Welcome to 2023; a year that will be greatly remembered in Nigerian history. I am tempted to describe it as a year of mixed blessings, but so have all the years before. Life itself is about mixed blessings. I choose to describe it as a mixed year.
The most important event of 2023 will be the general elections. Elections come and go, and there will be new political and public office holders throughout the country. There will be a lot of drama. There will be many anticlimaxes. Some of what grabs the attention of Nigerians today as important will turn out to be not so important. There will be singing and rejoicing. There will also be disappointments. This is life.
One of the benefits of the change that will herald the 2023 elections will be a drop in insecurity in Nigeria. Insecurity in much of northern Nigeria will be reduced by the change in government, but it certainly will not be eliminated. In the South, especially in the Southeast, there will be some interest in addressing the challenge of insecurity, but there will not be a significant reduction, because the current drivers of insecurity have become strongly indigenous, local and autonomous. Current approaches, which are likely to continue, claim to address challenges but clearly operate at sub-optimal levels, contrary to Albert Einstein’s lessons that a problem cannot be tackled with the same energy level with which it was created. If this is to change, it will require governments to operate at higher power levels, but that doesn’t seem likely. In summary, the pan-Nigerian challenge of insecurity will see some decline, especially in Northern Nigeria, which is a good development with some positive implications later in 2023 and more in 2024.
The education sector will register fewer industrial actions and more stability this year. Increased budget allocations and funding from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund will have some impact in addressing a factor of instability, especially at the tertiary level. The Universities Academic Staff Union and its peers are unlikely to strike this year. 2023 will be a good year for the tertiary education sector. I even expect positive surprises for the speakers.
The economy will continue to be in a very difficult situation despite a new government. The Nigerian economy is in a state similar to that of a closed factory. It does not resume production simply by opening the gates and starting the engine. In any event, the drivers of current economic conditions are unlikely to be able to be addressed in a way that will produce the required changes in current political class energy levels, and therefore what the newly emerging managers are likely to offer will not will meet the necessary requirements. This is regardless of who emerges in any position.
Broad and deep structural changes in the country are required, but are highly unlikely. The state of the economy is such that the government that emerges is not likely to venture, as most of what will be required will bring serious difficulties in the short term.
The outlook is not good when considering the value of the naira against some global currencies and the costs and availability of petroleum products, inflation and unemployment. Do not expect any improvement in the exchange rate. The naira will most likely lose value compared to the dollar, euro and sterling. The cost of imported raw materials, consumer products and others will continue to rise. Challenges with the supply of petroleum products will continue even if the Dangote Refinery begins operations. Food prices will continue to rise. Unemployment will get worse. Evidence abounds in support of these expectations. The debt challenge will continue, and ways and means to close fiscal imbalances will continue to be employed.
Poverty will worsen after the elections for many Nigerians. While there may be some people whose lot will improve, especially with new governments at the national and subnational levels, and new appointments, many more will fall into poverty. In the Southeast region of the country, poverty is deepening as a result of the fall in investment and financial flows. Unemployment will get worse. With governments not seeming interested or aware of people’s strengths that could be tapped into or stimulated towards self-help, poverty in the southeastern states will worsen, especially as insecurity in the area will continue at the current level. levels, if not increased.
External political and economic conditions should be of interest to Nigeria. The first is the continuation of the Russia-Ukraine War and its implications for world inflation. The cost of imported food, especially wheat, will remain high. Energy costs will also remain high and may be beneficial to the country’s macro-economy, especially as Nigeria’s ability to increase production volumes and revenues looks set to improve. An oil company, Shell, recently announced the resumption of production at its shuttered facilities. This can be helpful.
The second will be the United States elections. This may have implications for the US approach to its relationship with Russia and China. Care will be taken not to further shake up global systems. Therefore, we hope that there is no worsening of the global systems.
In general, the post-COVID global economic recovery will continue, all other things being equal, as long as there are no new surprises. Remittances from the Nigerian diaspora will remain stable (not likely to increase) in 2023. Expect young Nigerians to want to continue leaving the country.
The good news is that we will see late 2023 and early 2024. There will be major losers and some winners in 2023. Elections for many people will be an anticlimax, but there will be elections and deliveries. New faces will emerge and there will be new immigrants in Abuja, both those who leave and those who come out on top. Abuja’s population will continue to increase, Abuja’s traffic situation will worsen. Expect some political drama and expect a people’s parliament active on the road, taxis and buses, beer halls and gardens, with the usual Nigerian vibrancy as people argue, shout and laugh at the 2023 election result.
The suggestions below are made based on the existing possibility frontiers as provided in the 1999 Constitution. The premise is that there is currently too much waste and inefficiencies so that current performance is below the possibility frontier. Ideally, it would be highly recommended to stretch the possibility frontiers of the Nigerian state, but as stated above, the energy level to pursue that is unlikely.
On an individual and family level, it’s time to cut costs and expenses and reduce waste and glitz. This applies not only to higher socioeconomic families, but it is a pervasive culture. Those who can may consider embarking on the production of some foods.
State governments should play a greater role in supporting the well-being of citizens. Many states are not doing as much as they could. In fact, some have gone anonymous. State governments should promote national production, especially food.
The Federal Government must also prioritize reducing the cost of governance and service delivery. It has become necessary to wean Nigeria and Nigerians from the attitudes developed in the oil boom era of the early 1970s. This will entail significant changes in the structure, conduct and performance of government activities.
Professor Nwajiuba is the former Vice Chancellor of Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Nudfu Alike