In March 2015, the delayed Presidential and parliamentary elections took place in Nigeria, with Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC) successfully defeating Goodluck Jonathan with 53% of the vote. On the 11th of April further Governorship Elections are due to take place, and staunch security measures remain in place until the election period is over. Approximately 68 million people voted in the Presidential election, which implemented biometric voting cards and saw police deployment at polling stations. This vote was highly contested and many analysts predicted violence to occur, as it had done in 2011. Some violence was reported, with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reporting nearly 60 deaths in the election period due to political causations. However, Jonathan accepted the defeat and the process passed surprisingly peacefully. This has been described as a seismic shift in Nigeria’s political climate and the first ever peaceful transition to power in the country’s young democracy.
Buhari will officially take his new position on May 29th, as PDP officials are urged to leave their offices in a diplomatic manner. There is some concern that not all individuals will do this peacefully, particularly due to the high pay packages that political office holds. This is also of issue due to Buhari’s commitment to target corruption, with some PDP figures seemingly threatened by this policy.
Buhari, a former military dictator was victorious due to a focusing on security and corruption. His campaign was also supported by a largely spread belief of the incompetence of Jonathan. Buhari’s commitment to eradicate Boko Haram drew staunch support in the North of the country, who have been ravaged by the group. The APC also gained 9 states from the PDP, reflecting the parties support.
Aftermath – Ongoing Issues
Buhari faces substantial challenges in the aftermath of his victory. In his previous military junta in the country, he was accused of damaging the economy, abusing human rights and unsuccessfully targeting corruption. Although he is viewed as a democrat, substantial issues face the new President. A synopsis of these challenges are discussed as follows;
Although the elections occurred relatively peacefully, the security environment remains an ongoing issue in Nigeria. Firstly, is the issue of Boko Haram which continues to loom over the security environment. Terrorist attacks by the group have persisted in recent weeks, although a major attack on polling stations was avoided. The regional task force which has increased its attacks on Boko Haram militants will continue in coming months. There is a suggestion that the military background of Buhari will support the domestic force against the militant organization’s. It is thought that the democratic transition may also urge Western powers to enter arms agreements with Nigeria. If this occurs, the targeting of Western interests in the country may become an increasingly salient targets for Boko Haram. Indeed, the political support for Buhari can be seen to be dependent in a staunch approach to Boko Haram. There is a possibility that political discontent could rise if the new President does not implement a staunch military response to the group.
In addition, the issue of the severe corruption within the military will also need to be addressed in order to implement professionalism. This may cause rifts within the organization and a potential rise of vigilantism.
Related to the issue of terrorism, the political religious and ethnic divides that is reflected in Nigeria’s elections are salient. On the 1st April 2015, the Niger Delta Salvation Front (NDPSF) released a statement describing Buhari’s victory as: “a historical reminder that we (Niger Delta) are a conquered people who are mere appendages existing at the pleasure of the supremacists and the regional overlords …. The days coming will be critical”. This reflects the potential for an increase in the political violence by groups in the Niger Delta. These groups are known to be heavily armed with a high potential for escalation of these tensions.
Another of Buhari’s commitments was the eradication of corruption in the country’s elite, and through many ranks of government ministries and departments. Transparency International ranks Nigeria 136th (out of 175) in it’s Corruption Index Perception, reflecting the task in hand. Extreme tension relates to this, with many fearing that allegations of former PDP ministers could be interpreted as an orchestrated attack on the political opposition. Undoubtedly, this card will be played which may result in political tension and unrest in majority PDP states. How the attempted eradication of corruption will be manifested is yet to be known. A restructuring of some elements of polity may lead to instability.
Buhari has also committed to the end of corruption linked to oil extraction. Economically, it is estimated that $2.18 billion worth of crude oil resources were lost due to either theft or unlawful dealings. The national and international oil industries will likely be effected, or at least involved in this commitment. Economically, the loss of oil revenue complicates the already fragile financial situation in the country.
As news of the Buhari victory came, the all-share index on the Nigerian Stock Exchange saw its largest leap in over 5 years. This reflects the potential for an increase in international trade in Nigeria, as the issues of corruption is bought into the fore. Yet, substantive issues face the economic landscape in the country, complicated with a weak currency and the dip in the global oil price.
There is a need, particularly from the international community to stabilise the currency in order to increase trade. It is believed that one of the only ways to achieve this is to raise taxes and implement austerity in the country. If this policy is implemented there will be social consequences, in a country where poverty in already prevalent. If this is introduced, there may be political unrest particularly in the areas which do not support APC. There is much speculation as to how much gain can be made in tackling the corruption linked to missing oil revenue, yet the APC remain committed that this tackling of lost national income may avoid an increase in personal taxation.
The security situation in Nigeria is still extreme. The threat of political violence remains, and terrorism is an ever present threat. The election of Buhari will make no immediate change to this dynamic. Conflict is likely to continue to be a regional issue in the Northern parts of the country, and Buhari’s reformation of the military will not occur over night.
There is an increased potential for violence in the Niger Delta region of the country, as expressed in the threats by the NDPSF. Indeed, the anti-corruption drive on areas of missing oil revenue may encourage increased protectionism for the industry at a state level. This is however contradicted by a potential increase in the risk of attack by those detached from centralised government.
The political situation remains fragile, with the honeymoon period for Buhari not likely to last. The only way that security may be increased is if dramatic change is secured within a reasonable time frame, which tackles the issues that saw his victory. We continue to monitor political and security developments.