Nigerian presidential candidate Peter Obi has pledged to rid Africa’s most populous nation of endemic corruption and widespread insecurity if he wins next month’s election.
Obi, who is one of 18 candidates seeking Nigeria’s highest office, described his country as “a failing state” in need of new political leadership during a speech on Monday at the Chatham House international affairs think tank in London.
“Unless we change the politics by changing the political leadership, we are stuck in this terrible state of underdevelopment and misery,” said Obi, a former governor of the southeastern state of Anambra who is the candidate for Nigeria’s Labour Party.
Polls have shown Obi leading the crowded field ahead of the ruling party’s candidate, Bola Tinubu, and the main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar despite those opponents having higher name recognition. Tinubu is a former governor of Lagos state, and Abubakar is a former vice president. In 2019, Obi was Abubakar’s running mate under the People’s Democratic Party.
Political analysts have described the February 25 vote to replace President Muhammadu Buhari after eight years in power as a make-or-break exercise. Since campaigning began late last year, other top contenders have made pledges similar to Obi’s. Tinubu has said he is seeking to “renew hope” while Atiku has said he will “rescue Nigeria”.
Observers warn that the election is threatened by the security challenges Nigeria is battling, including conflict spearheaded by armed groups linked to ISIS/ISIL in the northeast, armed bandits in the northwest and secessionists in the southeast.
On Monday, Obi said he would conduct a dialogue with the secessionists, and he promised to introduce a range of security reforms, especially in the troubled north, where thousands of people have been killed by armed gangs in the past year. Those changes could encourage members of Nigeria’s large diaspora communities to consider returning home and aiding development, he said.
“What you have seen is a cumulative effect of leadership failure over the years, which would be solved by good governance,” he said. “When people start seeing justice, fairness and inclusive government, all those things will start reversing. Nigerians are prepared to come back if they can find that they have a country to go back to.”