Nigerians’ Confidence in Government Falls to Lowest in Africa

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Story Highlights

  • A quarter of Nigerians are confident in their national government
  • Confidence in the judicial system has fallen 17 percentage points since 2019
  • Trust in elections is now the lowest in Africa

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As Nigeria prepares for nationwide elections early next year, Gallup surveys show residents are continuing to lose faith in their national government.

After years of declines, one in four Nigerians expressed confidence in the national government in 2021, which was not only the lowest level in the country in 12 years, but also the lowest level across Africa last year.

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s personal popularity has mostly followed the same trajectory, falling to a record low of 25% in 2020 before inching up to 29% last year.

Although Buhari cannot run for reelection because of term limits, Nigerians’ lack of faith in him and his government does not bode well for his party’s chances next February. Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) Party will see former Lagos State Gov. Bola Tinubu face off against former Vice President and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) nominee Atiku Abubakar.

Yet regardless of the front-runners, authorities face increasingly apathetic voters, possibly reflecting the government’s inability to deliver solutions to the most pressing problems facing Nigerians. In the past two election cycles, voter turnout was at 35% or lower. Although Nigeria has elected presidents from only the PDP or APC since the Fourth Republic was established in 1999, frustrations with the current political climate have helped fuel the rise of outside political candidate Peter Obi, who is the presidential nominee for the Labour Party.

Nigerians Grow Pessimistic as Violence Rises

Nigerians’ faith in their leaders has been tested by increasing violence and kidnappings across the country. At least 9,700 people were killed in violent events in 2021, ranging from insurgencies in the North (including continuing elements of terrorist organization Boko Haram) to secessionists in the South. In just the past few weeks, at least 40 churchgoers were killed in a bomb and gun assault at a church in southwestern Ondo state on June 5, while Islamist fighters killed 25 people in Borno state on June 9.

Banditry and kidnappings have soared over the past decade as well, and there have been more murders as a result of banditry than terrorism since 2019.

While Nigerians continue to weather the incessant rise in violence, their opinions about their judicial system — which some argue is a root cause of insecurity — have soured. The percentage of residents expressing confidence in the judicial system in Nigeria fell from 53% in 2019 to just 36% in 2021. The places Nigeria as the worst of African countries studied in 2021 and far below the global average of 58% who have confidence in their judicial systems.

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This skepticism toward the courts is a symptom of growing distrust in government institutions as a whole. Wariness toward authorities has become nearly universal, with 93% of Nigerians now saying that corruption is widespread in government. This rise in perceptions of corruption places Nigeria among the worst in the world, tying Afghanistan.

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Elections Will Serve as a Turning Point

The rise in insecurity has put an even greater focus on the coming national elections.

Yet those may prove contentious, as a decreasing number of Nigerians express faith in the honesty of elections. While nearly half, 45%, of Nigerians felt confident in the honesty of elections in 2017, just 18% said the same in 2021. The represents the lowest rating among Nigerians since 2014 and places Nigeria last among African nations, far below the next-lowest country, Tunisia, at 27%.

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Implications

Growing insecurity has taken a toll on Nigerian lives, not only in terms of safety but on economic growth as well. One study from the Institute of Economics and Peace found that 8% of Nigeria’s GDP, equivalent to more than $132 billion, was affected by escalating violence in the country.

Apart from the spreading violence, the Nigerian economy has faced stiff headwinds in recent years, including lower oil output and rising inflation. This drag on economic growth has hit Nigerians at home, with 45% saying they are finding it difficult to get by on their present income. More than half of Nigerians, 53%, now say they would like to move permanently to another country if they had the opportunity.

Buhari, who was initially elected in 2015 after running on a counterterrorism platform, has failed to tame the violence in recent years. Moreover, the souring economy has worsened the standard of living for millions of Nigerians, without a clear solution in sight. The new leader will be forced to win over an increasingly skeptical populace while working to combat the corruption and inefficiency that has plagued the government. Nigerians will expect the next leader, from any party, to address a growing number of complaints, with insecurity, violence, and corruption among the most pressing.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup’s Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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