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The fight against corruption has been a top campaign issue in Nigeria’s last two presidential elections, but the history of graft allegations surrounding the two main candidates means neither is likely to raise it in the run-up to February’s vote.
Front-runner Bola Tinubu, who secured the ruling party’s nomination earlier this month, was being investigated by the country’s anti-corruption agency as recently as last June. Three decades ago he fought a lawsuit in which the US government accused him of laundering the proceeds of heroin trafficking and eventually reached a settlement.
Atiku Abubakar, his chief rival, brought tens of millions of dollars of “suspect funds” into the US when he was Nigeria’s vice president in the 2000s, according to a US Senate report, and was implicated in a bribery case that resulted in the imprisonment of an American congressman. Neither episode resulted in charges against Abubakar.
Spokesmen for Tinubu and Abubakar didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The next president will face a daunting challenge to turn around Africa’s largest economy. Falling oil production threatens Nigeria’s place as the continent’s biggest crude producer, inflation is soaring and more than half of the working-age population are either unemployed or underemployed.
The local currency has depreciated steeply under outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, falling from around 220 naira to the US dollar on the widely-used parallel market when he was first elected in early 2015 to about 600 naira this week.