2019 from the Cynics

Jan 16, 2019|Company Blog

The year is 2019. Elections typically divide the nation across different fault lines. Governance gives way to campaigning and investors are uncertain over the fate of the Central Bank of Nigeria leadership. Across the nation, actions or inactions, are shaping lives, and by extension a generation that is on the cusp of determining its fate—for better or worse.

This is a Stears special feature aptly named ‘2019 from the Cynics’. This is where we identify worst-case scenarios in Nigeria and explore their fallout over the year. 

It is worth looking back to see how we did in the last year. We were right to worry about the state of President Buhari's cabinet as key ministers became embroiled in scandals during the year and the Minister of Finance stepped down in September 2018. We were also spot on about a financial market collapse although the cause was external. Meanwhile, Nigeria was able to avoid another recession and even further delay the fuel subsidy issue, and President Buhari did not leave ECOWAS—instead, he assumed the chairmanship of the regional bloc. Looking at out most high-profile scenario, Fayose did not win the PDP ticket; that victory went to Atiku.

In 2019, we will look at different aspects of our social and national life. The scenarios are not intended to be forecasts. We looked at trends and previous incidents in Nigeria’s history, and we have compiled our thoughts into a series of provocative scenarios that we hope lead to important discussions about Nigeria’s future in 2019. 


Scenario 1: Presidential Elections head to a run-off

INEC Ballot Box. Source: The Punch

Cynic's View: Nigeria has an often-ignored but important clause into its Constitution for presidential candidates. A victorious candidate must secure at least 25% of the votes in two-thirds of the states of the Federation. This would mean getting at least a quarter of the votes in 24 states today. If no candidate achieves this, we go straight to a run-off between the top two candidates—a situation witnessed during the infamous 1979 election crisis. Given how divided this year's campaigns are, a run-off is a stronger possibility than usual.


What could make this happen?

  • A strong third-party candidate, such as Oby Ezekwesili, performs well in the January debate, raising her chance of victory; 

  • The PDP and APC double-down on securing their traditional electoral strongholds to prevent the other party from reaching the 25% threshold in those states; 

  • The APC fears for its chances in Rivers and Zamfara states as it is cannot field sub-national or legislative candidates in those states. The PDP's greater visibility in those states works in Atiku's favour;

  • Voter apathy and disillusionment lead to many Nigerians staying at home on the election day. Low voter turnout leads to more randomness which favours third-party candidates;

  • Those who choose to vote decide to back more alternative candidates; and 

  • No candidate attains the constitutional requirement for winning the presidency and the vote goes to a run-off, leading to more uncertainty in the country.



Scenario 2: Kingsley Moghalu wins the Presidency 

Source: Leadership

Cynics View: Moghalu is a very qualified candidate and has inspired the hopes of many Nigerians through an issue-based and social media savvy campaign. Along with others such as Oby Ezekwesili and Omoyele Sowore, he provides a viable alternative to the political establishment in Nigeria. As unlikely as it sounds, experience from countries like France shows that third-party victories sometimes happen, whether we anticipate them or not. 


What could make this happen?

  • The consensus is that Kingsley Moghalu wins the presidential debate by a landslide. The increased attention and support makes his campaign receive unexpected funding and backing, shaking up the race; 

  • His plan for restructuring receives the backing of Afenifere and Ohanaeze, prominent cultural organisations for the Yoruba and Igbo respectively. He also reaches a deal with a prominent Northern lawmaker to replace his running mate if he’s elected;

  • Moghalu’s experience in economic and financial matters receive global attention, leading to an endorsement from prominent foreign commentators and leaders; and

  • Moghalu also receives the explicit endorsement of the other third-party candidates who see him as the best chance to unseat one of the traditional political parties.


Scenario 3: Godwin Emefiele exits the CBN under a cloud

Source: Guardian 

Cynics View: Godwin Emefiele's term as Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor ends in June 2019. Notably, no CBN Governor has been reappointed for a second term in the democratic era and the post has been informally alternated between the North and South. 2019 is also one of the few years when the CBN Governor's tenure ends in the same year as a presidential election. With persistent murmurs about CBN policy regarding the exchange rate and stimulating the economy, we may be looking at a rough exit to Emefiele's stay.


What could make this happen?

  • Buhari tries to make a last-ditch attempt to convince North-East states to support his candidacy by pledging to name one of their own as his next CBN Governor; 

  • Foreign investors react negatively to the news and withdraw their remaining capital from the country;

  • Financial market volatility and low oil prices induce a lot of pressure on the exchange rate;

  • Against the wishes of the sitting president, Emefiele devalues the naira, leading to significant government criticism;

  • Prominent Nigerians in the economic sphere weigh in on the naira debate and ramp up the pressure on Emefiele; and

  • Emefiele leaves his post on June 4th amid controversy and whispers that nepotism would cloud the appointment of his successor.


Scenario 4: Federal Character costs Nigeria in the AFCON Final 

Source: Complete Sports Nigeria

Cynics View: As we saw with the 2018 World Cup, few things bring Nigerians together like football which often transcends ethnic divisions. Very few people care about the ethnicities of the Nigerian players that won the African Cup of Nations in 1982, 1994, or 2013. Yet in a divisive election year and with politicians finding outlets in different ways, this scenario predicts what could happen if politics and sports mix.


What could make this happen?

  • Even though it is our first participation since winning the 2013 edition, Nigeria heads to the AFCON in Egypt as one of the favourites to lift the title;

  • The AFCON comes on the heels of one of the most divisive elections in Nigerian history, and many commentators are optimistic that the side will unify the nation under the new administration;

  • Sports Minister Solomon Dalong, in an attempt to foster ethnic unity, insists that Federal Character principles should guide the selection of squad players and the starting XI;

  • Team Manager Gernot Rohr selects a team based on Federal Character principles and somehow still reaches the final to face the hosts, Egypt; and

  • A goal up after 60 minutes, one of Nigeria's key players picks up an injury. His replacement from the same region is unsuitable and Nigeria goes on to lose 3-1.

    Do you agree or disagree with our scenarios? Take part in our #StearsCynics Challenge on Twitter and win a prize! Visit our Twitter page for details on how to win.
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