Big Issues for the 2023 General Election in Nigeria – Part 2

Big Issues for the 2023 General Election in Nigeria by Olisa Agbakoba Legal OAL


Part 2 of this article sets out possible solutions to the challenges confronting Presidential candidates in the 2023 elections. They shall be discussed in the following order.


As stated in part 1, Nigeria has never been so divided. This is a huge challenge that a new President must confront. The International Index of failed states, says Nigeria is in a low-grade civil war with insecurity, conflicts, and agitations. Presidential candidates have identified this challenge but only a few offer specific solutions. We suggest 3 solutions namely that Presidential candidates must consider the challenge of a legitimate constitution, the issue of restructuring, and last, strengthen the local government system.


    A legitimate constitution is the most vital political framework. However, to succeed, four vital elements must exist and they include Inclusivity, Authority, Validity, and Legitimacy. Previous attempts at constitution-making have failed on the issue of legitimacy because the Constitution is generally perceived as imposed by the military. This issue ought to engage the attention of all the Presidential candidates. Prof. Ben Nwabueze has suggested that in order to confer legitimacy there is a need to engage leaders of subnational ethnicities (the Ohaneze, Arewa, Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum, etc). This is because they are the owners of Nigeria. Before the amalgamation, they existed and still exist today. These leaders enjoy the confidence of their ethnic nationalities and can help confer legitimacy to a new people’s constitution.



    Nigeria’s federalism is over centralized which explains the continued agitation for the political restructuring of the country. Prof Ben Nwabueze has provided a context for political restructuring as follows:

“Federalism in Nigeria is dictated by the existence of a territorially large community comprising various geographically segregated ethnic groups divided by large differences of religion, language, culture, or economics. Its purpose is to enable each group, free from interference or control by other groups to govern itself in matters of internal concerns leaving matters of common concern, not overwhelmingly extensive in their range, to be managed under a federal government constituted in such a manner as to ensure that it is not dominated by any one group or a combination of them, and above all, to ensure justice, fairness, and equity to all in the management of matters of common concern…”

To achieve the objective of remodeling a centralized Federation into a balanced Federation is to keep in mind these principles;

  • Federalism unites diverse peoples, but supports the assertion of distinct identities and recognizes autonomy in certain matters.
  • Federalism unites without eroding the identity of distinct groups.
  • Striking a balance and identifying a workable Federal Model is a challenge for every country.

Therefore, Restructuring must resolve three key issues:

  • What are the Federating Units?
  • How to ensure fair fiscal Federalism/Revenue Sharing?
  • How to ensure that power rotates fairly and inclusively to avoid fear and threats that general elections generate every four years.

OAL policy report 2022 has suggested models that can resolve these three key issues.


Also important is empowering the local governments as the source of power at the base of the Federal structure. This can be achieved through the principle of subsidiarity which is ensuring that governance is delivered at the lowest level. In concluding this part, it is important to state, that notwithstanding Nigeria’s over-centralized federalism, State Governors of Nigeria still have space to operate. The solution is for Governors to identify that space and take it. Lagos State took the space very well in respect of town planning and physical planning, ratification of federal government lands in Lagos state, vehicle registration, state powers to legislate over tenement rates, inland waterways, and lottery operation and was able to raise internally generated revenue from N600 Million in 1999 to N23 Billion as at 2017. What we have suggested here, we strongly recommend that the Presidential candidates consider. We acknowledge that some Presidential candidates have indeed understood restructuring is what will cool Nigeria’s temperature but generally, there have been discordant voices among the Presidential candidates. We strongly suggest they revive their Presidential Manifestoes and bring these issues to the centre of their political agenda. ·



Insecurity all over Nigeria is an existential threat. Most presidential candidates have highlighted this challenge. Some advocate increased recruitment of security personnel. Others have proposed increased funding. But Nigeria has spent over $ 1 trillion on security with no significant result. Nigeria needs a completely new security architecture, a smart Army, Navy, Coast guard, and a revamped National intelligence agency. Nigeria also needs to massively deploy satellite technology for intelligence. Satellite technology and drones have the capacity to produce a detailed mapping of Nigeria, especially the security-challenged areas like the Sambisa Forest. The new President should work with Nigeria’s premier space agency to deploy advanced drones and satellite technology. OAL is currently working with the National Space Research Agency of Nigeria (NASRDA) on policy, legal and institutional framework for the use of satellite technology in Nigeria. Most Presidential candidates make no strong commitments to security.


Nigeria’s economy as highlighted in part 1 is in a bad shape. Most Presidential candidates recognize this problem but need to make specific recommendations. All the Presidential candidates will need to have a transformational agenda to turn around the economy. They should have an economic vision that harmonizes the 5 critical aspects of an economy which includes: the hard economy (Infrastructure like roads, and bridges), the Soft economy (laws, rules, regulations, and institutions), the blue economy (the vast ocean resources like marine, fish oil, tourism, renewable energy, etc), the green economy (forestry, biodiversity, or reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and Brown economy ( Industrial and extractive activities like mining, oil exploration, etc.). These 5 economies impact each other. The Presidential Manifestoes are largely silent on this crucial issue.

Nigeria is technically insolvent, with its rising budget deficit, debt, and shrinking revenue. No President can successfully carry out the mandate of effectively running Nigeria in this financial position unless he has a clear vision of how to resolve the revenue challenge. Unfortunately, most Presidential candidates have not fully recognized the implication of this challenge and have not articulated a comprehensive strategy to generate revenue. It is our view that what is needed are Innovative and transformational tools to generate revenue. In the Job we have done as Public Sector Lawyers we believe Nigeria can internally generate N100 Trillion without borrowing.  In OAL Policy Report 2022 we have identified 14 examples of how the new president can generate revenue.



This is another big issue confronting any Presidential candidate. To address unemployment a massive Jobs programme should be created. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the great depression when unemployment was 20% in the US, by Executive Order created a public works programme – the Works Program Administration (WPA). The WPA put roughly 8.5 million Americans to work building schools, hospitals, roads, and other public works. They built more than 4,000 new school buildings, erected 130 new hospitals, laid roughly 9,000 miles of storm 17 DRAFT drains and sewer lines, built 29,000 new bridges, constructed 150 new airfields, paved or repaired 280,000 miles of roads, and planted 24 million trees. Nigeria can adopt a similar programme. It will not only create Jobs, but it will also address existing infrastructure gaps.


This is the single biggest issue confronting the Presidential candidates. 133 million Nigerians cannot be poor and there will be development. To address this challenge, a President needs to engage in critical thinking and develop a design that will ensure that funds are allocated to the most important sectors. Four sectors identified by global Multi-Dimensional Poverty (MPI) include Education, Health, Living Standards, and Employment. Funding for these key sectors must be sustained over a period of time. We urge all the Presidential candidates to study FDR’s Works 1935 public works programme (Works Program Administration) that put roughly 8.5 million Americans out of poverty. A similar public works programme can be implemented in Nigeria.


Nigeria in the context of development has a long way to go. What drives a state is the legal, institutional and regulatory framework. Unfortunately, most Presidential candidates fail to highlight this issue. The quality of a country’s institutions is a determinant of its economic performance. Without the appropriate legal, institutional regulatory framework economic development will be difficult. Law is very crucial to economic development. Emerging economies like Nigeria fail mostly because of the failure to link law to development. Presidential candidates will need to keep in mind the following issues.


Any Nigerian President that comes into office will be confronted with weak institutions and impunity. The Presidential candidate must therefore focus on building strong institutions. Nigeria can emulate South Africa by selecting strong institutions that promote democracy and constitutionally insulating them from executive interference. In Nigeria, we recommend institutions like the Police, Judiciary, and Office of the auditor General etc for such insulation. No Presidential candidate has addressed this issue.


It is generally agreed that the cost of governance in Nigeria is too high. 80% of government revenue goes to pay civil servants and nothing is left for development. Most Presidential candidates talk about reducing the cost of governance but have not proposed any specific strategy. We suggest the implementation of the Steve Oronsaye Report. Government bureaucracy must be right-sized. Many institutions should be abolished so as to cut down the cost of governance. The office of the Secretary to Government (SGF) of the Federation which is a military creation should be repealed.


The Judicial system is vital to the development process. Unfortunately, most presidential candidates fail to talk about this. It is a big missing link. The impact of an inefficient judiciary on development cannot be overstated. In our practice, many international clients are hesitant to come to Nigeria because they say that the legal and judicial process is sluggish. Unfortunately, no presidential candidate has dealt extensively with the issue. A president must work with the Judiciary to give urgency to the justice sector and reverse legal failure. Adopting a speed-of-justice policy will reduce delays. It is also important to enact the Administration of Civil Justice Bill to ensure the efficient administration of civil disputes. Also, new methods of dispute resolution should be considered such as Alternative Dispute Resolutions, small claims courts, and traditional and customary arbitration. Quasi-judicial administrative tribunals can be established for specific dispute resolution.


Most Nigerian Presidents fail to recognize the importance of a legislative agenda. They leave the task of developing a legislative agenda to the National Assembly. President Buhari even said that constitutional reform was not on his agenda but that of the National Assembly. Obama had the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), Joe Biden introduced the American Rescue Plan Act. No Presidential candidate has presented a legislative Agenda. This ought to be corrected.


A major challenge for the president in 2023 will be emerging world politics and relations with the international western system and the rising power of the east as represented by India, Japan, UAE, China, Russia, turkey, etc. How we deal with these two blocs will determine great issues over the next 50 years for Nigeria and the AU. This happened with the nonaligned countries 70 years ago and it is well and alive today. Three of the most developed economies are in the east- China, India, and Japan. Only one in the first 4 is western which is the US. There is a tectonic shift in geopolitics. In the coming decade, the rivalries between great powers are likely to continue with undiminished vigour. The ultimate prize of this great power competition is a new world order. Five different scenarios are conceivable. First, the liberal world order could survive the end of the unipolar American moment. Second, a series of wars and revolutions can lead to the total collapse of order. Third, a great power concert could bring relative stability in a multipolar world but fail to tackle the great challenges facing humanity. Fourth, a new cold war may partly block the rule-based multilateral system but still allow for limited cooperation in questions of common interest and finally, an illiberal order with Chinese characteristics. Kishore Mahbubani, a leading international affairs scholar in his timely book titled: Has the West Lost It? argues that the West can no longer presume to impose its ideology on the world and crucially, that it must stop seeking to intervene, politically and militarily, in the affairs of other nations. He examines the West’s greatest follies of recent times: the humiliation of Russia at the end of the Cold War, which led to the rise of Putin, and the invasion of Iraq after 9/11, which destabilized the Middle East. Kishore also argues that the world is in a hugely paradoxical time. The world will see greater change in the 21st Century than in the previous human century. Huge leaps in science and technology, accompanied by huge economic and social advances in many societies around the world, especially Asian societies, will mean that the texture and chemistry of the 21st century will be massively different from the 19th and 20th centuries. How will a Nigerian President respond? This will be an important consideration our presidential candidates should ponder.


Nigeria is challenged by corruption. Effective and durable corruption control requires multiple, overlapping institutions of accountability. And for situations of endemic corruption, there needs to be horizontal accountability and vertical accountability.

  • Institutions of Horizontal Accountability:

Obviously, the law must rule out all forms of bribery, nepotism, and misuse of public funds. Comprehensive ethics and anti-corruption legislation is needed. But this is not sufficient. Effective corruption control requires that all elected officials and political appointees, and at least all higher-level civil servants be compelled to declare their assets upon taking office, and every year thereafter, and whenever their assets change in some significant, defined way, as through a major sale or stock transaction, these assets should be filed with the counter-corruption commission but they should not be kept secret. The declarations of assets must be made available to the press and public, ideally through publication in the newspaper or on a designated website. Individuals and CSOs should be encouraged to verify such claims.

Another means of preventing corruption is through independent, systematic audits of public accounts. It is not enough simply to monitor personal accounts. A dense, overlapping system of accountability requires that all major governments bureaus, agencies, and ministries have their accounts regularly audited; that each major government agency or bureau should have its own auditing office; and that the Federal Government should have a strong and independent office of the Auditor – General with the authority to conduct external audits on a periodic or random basis and to audit any agency at any time when there is evidence of wrongdoing. Laws and regulations on public procurement and disbursement of funds should be strongly enforced.

The judiciary is another important institution of horizontal accountability to control corruption and abuse of power. The judiciary needs to be independent if it is to be effective. But so do all the other parties of horizontal accountability. The judicial system also needs resources, human and financial, to do its job effectively. An effective system requires well-trained, capable judges, clerks, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, and enough of them to keep caseloads to a level that is consistent with vigorous justice but due process. They need the support of law libraries, computerized information systems, professional bar associations, law schools, and judicial training institutes.

Vertical Accountability

We will simply summarize the process of vertical accountability which takes two forms; Electoral Accountability and the role of the media and civil society. Rigged elections add to endemic corruption so the electoral process must be fundamentally reformed. Elections in Nigeria have been seen as “investments” which the “investor” must recoup as soon as he or she gets into power. A critical step in fighting corruption is in instituting credible elections and controlling political finance. A watchful media has always proved vital in controlling corruption. Vertical accountability also involves a wide array of nongovernmental organization in civil society devoted to building new institutions and practices of good governance as well as a variety of civic associations (Bar associations, women’s organizations, student associations, religious bodies, election monitoring and human rights groups) that may form civil coalitions to lobby for constitutional changes to improve governance, while also becoming active sources of vigilant cooperation with bodies that are expressly devoted to monitoring the conduct of public officials.


Nigeria’s power sector has been one of the weak links in the infrastructure chain of the Nigerian economy, and for it to deliver the expected results, it must undergo fundamental changes. Experts believe such changes must range from decentralizing the current national grid to ensuring cost-effective pricing of power output and diversification of the power mix. Heavy military clampdown is needed to ensure success in the fight against oil theft. Beyond militarization is the need to fire individuals involved in oil theft. The government through the apex bank, CBN, and other financial institutions should be involved to report, trace, and close down accounts that get proceeds from oil theft. Another way Nigeria can stop oil theft is the creation of modular refineries. Creating modular refineries will help in taking petrol to the consumers, instead of moving it to different ports. The technology around pipelines and oil wells should be increased. Technologies will help in monitoring the flow of oil at the start point, and at different points, making it easy to track where oil has been. Multinationals should increase their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Improving CSR will help and see the locales act as agents in the fight against oil theft. Government should go into partnership with governments of countries where oil stolen is suspected to be bought. This will help in creating international laws that will border the flow of oil from such countries.


The 2023 general election is a defining moment for Nigeria which raises the need for a thorough and insightful search for who will preside over the country’s affairs after President Buhari’s administration. Overall, we are happy to note that this is one of the first presidential elections that issues are coming to the fore, and that is how it should be. This article has highlighted a few of the big issues that should engage any Presidential candidate interested in leading Nigeria some of which include: lack of unity, disorder, and insecurity and it must be tackled head-on. The other big challenge is the weak legal institutional and regulatory framework; this needs to be strengthened. The third is the economy especially as it relates to rising budget deficit, debt, and shrinking revenue. Nigeria needs innovative and transformational tools to deal with all the issues highlighted. Our contribution here is to make suggestions. Presidential candidates are to rethink some of the issues, especially that of poverty.


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Olisa Agbakoba
Collins Okeke