The Road to 2023 Editor’s Foreword: The Republic V6, N2

Presidential campaigns will officially start in September 2022. Ahead of this, our latest issue, The Road to 2023, takes readers through the major candidates, their parties, and the potential implications of the 2023 election for Nigeria’s political landscape and wider trajectory. Purchase the issue here. We ship worldwide.

In September 2022, the race for Nigeria’s next president will officially begin with campaign activities expected to last for under 200 days, before voting happens in February 2023. To many Nigerians, there are two main sides to the election. The first side features an unsteady ‘establishment’, represented by the rivalry between political institutions, Atiku Abubakar and Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Atiku, as he is known, was a former vice president, and is running under a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that has never been more divided. The former Lagos State governor and political ‘kingmaker’, Tinubu, is equally running under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and is tasked with leading a party whose members are more ambitious than they are united.  

The 2023 election will be another opportunity to observe the evolving trajectories of APC and PDP, Nigeria’s largest parties. An APC or a PDP victory will no doubt have ramifications on Nigeria’s future, but either’s victory (or defeat) could also tell us something of Nigeria’s political establishment and its ability or resistance to change: Will the election set APC further on its path to match or even supersede the 16 years of PDP leadership APC disrupted in 2015? Could a PDP loss be the move that accelerates the party’s unravelling? In several ways, the polls will not only be a question of who leads Nigeria over the next four years but also a question of what becomes the legacy of two of Nigeria’s political giants. In their unique ways, Atiku and Tinubu have been integral parts of their respective parties and Nigeria’s current democracy; to the extent that Atiku’s political trajectory is inextricable from that of PDP’s. Tinubu and APC share a similar, if not more intertwined, relationship. 

Not surprisingly, a prominent argument has been that the 2023 election is at its core a showdown between APC and PDP (some have even argued that given PDP’s ineffectual opposition, the election is APC’s to lose). But such a view, as of today, needs updating: among the highlights of this election season has been observing the rise of Peter Obi’s candidacy. Obi, a former governor, is running under the Labour Party and has established himself as a new kind of third-force candidate. Political inexperience and weak political infrastructure are some of the reasons third-force candidates have typically underperformed at the polls in recent years. But next year at least two factors could prove advantageous to Obi’s candidacy.  

First, is President Buhari’s hesitance to play an active role in APC’s campaigning, a move that has left Buhari’s vast northern base up for grabs (if not under-stimulated). The second, is a noticeable rise in voter registration particularly among young people. In August 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) reported an increase in registered voters from 84 million as of 2019 to 96.2 million. According to INEC, of the new 12 million voters, over eight million were young Nigerians—many of whom are looking to Obi’s candidacy as a means of, if not disrupting the establishment, sending a message.

Obi’s young supporters can often trace their support to the 2020 #EndSARS protests, and are Nigerians who place higher value on acts of service over displays of power in how they define leadership. They are, in other words, anti-establishment. This group, which is hyper-aware of the impossible odds Obi faces, has found even greater resolve in long-termism. It is not about winning the next election, they argue, but building a base they can leverage for future elections. Being young, time is naturally on their side; but with a rapidly declining economy and high youth emigration rates, is this political base guaranteed? 

One thing the authors in this issue agree on is that this is an election with very high stakes. As such, each cover story not only focuses on a major candidate but also features original insight drawn from political stakeholders (party members, voters, analysts and experts) across Nigeria.  

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Associate editor, Afolabi Adekaiyaoja, opens the issue inquiring into the meaning of Tinubu’s candidacy. He provides necessary context explaining the deep connections between Tinubu, APC and Tinubu’s decision to run for office, providing commentary from both pro- and anti-Tinubu stakeholders. According to Adekaiyaoja, little is surprising about Tinubu running for office. Only a democratic era such as ours could have produced Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he argues. An inevitable presidential candidate, Adekaiyaoja believes convincing Nigerians to ignore the controversies of his past, his wealth and his choice of running mate will be the crowning achievement of Tinubu’s career—not becoming president. 

Chukwuma Junior Chinye considers the presidential race from the viewpoint of Atiku and PDP. Both, Chinye argues, are seeking to chart a path back to the highs of political office after prolonged periods in ‘the political wilderness’. According to Chinye, the journeys of PDP and Atiku, its two-time presidential flagbearer, are as interwoven as they are similar. The 2023 election will likely be their ‘last dance’ together, the author writes. Atiku has no doubt reshaped PDP, but, Chinye asks stakeholders, have the years shown a match made in Heaven or a pairing doomed to fail? 

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In our final cover essay, associate editor, Chukwudi Ukonne, considers Obi’s candidacy and his emergent ‘Obidient’ movement of supporters. According to Ukonne, both Obi’s supporters and critics agree that as the former governor of one of Nigeria’s most electorally volatile states, Obi is no left-force tyro. Regardless, Ukonne writes, he faces ‘almost impossible odds of winning the election’. But should Obi’s ‘Obidience’ movement succeed, and should Obi win, he and his supporters must contend with the reality of the sacrifices he might have to make to fulfil his campaign promises. 

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Our second print issue of 2022, this edition welcomes Onyinye Dike, The Republic’s new art director, who has been driving our efforts to elevate the presentation of our coverage across our publishing platforms. As such, this issue follows a new template that we are excited to share with you, along with a more expansive selection of feature essays and interviews. As usual, we encourage our readers to engage with our essays and articles and to provide insightful comments. We would also appreciate any feedback you may have on our new design. Readers may send their views directly to the Editor by addressing emails (of no more than 700 words) to [email protected], with the subject, ‘Comment on Xyz Essay’, or ‘Letter to the Editor’ as applies. Comments and letters will be archived and, depending on the quality of the arguments presented, we may reach out to assist in developing your letters and comments further for publishing in the magazine.  

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At The Republic, we will always prioritize the meaningful exchange of ideas. We commit to pressing forward: on the most critical of social, political and economic issues; by innovating through knowledge gaps; and by providing guidance through thickets of opinion, ignorance and misinformation—three key features of our time—in search of glades of insight  

The views, thoughts, and opinions published in The Republic belong solely to the author and are not necessarily the views of The Republic or its editors. We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editors by writing to [email protected].