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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Chinedum Nwajiuba: 2023 – A mixed year

Welcome to 2023. A year that will be very much referred to in the history of Nigeria. I am tempted to describe it as a year of mixed blessings, but so have all past years. Life itself is about mixed blessings. I opt to describe it as a mixed year.

Alex Ekwueme Federal University
Professor Chinedum Nwajiuba

The General Elections

The most important event of 2023 will be the General elections. The elections will come and go and there will be new occupants of political and public offices in Nigeria. There will be lots of drama. There will be lots of anti-climax. Some of what engage the attention of Nigerians today as important will turn out not as important. There will be singing and rejoicing. There will also be disappointments. So is life.

Insecurity

One of the benefits of the change that the 2023 elections will herald will be a slump in insecurity in Nigeria. The insecurity in most of Northern Nigeria will reduce with the change in Government, but certainly not 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 heavily indigenous, local, and autonomous.

The current approaches which may very likely continue pretends to address the challenges, but clearly, operates at sub-optimal levels, contrary to the lessons of Albert Einstein that a problem cannot be addressed at the same energy level by which it was created. If this is to change, it will require governments that will operate at higher energy levels, but that does not seem likely. In summary, the pan-Nigeria challenge of insecurity will see some decline especially in northern Nigeria, which is a good development with some positive implications later in 2023, and especially more in 2024.

Education

This sector will record less strikes and more stability this year. The increased budgetary allocations, and the increase in funding of the TETFund will have some impact towards addressing one driver of instability especially at the tertiary education level. It is likely that ASUU and her peers will not strike this year. 2023 will be a good year for the tertiary education sector. I even expect positive surprises for the lecturers.

The Economy

This will continue to be in very difficult situation, despite a new government. The Nigeria economy is in a state like a closed down factory. It does not resume production simply by opening the gates and turning on the engine. In any case, it is not likely that the drivers of the current economic conditions can be addressed in a manner to bring about required changes at the current energy levels of the political class, and therefore what the new managers that will emerge will likely offer will fall short of requirements. This is irrespective of who emerges in which offices.

What is required in Nigeria is deep and broad structural changes, which are most unlikely. The situation with the economy is such that the government that will emerge is not likely to venture into, as most of what will be required will bring severe difficulties in the short term.

Value of the Naira vis-a-viz some global currencies, and domestic petroleum products costs and availability, Inflation, and unemployment

The outlook is not good. Do not expect any improvements in the exchange rate. The Naira will most likely lose value compared to the Dollar, Euro, and the Pounds Sterling. Costs of imported raw materials, consumer products, and others will continue to rise. Challenges with supply of petroleum products will continue even if the Dangote Refinery commences. Food price will continue to rise. Unemployment will worsen. Evidence abounds in support of these expectations. The debt challenge will continue, and ways and means will continue to be employed to close fiscal imbalances.

Poverty

This will worsen after the elections for more Nigerians. While there may be some persons whose lot will improve, especially with new Governments at the national and sub-national levels, and new appointees, many more will fall into poverty. In the southeast of Nigeria, poverty is deepening as a result of lowered investments and financial inflows. Unemployment will worsen. With governments that seem neither interested nor aware of the strengths of the people that could be tapped into, or stimulated toward self-help, poverty in the states of the southeast will worsen, especially as insecurity in the zone will continue at current levels, if not worsen.

External Political and Economic Conditions

Two issues should be of interest to Nigeria. The first is the continued Russia-Ukraine war and its implications for global inflation. Cost of imported food items especially wheat will remain high. Energy costs will remain high, and may be of benefit to Nigeria’s macroeconomy, especially as it seems Nigeria’s ability to rave up production volumes, and therefore incomes, will improve. Oil Company, Shell, recently announced resumption of production in shut-down facilities.  This may be helpful.

The second will be the US elections. This may have implications for the approach by the US to her relationships with Russia and China. Care will be taken not to further rock the global systems. We therefore expect there will be no worsening of the global systems.

In general, the global post-COVID economic recovery will continue, all things being equal, so long as there are no new surprises. Remittances by the Nigerian Diaspora will be stable (not likely to rise) in 2023. Expect younger Nigerians to continue wanting to leave the country.

Good News

The good news is that we will see the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024. There will be significant losers and some gainers in 2023. The elections for many persons will be an anti-climax, but there will be elections and handing over. New faces will emerge. New immigrants into Abuja – those leaving offices as well as those who will emerge. Abuja population will continue to increase, the Abuja traffic situation will worsen. Expect some political drama, and expect an active Nigeria people’s parliament on roadsides, taxis and buses, beer parlours and gardens, with the usual Nigeria vibrancy as people discuss, shout, and laugh at the outcome of the 2023 election.

Some Suggestions

The suggestions following are made based on the extant possibility frontiers as provided in the Nigerian constitution. The premise is that currently there is too much waste and inefficiencies such that current performance is below the possibility frontier. Ideally, extending the possibility frontiers of the Nigeria state would be highly recommend, but as earlier stated, the energy level to seek that, is unlikely.

At the individual and household levels, it is time to cut costs and expenditures, and reduce wastes and ostentation. This applies not only to higher socioeconomic families but is a pervading culture. Those who can, may consider embarking on production of some food items.  

State governments should play more roles in supporting the wellbeing of citizens. Many states are not doing as much as they could. Indeed, some have become anonymous. State governments should encourage domestic production, especially of food items.

The Federal government should also prioritize cutting the cost of governance and service provision. It has become necessary to wean Nigeria and Nigerians off the attitudes developed in the Oil boom era of the early 1970s. This will involve significant changes to the structure, conduct, and performance of government activities.

Indeed, a mixed year, 2023.

Happy New Year.

Former Vice-Chancellor of the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Prof. Chinedum Nwajiuba is Chairman, Board of Directors, Nigerian Environmental Study/Action Team (NEST)

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