2022 is a pre-election year and politics is expected to dominate governance activities throughout the year which will increase tensions as intrigues and power play take hold. Muhammadu Buhari is now in the last full year of his Presidency and has limited time to end the rising insecurity and deteriorating economy that has dented his popularity in his northern power base. This year will see several political and non-political events that will eventually lead to the selection of a successor for: Buhari; about 30 state governors; and members of the National Assembly.
Political considerations will underline governance decisions as the year unfolds and Nigeria moves towards national elections in early 2023. Those seeking to emerge as the country’s next political leaders will be unable to avoid hard decisions. The focus will be on those seeking the Presidency. Because Buhari is unlikely to endorse any candidate, the succession battle is expected to be keenly fought. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remain the dominant platforms for a potential successor. Both, however, are torn apart by internal supremacy battles which will leave room for the emergence of a third force that is likely to be created by defectors from both parties. This third force could become a major spoiler in the 2023 elections with a chance of winning some states and doing surprisingly well in the presidential race.
Despite this the next president is likely to come from the APC or PDP but it is too close to call which will win the Presidency in 2023. There is growing dissatisfaction with the APC and especially over the rising cost of living which is putting pressure on many households and the dangerous insecurity blighting life for many in the North which is the poorest part of the country. This makes it easier for an opposition party to clinch power in 2023 because the APC has little to boast about in the election campaign.
Despite this the PDP has a legacy challenge which it has failed to overcome. After almost seven years in opposition, it has been unable to convince Nigerians that it is ready to return to government. The party has not successfully shed the image that it is corrupt and wasteful. It is still politically weak and fragmented with many key members looking for an opportunity to join the APC and there is still a risk of high-level defections from the PDP as the 2023 elections approach which will exacerbate its weakness.
Nonetheless, there are several signposts to watch out for as the race to the 2023 national elections accelerates. The main ones which we analysed in detail last week — contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy — and that will shape the Nigerian politics and the succession battle that is about to unfold are:
- Amendments to the Electoral Act
- Abuja’s municipal council elections
- The APC’s national convention
- Trade union protests over fuel subsidies
- The Ekiti and Osun gubernatorial elections
- The presidential primaries and their aftermath
- The escalating security crisis in the North
Meanwhile, although it may have no impact on the election, President Buhari’s successor will inherit a major economic crisis in which debt servicing costs almost exceed total government revenues which necessitates further debts.