Road to a free & fair election in Nigeria: Addressing key challenges

Nigeria is in a fragile condition, with characteristics of a failing state. Presidential candidates need to offer potential solutions that they can consider and incorporate into their agendas.


Nigeria is facing a multitude of challenges, and the 2023 general elections are crucial for the country as it seeks a new leader to guide it out of its current state. Available indices suggest that Nigeria is in a fragile state, with characteristics of a failing state. Conflicts and agitations are widespread, there are feelings of marginalization and exclusion, a rise in political and criminal violence, loss of control of borders, rising ethnic, religious, and cultural hostilities, weak institutions, food shortages, unemployment, inflation, crumbling infrastructure, and declining human development indicators, such as infant and maternal mortality rates and literacy rates.

In light of these challenges, this article aims to contribute to the search for a suitable candidate who will succeed President Buhari and have a clear vision for the country. The article is divided into two parts, the first of which outlines the big issues that should engage the Presidential candidates, such as disunity, disorder, and insecurity, economic challenges, unemployment, poverty, and others. The second part offers potential solutions that the candidates may consider and incorporate into their agendas.

The first big issue is disunity, disorder, and insecurity. Nigeria is currently experiencing a low-grade civil war, with insecurity, conflict, and agitation in every region of the country. The southwest is plagued by cybercrime, armed robbery, kidnapping, domestic crime, extrajudicial killings, herder-farmer conflicts, and banditry. The southeast is plagued by killings, commercial crime, secessionist agitation, kidnapping, herder-farmer clashes, attacks by unknown gunmen, and banditry.

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The south-south is threatened by militancy, kidnapping, and environmental agitation. The northeast has been subject to a humanitarian crisis lasting over a decade due to the Boko Haram insurgency and the Islamic State in the West Africa Province. Meanwhile, the northwest is grappling with illegal mining, ethnoreligious killings, and banditry. The Presidential candidates must address this issue in order to restore peace and security to the country.

Nigeria’s economic woes

Another problem is the economy. Nigeria is in a technical recession, with high-interest rates, lending and exchange rates, unemployment, poverty, structural defects, a budget deficit, debt crisis, and shrinking revenue. The new President will be faced with a massive debt burden of close to N80 trillion, and the country is at risk of borrowing to pay interest on its debt obligations.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that Nigeria’s debt service-to-revenue ratio will jump to 92 percent in 2022 from 76 percent in 2021, and the country was unable to secure any foreign loan in the second quarter of 2022, leaving very little room for maneuvering by the new government. The Presidential candidates will need to recommend a sustainable roadmap on how to tackle these economic challenges.

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Unemployment is another major concern, with over 20 million Nigerians unemployed according to available data. The Presidential candidates must provide specific recommendations on how to address this problem, as all of them have recognized the alarming unemployment figures in Nigeria but have yet to make concrete proposals.

Poverty is the single biggest issue facing Presidential candidates. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 133 million Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor, representing 63 percent of the population. This poverty is evident in the lack of access to clean energy sources, sanitation, time to healthcare, food insecurity, and housing. The Presidential candidates must provide specific recommendations on how to reverse Nigeria’s alarming poverty.

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