John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Elections and Political Parties in Nigeria

by John Campbell
April 25, 2011

Former Nigerian military ruler and the presidential candidate of opposition party Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Muhammadu Buhari speaks during his campaign rally in Lagos April 6, 2011. (Joe Penny/Courtesy Reuters)

Nigeria heads into its gubernatorial elections tomorrow. However, reports over the weekend of a thousand people killed in Kaduna have a cast shadow over tomorrow’s events. Even prior to the release of these estimates, INEC deemed it necessary to postpone elections in Kaduna and Bauchi state for fear that the polls might exacerbate the conflict.

Some of the blame for the violence has been heaped on losing presidential contender, Muhammadu Buhari, who has been accused of failing to reign in his supporters. However, the post-election unrest in Nigeria has never been the result of politicians alone.

In some other African countries, a complex mixture of ethnic, religious, economic, political, and territorial disputes—when touched off by less than credible polls—has led to post-election violence. On at least some level, that scenario has been repeated in Nigeria.

Further, political parties, which in other countries exist to channel political frustration, are historically weak in Nigeria (except for the ruling PDP). They have little institutional structure and often have only superficial connections with communities. These parties’ raison d’être is to contest elections only, and they quickly dissipate after the polls close.

With dismay rooted in the end of zoning, anger over perceived electoral rigging, and few institutionalized networks that could be mobilized to influence the electorate, the unrest may continue.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Joseph Dung

    This is what the events in Jos have been forelling on a small persistent scale. Welcome to what the people of Jos have had to live with because some people believe they were just born to rule!

  • Posted by Chike

    You keep on mentioning zoning as if it were a constitutional requirement. Zoning is merely a principle adopted by the ruling PDP.

    The genesis of zoning was the annulment of the 1993 election won by M.K.O Abiola, a southerner by the duo of Ibrahim Babangida and Sanni Abacha (both Northerners). The election was annulled primarily because M.K.O Abiola was from Southern Nigeria and the Northern establishment was not happy with a Southern candidate. If Northern Nigeria’s favourite candidate then Bashir Othman Tofa was more credible, Abacha and Babangida probably would have had no trouble handing over power to them.

    So the zoning charade was merely a ploy by the Northern elite to placate the Yoruba for the annulment of Abiola’s election. The Northern elite chose Obasanjo, because he was their favourite candidate, not because he was popular either amongst the Yoruba or in other parts of Nigeria. He was in a sense, imposed on Nigeria.

    We had to endure Babangida and Abacha between 1992 and 1998 (when Abacha died). Babangida alienated Northern Nigerian Christians by his conduct during the Zangon-Kataf crisis. There was also increasing friction between Christians and Muslims in Northern Nigeria. Abacha and the Northern establishment alienated the Niger Delta region by their treatment of Ken Saro Wiwa (he was hanged) and their arrogance and insensitivity in dealing with the problems in the Niger Delta.

    A key learning point from the presidential election is that “Southern Nigeria has moved North”. States like Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Adamawa and Kogi are not usually associated with what you could term “Southern Nigeria”. But they voted overwhelmingly for the Southern candidate in reaction to the increased fundamentalism of the North. These states are inhabited by Christians / Moderate Muslims who do not identify with the cheap identity politics / political Islam being propagated by the far North.

    The far North is excluding itself rapidly from the rest of Nigeria. They cynically introduced the criminal aspects of Sharia law to their legal code. They failed to invest meaningfully in the education of their youth and periodic violence has discouraged investment in that part of the country. In an increasingly competitive economy, they tend to be the biggest losers because they don’t have the human capital to compete with Southern Nigeria.

    There is a growing sentiment in Nigeria (which could be wrong) that the rest of Nigeria can live without the North. After all, they basically declared themselves an Islamic Republic, separate from the Federal Republic when they declared Sharia law. There is a growing tiredness with the North and a growing reluctance in Southern Nigeria to vote for overtly Northern and overtly Islamic Fundamentalist candidates like Muhammadu Buhari.

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