aftermath.
As mentioned earlier, if the elections were to be decided by urban, middle class youths on social media, Peter Obi and the Labour Party would be the clear winner!
Voting Turnout and Projections
In the 2015 presidential elections, overall voter turnout was 44 percent which was relatively high not surprisingly given that election was a high-stake one in which most regions of the country had significant interests to defend.
The South-South which was seeking to reelect President Jonathan topped turnout with 56 percent while the North-West had 50% turnout. Given the vastly larger voter registration in North-West vis-à-vis South-South, the advantage went to Buhari.
North-East and North-Central followed with 42% and 41% turnout respectively; while South-East and South-West had lower percentage turnout of 37% and 34% respectively. In 2019, overall voter turnout dropped by ten percentage points to 34% again not surprisingly given the lower regional stakes as Buhari of North-West competed with Atiku Abubakar of North-East.
This time, the three Northern regions led turnout with 44% (North-West), 42% (North-East) and 36% (North-Central) while the Southern zones followed with 28%, 27% and 23% for South-South, South-West and South-East respectively. In 2023, being another high stakes election, we expect voting turnout to reach the 2015 levels although current fuel and currency shortages may moderate our projections.
Read also: Presidency: Tinubu pledges to work for Nigeria
. Across all six regions, we have projected increased turnout to 50%, 50% and 45% in North-West, North-East and North-Central respectively and 50%, 45% and 40% respectively in South-West, South-South and South-East leading to overall national voter turnout of 47% of registered voters.
In terms of regional voting preferences, we project Peter Obi to have the edge in the South-East with 37.4% of votes, closely followed by Atiku Abubakar. We expect Tinubu to come a distant third with slightly under 25% of votes cast. In the South-South, we expect PDP’s Atiku to lead with over 40% of votes and Tinubu coming second with more than 30% of votes cast.
Peter Obi in our projection puts in a decent return but in third place. Tinubu will dominate the votes in all the states in the South-West outside Lagos. In Lagos, Tinubu will also win, fairly comfortably, but both Atiku and Obi will record substantial vote tallies.
It is in the North that this election will be decided! In North-Central, Obi has made gains in the Christian regions and may lead in Benue; record a strong showing in Plateau and Nasarawa and win at least 25% in FCT. Nevertheless, we expect APC to win in Kogi, Kwara, Niger and Plateau and win in that zone with an estimated over 40% of votes, with Atiku leading in FCT and possibly Nasarawa.
We project that barring a last-minute about-face by North-West voters, Tinubu/APC will comfortably win the region with leads in Kano, Kaduna, Kebbi and Zamfara. Atiku will put up a strong showing in Katsina and perhaps Sokoto and generally also do well in the zone.
Kwankwaso is expected to also score significant votes in Kano and Jigawa. Overall we project APC to score over 45% of North-West votes with Atiku also doing tops of 30% of votes cast.
The North-East will be more competitive than North-West with Atiku winning in his Adamawa and Tinubu/Shettima winning in Borno. Taraba votes may resemble Adamawa, but with Peter Obi getting some share of the votes, while Yobe may also resemble Borno voting.
In Gombe and Bauchi, we expect the votes to be close between APC and PDP. Overall, we expect Atiku to have a small edge in the region of 45% to Tinubu/Shettima’s over 40% in the North-East.
Nationwide, our data suggests that Bola Tinubu of the APC will comfortably win the highest number of votes amongst the presidential candidates and will easily secure 25% or more of votes cast in more than two-thirds of our thirty-six states and the FCT.
So, the question is whether we will have successful elections on Saturday and a completed transition and whether a last-minute Northern rebellion, deliberate sabotage by President Buhari and/or the so-called “cabal around him” or Godwin Emefiele’s Naira re-design policy can stop him???
Otunba Opeyemi Olukayode Agbaje is the Founder/Chairman and CEO of RTC Advisory Services Ltd. He founded RTC Advisory Services Ltd, a leading strategy, policy and economy, and business advisory firm in 2004 after a successful career in banking and financial services.