On February 25, Africa’s largest democracy and economy will elect its president and parliamentary representatives. This will be Nigeria’s seventh electoral cycle since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999. In its fourth republic, the People’s Democratic Party has won every multi-party contest until 2015, when the All Progressives Congress led by incumbent Muhammdu Buhari clinched two successive terms. Now bearing the party flag is Bola Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos state. The PDP’s candidate is Atiku Abubaker, who served as Olusegun Obasanjo’s vice president from 1999 until 2007.
But it’s not these veterans who are captivating hearts and minds. Instead, it is Peter Obi, a wealthy businessman and ex-governor of Anambra state, who is causing a stir. Initially, Obi intended to compete for the PDP nomination but crossed the floor to the Labour Party after being frustrated with the PDP’s primary process. His move to the Labour Party—a hitherto relatively unknown, social-democratic platform—is viewed by many as a bold, anti-establishment move. Young Nigerians are attracted to his seeming “outsider” image, his good governance politics, and his entrepreneurial background, which exemplifies the dream of upward mobility that evades many young Nigerians. Obi has cultivated a cult following, with many of his fans dubbing themselves “Obidients.”
Obi’s hype, along with an endorsement from Obasanjo, makes him look like the natural frontrunner. But can Obi really transform Nigeria’s political and economic system, marred by staggering inequality, regional and ethno-religious divides, and corruption? Or is his politics vacuous and empty, based on vague promises to “turn things around?” And how does the Left feature in all of this? What of the initiatives born from the mass mobilizations of the mid-2010s, such as #OccupyNigeria and the Take It Back Movement? And above all, #EndSARS?
This week, Will is joined by the hosts of an exciting new podcast on Nigerian politics, the Nigerian Scam, to discuss the upcoming election and its possible outcomes. Sa’eed Husaini is a contributing editor at Africa Is a Country, who lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria, wrapping up a fellowship at the University of Lagos, and O.A.G has a postgraduate degree in food security, and is a political commentator with great interest in revolutionary thought in and out of the African continent.