Magazine article African Business

Nigeria Elections in Focus: A Presidential Rematch

Magazine article African Business

Nigeria Elections in Focus: A Presidential Rematch

Article excerpt

This month, on the 14th' Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy and most populous country, goes to the polls to elect a new President. According to local pundits, these will be make-or-break elections. The list of challenges facing this West African giant seems endless and the current sliding price of oil is adding an ominous new dimension. Will the winner prove to be a champion or will he compound an already dire situation? We present two views.

As soon as Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) threw his hat into the ring in 2013, for the fourth consecutive time, political pundits had predicted a rematch between Nigeria's current President Goodluck Jonathan (pictured left), and the retired general, at the Presidential election scheduled for 14th February this year.

Buhari was Nigeria's former Head of State from 31st December 1983 to 27th August 1985, when General Ibrahim Babangida overthrew his administration in a putsch.

He kept a low profile afterwards until the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, appointed him to head the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), a government agency established to manage Nigeria's oil money, in the '90s. He later ventured into politics, where he lost out at the Presidential elections held in 2003, 2007 and 2011. This may be his last attempt as he turned 72 last December. However, analysts believe Buhari's chances are bright this time, based on the perceived growing popularity of his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). The APC, which is the country's main opposition party, is the outcome of a merger in 2013, of four political parties. The parties include: the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), with deep roots in the southwest; the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), popular in the northern parts of the country; and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), which has a solid base in the southeast. The merger, the opposition believes, would boost its chances against the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has dominated the political scene since 1999, when Nigeria returned to democratic rule after 16 years of military dictatorship.

While the ruling party handed Jonathan an automatic ticket to seek re-election in this year's Presidential election, Buhari, the soldier turned politician, had to slug it out with four other aspirants of the APC at the primaries held in Lagos last December. They included former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso; Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha; and publisher of the Leadership newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah. Buhari eventually won the ticket. Apart from Jonathan and Buhari, 11 other contestants are vying for the position. Jonathan retained his deputy, Namadi Sambo, as running mate, putting paid to speculations that he would drop him, while Buhari settled for a former attorney-general and commissioner for justice in Lagos state, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. However, unlike Jonathan, who had no trouble choosing his, Buhari could not immediately announce his running mate, due to internal wrangling among party members.

Various contenders were bandied about as Buhari's likely choice. The prominent ones among them included the leader of the APC and former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu; the incumbent Governor of the State, Babatunde Fashola; Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi; and Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole.

Religion and ethnicity played a role in the eventual selection of Prof Osinbajo, a Christian from the southwest, as Buhari's running mate--Buhari is a Muslim from the northwest. Tinubu, a Muslim, and major financier of the APC, who had expressed strong interest in the position, was forced to step down at the last minute, due to fierce opposition from party faithfuls, to a Muslim-Muslim pairing. He is said to have indicated a preference for Osinbajo, who served under his administration, in his stead. This political manoeuvre was necessary to maintain the delicate balance of power in the country, where religious sentiments and ethnicity run high. …

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