Nigerian Elections: More Results and a Few Hypotheses

Since I posted some results from Nigeria’s legislative elections on Monday, the Nigeria Elections Coalition has updated its site with more numbers and has helpfully organized them into charts. Looking at the current count for the Senate will let us advance some hypotheses to explain the voting patterns:

Senate Elections (86 results out of 109 total seats):

People’s Democratic Party (PDP, currently holds the presidency and legislative majorities): 55

Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN): 13

All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP): 7

Congress for Progressive Change (CPC): 6

Others: 5

The results for the House of Representatives are broadly similar, except that so far the ANPP has no seats.

Looking at the results, a few questions come to mind:

  1. Are we seeing an intensification of “regionalization”? Throughout postcolonial Nigerian history, major parties have tended to have strong regional bases. Since 1999, the PDP has enjoyed national dominance, though regional politics certainly continued. What observers are calling a freer vote than past elections, though, may be allowing underlying regional divisions to emerge more starkly: thus the ACN’s gains are concentrated in the South West, its stronghold, while the Northern-based ANPP and CPC are winning seats in the North. Going forward, Nigeria could see regional rivalries become more open.
  2. Are we seeing the popularity of “progressive” politics? The ACN’s victories may represent a form of regionalism, but they may also reflect the popularity of ACN’s celebrity Governor Babatunde Fashola. Fashola has made a number of reforms in Lagos State. The ACN also generated excitement by nominating former anti-corruption official Nuhu Ribadu as its presidential candidate (though note that this article says Fashola outshines Ribadu). Of the opposition parties, the ACN has won the most seats in this election, but other parties are attempting to claim the progressive mantle as well – recall what CPC stands for. Opposition victories, then, may speak to a widespread desire for reform that to some extent transcends regionalism.
  3. Are we seeing triumphs of personality over party? Perhaps we miss part of the story if we look only at how the parties do: maybe individual politicians are winning based on their own skills, networks, and campaigns. After all, many expect President Goodluck Jonathan (PDP) to win re-election, and in fact to outperform his party, despite defeats for the PDP in the legislative races. The governors’ races should shed some more light on this question.

All of these are just hypotheses, and I hope commenters will let me know where logic or evidence refutes them.

As we puzzle over results, the presidential vote is fast approaching. Will the ACN and the CPC join forces in an effort to beat Jonathan? Will the elections go to a second round? This weekend promises to be exciting in Nigeria. Whoever wins, hopefully the elections will go smoothly and peacefully.

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5 thoughts on “Nigerian Elections: More Results and a Few Hypotheses

  1. Interesting take.

    If your first observation holds true going forward, then ANC may not be the party that will bring “change” to Nigeria — it’ll have to be a party that can compete with the PDP for the North. I’ve always said that ANC won’t be a serious contender for the presidency until they stand on firmer ground in the North.

    I wonder just how “progressive” Nigerian politics can be, however. Yes, we have an internet-savvy youthful lot who are progressive, but that’s not most of us. I’m of the opinion that the socioeconomic calculus has not changed in most places for Nigerian politics to be progressive in more than name only.

    I have a theory about Lagos. Babatunde Fashola is as close as we’ve got to a progressive, but I don’t think people who govern Lagos State have much of a choice. It’s the economic center of Nigeria, the place where everything happens — you have to be seen to do something in order not to be considered persona non grata when one gets out. That’s why Lagos has been quite lucky with its governors, from Lateef Jakande onwards.

    If we’re looking for progressive governors, I’d then look outside Lagos, and there have been a few. Shekarau has done well for Kano, and the PDP governor for Rivers, I hear, has been exemplary. Still, the Nigerian populace, I would argue, isn’t at a stage where policy matters all that much. I think people make better political calculations when most of the population isn’t poor and illiterate, like we have in Nigeria. This is because these people are apt to sell their vote, or give their vote to the guy who gives the most cups of rice and envelopes of money during his campaign. Politicians don’t yet need to impress us with policy, and if one watches political campaign ads, you see that they don’t even try.

    Personality over party — I think this is mostly right. People like Buhari and Ribadu are names that ring a bell. The only sad thing about that is the only folks as yet that can make a cogent appeal on the basis of personality are military leaders who were seen as benevolent or “good” (like Buhari) and the few people who have managed through their activities to get their names heard (Akunyili once upon a time, el-Rufai, Ribadu).

    Until more cities in Nigeria rival Lagos in terms of economic power, I doubt one will get more high-profile governors, and thus more high-profile political folks. It’ll be interesting, then, what will happen if someone like Fashola or Tinubu run for presidential office.

    • Saratu, this is a really insightful comment. I think you are right about Lagos especially. What would you say have been Shekarau’s progressive accomplishments in Kano? Also, where do you think regionalism will leave the South East? Will it remain a PDP stronghold?

  2. Opposition parties are always calling for reform no matter where they are. Do any of the others have a history of pushing for it in Nigeria?

    • Opposition parties are always calling for reform no matter where they are.

      So true.

      The CPC is a new party, but in the North there is a legacy of progressivism competing with conservatism. The ANPP, as Saratu said in her comment, has made some reforms in Kano and elsewhere.

  3. Pingback: Nigerian Elections: Jonathan’s Lead “Unassailable,” Governors’ Elections Approach « Sahel Blog

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