Bulwark Intelligence




The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West Africa’s regional bloc, announced on 25th February 2024 during a summit in Abuja, Nigeria that sanctions against Mali and Guinea would be lifted. According to ECOWAS Commission Chief Omar Alieu Touray, sanctions such as the no-fly zone, border closures, and asset freezes would be suspended “with immediate effect” on “humanitarian grounds”. This comes a day after travel, commercial and economic sanctions imposed on Niger by the regional bloc were lifted however, some targeted sanctions on some key figures remained in place. The ECOWAS leaders had met to address and resolve the political crisis in the region as well as the announcement in January by the military leaders in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali to withdraw from the regional bloc. The move has been considered a sign of appeasement as ECOWAS attempts to persuade the three junta governments not to leave the regional bloc. ECOWAS also “further urges the countries to reconsider the decision in view of the benefits that the ECOWAS member states and their citizens enjoy in the community”. Former Nigerian Head of State and founder of ECOWAS, General Yakubu Gowon Rtd had earlier called on the removal of the sanctions on the four countries and warned ECOWAS was “threatened with disunity”. Economic Sanctions and Implications In response to the military coups in the region, ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) introduced rigorous sanctions on all three countries—and Burkina Faso. ECOWAS had earlier imposed sanctions on Mali to pressure the junta to return to constitutional order, although they were lifted in 2022 after a 24-month transition to democracy and a new electoral law was proposed. Regarding Niger, ECOWAS closed its borders and put stringent conditions after soldiers detained President Mohamed Bazoum on 26th July 2023 and installed a transitional administration. The sanctions, affected open movement and trade within the region, and restricted economic and social access. The sanctions forced Niger, to cut down government spending and default on debt payments of more than $500 million. Neighbouring Nigeria also cut off power which accounted for 70% of Niger’s total electricity supply in August 2023. The bloc also banned financial transactions with its member institutions in Guinea after Colonel Mamady Doumbouya ousted President Alpha Conde in 2021. Despite this, Guinea defied border closures imposed by ECOWAS and gave the Sahel states access to its port, enabling Mali to receive grain and fertiliser from Russia. The economic sanctions had broader implications for other countries in the region. According to reports, sanctions on Niger resulted in price hikes of a range of key goods in countries like Ghana. President Tinubu, President of Nigeria and Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government acknowledged the unintended implications of the sanctions and emphasised the need “must re-examine our current approach to the quest for constitutional order in four of our Member States”. Alliance des États du Sahel (Alliance of Sahel States) and ECOWAS exit In September last year, military leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger formed the Alliance des États du Sahel (AES), in response to the threats of an ECOWAS military intervention in Niger after the military junta detained President Mohamed Bazoum. The resulting economic sanctions from both ECOWAS and WAEMU and tensions between juntas and ECOWAS exacerbated the geopolitical scenario, causing the AES to declare its immediate withdrawal from ECOWAS on 28th January 2024. The group also indicated that the sanctions were harming their people and also accused the bloc of being influenced by foreign governments. On the other hand, the exit of the AES from ECOWAS is projected to largely affect all ECOWAS projects and programmes worth more than $500m and $321.6m being executed by the region’s financial institutions. Additionally, the coup trend and fallout with ECOWAS increases the risk of political disorder and democracy and the spread of terrorism to the coastal states. There are also concerns that future juntas in the region would join the AES to evade ECOWAS demands to restore democracy fueling public resentment against the ECOWAS. Conclusion It is undeniable that the lifting of sanctions is a positive step in the right direction to promote dialogue between the juntas and the regional bloc. It is worth noting that the establishment of AES proved to be an effective bargaining tool in easing the sanctions on the military-led administrations and reducing pressure from ECOWAS to return to democratic rule. But the question remains, will the latest developments deter the AES from exiting from the ECOWAS regional bloc?



Introduction The year 2023 has undeniably been a year marked by significant geopolitical developments that have reshaped the global landscape of human relations and foreign policies. Without a doubt, there has been a consistent escalation of emerging threats and conflicts. One of these includes the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict which intensified when Hamas, a Gaza-based militant group, launched an attack along the Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023. More than 1,400 Israeli and Palestinian fatalities have been recorded while 199 hostages have been held by Hamas militants since the attack. This has prompted a global shift in sentiment following the declaration of war, resulting in reactions from allies, detractors, sympathizers, and apathetic observers. Context The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has its roots in historical grievances, territorial disputes, and religious sentiments. Reflecting on the history of Israel and Palestine before and after 1948 and the Balfour Declaration is essential to understanding the roots of this conflict. Hamas’ attacks have alluded to the broader context of the escalating conflict. As diverse nations call for de-escalation, some maintain a steadfast stance in line with individuals subscribing to religious sentiments. In retrospect, the conflict has been fueled by territorial disputes that have deepened through attacks by militias and revolutionary groups aiming to protect their territories. Implications for Africa The positions taken by various African countries are influenced by public sentiment, diplomatic interest and religious affiliations. From Kenya, Sudan, and Algeria, to South Africa, the reverberations of this conflict have reached far and wide hence, this conflict presents a concern to the continent. African nations are affected to varying degrees, by foreign policies contingent on their diplomatic ties, economies, political ideologies, and the presence of Israeli and Palestinian diaspora communities. The evolving global landscape has broad implications for diplomatic relations and manifests as protest actions mainly in some Northern and Western African countries, as well as some regions in the south. Given that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict possesses religious elements involving Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, it has the potential to sow religious polarisation in countries like Nigeria. If the conflict escalates and becomes perceived through a religious lens, it could exacerbate existing tensions between Nigerian Muslims and Christians, particularly in the northern zones of the country. Such polarization could lead to inter-religious conflicts, a challenge Nigeria has encountered in the past. Conclusion It is worth noting that some African nations may face diplomatic strains because of their political affiliations concerning Israel. In addition to the rising production costs due to escalating prices, which have been noticeable since the beginning of the Ukrainian-Russian war, this conflict could have ramifications on the continent particularly as both Israel and Palestine are key players in Africa. In 2021, nearly two-thirds of Israel’s trade is conducted with South Africa, while Nigeria stands as the second most significant trading partner, with a trade value of $129 million. Meanwhile, there was a 34% increase in trade volume between 2009 and 2021 from Palestinian exports, including olive oils and food products.  



Background The increasing need for change in the country has manifested in all facets of our society, and the just concluded general elections was a testament to this change, marred by instance’s of irregularities, political participation has largely taken the shape of “sheep following” or “herd following.” With the internet being a major tool for driving the evolution of youth political participation in Nigeria politics, so have the vices that come with it. As Oluwasola Festus Obisesan puts it, “Youths, through the use of social media, have not only evolved from an identity of stable consumers of news and political narratives but have also become sources of news feeds and trendy agenda framers concerning leadership, accountability, and good governance within the polity.” Misinformation ???? https://t.co/zlRiWWQMlu — Attah Jesse (@JesseAOA) February 9, 2023 This evolution and enthusiasm for political participation have witnessed an ugly trend of cyberbullying and propaganda, driven by identity politics, which continues to shape the perception and opinions of many Nigerians. With less and less objectivity, we continue to witness less democratic attitudes amongst partisans but more sensationalism with an ounce of conspiracy theory bandwagoning. Why is political fanaticism growing in popularity now? To begin with, the pre-election session witnessed an unusual and highly charged political atmosphere, with much anticipation of a new dawn in Nigerian politics. Among other things, the process was marred by various forms of armed violence, allegations of state-sponsored stifling of opposition activities, and cyberbullying. As we all know, technology was one of many key factors that grow the populations involvement in the 2023 electioneering process, with the introduction of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for the accreditation process, which also doubles down as a means for the transmission of results to the Independent Electoral Election Commission (INEC) Result Viewing Portal (IREV). Yet, the fact that agreed-upon transmission processes were not followed or were suspended midway during the election, breached the trust of many Nigerians at a critical time of the process, and hence increased suspicions of malpractice and other forms assumptions within the political environment already overridden by all sorts of political and election propaganda. The country’s current situation is exacerbated by reduced expectations of the trustworthiness of INEC procedures and perceived complicity of the country’s judiciary, in that, seeking redress may be met by irregularities in the courts’ due to allegations of political pressure to influence the process. There is also a dangerous rise in radical political fanaticism against the backdrop of increased ethnic violence, cyberbullying, propaganda (misinformation and disinformation campaigns), and the possibility of deteriorating human rights, which will dramatically impact the nation’s polity, hence, putting the president-elect and his new democratic cabinet in a predicament of governing a fractured nation with multifaceted political concerns. What is political fanaticism? In Nigeria, political fanaticism has largely been described as “sheep following” or “herd following,” in which adherents lack any sense of personal opinions that could form the basis of a critique in checking the actions of government or political leaders but rather agree with whatever decisions are made regardless of the outcome, good or bad. This is generally observed when party supporters push a candidate as the final answer to a country’s multifarious issues, such as the ones faced in Nigeria, while others (read: candidates) are eventually viewed as inept and incorrect. Characteristics of fanaticism among partisans frequently includes the incapacity to seek or consider alternate points of view but try to push values on others, often resulting in physical and verbal harassment of persons. Political fanaticism may frequently rise to varying degrees of political radicalism, and in a society kept together by fragile peace and a high proclivity for violence, especially when played out along Nigeria’s fault lines of tribe and religion, it creates mediums that lead to political extremism. Political extremism is common among groups that proclaim unrealistic expectations in order to attain political aspirations without crafting well-thought-out democratic plans. This has frequently resulted in groups picking up arms and embracing terrorism as a mode of operation for coercing governments into forced discussions, which has resulted in a protracted conflict in Nigeria in circumstances when governments have refused to succumb to such groups. Is online political fanaticism new in Nigeria? 2022/23 will not be the first time we observe a rise in cyberbullying, in relation to political party support. Intriguingly, harmful internet engagement in Nigerian elections may be traced back to 2014, the pre-election year preceding the 2015 General Elections. During this period, intense internet clashes erupted between the then-ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC). Yet, it is worth noting that there were some opportunities to establish the groundwork for healthy (read: issue-based) constructive criticism. For instance, upon registration of the APC on July 31, 2013, the PDP’s congratulatory message described the party’s emergence as “very healthy for our democracy.” This again was conveyed in a congratulatory message after the election of its National Executives on June 14, 2014. The message read in part, “Ensure an issue-based opposition that will purposefully and constructively engage and challenge the PDP with decency and maturity as prescribed by democratic tenets and principles.” However, during the campaigning period for the 2015 General Elections, these expectations significantly fell short of expectations and were instead championed by the rhetoric of division over national interest, adopting varying forms of propagandistic prowess. The two main parties’ antecedents in terms of online propaganda and its incubation of an army of trolls will continue to be a benchmark of how campaigns will run, which has continued to usher in violence, hate speech, and the exploitation of Nigerian fault lines all for the sake of partisan interest over national interest, as depicted in 2019 and worse in 2022/23. As the popular saying goes, “If you can’t beat them. Join them” Overtime we have seen political fanaticism only get dangerous, making the political environment extremely toxic to the point where certain actors accommodate attacks particularly when it aligns with certain political bias. Remember the Abuja Train



Political Intolerance And The Risk of Election Violence in Nigeria The National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno on Friday, November 11, 2022, stated that “rogues” are planning to disrupt the 2023 elections. Monguno said he was aware that in the last month, at least 52 cases of electoral violence were reported across 22 states in the country. Sequel to the NSA’s declaration, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Wendy Campbell Laing stated that, “When people feel intimidated, they can’t get out to vote, the election itself will not be credible, that is why the violence is of great concern”. On this note, she averred that the United Kingdom  will be watching closely any individual who acts violently or incites people through the social media and would not hesitate to impose visa sanction on such individuals. As a matter of fact, on Wednesday, the United States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken went ahead to impose visa restrictions in his words, ‘’on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process in a recent Nigerian election’’. According to Blinken, ‘’additional persons who undermine the democratic process in Nigeria—including in the lead-up to, during, and following Nigeria’s 2023 elections—may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy’’. The United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Tuesday, 17 January, 2023, warned Nigeria against violence in this year’s general elections. ‘’While the UN cautioned that if things go wrong in Nigeria, there would be serious consequences for the peace and stability of the entire region; the ECOWAS said if violence occurs in Nigeria, no other nation in the sub-region could accommodate Nigerian refugees’’. In new security advisories independently issued on Thursday, January 19, 2023, Australia, United Kingdom and the European Union, warned their citizens to reconsider their intending visits to Nigeria, avoid all political gatherings and election related sites in the lead up to, during and after the election due to the hostile “security climate” and threats preparatory to the 2023 general elections. Recall that in October 2022, the United States, UK, Canada, Germany, and Bulgaria issued terror alerts, warning their citizens in Nigeria to avoid shopping malls, religious centres, and hotels which they said could be targeted by terrorists. In its final report on the 2019 general election, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room conservatively estimated that, ”At least, 626 people were killed between the start of the campaign in October 2018 and the final election in March 2019’’. In 2021, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) recorded a 22% increase in the number of organized political violence events in Nigeria. The violence resulted in over 9,900 reported fatalities, nearly a 30% increase compared to 2020. Cybersecurity, Election Hacking And Interference Evidence abound that state-actors and cyber sleuths interfere with the electoral ecosystem. Their interference can range from one or a combination of information operations, disinformation, broadcasting deep-fake videos across social media platforms, to corrupting data, altering voter registration databases hence disentrancing or impeding citizens’ ability to vote, to attempting to tamper with the outcome of vote count, and undermining voters’ confidence on the legitimacy, integrity of an election. With an approximately 80 million Nigerians online, social media plays enormous role in Nigerian political space hence fake news, disinformation is a thriving industry in Nigeria. For instance, a British Broadcasting Corporation investigation discovered that ‘’political parties in Nigeria are secretly paying social media influencers to spread disinformation about their opponents ahead of the 2023 general elections. According to the BBC’s Global Disinformation Team, a politician acknowledged that in addition to dolling out gifts and promising contracts, nay, political appointments, his team paid a social media influencer up to 20 million Naira (about ($45,000; £37,000) for delivering a ‘result’. The modus operandi of their strategists entails planting fabricated stories through other micro-influencers aimed at eliciting emotions and misinforming people. Idayat Hassan, director at the Centre for Democracy and Development, says the activities of these influencers is tantamount to “political interference”. According to her, “It is undermining trust in democracy, undermining trust in the electoral system, and it is instigating conflict“. Election interference is not exclusive to Nigeria. The website of Ghana’s election commission was allegedly hit by a cyber-attack in 2016. The commission said an attempt to put up “fake results” failed. Also, in 2021, the German government warned Russia over a wave of cyberattacks – “combining conventional cyberattacks with disinformation and influence operations” on German politicians. Similarly, in a BBC report of 11 September 2020, tech giant, Microsoft sent word that hackers with ties to Russia, China and Iran targeted US and British political parties and tried to meddle in elections. According to a newly declassified US State Department cable, Russia covertly spent more than $300m since 2014 to try to influence politicians and other officials in more than two dozen countries. Similarly, two Iranian nationals were charged for cyber-enabled disinformation and threat campaign designed to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election. In the just concluded 2022 Kenyan election, reports indicate that about 200 hacking attempts were made on election results, between Thursday, 11th August and Friday 12th August. Thus, it is not surprising that the Chairman of the INEC Boss, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu confirmed sometime in September 2022, that the Commission’s ‘’result viewing portal (IReV) during the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states, experienced several cyberattacks from hackers across the world, some of them from Asia’’. I reckon that the risk and threat of election interference will be higher during Nigeria’s forthcoming presidential election. It behooves on the INEC to ramp up its cybersecurity defenses (including elimination of human error) and ensure that critical technological infrastructure such as its servers, the Result Viewing (IReV) web portal and the over 200,000 Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) that would be deployed across the 176,846 polling units across the country, for the 2023 general election, are not compromised by hackers. According to IBM Cyber Security Intelligence Index Report, human error (and I must add,



Chances of seamless, simultaneous elections nationwide Citing anonymous intelligence shared about Nigeria’s election security by concerned civil society actors conversant with the undertaking of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Electoral Security (ICCES), THISDAY Newspaper revealed that, ‘the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may be under constraint to conduct 2023 elections in plausibly over 686 communities under the atrocious activities of armed non-state actors across the federation’’. According to the report, ‘’affected communities and wards cut across 90 local government areas (LGAs) and 18 states of the federation’’. Out of the 686 affected communities, 618 were identified in the north alone with 336 in the Northwest and 200 communities domiciled in Zamfara state. The implication of this is that Zamfara state is currently deemed as the most dangerous state in Nigeria. Similarly, in the Northeast, 168 communities were identified. Gombe is the only state that is comparatively safe in the Northeast while there are about 79 wards in Borno state where elections may not hold. Aforesaid report submits that it would be challenging to hold elections in about 114 wards in North-central Nigeria, largely in Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau. “In Southeastern Nigeria, 55 communities mainly in Abia, Anambra, and Imo state were referenced as red zones. The findings put the number of communities affected in the South-south at three, all located in Rivers State. THISDAY Newspaper report extrapolated that 90.1 per cent of the purported unsafe communities are domiciled in the north alone while 9.09 per cent representing 68 unsafe communities are in southern Nigeria. A purported policy brief by some northern governors to president Buhari, anticipates that elections may not hold in the North West states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara in 2023, due to growing insecurity. For instance, data collated by Punch Newspaper as at December 18, 2022, estimated that no fewer than 50 offices and facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission were attacked across 15 states in the past 4 years. However, data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), suggests aforesaid data might be a conservative estimate. According to ACLED’s December 2022 data, ‘’there have been more than 100 attacks associated with elections since the last elections in 2019’’. No fewer than 67 of such attacks were recorded on non-election days between January 2019 and December 2022. Gunmen on Monday, November 28, 2022, killed the women leader of the Labour Party (LP) in Kaura LGA of Kaduna State, Mrs. Victoria Chintex at her residence in Kaura, Kaduna. Suspected thugs on Monday, October 17, 2022, disrupted the campaign train of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kaduna State. The campaign convoy of the presidential candidate of the PDP, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, was reportedly attacked in Maiduguri, Borno state, on November 9, 2022. States With High Risk of Election Manipulation, Voter Suppression An “Election Manipulation Risk Index EMRI”, a triangulated data developed by the International Press Centre and eight other organizations including Partners for Electoral Reform, The Albino Foundation, The Kukah Centre, Enough is Enough, Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, SBM Intelligence, Dataphyte and YIAGA Africa, classified 22 states out of the 36 states in Nigeria as ‘’high risk’’ as it pertains to election manipulation. The states include Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Oyo, and Osun. Others are Ekiti, Kwara, Niger, Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Bauchi, Adamawa, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Jigawa states. According to the EMRI report, 12 states with medium election manipulation risks include Borno, Yobe, Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Zamfara, Kebbi, Ogun, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa and Cross River while three states: Gombe, Ondo, and the Federal Capital Territory FCT, were classified as low risk. The EMRI report identifies indicators such as voter suppression, resistance against electoral technology like BVAS and IReV, political interference with INEC operations, administrative lapses, tampering with the voter register, and frivolous election litigations, as electoral risks that may potentially impugn the election integrity of the 2023 elections. Election Violence Heat Map: States To Watch Out For The situation in Lagos state pre, during and after the election promises to be dicey, unpredictable. Perhaps as a sign of things to come, the Campaign train of the Governorship Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party – PDP in Lagos State, Dr. Abdulazeez Olajide Adediran (JANDOR) was reportedly attacked on Sunday, 23rd October, 2022 while his entourage were returning from a visitation to members of the party at the Ikoga Junction area of Badagry LGA. Similarly, on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, thugs attacked the convoy of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Lagos state, Abdul-Azeez Adediran (Jandor) in Kosofe LGA, stabbing a security officer. Also, Nollywood actress and PDP deputy governorship candidate in Lagos State Funke Akindele was on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, reportedly chased out of the Ikosi fruit market in Lagos by suspected thugs while campaigning. Supporters and thugs loyal to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reportedly clashed and shot sporadically in the Aguda area of Surulere, Lagos, on Friday, January 27, 2023. Plausible election suppression and violence flashpoints in Lagos include: Oshodi-Isolo LGA (Ajao Estate, Mafoluku, Okota, Ago Palace Way, Oke-Afa, Ejigbo areas), Amuwo-Odofin (FESTAC, Satellite town), Surulere (Aguda, Ijesha), Mushin (Jandor’s neck-of-the-woods), Apapa (Olodi Apapa, Agegunle), Alimosho (the largest and most densely populated LGA in Lagos, nay, Nigeria). This prognosis is deduced from trends, open source intelligence (OSINT) and the fact that there is a high concentration of opposition supporters, non-locals in aforesaid areas. For instance, there was election violence specifically at Ago Palace Way during the February 2019 election as suspected thugs reportedly stormed a polling unit and set ablaze no fewer than 100 ballot boxes filled with election materials. It is not unexpected that the ruling party will attempt to rein in Jandor, the PDP and the Labour party in Mushin (where the PDP gubernatorial candidate hails from), and also Alimosho, said to be the largest and most densely populated local government area in Lagos. Note that the



Overview Barring unforeseen circumstances, Presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria will hold across 109 senatorial districts and 360 federal constituencies on Saturday, February 25, 2023. Similarly, gubernatorial and State Assembly elections is slated to take place two weeks after the presidential election in 28 states and 993 state constituencies on Saturday, March 11, 2023. Three off-cycle  governorship elections for Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states, will hold same day, Saturday, 11 November, 2023. It is interesting to note that about 48 million out of the 93.5 million eligible voters in Nigeria are youths. The implication of this is that if majority of youths exercise their franchise, they might flip the outcome of the general election. Election can be likened warfare in Nigeria and the situation is not different preparatory to the 2023 general elections. If anything, the tension, uncertainty have escalated. Synonymous with every election season in Nigeria, governance is now relegated to the back seat while ethno-religious politicking, political brinkmanship, intolerance, gaslighting, dog-whistling, disinformation seems to have taken the front seat. This election security threat assessment was carried out using publicly available information (PAI), open source intelligence (OSINT) to glean and forecast likely multidimensional or hybrid election security threats in Nigeria such as internecine conflicts, cybersecurity challenges, logistics and legal issues that could hinder the 2023 general elections. Election Security, Election War-chest And Logistics Deployment With a whopping N305 billion budgeted to conduct the 2023 general elections, it promises be the most expensive election in the annals of Nigeria. Whereas Nigeria’s amended Section 88 of the Electoral Act pegs the maximum amount to be spent by a Presidential candidate to N5bn (approximately $12m), from the current N1bn (400 per cent increase), and 1 billion Naira for gubernatorial election, a former Presidential Spokesman reckons that in reality, “No Nigerian President in the last 20 years has spent less than $100m to be President”. Given the rate of inflation and depreciation of the Naira, the war chest could have ramped up to a staggering $300m. Tells how expensive politics, prosecuting an election is in Nigeria. The forthcoming 2023 general election also promises to be a security and logistics nightmare for the electoral commission, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who obviously have no direct control over logistics and security. For instance, barely few weeks to the general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission says the lingering petrol scarcity could hamper the movement of election materials and election personnel. Apparently, the INEC relies on private transportation and transport unions such as the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Marine Workers’ Union (MWUN), to move electoral materials to the nook and cranny of the country. Similarly, the electoral Commission would rely on government security forces (GSF). The Nigerian Navy expected to help ferry election materials to riverine communities, the Nigerian Air force (NAF) will provide logistics support with its retrofitted C-130 Hercules aircraft amongst others. To this end, the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, revealed that 530,538 security agents, including policemen and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) personnel would be deployed to polling booths for the 2023 general election. Talking about logistics management, the INEC says the 2023 general elections will involve nationwide deployment of over one million personnel (including ad hoc staff), 100,000 vehicles, about 4,200 boats to be escorted by naval gunboats and massive quantities of materials to 774 LGA’s; 8,809 Electoral Wards and 176,846 polling units across the length and breadth of Nigeria. Technology will play a role in coordinating this massive logistics. In this light, he INEC says it established a ‘’Logistics Management System – Election Logistics Framework (ELF), which uses an android application and web dashboard to track election materials procurement through storage to delivery’’. Though the deployment of the Nigerian military as an election watchdog is a contentious and controversial issue, it appears the pervasive insecurity in Nigeria is an extenuating factor. As apprehension rises over the likelihood of holding elections in parts on Nigeria, the Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. General Lucky Irabor allayed fears and assured that the elections will indeed hold as scheduled. The Defence Headquarters confirmed it would deploy substantial troops to areas ravaged by terrorists, bandits, and gunmen to ensure the safety of electorates during the polls. According to the Director, Defence Information, Major General Jimmy Akpor, “Nobody is sleeping; we’ll continue to do our utmost and scale-up our operations, intelligence and physical, kinetic and non-kinetic activities to ensure that the environment is safe for socioeconomic activities’’. To this end, there’s likely to be massive military deployment in the entire southeast, including Imo, Anambra, Benue, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto state, amongst others, before the general elections. While they are at it, the military and other security agencies must be apolitical and desist from extrajudicial killing. It is commendable that the Inspector General of Police is distributing more than 1 million copies of the 36-page Nigeria Police Force handbook – “Revised Standard Operational Guidelines/Rules for Police Officers and Other Law Enforcement Agents on Election Security Duties” ahead of the 2023 General Election. Hopefully those that would be deployed for election duties will read and assimilate the spirit and letter of the standard operating procedure which spells out “crowd control, use of force and lethal weapon, escorting and protection of election materials, general conduct, procedure of arrest, dress and accoutrement, managing political parties’ convention and rallies”, amongst others. It is a welcome development that the police hierarchy has banned the deployment of quasi security outfits established by regional or state governments such as the Southwest Security Outfit called Amotekun, Ebubeagu et al from participating in election campaigns and other electoral processes. Despite Huge Spending on Security, Insecurity Is Nigeria’s Undoing Talking about money-spinning and sapping undertakings in Nigeria, (in)security tops the list. The Nigerian government has spent more than N8 trillion on defence budgets in the last seven years while additional N722.53 billion ($1.76 billion) was borrowed from the domestic capital market. This is in



Africa’s largest democracy, Nigeria, is at the cusp of what analysts predict is going to be a highly competitive election. On February 25th, 2023 Nigerians will go to the polls to elect their new president, vice president, and National Assembly Members; 109 Senators and 360 House of Representatives. Two weeks later, there will be elections for 28 state governors and the legislatures of all 36 states of the federation. Being the seventh general election since the return to democracy in 1999, the polls would consolidate 24 years of uninterrupted democracy in the country. A peaceful transition of power would signify progress for democratization in the country and the continent, especially in view of democratic backsliding in the subcontinent, but the polls would be conducted in a climate bogged down by insecurity, heightened religious sentiments, divisive national politics, and a cost of living crisis.  A peaceful transition of power, much as Nigerians long for it, is not a given. Past experience indicates that an election can be a trigger for violence, with the potential for widespread social unrest. Prior to the 2015 election, there was a popular urban legend, or if you like, rumour, that the American Central Intelligence Agency predicted the disintegration of Nigeria after the 2015 general elections. This rumour ( which many still hold as a truth) had gained so much ground that many felt the successful conduct of the 2015 election cum peaceful transition of power was a defiance of the CIA’s “prediction”. That Nigeria defied the false prediction attributed to the CIA is not enough reason to induce heedlessness about our fate as a country. The price to pay for liberty is eternal vigilance so therefore we must not rest on our oars. Especially when a more difficult circumstance stares us in the face.  Manufacturing a deliberate elite consensus has become imperative given the tense political climate of the country. At the core of this consensus should be a public and private commitment by Presidential candidates to play according to the rules of the game, and accept the results of credible elections, while grievances arising before, during, and after the elections should be channelled through the appropriate legal process.  Any objections to the electoral outcome by either of the major candidates that are not law-abiding provide the perfect opportunity for chaos to be ignited. A combination of this with the pre-existing insecurity threats has the potential to wreak havoc in the country. An unstable country would give terrorist groups like Boko Haram, ISWAP, and IPOB leeway to perpetuate their atrocities further. President Jonathan singlehandedly cemented his status as a statesman and saved Nigeria from the precipice by conceding to President Muhammadu Buhari through a phone call congratulating him. His exemplary conduct prevented the country from cascading into a political crisis. Given this positive precedent, It’s in the enlightened self-interest of the Nigerian political elite to emulate and ensure that the competitive election doesn’t cause an implosion post-2023 because no candidate’s ambition should supersede the stability of the country.  The National Peace Committee was born in 2014, out of a need to respond to emerging threats associated with the 2015 election, the committee consists of members who are elder statesmen, and was saddled with the mandate to contribute efforts towards ensuring the peaceful conduct of the 2015 elections, devoid of any breakdown of law and order before, during and after the electioneering process. The committee maintained its mandate since then and has introduced the idea of a peace accord, ” intended to commit candidates to accept the outcome of the votes as long as it is adjudged to be free, fair and credible“. While also “committing all political parties presidential candidates and their spokespersons to peaceful political campaigns and rallies devoid of violent incitement and personal insults”.  Laudable as the initiative of the committee is, the truth remains that peace and stability can hardly be reaped when virulent rhetoric and demagoguery are sown. Essentially because violence is almost always preceded by incendiary rhetoric. Politicians are adept at ethnoreligious messages or framing an election as a competition between regions to galvanize their constituencies through Us Vs Them narratives. This keeps people agitated and on the brink, making them potential footsoldiers for violence. In view of enlightened self-interest, the elite must soft-pedal on any form of rhetoric that tilts Nigeria towards instability due to the outcome of the 2023 election. It is imperative that we all tread with caution. For the first time since 1979, the dominance of the two major parties is threatened by “mushroom parties” raising the hopes of many that the outcome of the election is going to be unprecedented. Many are unsatisfied with the performance of President Buhari, leading them to see the election as an opportunity to try something “new” in hopes that it would lead to a leadership that’s responsive to the needs of its citizens, revamps the failing economy, tackles insecurity and reform governance. The emergence of the Labour Party and the New Nigeria Peoples Party could potentially cause a paradigm shift that impacts the election remarkably. So much so, that some predict a victory for one of the “newbie” parties, while others anticipate a rerun. Projections are forecasts that could either happen or not, but what is of importance remains how do we manage expectations and dashed hopes if the outcome disappoints not a few? The Presidential candidates of the two major parties both carry sociological baggage; the candidate of the All Progressives Congress is running a same-faith ticket, a candidacy that though not unprecedented, contravenes the spirit of the federal character principle and the democratic tradition; that the two most senior offices in the land be held by leaders from its two main religions – Christianity and Islam. Likewise, the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate hails from the north of Nigeria, which is considered by some a violation of the party’s “zoning agreement”, which stipulates that a southerner should be its candidate this time around. A victory by either is



In less than 100 days, The Federal Republic of Nigeria would conduct a high-stakes Presidential election amidst global and national uncertainties. Being the seventh general election since the return to democracy in 1999, the polls would be consolidating more than two decades of uninterrupted democracy in the country. Despite this progress for democratization, the polls would be conducted in a climate bogged down by insecurity, heightened religious sentiments, divisive national politics, and a cost of living crisis. Bar the 2015 election (because the opposition pulled an unprecedented defeat against the incumbent), the upcoming election is poised to be the most interesting because this would be the first election since ’99 where the dominance of the two major parties is threatened by “mushroom parties”.  For the first time since 1979, Nigeria has a number of major candidates emanating from different geopolitical zones and representing competing interests, hopes, and aspirations. The much-anticipated election is expected to be competitive like never before in Nigeria’s history. The dynamics of the election are unending but we discuss a few such as youth participation, religion, technology, a paradigm shift, voter turnout, and information warfare.  Youth Participation The interest and enthusiasm of the youth in the upcoming election have been nothing short of remarkable. Whether in terms of policy planning, advocacy, mobilization, and political party participation, the youth seem to be giving their all. Significantly, Nigerian youth make up more than 60% of INEC’s voter register. Theoretically, the election is theirs to decide. In reality, turnout amongst this demography on election day has always been an albatross, and without it this demographic can’t pose a formidable threat to the status quo.  In terms of contesting for public offices, Nigerian youth are hindered by the astronomical cost of party nomination forms and campaigns. So while the youths might not be too young to run, they’re too broke to run. Hence, their political participation is largely limited to voting and not being voted for. Religion  Nigeria is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians but this semblance of parity in demography has been unable to curb perennial heightened tension between adherents of either faith, leading to frequent showdowns, manifesting in forms of violent crisis, virulent rhetoric, and competition for power.  Political power is likened to the holy grail for adherents of either religion as religious leaders are never relenting in mobilizing their congregation to vote “one of theirs”, in most cases at the expense of competency. The desire of having “our own” presiding over the affairs of the country trumps every form of scrutiny and history has shown that religious sentiments strongly influence voter choice. Recently, the Redeem Christian Church of God, with quite a large number of congregants established the Directorate for Politics and Governance to direct the affairs of its members seeking political offices. In Northern Nigeria, there’s a long-established political culture of religious leaders playing instrumental roles in the voting choice of their congregation. History has shown that ethnoreligious sentiments strongly influence voter choice and that is why politicians and religious leaders are hell-bent on exploiting it.  APC’s decision to field a same-faith ticket has exaggerated the influence of religion in the election and caused a formidable backlash that’s likely to reflect on the ballot. Christian Association of Nigeria has been unequivocal in their opposition to APC’s decision but their strong stance is been met with rumors in Northern Nigeria that this is because Christians have an agenda to determine who rules the country.  This mismatch is a pointer to an ethnoreligious voting pattern in the election and a deeply divided polity post-2023. As is common with the election season, the fragile unity of the country is being strained by politicians exploiting the stark fault lines in the competition for power. The 2023 election wouldn’t be different, especially because of the apparent dynamics. Technology The new electoral act empowers INEC with the authority to introduce technological innovations such as the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), INEC Results Viewing Portal, and electronic transmission of results, to enhance the integrity of the electoral process and inspire public confidence in the election.  BVAS is an electronic device designed to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters – using the voters’ fingerprints – in order to prove that they are eligible to vote at a particular polling unit. Speculations are rife on politicians being jittery about BVAS for it is a technological feature that impedes rigging and increases the difficulty of elections being manipulated. INEC Results Viewing (IREV) Portal has emerged as an innovative way to promote transparency in the results collation process thereby boosting public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process and promoting accountability. INEC test ran this innovation in Osun and Ekiti off-season elections and Nigerians witnessed real-time transparency as it largely prevented malpractice during the physical transmission of results from polling units to collation centers.  The 2023 general election is going to be the first national poll whereby results would be transmitted electronically. Election transmission of results reduces the element of human error. Though not a silver bullet because it’s vulnerable to hacking, it undoubtedly increases the integrity and credibility of the election.  It behoves INEC to solidify its firewall as cyber attackers are unrelenting. Vulnerabilities in electronic transmission and INEC’s firewall can give hackers the opportunity to tamper with the votes of the people. Ultimately, the silver bullet isn’t technology but a willingness by political actors to play according to the rules of the game.  Paradigm Shift The Nigerian political party terrain has largely been dominated by two parties, with a third party finding it difficult to make any noteworthy impact. But the upcoming election promises to be a break from this pattern, as the APC and PDP face stiff competition from Labour Party and New Nigeria Peoples Party making 2023 a high-stakes election.  PDP’s control of the South-East is now in danger of being eroded by the remarkable support of Obi. The major opposition party would have to redraw its electoral



This is the third edition of a series that first began with an analysis of the prospects for different candidates on the cusp of the presidential primaries conducted by the APC and the PDP. In the second part of this election series, we analyzed the frontrunners vis-à-vis their background, political philosophy, prospects of winning, and obstacles.  For this part of the series, we maintain the same outlook in our analysis of the underdogs. The classification as underdogs is based on a few factors, such as political party, political structure, national reach, support base, network, and popularity. Peter Obi An ex-governor of Anambra State and a frugal yet wealthy businessman, Mr. Peter Obi has emerged as a “third force” in the build-up to the 2023 election. His simplistic aura, prudence, and accessibility continue to endear him to many Nigerians desirous of a change in the status quo.  Obi’s fame continues to gain wide traction across the country, having defied earlier speculations by some that it was a social media fad. Many perceive Mr. Obi as an anti-establishment candidate amongst the major contenders; his candidacy has generated the most buzz on social media, and it’s essentially the rave of the moment, serving as an outlet for many Nigerians to reject the status quo. Political philosophy Consumption to Production Mr. Production, Obi, has a “consumption to production” mantra, and he constantly harps on the need for Nigeria to transform from a consuming to a producing nation, believing this transformation would create jobs, incentivize production, and spur economic growth. The Labour Party presidential candidate believes the vast arable land the country has lying fallow should be harnessed and the manufacturing sector improved upon. He has frequently explained that reliance on oil is drawing Nigeria back. Juxtaposing Nigeria with Vietnam and the Netherlands—countries much smaller but earning more from agriculture—helps buttress his point.  Production Sharing Formula Peter Obi has said he will stop the monthly revenue allocation sharing formula and replace it with a production formula. He believes this would be a catalyst for growth and development, citing examples of countries busy producing while Nigeria is caught in the loop of sharing and consuming. Reduce cost of governance At numerous forums, Mr. Obi has not only bemoaned the cost of governance and corruption but also posited that the cost of governance is one of the factors stunting the growth of the country. His assertion being that the quantity of wastage in the public service is a stumbling block to Nigeria’s progress. Prospects of Winning Christian votes Nigeria is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians, but this semblance of parity in demography has been unable to curb perennially heightened tension between adherents of either faith, leading to frequent showdowns manifesting in forms of violent crisis, virulent rhetoric, and competition for power.  History has shown that religious sentiments strongly influence voter choice. Among the quartet of major candidates, Obi is the only Christian, and in a polity sullied by mutual mistrust and serenaded by condemnations of Tinubu’s same-faith ticket, Obi could potentially benefit from protest and sympathy Christian votes for the reasons below. He’s the only Christian among the four major candidates. Two of the candidates are Muslims from the North, and the third is a Muslim from the South with a Muslim running mate.  Based on observation, the most visible outpour of support he’s received emanates from the southern states (some of which have a strong Christian majority). His candidacy resonates more with the southern middle class, and his popularity amongst this demographic bears a strong resemblance to Buhari’s popularity with the northern masses pre-2015.  In parts of the North where Obi has support, like Bauchi, Kaduna, and the Plateau, it’s centered amongst Northern Christians, whom perceive Tinubu’s same faith ticket as an affront to their sensibilities. Peter Obi is a potential beneficiary of votes from the Bible Belt states across the country South East Amidst the loud cries of political marginalization, secession and an Igbo presidency in the south-east. Mr. Obi’s candidature has gained massive support in the region and triggered enthusiasm in the youth. The surge in PVC registration and collection is novel in the South-East and perhaps a testament to waning apathy. Since the dawn of the fourth republic, the southeast has sought the presidency vociferously, but this pursuit has been a failure due to a lot of factors. Many residents of the South-East see Obi’s candidacy as a pathway for an Igbo presidency. As a result, the question on many lips is: Is Obi’s candidacy the counter to the history of apathy and poor turnout in the South-East? Dissatisfied Nigerians As earlier alluded, there’s no doubt that part of Obi’s quantum of support is fueled by dissatisfaction i.e cost of living crisis, insecurity, unemployment and weak purchasing power of naira are drawbacks which many have tied to the failed promises of APC and PDP. Many have pitched their tent with Mr Obi believing his candidacy promises a break from the corruption and insensitivity of the past.  Having experienced leadership from the APC and PDP, not a few Nigerians are sold on the idea of trying something new; a candidate on a different platform.  Youths Obi is enjoying tremendous support among a subset of the youth. Their palpable angst and frustration against the status quo has translated into support for him. Insecurity, perennial ASUU strike, unemployment, police brutality, harsh business conditions and a tanking economy are factors that have informed their backing of Obi as a protest to the status quo. From being disinterested and cynical to an remarkable enthusiasm, Obi’s candidature has inspired hope amongst this demography of youth.  A large percentage of the youth whom were supporters of the EndSARS protest support Obi and they are passionate about the election. Their enthusiasm could be an advantage for Obi if it translates to voter turnout. Obstacles The Labour Party, the platform on which Mr. Peter Obi is contesting, is deficient in terms of reach to the nooks and crannies of



With the 2023 General Elections approaching in Nigeria, the political space is being dramatized with the alliances and counter alliances taking place. One candidate that represents a new political wave is Mr Peter Obi, Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party. Now, in my May 2022 article titled “The Race Towards 2023: Part 1“, I foretold that “candidates from APC and PDP are likely to seek alternative platforms to actualize their ambitions as soon as they get feelers of their loss in a consensus or primary process”. Mr Obi lived my prediction when he resigned his membership of the PDP and joined the Labour Party when it was clear he would lose the primary election of the former. His departure to the Labour party gave his ambition even more traction and was greeted with euphoria by his supporters Peter Obi is a former two-time governor of Anambra State in the South-East where he earned a reputation as a stickler for prudence in governance, having plugged financial leakages and saved resources of the state against mindless spending. Also in his track record are remarkable efforts to improve the state’s basic education system and healthcare. However, his tenure as governor wasn’t devoid of blemishes; his administration executed shoddy infrastructural projects and according to the National Bureau of Statistics, poverty ballooned under his watch from 20% in 2004 to 68% in 2010.  Obi conducted local government elections only when his second tenure in office was about to elapse; an indictment of his democratic credentials and he also invested state resources in businesses where his family has stakes, a case of conflict of interest. It is this mixed performance his supporters, who call themselves “Obi-dients” believe accords him the status of a genius anti-establishment candidate amongst the usual politicians in the Presidential race. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Given the aforementioned and a listing in Panama papers, what differentiates him from his ilk in the political space is the extent of baggage, not the lack of it. For “Obi-dients”, his blemish takes nothing away from his appeal and this isn’t peculiar to them because all over the world, connecting with voters is most effective through rhetoric such as his “no shi-shi” mantra. To win a Presidential election in Nigeria you need to run on the platform of a national party. National in the sense that it would require appreciable presence in the 36 states of the country with STRUCTURES. A structure is basically a coordinated network of people from the state to local government, to the ward level to the polling unit, mobilizing for a candidature and canvassing for a party across the nook and cranny of Nigeria. This network of people is required for penetration of the grassroots and sub-urban parts of the nation at large. Political office holders such as Governors, Senators, House of Representatives members, State House of Assembly members, Local Government Chairmen and Councilors’ in the party are also a plus. This isn’t some cliché assumption, it’s the only way to attempt to deliver on the constitutional requirement of at least 25% of the votes in two-thirds of the state in the federation. These are Mr Obi’s biggest hurdles to becoming President and he has 8 months to tick these boxes. Mr Obi’s campaign began in what looked like a social media fad, but has evolved into offline support springing up in different parts of the country; a timely realization that a larger-than-life social media campaign while fancy and appealing, can’t guarantee victory. Social media should amplify a campaign, not be the only realm in which it is executed. Most voters are on the streets, and social media following, and popularity cannot be automatically converted into votes on election day. The importance of a structure to canvass and lure voters cannot be over-emphasized whichever way one looks at it. Nigeria has 176,847 polling units, 8809 wards, and 774 local governments, it is wishful thinking to expect victory without party agents and mobilization in all these areas. Despite online support that portrays a likely nationwide appeal, Peter Obi is in the Presidential race as an underdog, because his Labour Party has no solid political footprint across the country and it lacks the brand name popularity that resonates with the voters situated in communities of the South-West and the North. Notwithstanding his underdog status, Mr Obi has a diverse support base. By discussing and analyzing the country’s basic internal and complex external issues to solve them, he has caught the fancy of Nigerians who desire a technocrat to be at the helm of affairs. He also seems to have a buy-in of a sub-set of the youth. This demography, battered by the agonizing trio of ASUU strike, unemployment and police brutality is prone to be despondent about Nigeria but has found renewed hope and optimism in Mr Obi’s candidature, the longing for a politician that would water down their cynicism and inspire hope has found a match in Peter Obi, whose simplicity, candor and accessibility are considered grounds for portraying him as a silver bullet. Expectations need to be managed but his candidature has rekindled their hope in this country, and it is a pleasing sight. Certain social media demography of Mr Obi’s supporters is selling his candidature in a counterproductive way. They resort to condescension, name-calling, ethnic stereotypes, insults and virtue signaling in expressing support for him but these invectives can’t do much for a fringe candidate other than making people double down in opposition towards him. In campaigning and building support for an underdog candidate, you want to grow your ranks not alienate people. The cancel culture and bullying are entertaining on the surface but would only subdue other voices in cyberspace and create an echo chamber where only what is desired is peddled. This would create the facade of widespread popularity making it harder to measure or gauge the real quantum of support which is a recipe for a rude shock when reality sets in. All

Scroll to Top