As the much anticipated 2023 general elections draw nearer, a Fitch Solutions Country Risk and Industry Research report released last Thursday has predicted victory for the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, but says his promise to end fuel subsidy and raise oil production is not practicable.
“Indeed, we maintain our view that the ruling party’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the candidate most likely to win the presidential election as a split opposition vote will favour the APC,” the report said.
However, the report, done by a subsidiary of international credit rating firm, Fitch Ratings, said a win for the APC candidate would fuel protests, social discontent, sentiments of perceived marginalisation among Christians, and end power rotation between Muslims and Christians, which would usher in political unrest.
The report read, “Protests and social discontent are likely to increase in the aftermath of a Tinubu win.
“Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, there has been an informal agreement that resulted in the presidency alternating between Northern and Southern states as well as between Christians and Muslims. A win for Tinubu would break with this unwritten tradition and likely fuel sentiment of perceived marginalisation among Christians.
“In addition, Obi’s supporters – mostly young, urban voters – are likely to question the fairness of the electoral process, especially after recent polls have predicted a win for Obi. These dynamics are likely to engender political unrest following the February vote.”
The report dismissed polls putting the Labour Party’s candidate, Peter Obi, ahead of other contestants as “skewed towards urban, affluent voters who are most likely to support Obi”, noting that since the polls were mostly based on responses gathered online, they suggest that a large share of voters remain undecided.
It said Obi “will probably do well for a third-party candidate” due to his “frugal reputation and large social media following” and “lack of support in Nigeria’s Muslim-majority North”.
Fitch Ratings said it does not expect significant policy changes, especially on fuel subsidy and oil production, under Tinubu.
“While Tinubu has stated that he would phase out Nigeria’s costly fuel subsidy, we are sceptical this will happen in the short term. There appears to be limited appetite within the APC to remove the subsidy, and with inflation remaining elevated in 2023 – due to high food prices – the cancellation of the subsidy would negatively affect the new president’s popularity,” it said.
“In addition, we believe that Tinubu’s aim to raise oil production is unfeasible in the short term. Crude production has declined significantly to 1.1mn barrels per day in September – a multi decade low – due to rising oil theft and previous underinvestment. Given the country’s weak fiscal position, we believe that there will be limited room for more security and social spending to combat oil theft and attract more investment.”
The report noted that Tinubu’s chances at winning the election will be jeopardised if public concerns about his health increase. It also predicted a tie among three candidates that would prompt a second ballot for the first time in Nigerian history, which would heighten political instability.
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