March 30, 2023

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Make disruptive reforms or plunge 216 million people into unprecedented crises

Never in Nigeria’s democratic history has a president been elected with so few votes. The new head of state, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is contested by the opposition, will have to deal with unprecedented challenges.

Bola Tinubu of the ruling party (APC) during celebrations after his election as Nigeria’s president on March 1, 2023 in Abuja.

Known for their resilience, Africa’s most populous country of 216 million people lives in the grip of widespread insecurity and a severe economic crisis, and all the lights are red. Bola Tinubu won the presidential election in late February after a vote marred by several technical failures and allegations of “massive fraud” against a backdrop of currency and petrol shortages.

During his victory, Mr. Tinubu to the opposition work together » pour Glue the pieces back together From Nigeria. But his two main opponents, unsuccessful presidential candidates, are contesting the results and legal proceedings are underway. ” Given how the elections were conducted with an incompetent or complicit Electoral Commission (Inec), Tinubu will first have to work hard to build its legitimacy.Nnamdi Obasi, an expert at the International Crisis Group (ICG), says:

– “Anger” –

Supporters of Nigeria’s main opposition party (PDP) protest against the presidential election results in Abuja on March 6, 2023.

At the age of 70, the candidate of the ruling party (APC) won with only 8.8 million votes or 36% of the vote, the lowest score in history. Blame it on Peter Obi, a surprise candidate backed by urban and connected youth. After eight years of rule by Muhammadu Buhari, who is due to step down in May 2023, the mistake was made due to insecurity and the discontent of the majority of the people, due to non-registration (73%) and the marking of two of his mandates. An outbreak of poverty and violence.

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To obtain legitimacy, Mr. Tinubu – who is hugely wealthy and accused of corruption – must send strong signals “very quickly” and above all not follow his predecessor who waited six months to form a government. , Mr. Obasi insists.

But his age and health are worrying. In a country where 60% of the population is under the age of 25, Mr. Tinubu experienced tremors in public, which “ Adding to its legal woesTunde Ajile of SBM Intelligence, a Nigerian consultancy, says: So must the new president Very likely “He who announced a series of decisions to face the anger of the people” required “But ” Very negative economic consequences in the short term« , M Agile is sure.

Under President Buhari, the economy has deteriorated, especially after Covid and the war in Ukraine. Unemployment exceeds 33%, inflation approaches 22%, public debt is rising and poverty is enormous, with 133 million people living below the poverty line.

In an agreement with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, for example, Mr. Tinubu promised immediate cancellation of fuel subsidies. But that would be alienating the already knee-jerk crowd, who doesn’t already enjoy massive popularity.

Because such a decision will be made Doubling the cost of a liter of petrol and causing massive inflation“, Mr. Obasi warns. ” People will be really angry«.

– “dead end” –

A boy skates past closed shops during a ‘stay at home’ enforced by separatist groups in Onitsha, southeast Nigeria, on February 27, 2023.

But removing them would allow Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, to ” Managing the budget crisis » and to invest « Education, Infrastructure and Social Security Programmes“, asserts Mucahid Durmaz, analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.

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Experts say ending large-scale oil theft, which costs Nigeria $2 billion a year, is also a priority.

The new president must also deal with a sequel to this deadly economy: insecurity. Violence among jihadists, separatists and criminal groups is widespread. For their part, the armed forces and police are understaffed, underarmed and regularly accused of serious human rights abuses.

They “need far-reaching structural reforms and comprehensive training programs,” Mr. Durmaz insists. Meanwhile, Nigeria continues to pile up its deaths every week. In the northeast, a stronghold of jihadist groups, the military has been unable to end a 13-year conflict that has killed 40,000 people and displaced 2 million.

« Nothing suggests that strategy will change with the arrival of a new president like Tinubu“, says Jamestown Foundation researcher Jacob Jenn. ” This impasse may continue«.