The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), an arm of UK- based Economist Group – owners of ‘The Economist’ magazine, recently predicted that Buhari will lose to Atiku in 2019. Since the news of this forecast came on board, supporters of Atiku seem to have gained increased confidence as, according to them, the same EIU predicted Buhari’s victory over Jonathan in 2015 and it happened. Somehow, I consider this to be a kind of intellectual subordination to European intelligence that has the potential risk of increasing our intellectual dependence on a people whose actual interest is to see Africa remain underdeveloped.

To begin with, I am not of those who hastened to celebrate the EIU’s forecast of Buhari’s victory in 2015, and I also do not want to be quick to believe in its current forecast – the realization of the previous forecast notwithstanding. While I maintain my view that these ‘foreign interest groups’ are not the manufacturer of Nigeria’s contemporary leadership and development problems, I want us to look critically at the context and the parameters by which EIU did its forecast on Nigeria, and identify possible reasons why the forecast may fail.

The Economist Intelligence Unit had reported on Nigeria as operating a hybrid regime “characterized by consequential irregularities in elections, regularly preventing them from being free and fair, pressure by the government on political opponents, non-independent judiciary, widespread corruption, harassment and pressure on the media, anemic rule of law, underdeveloped political culture, low level of participation in politics and issues in the functioning of governance”.

These things that EIU has said about us may be saddening but I cannot contend that any of them is untrue. However, I want to draw our attention to some of them, which I think are the latent bases for the EIU’s 2019 forecast. One is that there is widespread corruption in Nigeria. Two is that the political culture of Nigerians is underdeveloped. I assume we all know what widespread corruption means, but what about underdeveloped political culture? It is simply a condition of subnormal political reasonability in which democratic processes or choices are largely guided by ethnic and religious persuasions or personal aggrandizement rather than true merit. With underdeveloped political culture, people hardly make informed choice of leaders to govern them.

Underdeveloped political culture is facilitated, and sometimes bred in Nigeria by politicians with immoderate desire for power and wealth acquisition, and it manifests, among others, in the form of election thuggery, buying and selling of votes, invoking of ethnic and religious violence or accepting of material inducement to opposition and conflicts.

The forgoing is the latent context in which the EIU has packaged 2019 for Nigeria. The EIU view Nigerians as a widely corrupt people with underdeveloped political culture, who therefore can hardly make informed democratic choices.

This view was same in 2015, except for some intervening conditions that supported EIU’s prediction of Buhari’s victory then. These conditions included Buhari’s perceived sincerity of purpose compared with Jonathan and the transparently free and fair conduct of the presidential election, which helped to reflect the true views of Nigerians in the election outcome despite huge spending by PDP then. Atiku and his supporters are rich, and are capitalizing on Nigeria’s “underdeveloped political culture” to buy their way to the presidency. But if the intervening conditions that led to Buhari’s victory in 2015 are still present – and I think they are, the chances are that EIU’s forecast will fail, and Buhari will emerge again victorious.

Secondly, EIU, in its forecast stated that the vote in the North is likely to be split. This is a prediction anyone else can make. Of course northern votes have never been absolutely for one candidate. EIU would have differed by stating whether or not the split will be significant.

Again EIU said that Atiku will find it easier to garner support from the south, “which has traditionally been a safe haven for the PDP”. Again I ask which south is EIU talking about here? Does it include southwest, whose population of voters triples that of southeast, and the majority of who are currently well mobilized for Buhari in anticipation of power shift to them in 2023? EIU got it wrong.

Again the Intelligence Unit said insecurity in central Nigeria is GROWING. This is not true. The insecurity here is not growing, and is not a good parameter for forecasting Atiku’s victory because Atiku does not have better security experience than Buhari to fight insecurity. Voters know this. Yes I agree that there are frustrations over poverty in Nigeria, but majority of the poor people believe they are as poor as they are because their leaders have been looting their collective wealth. So they prefer someone who has no interest in looting. This view is still strong.

There are many other common predictions the EIU has made on security risks during elections, and the chances of PDP rejecting election outcome if Atiku loses…and the security implications of contested election results. It is however interesting that EIU recommends “collective resolve” as the way to avoid the much of security issues that might trail 2019. Let’s think about this.

Dr Yakubu Ozohu – Suleiman writes from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State

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