from Africa in Transition

More Alarm Bells for Nigeria’s February Elections

January 7, 2015

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) is the chief opposition party contesting the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the political control of Nigeria in national elections on February 14, 2015. The PDP’s presidential candidate is incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian. The APC’s candidate is Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, a northern Muslim.

Buhari under various parties contested unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2003, 2007, and 2011. The PDP candidates (Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007 and Goodluck Jonathan in 2011) won each time in elections that Buhari’s supporters believe, with good reason, to have been flawed. At international urging, in the aftermath of the three elections, Buhari challenged the outcomes unsuccessfully in the courts. Buhari’s supporters, and many other observers, believed the judicial proceedings were slanted in favor of the PDP. In the aftermath of the 2011 court decision in favor of the PDP, Buhari said he would never again seek redress from the courts with respect to election disputes.

This background is germane to a recent statement made by the APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun. Oyegun, a Christian and former governor of the southern Edo state, said that should the February 14 elections be rigged in favor of PDP presidential candidate Goodluck Jonathan, the APC will form a “parallel” government. The chairman  went on to say that if Jonathan won re-election in a “transparent and credible process,” the APC would not hesitate to “congratulate” him.

However, as Nigerian media has noted, the APC chairman did not spell-out who would be the “judge and jury” over the question of whether the elections were rigged. Even in the unlikely event that the polling and ballot-counting goes smoothly, there will be potential questions about the February 14 elections. At present, there is no provision for internally displaced persons (IDP’s) who probably number in excess of one million, to vote. Most of them are from areas that traditionally have supported the opposition. Further, the three northern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, where the Islamist jihadist movement Boko Haram has the most control, have traditionally supported the opposition. At present, it is unlikely that most people in these three states will be able to vote.

In the event of violence due to contested election results, the international community may urge both parties to turn to the courts. Yet, at present, the APC would appear unlikely to do so. Instead, its National Chairman posits the creation of a “parallel” government. What that would look like or what it would mean is unclear. However, a “parallel” government would almost certainly undermine Nigeria’s fragile national unity. Hence, the APC chairman’s statement is an alarm bell in the night.

 

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Politics and Government

Nigeria

Elections and Voting

Civil Society

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