Nigerian weak men disguise themselves as strong in elections

Monday February 27 2023
Nigerian holding a banner

Nigerians protest in the capital Abuja in 2019. Where there are no penalties for corruption and mediocrity, things will ultimately fall apart. PHOTO | SODIQ ADELAKUN | AFP


Just how many multinational companies have had to postpone or even cancel conferences in Lagos citing instability in Nigeria? What is the impact of that with regard to revenues lost? What is the origin of this crisis?

Last year, Nigerian Government introduced new banknotes and phased out the old ones. According to their president, Buhari, this move was designed to checkmate corrupt politicians, some of whom were alleged to have as much as $50 million in cash stashed away in their homes. Remember the Nigerian who rented a whole apartment in a high brow area of Lagos some years ago just to hide $43.5 million in cash!

Buhari said changing the banknotes by the Nigerian government was an attempt to suppress voter buying by politicians. But many citizens felt it was a direct attack on his party’s candidate who has a lot of controversy surrounding his wealth.

Old notes for new ones

Nigerians were told to exchange their old notes for new ones in banks. They did as required but when they went to ATMs, the machines were still giving out old notes. Now the situation is so dire since regardless of how much they have in the bank, they cannot withdraw more than 10,000 Naira. And in places like Ibadan, customers could access only 1,000 Naira.

Nigeria is rationing cash and people queue at ATMs as early as 3am. This has resulted to violence and banks being burnt. How did we get here?


In a land devoid of consequences for the wrong choices by the rich, a total breakdown of society is expected. In nearly six decades, the only time the powerful were made to face consequences was when Nigerians were not in support of the ruling regime.

Messiah complex

Where there are no penalties for corruption and mediocrity, things will ultimately fall apart because they become second nature. It may take a whole generation to reverse such a culture.

It was G. Michael Hopf, the post-apocalyptic novelist who penned, “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men and weak men create hard times.”

Unfortunately, Nigerian weak men that created the hard times are now disguising themselves as strong men bearing solutions. They have been part of the problem and were an integral part of the system that brought the one-time giant of Africa to its knees. Both Bola Tinubu and Abubakar Atiku, the 2023 Nigerian presidential election frontrunners, benefited from previous military decrees and have amassed insane amounts of wealth. They now claim to have the solution for what ails Nigeria and portray themselves as messiahs of sorts. The only strength they have today is money from unexplainable sources. People whose only power is money are truly poor.

It is worrying when accomplished and brilliant people support senile old men because it serves their personal interests. It is surprising to see people claiming to fight for the country support those who destroyed it. And in the words of Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osibajo, “You cannot wish the country well and vote for someone you do not believe in.”

The 2023 Nigerian presidential election is generational - the old versus the new. Presidential candidate Peter Obi has captured the hearts of the youth. However, they are equally worried that he might lack the structure and agents to protect his votes.

Whichever the case, by the end of the week, Nigerian youths will know whether or not their worries were justified.

Wale Akinyemi is the founder of the Street University. [email protected]