The year 2019 was an interesting one for Nigeria, which was dominated by the general elections that held in the first quarter of the year and which set the tone for events for the rest of the year, such as the election tribunals contesting the results, and many others.
President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected by a wider margin than the first time he was elected in 2015 as validation that he is on the right track. As a result, he doubled down on his economic policy, which is marked by a protectionist instinct, arbitrariness and a more interventionist stance by a skint government. This portends a challenge for Nigeria in 2020, and possibly beyond. How will institutions, and indeed the economy, cope with policies that are implemented based on whims rather than facts? This is an important question as the early results suggest that the answer is, not too well.
All the metrics for the average Nigerian is in decline. The country’s Human Development Index (HDI) value has only shown marginal increases in the last four years, while per capita income has fallen, at a time of rising inflation and tepid growth. These are issues that Nigeria has to address urgently, but they pale in significance to politics.
At least 600 people lost their lives by violence that could be traced to election-related incidents that occurred between the launch of political campaigns and the actual elections. By our records, no one has been held responsible for any of these deaths, charged with a crime or even facing trial. That sent a strong message, and one that has been heard loud and clear as was seen in sub-national elections later on in the year in Bayelsa, Ekiti and Kogi states. An SBM survey conducted in the wake of the general elections showed increasing apathy to the political process, which risks delegitimising future governments, and their economic agenda. Nigeria’s biggest challenge will be restoring faith in its democratic process, and in the government that has emerged from that process.
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