• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Nigeria beyond the elections


Barring any material reasons for a second postponement, Nigeria’s presidential election will hold 23 days from today. The high-pitched campaigns of the two main political parties – the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – have relied heavily on personal attacks to discredit performance records and defame previous incarnations of both the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, and his rival, Muhammadu Buhari, a one-time military head of state. The ultimate aim, it appears, is to win over an increasingly enlightened electorate to vote for either “continuity” or “change”.

While all purposes and intents are locked on securing victory on election day, we are instructed by a popular African story where a wedding is lavishly celebrated forgetting that the “marriage” has only just begun. What happens to Nigeria on March 30 when the votes are counted and the next president is announced or on May 29 when the next president is sworn into office?

Whichever date we pick, the present socio-economic conditions in Nigeria will largely remain unchanged. The negative impact of low oil prices will continue to besiege the economy, especially its ability to fund a N4.5-trillion budget with almost a N1-trillion deficit. The naira would have exceeded historical heights, settling at 200 (or more) to the dollar.

The external reserves will still remain threatened at $32 billion due to slow accretion to the reserve and the fast withdrawals to support the naira. Unemployment would continue to be a challenge with over 25 percent of a 100-million youth population still in the job search market.

These and more are the conditions the next president would either continue to grapple with (in the case of President Jonathan) or inherit for the first time (in the case of General Buhari).

BusinessDay has analysed the economic manifestoes of both the opposition APC and the ruling PDP, published in the February 4 and February 17, 2015 editions, respectively.

A comparison of the manifestoes shows many positive similarities in tackling unemployment, basic education, infrastructure development, security, and so on. However, the sore thumb sticking out is how both parties plan to “fund” the beautiful promises and projections that have been outlined.

How do you fund an economy that is, as one foreign investment bank described it, “insufficiently diversified” and heavily reliant on a single commodity for over 75 percent of its revenues?

If both candidates ever sit together in a political debate, this should be a critical question to ask. Regardless of whether they debate or not, one of them would have to face this question in real time, starting from May 29, 2015.