THE victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 2023 would likely fuel sentiments of perceived marginalisation among Christians in the country, a report by Fitch, a global rating company, has said.
In the report published on Friday, the New York based company also predicted Tinubu as the likely winner of the February election.
Dismissing the chances of the Labour Party (LP) candidate Peter Obi, the company said that a win for Tinubu, who has gone for a Muslim-Muslim ticket, would see a departure from an informal agreement of power sharing principles between Christians and Muslims in the country.
Fitch also noted that Obi’s supporters, who are mostly young, urban voters were likely going to question the fairness of the electoral process, especially after recent polls predicted a win for Obi.
“Indeed, we maintain our view that the APC’s Tinubu is best placed to win the presidential election. We expect that the party, which has nominated a Muslim-Muslim ticket, will repeat its strong performance in the North,” it said.
“Given that Tinubu is a former governor of Lagos, the party is also likely to improve on its performance in the South-West. Furthermore, we expect Tinubu to benefit from incumbency advantages, with the APC having been in power since 2015.
“Protests and social discontent are likely to increase in the aftermath of a Tinubu win. Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, there has been an informal agreement that resulted in the presidency alternating between Northern and Southern states as well as between Christians and Muslims.
“A win for Tinubu would break with this unwritten tradition and likely fuel sentiment of perceived marginalisation among Christians.
“These dynamics are likely to engender political unrest following the February vote. As a result, we have revised down the Social Stability component of our proprietary Short-Term Political Risk Index (STPRI) from 30.0 to 25.0 previously (scores out of 100; lower score implies higher risk). This brings Nigeria’s overall STPRI score from 46.3 to 45.0.”
Although it was not its core view, Fitch noted that factions within the APC could weigh on Tinubu’s popularity in Northern states.
It, however, stated that should public concerns about Tinubu’s health become more pronounced in the run-up to the election, his chances of winning might become smaller.
Fitch noted that there remains a possibility that a three-way race results in no candidate passing the electoral threshold would prompt a second round for the first time in Nigerian history and would likely heighten political instability.
The global rating company said it does not expect significant policy changes under a Tinubu presidency.
“While Tinubu has stated that he would phase out Nigeria’s costly fuel subsidy, we are sceptical this will happen in the short term. There appears to be limited appetite within the APC to remove the subsidy, and with inflation remaining elevated in 2023 – due to high food prices – the cancellation of the subsidy would negatively affect the new president’s popularity. Indeed, the PDP tried to remove the subsidy in 2012, but had to back down after large-scale protests.”
According to the company, Tinubu’s aim to raise oil production was unfeasible in the short term given that crude production declined significantly to 1.1 million barrels per day in September due to rising oil theft and previous underinvestment.
Given Nigeria’s weak fiscal position, the report believes there would be limited room for more security and social spending to combat oil theft and attract more investment into the oil sector.
There has been a lot of discontentment among sections of the country, including the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN) and APC Northern Christians, over the Muslim-Muslim choice of the APC presidential candidate.
While it has continued to state its neutrality, CAN had said several times that it was opposed to the same faith ticket in 2023.