Today, to nobody’s surprise, President Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman announced that he would accept the ruling Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) nomination for president. The presidential elections are scheduled for February 14, 2015.
Within the PDP Jonathan was unopposed. However, numerous PDP personalities have left the party, most recently the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal. Others have left but subsequently returned.
The leading opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), will select its presidential candidate in early December. Former military chief of state Muhammadu Buhari is the current favorite. If Buhari is successful, the 2015 presidential election will be a rematch of the 2011 elections. Those elections bifurcated the country with Buhari taking all of the predominately Muslim states and Jonathan the rest (with one exception). These elections were followed by the worst single episode of violence in the north since the 1966-70 civil war.
Jonathan’s announcement comes one day after Boko Haram seized the strategically important city of Mubi in Adamawa state, the headquarters of the Nigerian army’s 234 battalion, one of the largest military units in the northeast. Mubi’s residents appear to have fled, joining a large and rapidly growing internally displaced population in the northeast. The much ballyhooed negotiations between the government and Boko Haram over a cease-fire and the release of the kidnapped Chibok school girls thus far have come to nothing.
Corruption remains a feature of the Jonathan administration, with investigations still underway on alleged “mis-direction” of oil revenue. Jonathan’s signature power initiative has been launched, and has the potential for revitalizing the economy. However, in the short term, power generation has actually fallen. Given these circumstances, Jonathan’s candidacy would seem to be in trouble. Yet, such is the power of incumbency that the smart money must be on a Jonathan victory.
Nigerian civil society groups are expressing concern about the state of electoral preparations. Then, too, there is the question of how balloting will be conducted in the parts of the northeast subject to Boko Haram. That region voted solidly for Buhari in 2011. If the elections in those areas do not take place, or if the turnout is miniscule because of security concerns, their credibility will be questioned, especially in the north. However, elections are an aspect of elite politics remote from the concerns and aspirations of the Nigerian people. For many Nigerians, they may not matter very much except as a spur to ethnic, religious, and regional identities. Hence, the question is whether the February 2015 elections will further exacerbate ethnic and religious tensions, and perhaps encourage increased support for Boko Haram and other radical movements.