“Corruption was rife in customs but I was not part of it,” he wrote. “I saw customs … as a way of making money for the government.” He believes that his entrepreneurial skills can be harnessed to jumpstart Nigeria’s lagging economy. His party manifesto promises to create a “market-based economy driven by small and medium-scale businesses and regulated by a reformed public sector.”
Candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Tinubu gestures during the final campaign rally of the party at Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos, on Feb. 21, 2023, ahead of the Nigerian presidential election scheduled for February 25, 2023. Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images
Tinubu, who says he is 70 but who his critics say is much older, made his mark as a pro-democracy lawmaker in 1993. In that year, he stood against the edict of the military dictator who set aside the results of the national election. Tinubu had to flee the country to advocate for democratic reforms.
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Later, as governor of the sprawling metropolis of Lagos state, Tinubu created local governance councils and revenue streams that made Lagos independent of federal subsidies. He became known as a technocrat and governance innovator.
Both Tinubu and Abubakar have faced corruption charges for years but never were convicted. Tinubu pledges, as Buhari promised eight years ago, to win the war against radical Muslim insurgents and bandits.
“To achieve this, we will re-engineer our security architecture to enhance the capacity of our armed forces and security agencies to guarantee the safety of the lives and properties of our people,” the election manifesto of the APC states. “This will enable our farmers to return fully to their farms with the resultant increase in food production and affordability.”
Supporters chant party slogans next to a banner of the candidate of the Labour Party Peter Obi during a campaign rally of the party in Lagos, Nigeria, on Feb. 11, 2023. Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images)
Peter Obi, 61, has been lauded by many for his squeaky-clean record as a steward of public assets.
“The problems of Nigeria are at once complex and simple,” he has said. “It rests on leadership. The Nigerian problem is an inability of Nigerian leaders to lead from the front by example.”
(Story continues below)
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Obi has promised a raft of reforms, chief among them an intense development of the agricultural sector.
“With 70 million hectares [more than 270,000 square miles] of arable land, we will pursue an agricultural revolution,” he told a Chatham House gathering in December 2022. His reforms would include dredging Nigeria’s two major rivers and creating hydroelectric dams to generate electricity.
To stem the nation’s sectarian violence, Obi promises to set up policing authorities at both the state and local community levels, in contrast to the current federal police authority centered in the capital. Obi’s plan to reverse the brain drain of Nigeria’s best and brightest students promises a Nigerian version of the Marshall Plan for public schools.
“We are going to leapfrog into the fourth industrial revolution by developing knowledge and skills, including robotics, automation, AI, and virtual reality,” he told the group.
Obi is highly favored among Nigerian youth under 35, and in this faceoff, they count for 40% of the electorate, prompting some to call this year a “young people’s election.”
Bullets vs. ballots