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Pre-Election Report: Nigerian Presidential Elections

- March 16, 2011

We are pleased to welcome “Tyson Roberts”:http://www.polisci.ucla.edu/hire-a-ucla-ph-d/hireaphd/tyson-roberts of Princeton University with the following pre-election report on next month’s Nigerian presidential election.

Nigeria’s presidential elections are scheduled for “April 9, 2011”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigerian_presidential_election,_2011/. I’m not a Nigeria country export, but several people have asked me my opinion about the election, so I did some quick research on the candidates, which is below. I haven’t found any polls (not sure if they would be very meaningful anyway). One thing happening differently from previous elections is they are doing a new voter registry, with biometric data (fingerprints and photographs), to try to reduce fraud, although the technology is “not a panacea”:http://www.economist.com/blogs/baobab/2011/02/nigerias_elections/. See as well a piece about the three Nigerian candidates came out in the “Economist”:http://www.economist.com/node/18340499?story_id=18340499&CFID=158616184&CFTOKEN=95840407/ recently; there’s a good amount of overlap between that article and what I have below.

The frontrunner seems to be “Goodluck Jonathan”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodluck_Jonathan/, the current president and “PDP”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Democratic_Party_(Nigeria)/ candidate.


The PDP has held the presidency since democracy was reintroduced to Nigeria in 1999, although these each of these three elections have been “marred by violence and fraud”:http://www.economist.com/blogs/baobab/2011/02/nigerias_elections/. The PDP has a “gentleman’s agreement”:http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/Africa-Monitor/2010/0816/Nigeria-s-2011-presidential-race-tests-North-South-powersharing-agreement/ that the presidency be rotated between the North and South. Obasanjo, president 1999-2007, is Yoruba, from the Southwest part of the country. Obasanjo’s vic-president, Atiku Abubakar, is a northerner (and former supporter of bad guy Sani Abacha, who imprisoned Obasanjo) that planned to succeed Obasanjo, but then clashed with him when Obasanjo tried to change the constitution for a third term. So Obasanjo handpicked a different northerner to succeed him, and thanks to Obasanjo’s support, Yar’Adua won, but then got sick and died before he finished his term and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan (he of the cool name and cool hat) became acting president in February 2010 (when Yar’Adua was sick) and president when Yar’Adua died in May 2010. Jonathan has a PhD in zoology, entered politics in 1998, and has never been elected to office. His parents chose his name Goodluck well because his rise is due in large part to being “in the right place at the right time”:http://www.economist.com/node/15503412/. Before inheriting the presidential office after the top of the ticket fell sick and passed on, he was deputy governor of Bayelsa state, then moved up to the top job in 2005 when the governor was arrested on money-laundering charges. Although he came to his position in large part due to luck, he has not been afraid to take exert his authority. “On February 10th (2010, as acting president while Yar’Adua was sick), chairing his first cabinet meeting, he had the confidence to reshuffle some of the ministers known to be allies of Mr Yar’Adua (ibid).

Jonathan is the first president of Nigeria to come from the Delta region in the Southeast part of the country (and, given the brim on his hat, it goes without saying that he’s not Muslim), so a Southerner got to be president before the Northerners got to finish their turn. There was therefore “speculation”:http://www.economist.com/node/15503412/ when he took office that he would just keep the seat warm until the end of the term, then let a Northerner candidate run in 2011 as the presidential candidate of the PDP. Some “predicted”:http://www.nigerianewspapersonline.net/2011-jonathan-to-run-with-ibb/ that Ibrahim Badamsi Babangida (IBB), a Northerner, would run on top of the PDP ticket and Jonathan would run as vice president, so that the rotation could be restored to order. (Babangida was a military head of state from 1985-1993. He allowed for democratic elections to take place in 1993, but then didn’t allow the winner to take office. In response to massive strikes and protests as a result, he then gave up office to an interim government that was soon after overthrown by bad guy Sani Abacha, who imprisoned Obasanjo and ruled until his death in 1998.)

In September 2010, Jonathan “announced”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11311779/ on Facebook that he would run to be the PDP candidate for president. The other main contender for the PDP slot was Atiku Abubakar, who in November 2010 was “proclaimed”:http://atikuabubakar.com/ the consensus candidate for the North for the PDP ticket (he’d returned to the party after leaving in 2006) and a “poll”:http://allafrica.com/stories/201011180396.html/ said that he was the frontrunner in the race, but Abubakar was soon accused of forging that poll.

In January 2011, although Abubakar was the more experienced candidate, Jonathan “won the PDP primary”:http://www.economist.com/blogs/baobab/2011/01/nigerias_primaries/ with 78% of the vote – the first election Jonathan has ever won. Jonathan won in the south, as expected, but also in several states in the central and north regions. Observers attribute this victory to incumbency advantages, such as the ability to steer a patronage network of gas and oil revenues. Jonathan also likely benefitted from his move “to back PDP state governors seeking a second term in April.” “A spokesman for Abubakar accused”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12179845/ Jonathan of irregularities, such as promises by Jonathan’s allies to “fish out” anyone who votes against the president, but after results were announced, Abubakar shook Jonathan’s hand and congratulated him on his victory.

One of Jonathan’s themes is the promotion of rule of law and rooting out of corruption, but it’s not clear how successful he has been in these efforts. “His current campaign is centred”:http://www.osundefender.org/?p=12500/ on providing good governance, power and energy, food, education, health, land and transport, unemployment, security and the Niger-delta.

Other major candidates:


“General Muhammadu Buhari”:http://www.osundefender.org/?p=12500/ (rtd.) (Congress for Progressive Change) A native of Katsina State (in the north), Muslim, born in 1942, Buhari was 7th head of state of Nigeria (1983 – 1985). Buhari was the candidate for another party (ANPP) in 2003 and 2007, but had a falling out with party leaders of that party, and joined the CPC in 2010. Buhari had a fairly successful anti-corruption program while he was head of state. He and Nelson Mandela were the only private African individuals to be invited by the White House to attend Obama’s inauguration. In 2003 “he came in 2nd place”:http://africanelections.tripod.com/ng.html/, with 32% of the vote, and also came in 2nd place in 2007 but with fewer votes. His campaign promises are virtually indistinguishable from Jonathan’s: “General Buhari’s current campaign is centred on providing good governance, economic recovery and infrastructure development, power and energy, agriculture, education, health, land and transport, women empowerment, security and the Niger-delta and unemployment.”:http://www.osundefender.org/?p=12500/ Buhari is probably frontrunner Jonathan’s greatest challenge, although I haven’t found any polls.


“Mallam Nuhu Ribadu (Action Congress of Nigeria)”:http://www.osundefender.org/?p=12500/. The Action Congress candidate in 2007, Abubakar (see above), came in 3rd place in 2007. Action Congress also came in 3rd in legislative elections (after the PDP and ANPP). According to some “observers”:http://www.vanguardngr.com/2010/12/2011-defection-wave-in-the-pdp/, PDP supporters are abandoning the PDP for the ACN because the ACN is the main alternative party. Ribadu studied law in Kaduna state, in the north, is a former anti-corruption official (2003-2007) and has been a senior fellow at Oxford and at the “Center for Global Development”:http://www.cgdev.org/. I like this guy based on that association alone. He was very successful in his anti-corruption campaign, in part because of support from Obasanjo, although some say the anti-corruption campaign was a tool Obasanjo used against his political enemies. “His campaign goals include the plan to invest in coal (utilizing existing national coal reserves), wind, solar and biomass as alternative means of power generation, create 30 million jobs, achieve a real GDP annual growth of 8% within 5 years and 10% in 10 years, and reduce fiscal deficit to 3% of the GDP.”:http://www.osundefender.org/?p=12500/ Similar to his competitors, “Nuhu Ribadu’s political campaign”:http://www.osundefender.org/?p=12500/ is premised on developing human capital and infrastructure, growing the economy, good governance, youth employment, food and agriculture, foreign policy, security, defence and the Niger Delta.”