Center for Electoral Forensics

Goodluck on Saturday, Jonathan!

[Flag of Nigeria]The Federal Republic of Nigeria has seen its share of political instability since its 1960 independence. It has seen a civil war in the south and a strong terrorist insurgency in the north. It has seen military coups d'état. Through it all, Nigeria has moved, in fits and starts, towards democracy. Saturday marks another step in that journey.

What are the predictions for the upcoming presidential elections?

[goodluck jonathan]

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at the 2013 Davos meeting.

Nigeria won independence from the British Empire in 1960. For the first three years, it retained the British Monarch as its own, with the Governor-General as the Queen's representative. In 1963, Nigeria declared itself a republic and remained that way until 1966, when the Igbo military coup removed President Nnamdi Azikiwe and replaced him with Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi and the Federal Military Government. At the close of those 177 days, Aguiyi-Ironsi was assassinated and replaced in a counter-coup by General Yakubu Gowon. This instability allowed Biafra to declare its independence. Thus began Nigeria's civil war.

The 30-month war resulted in approximately 2 million casualties. It was interesting in that the supporters of each side tended to cross the Cold War lines. The Soviet Union and Great Britain supported Nigeria. France and Israel supported Biafra.

At its end, Gowon retained control of Nigeria. He was deposed by General Murtala Mohammed in 1975, who was assassinated and replaced by Major-General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1976. After three years, Nigeria promulgated a new Constitution, giving birth to the Second Republic. The Second Republic ended before President Shehu Shagari could finish his term of office. Major-General Muhammadu Buhari overthrew Shagari at the end of 1983 and led the Supreme Military Council until 1985. In return, he was deposed by General Ibrahim Babangida of the Armed Forces Ruling Council. General Babangida paved the way for the Third Republic, which was formed in 1993.

The Third Republic did not endure long. President Ernest Shonekan held power for just 83 days. He was deposed in a coup led by General Sani Abacha of the Provisional Ruling Council. After his death in 1998, General Abdulsalami Abubakar took power and returned Nigeria to its democracy, thus began the Fourth Nigerian Republic. From 1999 until today, the Fourth Republic has been dominated by leaders from the People's Democratic Party (PDP). These presidents are Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, and current President Goodluck Jonathan.

The Background

As Nigeria is a religiously-divided State, Muslims in the north and Christians in the South, the PDP had to also reflect this diversity (article: The Epilogue?). To encourage unity, the party agreed to alternate their candidate according to his religion. Obasanjo is Christian. Yar'Adu was Muslim. Jonathan is Christian. This alternation worked well until Yar'Adua died in office. Because Christian Obasanjo served eight years, many expected the PDP to put forth a Muslim name to replace Yar'Adua. However, the PDP supported Jonathan, instead. After the 2011 presidential elections, in which Goodluck Jonathan beat Muhammadu Buhari (a Muslim), there was much rioting in the Islamic north:

Riots in the Muslim north followed Mr. Jonathan’s decisive defeat last week of Mr. Buhari, 57 to 31 percent, in a vote that foreign-observer groups said was perhaps Nigeria’s fairest ever. Mr. Buhari, a former military dictator, swept the north, and after his defeat knife- and machete-wielding youths in northern towns like Kano rampaged through the streets, chanting the general’s name and attacking supporters of Mr. Jonathan’s majority party.

Unlike Mr. Jonathan, Mr. Buhari had refused to condemn, in advance, a possible violent reaction to the election result — a silence analysts said nearly amounted to an invitation to his supporters to take to the streets.

The Election

Here we are, four years later. Jonathan is standing for his second election. Buhari is opposing him, also for a second time. What has changed in the intervening years?

The economy is still having problems. The Boko Haram terrorist insurgency in the north is growing. The promises of a presidency alternating between Christians and Muslims is fading. Add to this the fact that election was postponed from February due to security concerns, that the opposition seems to be uniting behind Buhari, and that the Anambra governor's election exposed the weakness of Nigeria's electoral system.

In 2011, Jonathan beat Buhari by 59 to 32%. Now, the most reliable opinion poll is showing the two candidates statistically tied. The Afrobarometer poll asked the 2400 adults "If presidential elections were held tomorrow, which party’s candidate would you vote for?" The PDP and Buhari's All Progressives Congress (APC) both received 42%, with 11% undecided. (For the statistically-minded: they weighted their results according to the population of the state.) That poll was held between December 5 and 27, 2014. That was the latest acceptable poll we could locate.

But, even that poll shows a major shift in favor of Buhari.

The Prediction

According to the statistics, the election is a toss-up. However, there remains the specter of Boko Haram. The group shows the inefficiency and inability of the Nigerian military. Jonathan subtly acknowledges Boko Haram's ability to destabilize the election. Thus, he closed all borders in advance of Saturday's election.

The following is a video of Nnamdi Obasi (International Crisis Group) discussing the upcoming elections.

With all of this said, we predict this close election will be won by Goodluck Jonathan. Unfortunately, there will be severe riots as a result.

Will this election lead to the end of the Fourth Republic? Will the military step in to restore order? Time will tell.

Official electoral body: Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
Election date: March 28, 2015 (postponed from February 14, 2015)
Results: TBD

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