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Nigeria

Presidential candidates launch uncosted manifestos to boost economy

Rival candidates Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu release policy plans to boost oil and gas output, cut unemployment

The multi-billion dollar campaign platforms launched in the week-ending 22 October of the presidential candidates from the two biggest parties, Bola Tinubu for the ruling All Progressives' Congress and Atiku Abubakar for the People's Democratic Party, have met with widespread scepticism from voters and civil society organisations.

Civic activists and journalists have questioned the lack of budgetary detail in the two candidates' manifestos which fail to explain how they will pull the country out of its current falling revenue-rising debt service trap.

A third candidate, former governor of Anambra State and now candidate for the small Labour Party, Peter Obi, is due to launch his manifesto next month (AC Vol 63 No 15,Peter Obi shakes up the political class).  A spate of independent opinion polls over the last two months showed Obi to be far ahead of Abubakar and Tinubu.

Yet political insiders question his capacity to turn that support into votes at the country's 141,000 polling stations when his party's organisation is so small and under-funded compared to its two main rivals.

Both Abubakar, a former Vice-President, and Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, have pledged to boost economic growth, rationalise the central bank's multi-tier foreign exchange policy and devolve more political and financial power from the centre to the country's 36 states (AC Vol 63 No 15, Presidential race tightens after flagbearers pick running mates).

Abubakar, the co-founder of Integrated Logistics Services which serviced the oil and gas sector, says he would cut state bureaucracy and use his corporate experience to bring in more foreign investment. On record as a strong supporter of restructuring Nigeria's constitution, Abubakar said he backed the establishment of state police to address the wave of armed attacks from Islamist fighter, bandits and kidnappers across the country.

Support for restructuring goes down well in the PDP's heartlands in the south-east and the south-south regions but Abubakar's continuing battle with one of the party's main funders, Rivers State governor Nyesome Wike risks losing voter support (AC Vol 63 No 18, Opposition fall-out shakes up election plans). Obi and the Labour Party should benefit from that.

As candidate for the ruling APC, Tinubu ostensibly has a harder campaigning task given the party's unpopularity, rising fears over security and the weakening economy. The naira has fallen to its lowest level ever, falling below N700=US$1 for the first time last month, and inflation hit 19.7% in July with prices for some foodstuffs running at twice that level. Oil production has halved under the APC to just over a million barrels a day due to rampant oil theft and lack of investment.

Without explanatory details, Tinubu pledged to raise oil production to 2.6 million barrels a day (b/d) by 2027 and to 4m b/d by 2030. He added that he would end fuel subsidies, currently costing over $40m a day, using the savings for the state to invest in schools, hospitals and major infrastructure projects.

As a former executive of ExxonMobil, Tinubu says he knows how to bring in foreign investment into the oil and gas sector, as well as persuade them to help build up Nigeria's own energy companies through training, technology and trading deals.

With an eye on Obi's fast-growing support among younger Nigerians (over half the electorate are under 30), Tinubu pledges to cut youth unemployment by 50% within four years. And he says he will target the creation of a million new jobs in the tech industry, which is dominated by younger Nigerians, and encourage the 'prudent' use of blockchain technology and crypto currencies.

Strong on wish-lists and economic development goals, Tinubu's 80 page manifesto contains few details about how he would implement these ambitious policies. Of all the policy sections, his pledges to boost tax revenues are seen as the most credible. As governor of Lagos, he more than quadrupled revenues, thanks to the relentless efforts of a sub-contracted private collection company in which he had a stake.



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