Many have seen the BBC map below of the outcome of the just-concluded Nigerian presidential elections. The south voted for incumbent Jonathan while the north went for Buhari.
The state elections were a different kettle of fish. In these elections the president’s party – the PDP – held its own in the north. Available results show that PDP candidates won in Bauchi, Kaduna, Niger, Gombe, Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano and Buhari’s home state Katsina – in total eight out of the 12 states shaded blue in the picture above.
How is this possible, given the clear north-south divide in the presidential vote?
The answer to this question is threefold (and is here).
First, all politics is local. Given that both the PDP and CPC rode on personality politics with little ideological differentiation, once the presidential race was settled the game reverted back to local personality politics. PDP bigwigs could therefore hold their own in most of these states based on their own local connections.
Second, it could be due to the sequencing of Nigerian elections. In Nigeria, the gubernatorial elections take place weeks after the presidential election. Because patronage politics is the only real game in town, the rational thing for voters to do is pick the president’s man for governorship. This way one can increase the probability that pork will flow to one’s state when President Jonathan sets out to reward those who voted for him and the PDP.
Third, Jonathan might have panicked about having lost the north in the presidential election and therefore put extra effort into winning as many gubernatorial races as he could in the north in order to guarantee his administration a sense of national legitimacy.
In a sense the gubernatorial results are encouraging. It is calming to know that there are powerful local elites in northern Nigeria who are willing and able to work with Jonathan to help Nigeria realize its potential.
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