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Nigeria Elections - 2019

Hours before polling stations were set to open 16 February 2019, Nigeria’s electoral body announced the postponement of the elections by a week for logistical reasons. The one-week delay was needed to hold a free and fair election, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, told reporters. “The commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the election as scheduled is no longer feasible. Consequently the commissioners decided to reschedule the presidential and national assembly elections to Saturday 23 February 2019,” Yakuba said.

Buhari, in power since 2015, faces a tight election contest against the main opposition candidate, businessman and former vice president Atiku Abubakar. The chairman of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondu, said the move was “dangerous to our democracy and unacceptable”. He said it was part of an attempt by Buhari to “cling on to power even when it’s obvious to him that Nigerians want him out”. Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party also criticised the electoral commission for the delay. The president had cooperated fully with the commission to ensure it had everything it had demanded to conduct free and fair elections, it said in a statement.

In Nigeria, nothing is impossible, which makes it difficult to argue against conspiracy theories. The sudden delay could, of course, harm the opposition party PDP, which has spent large amounts of money, ferrying its party agents to all parts of the country whether it be to simply observe the election process or to attempt to manipulate the vote. The ruling APC party would have had less money at stake since it would have been able to fall back on its agents working in government institutions in most parts of the country. On the other hand, many Nigerians, not only hold the electoral commission, but also Buhari's ruling party responsible for the delay. In the end, Nigerians might let their anger and frustration out on the ballot paper, causing further damage to Buhari's already tarnished image.

In April 2011 the electoral commission INEC, called off elections hours after(!) the polls had already opened and postponed it by two days. The reasons were similar: several regions had not received ballot papers and Attahiru Jega, the then chairman of INEC, declared elections could not be held under these circumstances. Just as today, Nigerians were confused, disappointed and angry. In the end, however, the majority lauded Jega for conducting the most credible elections Nigeria had seen, after years of military rule. In 2015, Jega once again postponed the polls one week before the set election date. At the time security forces had warned the electoral commission that they could not guarantee safe polling due to the threat of the Islamist terror group Boko Haram. INEC postponed the elections for six weeks.

Nigeria's political parties must officially select their candidates for the 2019 general election between August 18 and October 7 in 2018. The election was set to take place between February 16, 2018, and March 2, 2018, for the Presidential, Governorship and State Assembly elections. In the 2015 elections, Nigeria had 40 registered political parties. Ahead of 2019, there are now 68, with 33 more being considered for registration. Up to 80 political parties may be on the ballot in Nigeria's 2019 election. The one to beat this time was the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Nigeria is not facing democratic problems, but challenges on religious and communal violence, widespread corruption, and an excessive presidentialism amidst enduring poverty, unsustainable levels of unemployment among the youth, growing inequality, an eroded state-society compact, and threats to the unity and secularity of the state.

In 2015 citizens elected President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress party to a four-year term in the first successful democratic transfer of power from a sitting president in the country’s history. Civilian authorities did not always maintain effective control over the security services.

The insurgency in the Northeast by the militant terrorist group Boko Haram, and its splinter group Islamic State-West Africa, continued. The military drove the insurgents out of major population centers, but they remained in control of rural areas and capable of conducting complex attacks and suicide bombings. Casualty figures increased, and reports of serious human rights abuses by both Boko Haram and security forces continued.

The country also suffered from ethnic, regional, and religious violence. Other serious human rights problems included vigilante killings; prolonged pretrial detention, often in poor conditions and with limited independent oversight; civilian detentions in military facilities, often based on flimsy evidence; denial of fair public trial; executive influence on the judiciary; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement; and official corruption.

There were numerous reports the government or its agents committed numerous arbitrary and unlawful killings. The national police, army, and other security services used lethal and excessive force to disperse protesters and apprehend criminals and suspects and committed other extrajudicial killings. Authorities generally did not hold police, military, or other security force personnel accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody.

The sharia courts in 12 northern states may prescribe punishments such as caning, amputation, and death by stoning. The sharia criminal procedure code allows defendants 30 days to appeal sentences involving mutilation or death to a higher sharia court. Statutory law mandates state governors treat all court decisions equally, including amputation or death sentences, regardless of whether issued by a sharia or a non-sharia court. Authorities, however, often did not carry out caning, amputation, and stoning sentences passed by sharia courts because defendants frequently appealed, a process that could be lengthy.

Freedom House’s annual survey of media independence, Freedom of the Press 2016, described the press as “partly free.” A large and vibrant private domestic press frequently criticized the government. Because newspapers and television were relatively expensive and literacy levels low, radio remained the most important medium of mass communication and information.

The practice of demanding sexual favors in exchange for employment or university grades remained common. Domestic violence remained widespread, and many considered it socially acceptable. The CLEEN Foundation’s National Crime Victimization and Safety Survey for 2013 reported 30 percent of male and female respondents countrywide claimed to have been victims of domestic violence.

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh on 05 April 2018 tasked the Federal Government on security for its citizens against all forms of attacks on credible elections in 2019. Okoh said it is the responsibility of government to provide security for the people but that the realities indicate that government is not doing enough. “Maybe they are doing it but they are not doing it comprehensively, they should show more interest because there is a lot of hue and cry here and there. Christians don’t have anything to do with herdsmen, infact they are the victims, they are victims of herdsmen attacks..."

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on 09 April 2018 declared he would run for re-election next year. He will seek his ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) party's ticket to contest the 2019 election. Buhari indicated his intention to run for a second four-year term during a closed-door national executive meeting of the APC party.

The decision put an end to months of speculation concerning the future of the 75-year-old's political career following bouts of an undisclosed illness. Buhari spent a significant amount of time in Britain during 2017 on medical leave, leaving Vice President Yemi Osingajo to lead the country. His time abroad sparked strong criticism from opposition groups, who accused him of being unfit for office and leaving his administration in a state of inertia.

"Victory is sure by the grace of God and together we must continue to sanitize Nigeria's political environment," Buhari said in a statement issued by the presidency. On 01 March 2018, the APC party passed a vote of confidence in Buhari, although at the time it denied that this meant it was endorsing the president for a second term.

Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu acknowledged that there is still a lot of work to be done, particularly with regards to ending graft in Nigeria. "Everyone agrees that corruption is a major problem for this country, and President Buhari has been doing an excellent job [tackling] this — on account of which his peers in the African Union agreed that he would be the champion of corruption this year for the whole continent of Africa." While his supporters credit Buhari with pulling Nigeria out of the 2017 recession, he was also criticized for worsening the economic situation in the first place by introducing a currency peg which drove away investors and depleted foreign reserves. The APC government made some gains against the extremist group Boko Haramduring its time in office. However, Boko Haram continued to stage attacks against civilians and the military, especially in the northeast of the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari on 28 July 2018 urged his supporters to stop campaigning for his re-election in the 2019 presidential elections. The president noted that some zealous supporters have been engaging in what could be interpreted as campaigns even months before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is due to lift the embargo on such. In a statement signed by his media aide Femi Adesina, Buhari pleaded with his supporters to be patient and not let them be seen as breaking the law.

It looked likely to be a tight race between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the People's Democratic Party (PDP). Currently 25 candidates are set to take part. While Buhari and Abubakar are widely seen as the frontrunners, there are a number of interesting candidates in the mix. A record 84,004,084 people have registered to vote — an increase of 18 percent from the 2015 election. With no opinion polls published indicating clear support for any particular candidate, it's difficult to accurately predict the outcome. Observers branded it one of the closest political races in the country's history.

Leading potential candidates for 2019 include:

  1. Atiku Abubakar - The Waziri Adamawa had never hidden the fact that he deeply covets the top job in the land. After his stint as Vice President ended rather unceremoniously, Atiku has become more or less a perennial Presidential candidate. In 1992, Atiku contested the Presidential election Primaries with the backing of his mentor Shehu Musa Yar’Adua against MKO Abiola but he later stepped down for the later. In 1998 Atiku won election as the Governor of Adamawa State but before his swearing in, he was called by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to serve as his Vice President. After his time as Vice President ended bitterly, he went on to contest for President in 2007 as the presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC). In January 2011, Atiku contested for the Presidential ticket of People’s Democratic Party against then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. He went on to contest in 2014 under the All Progressive Congress and lost to Muhammadu Buhari who emerged the party’s presidential flag bearer. Like many of his contemporaries, Atiku’s time in public office has been riddled with accusations of corruption. The real source of his stupendous wealth is still something of a mystery. For someone who served in the Customs, his financial might seems a bit disproportionate to the offices he held prior to politics.

  2. Oby Ezekwesili, chartered accountant and activist, is best known internationally as the founder of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Given that Nigeria is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to female political representation, Ezekwesili's decision to run with the Allied National Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) could be viewed as a sign that things are slowly changing.

  3. Peter Obi - The Former Anambra Governor has slowly but steadily amassed a healthy dose of goodwill among Progressive Nigerians. His impeccable record as Governor has done him a lot of good. A native of Agulu in Anaocha Local Government Area, Obi attended the prestigious Christ The King College Onitsha and proceeded to the University of Nigeria Nssuka where he studied Philosophy in 1984. An apostle of budget and fiscal discipline, his speeches at The Platform has gotten him rave reviews. Under his direction, schools across the State received 750 school buses, 600 schools received N5 million each for the creation of school testing rooms. Despite his impressive track record, running for President is an entirely different matter, naysayers will say he lacks the National clout to galvanize a support base for a Presidential bid.

  4. Nasir El-Rufai - The incumbent Governor of Kaduna State has always had an eye for the Presidency. El-Rufai came into public consciousness as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, prior to that, he had served as Director General of The Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE). As FCT Minister, he presided over an infrastructural revolution in the capital city and transformed a bureaucracy earlier riddled with corruption and vast deviation from the original master-plan. During the latter part of the Obasanjo administration, the former EFCC Chairman described El-Rufai as the “de facto No. 2 official”. He had effectively taken over the role of Vice President after the fall-out between the former President and his Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar. On the flip side, El-Rufai is a man that courts immense controversy, his tenure as Governor has been marred with his shoddy handling of the security crisis in Kaduna. He has also built a reputation as a Northern hardliner with little tolerance for opposition and criticism as shown in the arrest and detention of Chocolate City Boss Audu Maikori. His infamous religious vetting law has not won him any friends among the Christian community.

  5. Yemi Osinbajo - In other more mature democracies and developed societies, the Acting President would be a front-runner for the top job come 2019. But this is Nigeria, which still battles chronic ethnic divisions, godfatherism and a brand of politics that might not necessarily suit this urbane and mild-mannered Lagosian. Before the 2015 elections, not many people had heard of Osinbajo, except perhaps in his home State Lagos where he had served as a two-term Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General between 1999 and 2007. But if the last two years are anything to go by, he looks to be the kind of public servant Nigeria has been crying out for. Born Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo, on 08 March 1957 at Creek Hospital, Lagos, the current Vice President is a Professor of Law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

  6. Bukola Saraki - The incumbent Senate President was born with the proverbial silver spoon, and the Medical Doctor-turned-politician has leveraged on his late fathers’ political machinery to emerge a force in National politics. The story of his emergence as the President of the Senate must have by now found a place in the retentive channel of the brains of a majority of people. In vintage Saraki fashion, he pulled off political stunts of immense proportions to clinch the coveted seat and his alleged horse-trading with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) earned him the place he eminently occupies today. With the help of his father, Bukola served as a two-term Governor of Kwara State between 2003-2007, after his time as Governor, he fell out with his father after Saraki Snr wanted to install Bukola’s sister Gbemisola as successor. The rift between father and son ended when it was obvious that the younger Saraki had learnt enough from the Kingmaker, he inflicted his father’s only political defeat in over three decades. Saraki is seen among the political class as a smooth operator with the ability to work across ethnic and religious divides to achieve his objectives. The question of corruption, however, looms large over his image.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remained in disarray, still reeling from its last defeat at the pools. It is also worth mentioning that the Party has publicly announced that its Presidential slot has been zoned to the North. By September 2018 no fewer than 14 members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had indicated their intention to seek the presidential ticket of the party.

The aspirants were a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar; the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; his predecessor, David Mark; Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal; Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo; a former governor of Kano State, Rabi’u Kwankwaso; a former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido; and a former governor of Kaduna State and former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi. Others are a former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa; a former governor of Plateau State, David Jang; a former Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki; and a former Kaduna North senator, Datti Baba-Ahmed.

Barring any last minute change of mind, all the aspirants would present themselves to the delegates to the party’s national convention slated for October 5 and 6, to be chosen as its flag bearer in the February 16 presidential election.

In February 2019, Nigerians would vote their next leader in the sixth presidential elections since the end of the military rule in 1999. The incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress is running for a second term. His main competitor is former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the opposition People's Democratic Party.

When asked why Buhari travelled overseas for medical treatment without informing the Nigerian people what that treatment was for, his campaign spokesman, Festus Keyamo, says there is "no political templates and booklets" that require Buhari to disclose his medical records. President Buhari has been to the United Kingdom several times for unspecified medical treatment, despite claiming during the campaign that he would end 'medical tourism' for government officials when treatment was available in Nigeria.

"In matters of health, you have to rebuild infrastructure. Because health is number one," Keyamo adds. "And you don't expect people to die, not only him [Buhari], any other person at all in a state of health that may be terminal." Abubakar's spokesman Segun Sowunmi was pressed about the $40mn sent to the United States via offshore wire transfers. Sowunmi says the money was an attempt "to fund an American University in Yola." "It was investigated. It was clearly shown not to be of crime," he continued. "We must be careful that we do not take small queries to mean grand larceny or grand indictment."

The main contest is expected to pitch Muhammadu Buharu of the APC against long-standing aspirant, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) has former Cross River State Governor Donald Duke and former minister Professor Jerry Gana at war as to who the real candidate is.

Abubakar is widely considered to be Buhari's main challenger. The former vice president under Olusegun Obasanjo has made a bid for the presidency five times for four different parties. His last shot at office was in 2015 when he was defeated by then-opposition leader Buhari. Buhari's chances of victory this time are less certain than in 2015, when he became the first opposition leader to win a presidential election in Nigeria. The 76-year-old has been criticized for failing to meet many of his campaign promises and has even had to fight rumors that he has been replaced by a body-double after he spent months in 2017 recuperating in London from an unknown illness.

This election will be decided on the three key issues which also characterised the 2015 election: insecurity, the economy and corruption. Ongoing insecurity in the north of the country is a major election issue for Buhari, as extremist group Boko Haram continues to hold on to or retake ground in the country's north-east. He has been criticized for failing to stem the insurgency. But while the extremist group frequently makes international headlines, it's easy to forget that Nigeria is struggling to contain other security crises. This includes the conflict between farmers and herders in the north-west, south-east and Middle Belt region, which is often attributed to ethnic and religious differences. There is also the issue of the Niger Delta, where militants often target oil pipelines.

Economic concerns are likely to play a significant role in next month's elections. Current unemployment data shows unemployment has risen to 23.1 percent, up from 18.1 this time last year, and the economy is again in danger of slipping back into recession. While both frontrunners take a similar stance on the other key issues, they differ when it comes to economic concerns. While Abubakar takes a more market-friendly, business-like approach, Buhari's policies are more interventionist.

Buhari frequently claims he has taken steps to tackle the country's endemic corruption. But although the government has taken some measures to reduce corruption —including the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) to manage government revenue — it still has a long way to go. The reality is that corruption remains so pervasive in Nigerian society that observers are already expecting allegations of fraud and vote buying to be voiced.

The gubernatorial elections will take place in 29 of Nigeria’s 36 states, just two weeks after the presidential elections. Seven other state elections are scheduled off-cycle for various reasons. In the 29 contests, incumbent governors are defending 19 seats. Of those, 12 are members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Provisional results announced in state capitals showed Buhari on course to cementing a commanding lead over his main rival, businessman and former vice president Atiku Abubakar. Nigeria’s main opposition on 25 February 2019 accused the ruling party of trying to rig presidential elections as the incumbent cemented a lead, but monitors voiced concern about polling day problems and violence that caused dozens of deaths. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of President Muhammadu Buhari of colluding with the electoral commission in an attempt to “manipulate the results”.

With 12 states declared, Buhari was ahead by seven states to five, with 2,976,721 votes to 2,690,616 for former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, of the PDP. To win, a candidate needs a majority of votes and at least 25 percent of support in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.

Situation Room, a monitoring mission comprising over 70 civic groups, said on 26 February 2019 the death toll from election-related violence since 23 February 2019 had risen to 47, and more than 260 in all since the start of the campaign in October.

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Nigeria concluded 25 February 2019 that the 23 February elections were marked by serious operational shortcomings resulting in delays. INEC operated in a difficult environment and made a number of improvements since 2015, including the introduction of continuous accreditation and voting. The EU EOM concluded that the elections were competitive and that candidates were able to campaign freely, although it stated that campaign rhetoric became more acrimonious closer to election day. There was clear partisan programming by the Nigerian Television Authority, state-run media, and local commercial radio stations owned by politicians. This gave advantage to incumbents at federal and state level.

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Page last modified: 27-02-2019 19:07:39 ZULU