Nigerian Elections

Nigeria’s presidential election in February 2015 will be of historic significance.

Nigeria’s next presidential election will be held during February 2015.  It is essential for political and public order that all Nigerians see the election as being “free and fair.”

After many years of dictatorial military rule, Nigeria entered a new era of multiparty democracy in 1999.  The “Peoples Democratic Party” emerged from the 1999 election as the dominant political power throughout Nigeria.  Subsequent elections in 2003, 2007, and 2011 were all viewed as being deeply flawed by both international and domestic observers. The PDP party utilized its control over national resources to bribe the voters and rig the elections in a variety of ways. While the PDP party was popular in all regions of Nigeria, except the southwest, rigging was considered necessary in order to make sure the party continued to control power. Control over power, of course, means control over the oil resource.

After President Olusegun Obasanjo completed his second and final presidential term in 2007, he used his power and influence to make Governor Musa Yar’Adua the candidate of the PDP. Obasanjo is from the south of Nigeria. (There is an informal gentleman’s agreement that the presidency will be rotated between the Christian south and the Moslem north. The PDP, therefore, needed to identify a northerner to be the party’s candidate in 2007.)  Yar’Aduwa was a northerner, and had a good reputation as a state governor.  (The gentleman’s agreement also stipulates that the vice presidential candidate should be from the other region.)  The natural progression is that the Vice President, from the opposite region, will be the PDP candidate after two presidential terms are completed.

Obasanjo had a falling out with his northern Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, who refused to support Obasanjo’s effort to change the constitution to eliminate the two-term maximum so that he could run for a third term. That effort failed. Obasanjo selected Yar’Aduwa to be the northern PDP candidate who became Nigeria’s next president.

Unfortunately, Yar’Aduwa was suffering from a terminal kidney disease that caused him to die only 18 months into his term. His southern Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, became president after Yar’Aduwa’s death.  In 2011, Jonathan ran for re-election after promising not to run again in 2015.  The constitution considers Jonathan to have served only one term, 2011-2015, even though he finished out Yar’Aduwa’s term, 2007-2011.  On that basis, Jonathan has changed his mind, and has decided to run for re-election in 2015.  The PDP board of trustees has already selected Jonathan to be their candidate in 2015 without having a competitive national convention.

If Jonathan is re-elected in 2015, northern Nigeria will have seen only one of their political leaders in the presidency for a short period of only eighteen months between 1999 and 2019, a period of twenty years. Needless to say, northern Nigerians will feel cheated if Jonathan wins the 2015 election against a northern opponent selected by an opposition party.

Northern Nigeria is already in a sullen mood because poverty levels in the northern states are increasing, and the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram is killing northerners in vast numbers, regardless of religion. President Jonathan’s security services appear to be powerless to stop them. If, as in previous presidential elections, neutral observers discover deep flaws and obvious rigging that result in President Jonathan’s re-election, the northern states could see significant unrest, disaffection and possible violence.

Because of the potentially dangerous situation that could develop after the 2015 election, it is important that friends of Nigeria, especially the United States, utilize their diplomacy to press for a truly free and fair election in 2015.