Who is likely to win Nigeria’s 2019 presidential election?

So far it appears that the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari will win reelection. According to Africa Confidential:

His street support is still impressive across the north and he remains a force to be reckoned with – even if his APC allies are divided or upset with the primaries or his overall approach to governance. With the powers of incumbency behind him, he may hold the upper hand. Many of the 21 APC governors will also hold this advantage, but more of them will be vulnerable to PDP challengers, especially in Plateau, Kaduna, Kogi, Imo, and perhaps even Lagos and Kano, although these latter two states look stronger for the APC.Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 3.36.46 PM

Atiku’s deep experience in election matters may outflank Buhari’s APC handlers, but he will need more than just his deep pockets to outbuy or check the APC machine. He will also need to demonstrate genuine public support, mobilised by a major ground operation backed by local PDP networks.

At 71, Atiku is more energetic and comfortable with speaking on the stump than the taciturn, 75-year-old Buhari. That will be important for reaching Nigeria’s social media-savvy voters, who threw their weight behind Buhari in 2015 but have grown frustrated with his slow pace. If the election does end up close, as appears likely, the APC’s control of the security forces may prove pivotal and provoke a crisis. If, however, Atiku does in fact win and the APC respects the result, as Jonathan did in 2015, Nigerians may at least come to feel that elections, however flawed, can lead to change.

And here’s a great report from USIP on the factors at play in Nigeria’s 2019 elections.

 

The OAU is dead, long live the AU

On Friday, the African Union approved draft plans to send troops to the conflict-ridden Burundi even without permission from Bujumbura in what could be a historic move to stop the country’s impending implosion.

The move by the AU Peace and Security Council reached on Friday despite initial opposition from the Burundi delegation invoked a rarely-used clause in AU Constitutive Act.

Article 4(h) of the AU Constitutive Act provides for sending of troops to a member country under circumstances of war crime, genocide or crimes against humanity without that country’s permission.

More on the African Union’s 5000 strong force for Burundi here. The actual AU resolution establishing the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU) is available here. Paul D. Williams, an associate professor of international affairs at George Washington University, parses the text of the AU communique here.

This semester I taught a class on intra-Africa IR, mostly looking at economic and security cooperation from 1963 to the present. One of the issues we wrestled with in the class was whether the AU was any different from the OAU, despite the language of Article 4(h). The OAU was notoriously ineffectual in dealing with conflict in Africa, on account of its many non-interference clauses.

Doubts about the AU and its ability to effectively originate an intervention in the face of intra-state conflicts were reinforced by:

(i) its continued commitment to the “equality” of member states (no regional hegemons — like Nigeria, Ethiopia, or South Africa — were given any formal status of first among equals);

(ii) the the deliberate weakening of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) — which has no permanent membership (5 elected for 3 years, 10 for 2 years);

(iv) the fact that the chairmanship of the PSC rotates monthly (by country name alphabetical order), giving any one chair hardly any time to develop the connections required for effective operations of such a sensitive post in a major IO;

(v) the structure of the regional distribution of seats on the PSC which incentivizes a sub-regional logic of seat allocation, as opposed to actual efficiency of the PSC.

It is therefore interesting that 4(h) was today invoked to justify intervention in Burundi, without the direct consent of Bujumbura (Nkurunziza may yet save face by inviting the AU mission under 4(j)).

Also interesting is the fact that the troops will be under the banner of the East African Standby Force (EASF) and not the AU. This will expose the actual operations of the mission to the same EAC politics that I outlined in an earlier post here (for the two of you out there who care to know, the different (sub)regional standby forces actually have formal relationships with the AU, so they are not totally run by the sub-regional RECs but can be seen as a practical first step in the aspirational goal of a continental standby force, someday).

Who said intra-African IR is boring (or does not exist)?

Also, watch out for a draft paper on the politics of intra-Africa IR soon…

Making Sense of the Decision to Postpone Nigeria’s February 14 Elections

Last Saturday Nigeria’s electoral management body (INEC) postponed the February 14th national elections to March 28th. State elections were also moved from February 28th to April 11th. The official account is that INEC reached the decision after it became clear that the military would not guarantee security on election day (and therefore needed six weeks to pacify the northeast before reasonably peaceful elections could take place).

The head of INEC, Attahiru Jega, was categorical that “for matters under its control, INEC is substantially ready for the general elections as scheduled, despite discernible challenges being encountered with some of its processes like the collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) by registered members of the public.”

Naturally, the postponement raised a lot of questions.

Boko Haram has been terrorizing Nigerians for the better part of six years. It is therefore a little odd that the military suddenly found the magic formula to quell the insurgency in exactly six weeks. Why now?

Reactions from several commentators questioned the intentions of the Nigerian military, and by extension, of the Goodluck Jonathan Administration.

  • At the New Yorker Alexis Okeowo wonders why after six years the government has suddenly found the will and power to neutralize Boko Haram in six weeks. She argues that negative sectional politics prevented Jonathan, a southerner, from extinguishing the Boko Haram before the insurgency (mainly concentrated in the northeast) got out of hand. Okeowo also pours cold water on any hopes that a Buhari presidency would be any better for either Nigerian democracy or nation-building.
  • Tolu Ogunlesi at FT invokes the events of 1993 – that saw Moshood Abiola robbed of the presidency after an election – in arguing that the postponement might, among other things, be a sign of both a resurgence of the Nigerian military and an attempt by the same to prevent Buhari (who is perceived to harbor intentions of reforming the military) from becoming president.
  • Both Karen Attiah (Washington Post) and Todd Moss (CGD) see in the postponement a risky gamble by Jonathan and the military that might pay off (and result in a reasonably acceptable conduct of elections in six weeks) or completely backfire and mark the beginnings of a period of political instability in Nigeria.
  • Alex Thurston over at Sahel Blog notes that while the Jonathan campaign has praised INEC’s decision, the Buhari camp has expressed “disappointment and frustration [with] this decision.” But at the same time Buhari urged all Nigerians not to take any actions that might further endanger the democratic process in the country. Whether the opposition will heed Buhari’s call will crucially depend on the outcome of the March 28th contest.
  • Chimamanda Adichie, writing in the Atlantic, terms the postponement “a staggeringly self-serving act of contempt for Nigerians” that unnecessarily introduces even greater uncertainty into Nigeria’s political climate [ incidentally, following the postponement Nigeria’s overnight lending rate soared to 100 pct and the Naira hit 200 against the US dollar on Tuesday].

At face value, INEC’s decision seems reasonable. The security situation in the northeast makes it impossible to conduct a credible election. Plus, given Nigeria’s election law, it’s probably in the interest of the opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, for elections to be conducted in the northeast (the winner needs a plurality of votes, and at least 25% in two thirds of the states and Abuja). The decision is also squarely constitutional. Like most Commonwealth states, election dates in Nigeria are not constitutionally fixed, and can be moved by the EMB. The only constraint on INEC is that elections must be head by April 29th, a month ahead of the constitutionally-mandated handover date of May 29th. Lastly, postponement buys INEC more time to issue permanent voter cards (PVCs). As of February 4th, only 44 out of 68.8 million potential voters had been issued with a PVC, a requirement to be able to vote (Lagos, a Buhari stronghold, had an issuance rate below 40%). These reasons might explain Buhari’s reluctant acceptance of the INEC decision.

That said, the timing of the postponement and the manner in which it was done are suspect. The Nigerian security establishment understood the challenge that Boko Haram posed with regard to the conduct of peaceful elections years in advance. So why act a week before the election? In addition, it was quite clear that the directive did not come from the generals per se, but from Aso Rock via the national security adviser Mr. Sambo Dasuki. The result is that the military has come off as an interested player in the election. At the same time, Mr. Dasuki’s involvement has dented (even if just slightly) INEC’s credibility as an independent arbiter in the process. As is shown below, Nigerians’ trust of the electoral process is already very low.

Confidence in the integrity of Nigerian elections

Confidence in the integrity of Nigerian elections

For the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, the postponement presumably buys more time to try and dampen Buhari’s momentum. Some have argued that it also allows him to device ways of ensuring a victory, whether through clean means or not. My take on this is that this strategy will probably backfire. First, it signals to voters weakness and unfair play – things that might anger fence-sitters and make them break for Buhari come March 28th. Second, the election monitoring literature tells us that smart incumbents rig elections well in advance. This is for the simple reason that election day rigging (or rigging too close to the election) is often a recipe for disaster (see Kenya circa 2007).

These elections will be the closest in Nigeria’s history. The polls are essentially tied. The current postponement will no doubt raise the stakes even higher ahead of March 28th. Furthermore, the shenanigans of the past week will increase pressure on INEC to conduct clean elections, especially in the eyes of Buhari supporters.

Ultimately the folly of the postponement may be that it has raised the bar too high for INEC. Nigeria might find itself in a bad place if Buhari loses an election marred by chaos and irregularities.

goodluck jonathan poised to win nigeria’s election

The Daily Nation reports:

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has taken a wide lead in elections in Africa’s most populous nation, results showed today, putting him on a possible course for a first-round victory.

Millions of voters turned out for Saturday’s election as Africa’s most populous country bid to put years of rigging and badly flawed ballots behind it and hold the cleanest polls for head of state in nearly two decades.

Observers gave the polls an initial thumbs up, but concerns were raised over regional divisions, a scenario many analysts had hoped to avoid in a country as fractious as Nigeria, roughly split between Christians and Muslims.

Results from 30 states showed Jonathan had won 20, while ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari had nine and the former head of the anti-graft agency, Nuhu Ribadu, had one state.

Mr. Jonathan’s cross-national victories are a good omen for Nigerian unity moving forward. Now the big question is how Mr. Jonathan and the PDP will govern. Top on the agenda will be Nigeria’s energy problems. Sub Saharan Africa’s largest oil producer also happens to be one of its biggest importers of refined oil products. No new refineries have been built in the country in ages. The country also suffers frequent power outages despite the fact that millions of cubic metres of gas get flared in its oil fields daily. About 23 billion cubic metres get flared annually in Nigeria (second only to Russia).

That is 23 billion cubic metres of gas that can be harnessed for power production or LPG.

nigeria holds first transparent election since 1993

The last time Nigeria had a transparent election was in 1993. Then, opposition leader Moshood Abiola won the election only to be denied the chance to lead Nigeria by strongman Ibrahim Babangida. Mr. Abiola died in jail in 1998. Nigerians had to wait until May of 1999 to see the end of kleptocratic military rule. Mr. Olesegun Obasanjo, a former military ruler, was Nigeria’s first elected president since the early 1980s. His party (Mr. Obasanjo’s) the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has since then won two elections under questionable circumstances, to put it mildly.

The latest election appears to be different.

Initial results show that PDP is set for a thumping in the legislative and governorship races, although its presidential candidate (Goodluck Jonathan) is still the front-runner with 62% approval rating.

Credit goes to Attahiru Jega, a professor of Political Science and head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for ensuring that the Nigerian elections have credibility both at home and abroad.

Watch this space for the results of the gubernatorial and presidential elections in the coming weeks.