The year 2023 left an indelible mark on Nigeria, marked by a mix of challenges and uplifting moments that deeply affected the lives of its people.
From the struggles of Naira Scarcity to the pivotal general elections, the tragic passing of Singer Mohbad, the record-breaking feat of Nigerian Chef, Hilda Baci in the Guinness World Records, and the well-deserved recognition of Victor Osimhen and Asisat Oshoala as the CAF Men’s and Women’s Players of the Year.
Here are the defining moments for many Nigerians in 2023:
Naira Redenomination and Scarcity
In October 2022, the Central Bank of Nigeria under the leadership of Godwin Emefiele, unveiled redesigned 200, 500, and 1,000 naira notes as part of an initiative to curb corruption, fraud, and reduce inflation.
However, the rollout faced logistical challenges. Despite the announcement of a deadline for exchanging old notes with new ones by January 31, 2023, many Nigerians encountered difficulties accessing the new currency at banks and ATMs.
This scarcity led to protests in some parts of the country as people struggled to obtain the new notes.
Although the CBN extended the deadline to February 10, 2023, the situation remained dire for both citizens and businesses.
The Supreme Court intervened, halting the implementation of the February 10 deadline. President Buhari subsequently allowed the continued use of the old N200 notes until April 2023.
In March 2023, the Supreme Court ruled to circulate both old and new notes until December 31, easing the scarcity to some extent.
2023 General Elections; Tinubu’s Triumph, IREV Glitch and Voter Apathy
The February 25 general elections marked Bola Tinubu’s victory as president, but with surprising results and shifts in voting patterns.
Tinubu secured 8,794,726 votes, surpassing Atiku Abubakar’s 6,984,520 and Peter Obi’s 6,101,533 votes.
Despite winning in 12 states, Tinubu faced losses in several historical party strongholds, including Lagos, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi, Yobe, and Gombe, all having APC governors.
Several governors also faced unexpected losses in their senatorial bids.
Notably, incumbent governors such as Darius Ishaku, Samuel Ortom, Atiku Bagudu, Ben Ayade, Okezie Ikpeazu, and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi lost their Senate bids to lesser-known politicians.
The APC emerged as the majority party in the Senate with 178 seats, followed by the PDP with 115 seats.
However, the elections recorded the lowest voter turnout since 1999, raising concerns about civic engagement.
Out of 93.47 million registered voters, only 24.9 million voted, representing a mere 26.72 percent turnout.
The INEC’s IREV initiative aimed for transparent accreditation and real-time result uploading but faced a technical glitch, fueling rumors of electoral fraud and increasing distrust in the election outcome.
Following the presidential election, the expected legal challenges escalated to the Supreme Court, which upheld Tinubu’s victory.
May 29th, 2023: Bola Tinubu Sworn in as 5th democratically-elected President
On May 29th, 2023, Bola Tinubu, the former Lagos State Governor, became Nigeria’s Fifth democratically elected President and Commander-in-Chief, officially bringing an end to Muhammadu Buhari’s eight-year administration.
Aged 71, Tinubu won the keenly contested February 25 election with 8,794,726 votes under the All Progressives Congress, APC, surpassing Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratiic party, PDP and Labour Party, LP, candidate Peter Obi, aged 61.
During his inaugural address at Abuja’s Eagle Square in Abuja, President Tinubu pledged to tackle insecurity concerns, unify a divided nation, and ensure fairness and justice for marginalized groups.
Additionally, he announced the end of the long-standing subsidy on petroleum products.
Fuel Subsidy Removal and surging prices Impact on daily life
Following President Tinubu’s inauguration, the fuel subsidy was eliminated, causing a sharp increase in fuel prices.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, revealed a staggering 215.95% surge in fuel prices between July 2022 and July 2023.
In July 2022, Nigerians paid N190.01 per litre for fuel, but by July 2023, the average soared to N600.35 per liter.
With petrol prices rising above N500 per liter in June 2023 and hitting 615 Naira in certain areas, this dramatic hike significantly impacted living expenses.
This hike in costs made life tougher for families, especially those with lower incomes. Businesses felt the pinch too, spending more to keep running.
People started using public transport more as it was cheaper than driving their own cars.
It changed how people spent money and made things harder for many Nigerians, especially those with less money.
Naija’s Record-Setting Fever: Hilda Baci & the Marathons of 2023
The Guinness World Records witnessed a surge in marathon attempts, with Hilda Baci emerging as a national sensation after her four-day cooking marathon in May.
Commencing on May 11th, she embarked on a 100-hour cooking spree, allowed only five-minute breaks per hour or their equivalent over several hours.
Despite the extraordinary feat, her recorded time stood at 93 hours and 11 minutes, as Guinness World Records reduced hours from her time because she took to an extended break beyond their regulations.
Regardless, she surpassed the previous record set in Rewa, India, in 2019 by Indian chef Lata Tondon by over five hours
Although later dethroned by Irish chef Alan Fisher, her victory inspired numerous Nigerians to attempt their own record-breaking endeavors.
Among these attempts were Subair Enitan, a student at Obafemi Awolowo University, who aimed to set a new Guinness World Record in November for a handwashing marathon but ended up hospitalized.
Additionally, Joyce Ijeoma, a Nigerian masseuse, gained viral attention in July after fainting during her unsuccessful attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the longest massage on different individuals within 72 hours.
Chef Damilola from Ekiti also made waves by endeavoring to break Hilda Baci’s record in June.
However, controversy arose involving her pastor/sponsor, who sued her for millions despite her attempt not being officially recognized by Guinness World Records.
Hassan Joshua Bature, a computer science lecturer at Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, FUOYE, pursued the Guinness World Record for the longest lecture marathon, teaching for 150 hours.
Also in November, Nigerian wigmaker Helen Williams has created the world’s longest handmade wig, measuring 351.28 metres.
Helen spent 11 days and over two million naira £2,031; $2,493 making the wig.
Victor Osimhen & Asisat Oshoala’s CAF 2023 Player of the Year Victories
Victor Osimhen and Asisat Oshoala were crowned the King and Queen of African Football in the CAF 2023 Male and Female Player of the Year awards held in Marrakech, Morocco, on December 11th, 2023.
Despite challenges in Nigerian sports throughout the year, their victories stood out as exceptional achievements.
Asisat Oshoala clinched the prestigious African Women’s Player of the Year award for an unprecedented fifth time, solidifying her status as a trailblazer in the sport.
Meanwhile, this marked Victor Osimhen’s inaugural win of the coveted award, making him the first Nigerian male footballer to claim this honor since Nwankwo Kanu achieved it in 1999.
Osimhen, playing for Napoli in Italy, joined the league of revered Nigerian legends such as Rashidi Yekini and Victor Ikpeba, who have previously attained this highly esteemed award.
Mohbad’s death: “A Tragic Loss and the Demand for Justice
Nigerian musician MohBad’s tragic death in September 2023 after receiving a Tetanus vaccine from an unlicensed nurse, sparked outrage and demands for transparency regarding the circumstances of his passing
After MohBad’s death, disturbing videos surfaced online revealing instances of assault and harassment inflicted upon him by music promoter Sam Larry and his record label boss Naira Marley.
One particularly alarming video showed MohBad expressing concerns, suggesting that Naira Marley could be held responsible if anything happened to him.
Between 2020 and 2022, MohBad was signed to Naira Marley’s record label, releasing several popular songs. Prior to his death, MohBad was embroiled in a legal dispute with the label regarding his royalties.
These videos re-emerged on social media after MohBad’s passing, sparking outrage and calls from Nigerians for the immediate arrest of Naira Marley and Sam Larry.
However, both parties claimed innocence, stating they were not in Nigeria when the singer passed away.
Upon police invitation, both suspects returned to Nigeria to cooperate with ongoing investigations and were subsequently released on bail.
The hashtag #Justice4MohBad became a social movement, demanding transparency regarding the circumstances surrounding MohBad’s death. There was a widespread call for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
MohBad was buried in Ikorodu the day after his passing, raising questions about the lack of an autopsy.
Subsequently, the Lagos State Police Command confirmed the exhumation of Mohbad’s body completion of an autopsy on MohBad’s remains on the 23rd of September.
On October 4th, the police named Primeboy, the late singer’s childhood friend, as the main suspect in a fight that occurred on the night of the singer’s death.
Despite initially evading police inquiries, Primeboy surrendered to authorities on October 5th.
The police are yet to conclude their investigation as they await the release of the results of the autopsy which are currently being conducted outside the country.
Amidst the quest for justice, a family feud emerged between MohBad’s father, who refused burial until a DNA test was conducted, and MohBad’s mother and late wife, Wunmi.
Ilebaye, the ‘GenZ Baddie’, reigning victorious in BBNaija All Stars
In 2023, the spotlight in Nigerian entertainment and reality show scenes shone on the Gen Zs, with the triumph of 21-year-old Illebaye Odinya as the winner of Big Brother Naija All-Stars.
The 22-year-old clinched the ₦120 million grand prize, beating out tough competition and emerging as the show’s ultimate queen.
Illebaye was crowned winner of at the finals which had 6 other contestants which included Cross, Ceec, former winner,Mercy Eke, Adekunle, and Pere.
Ilebaye initially competed in Season 7’s ‘Level Up’ edition but faced eviction after a brief stint on the show.
However, her return a year later for the BBNaija All Stars edition captured the nation’s affection.
From contentious moments to victorious wins in wager games and even claiming the ultimate HOH, Head of House immunity, she provided a myriad of memorable moments
Yet, amidst her triumphs, she was also subjected to unpleasant incidents, notably with Ike, who disrespected her by littering her clothes on the bathroom floor during their time on the show.
Ilebaye, as the youngest contestant, engaged in conflicts with her older housemates, sparking discussions about potential bullying.
This narrative led some to suggest that she strategically portrayed herself as a victim, which resulted in votes out of sympathy.
Throughout her time in the house, Ilebaye popularly called Gen Z baddie faced challenges but her authenticity resonated with viewers, dominating discussions on social media.