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Opinion: Tinubu offers a glimmer of hope for Nigeria

Abdullahi Tanko Bala
March 1, 2023

Surprises were the order of the day in Nigeria's latest election — both in conduct and outcome. DW's Abdullahi Tanko Bala believes Nigerians have reason to be hopeful as a new president prepares to take the helm.

Nigeria's president-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu speaks during a campaign
Image: Emmanuel Osodi/AP Photo/picture alliance

For an evolving democracy, Nigeria's 2023 election may be described as credible and democratically fair.  Compared to the previous six elections, the many positive upsets recorded this time around point to credibility. For example, major contenders losing their strongholds came as a huge surpise to many. 

Opposition parties recorded groundbreaking milestones in most places, impacted by realignments among the main players. A clear pattern is emerging: A hunger for alternatives among electorates, which only affirms the country's democracy.

Where were the voters?

Voter apathy is of course a concern that can't be ignored. 29% is a dismal statistic compared to the last outing of about 35%. I want to believe that this mostly has to do with voters being relocated from their previously registered units. Or even violence, which marred voting in some states.

Abdullahi Tanko Bala
Abdullahi Tanko Bala is an editor with DW HausaImage: DW

But the truth is, most Nigerians have a serious trust deficit when it comes to elections, which only fuels this apathy.

Voter numbers aside however, the president-elect emerged from the consensus of a political party in which members have a discerning judgment over the candidate. The general election also reflected this. I believe Nigerians who voted for Bola Tinubu trust that his age and health would not be barriers.

There are Nigerians who would prefer someone younger, but the experience Tinubu  brings to the job will likely help him to do it well. The business of governance is complex one which requires teamwork. Tinubu has a long track record of forming result-oriented teams which deliver. Although it's wise to remain cautiously optimistic. 

Nigerians still hopeful

It's worth noting that many Nigerians expressed similar hopes for outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari during his campaigns. As it turned out, Nigerian politics is highly resistant to uprooting established ideas. As a result, many old ways have continued under Buhari, with some even getting worse.

As far as hope goes, one can only assume that Tinubu will recognize the pitfalls of the climate of disenchantment and set the country on a path of genuine rebirth. It is only fair to be hopeful.

'We anchor well under President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu'

Another big question that remains is whether Tinubu can truly represent young Nigerians, who now make up a significant cohort of the voting population. In his first public statement following his victory, he touched on prioritizing the needs of the youth. I personally believe there should be a conscious and deliberate redistribution of capital in favor of young Nigerians. 

One way to achieve this is through policy. The president can identify and work with the best and brightest young minds the country has to offer and tap into their creativity. This will make politics more inclusive and attractive for young professionals and will be reflected in his style of governance. 

Whether Tinubu chooses to go this route remains to be seen.

Edited by: Ineke Mules