Nigeria’s Opposition: Amid Unification at the Top, Potential for Fragmentation in the Middle

In the first half of 2013, major Nigerian opposition parties have initiated a merger in hopes of defeating the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 national elections. The PDP has won every presidential election and swept most legislative and gubernatorial contests since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. The new opposition alliance is called the All Progressives Congress (APC). This month, the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), two parties with strength in the north, formally joined the APC, which also includes the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), whose political strength lies in the southwest. The APC could be the most serious challenger the PDP has yet seen.

But this report from Niger State, in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt,” caught my eye:

A major crisis may be rocking the Niger State chapter of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) as two factions of the party have emerged with each claiming to be in a merger talk with the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC).

One of the factions led by a former member of the State House of Assembly, Afiniki Dauda, who claimed to be the interim chairman of the party in the state, had last week at a press conference in Minna appealed to all the party members to forget their grievances so as to ensure that the merger talk with the other political parties went ahead without any hitches.

But Tuesday in Minna, another faction led by the former Chairman of the party, Hajiya Jumai A. Mohammed accompanied by two other State Zonal Chairmen, Samaila Yusuf, and Tanimu Yusuf, at a press conference, described the Afiniki-led interim committee as illegal and lacking in both legal and moral basis.

The story makes me wonder whether opposition parties’ efforts at unification create incentives for middle-tier leaders to break ranks, launch disputes, or otherwise position themselves within a shifting political order. Pre-existing leadership struggles, moreover, could be exacerbated by speculation that the opposition might have a chance at taking national power. Worth recalling here is that the CPC is itself in many respects a breakaway faction of the ANPP, making the CPC-ANPP rapprochement under the APC banner seem a bit tenuous.

As the APC sets its sights on taking out the PDP, in other words, the new alliance will face potentially destructive fights within its own tent. It will be important to see if Niger State’s experience is replicated elsewhere.

Nigeria: Opposition Merger and Geographical Considerations

Four Nigerian opposition parties are creating a coalition in hopes of defeating the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 presidential elections. The four partners are the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN, official site here), the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).

On February 5, ten governors from these parties met (some by proxy) in Lagos “and unanimously endorsed merger plans by their leaders.” Here are the names of the governors:

Those who attended the Lagos meeting included the five governors from the Action Congress of Nigeria-controlled states viz; Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Abiola Ajumobi (Oyo), and Rauf Aregbesola (Osun).

The sixth ACN governor, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State was absent from the meeting.

Others who were present included, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, All Progressive Grand Alliance; Nasarawa State Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura, Congress for Progressive Change; and Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari, All Nigeria Peoples Party.

The other ANPP governors, Kashim Shettima (Borno) and Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe) were represented by Senator Dejere Alkali.

You can read some remarks on the merger by these governors here.

There are many ways to look at this list of attendees at the Lagos meeting, but here I’d like to talk about geographical patterns. Worth noting is the concept one sometimes hears that Nigeria has six “geo-political zones,” a map of which can be found here.

Of Nigeria’s thirty-six states, twenty-three have PDP governors, and thirteen have non-PDP governors. Of the opposition parties, the ACN holds the most governors’ seats – six – five of which are in the South West zone (Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Osun, and Ekiti) and the last of which is in the South South zone (Edo, which borders the South West). The final governor’s seat in the South West is held by the Labour Party – making the South West the only zone in the country to have no PDP governors. The ACN has national ambitions – its candidate during the 2011 elections was Nuhu Ribadu, who was born in Adamawa in the North East – but the South West is its stronghold. On the international level, the ACN’s Babatunde Fashola, Governor of Lagos State, enjoys a major profile.

Next is the ANPP, with three seats (Borno, Yobe, and Zamfara). the ANPP’s strength lies in the North East (where Borno and Yobe are) and the North West. Indeed, the ANPP held Kano (in the North West) from 2003 to 2011, and former Kano State Governor Ibrahim Shekarau was its 2011 presidential candiate.

The APGA holds two seats (Imo and Anambra). Both of these are in the South East. Imo’s governor was at the Lagos meeting, but Anambra State’s  Governor Peter Obi was not.

Finally, the CPC holds one governor’s seat, in Nassarawa (North Central Zone). The CPC’s presidential candidate in 2011 was former military ruler General Muhammadu Buhari, who was runner-up against President Goodluck Jonathan.

The opposition merger, if it remains on course, will bring some geographical diversity to the table, with representation from five of the six zones. Having geographical diversity is important if nothing else because of legal requirements for winning presidential elections in Nigeria, namely the stipulation that a winning candidate must receive at least 25% of the vote in at least twenty-four states. At the same time, there are obvious limits to the geographical reach of this merger. It is strongest in the South West, it has very limited representation in the North West and North Central, and it has no representation in the South South – the home region of President Goodluck Jonathan (or maybe it does, if Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, an ACN member, is considered part of the merger).

How should we rate their prospects for success? Perhaps the question is premature – it is only early 2013, after all, and we will have to see whether the merger holds at all. If it does hold, their prospects seem better united than divided. Yet the PDP still seems more likely to win in 2015, by means fair, foul, or both (the PDP has won every presidential election since the Fourth Republic began in 1999). In any case, the evolution of the merger effort will be a development worth following over the next two years.

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.

Nigeria: Preliminary Results from Legislative Elections

On Saturday, Nigerians in around 85% of the country voted in legislative elections. These elections had been delayed by one week following logistical problems on April 2, and those problems account for the delays that have continued to affect some 15% of the country.

Yesterday results started to come in from the districts that did vote, and the emerging pattern confirms what some analysts predicted, namely losses for the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). A big beneficiary so far seems to be the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which has swept much of the South West. The same analysts who predicted losses for the PDP in the legislative elections, however, have tended to predict that incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan will win re-election. The PDP may retain the presidency, then, but the party and the president will face a different political landscape.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – let’s look at the results we have.

In terms of the integrity of the voting process, Saturday’s vote was not entirely smooth – bombs exploded in several areas, and opposition leaders in Bayelsa State are crying foul over the elections there – but observers largely praised the conduct of the elections. The EU’s Chief Observer stated, “We observed an overall encouraging conduct of the elections, in a generally peaceful atmosphere.” The general consensus so far seems to be that 2011 is an improvement over 2007.

With more faith in the process, Nigerians and international observers are showing more faith in the results. It’s worth paying attention to how the results are tabulated. A Nigerian friend here in Chicago has emphasized to me how intently opposition parties, from the leaders to the rank-and-file, will be observing the physical tabulation of votes. Having groups of voters and party officials present at the polling stations and having them insist on seeing and checking the official results, my friend says, will bring greater transparency to the count. Reuters notes this phenomenon as well, but also highlights the logistical difficulties of vote counting in remote areas, where in some cases results are collected by officials on horseback.

Now to the actual results. The best sources I’ve found are 234 Next’s live updates and the Nigeria Election Coalition’s results page. I quote from the latter:

Senatorial Elections

37 results have been gotten out of 94 senatorial districts. The analysis of the received results show that ACN has 13 seats (35.1%), APGA 1 seat (2.7%), CPC 3 seats (8.1%), LP 1 seat (2.7%), PDP 19 seats (51.4%)

Federal House Of Representatives Elections

76 results have been gotten out of 315 constituencies. The analysis of the received results show that ACCORD has 3 seats (3.9%), ACN 21 seats, (27.6%), APGA 2 seats (2.6%), CPC 5 seats (6.6%), LP 1 seat (1.3%), PDP 43 seats (56.6%), PPN 1 seat (1.3%).

The Coalition also has results by district.

Commentary on the elections is coming fast and furious. Helpful analyses of the results can be found at VOA, Bloomberg, and 234 Next. One thing many of these outlets stress is not only the pattern of the results and the strong showing for the opposition, but also the high profile of some defeated PDP members, such as the Speaker of the House.

Do opposition gains mean trouble for President Jonathan? The Financial Times writes, “The results are an indication of the public mood ahead of presidential polls next weekend.” That could worry Jonathan. On the other hand, praise for improvements in the electoral process is accruing to Jonathan in some segments of the Nigerian press. So the political signals are arguably mixed. In any case, presidents’ fates are not always completely tied to the performance of their parties.

My guide to the elections is here for readers who want more background, and below is a Euronews video on the vote counting:

Quick Guide to Nigeria’s Elections

Starting tomorrow, Nigeria will hold a series of three votes to choose members of the National Assembly (April 2), the president (April 9), and state governors and members of state assemblies (April 16). For Nigeria’s domestic politics and for the country’s international reputation, the integrity of the electoral process will be almost as important as the outcome itself. This post gives some basic information that will help non-specialists understand what they are seeing. For the history of elections in postcolonial Nigeria, see this timeline by Reuters.

Nigeria is home to over sixty political parties, but most commentary has focused on four parties: the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). While the PDP dominates nationally, the other three have pronounced regional bases: the ACN in the South West, the ANPP in Kano State and the North East, and the CPC in the North West and parts of the North East.

Parliamentary elections tomorrow will select members of the Senate (109 seats, three for each of Nigeria’s 36 states and one for the Federal Capital Territory) and the House of Representatives (360 seats, apportioned in the states based on population). Senators and Representatives serve four-year terms, with Representatives limited to two terms (Senators may serve more). The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) currently has a majority in both houses. The National Assembly’s website is here. I do not have a prediction, but some analysts forecast that the PDP will lose seats: Business Day examines the political map and comes to that conclusion in this article.

Presidential elections on April 9 will pit incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan against three main challengers: former anti-corruption official Nuhu Ribadu (ACN; home state: Adamawa), former military ruler General Muhammadu Buhari (CPC; home state: Kastina), and outgoing Kano State Governor Ibrahim Shekarau (ANPP; home state: Kano). If no candidate secures the requisite majority on April 9 (a majority of the votes in addition to at least one-quarter of the vote in at least two-thirds of the states), then the elections will go to a run-off. Polling, for what it is worth, has shown a lead for Jonathan. PDP leaders have expressed optimism that Jonathan will win the first round. Opposition candidates, however, hope to make major inroads into Jonathan’s share of the vote and potentially force a run-off. Here are profiles for Jonathan, Ribadu, Buhari, and Shekarau.

Gubernatorial and state elections on April 16 will determine which parties control Nigeria’s 36 states. Currently, according to what I can determine, the PDP has 26 governorships, the ACN 4, the ANPP 3, and other parties 3. The CPC, formed after the 2007 elections, does not hold state or local seats now, but the balance in the states could shift toward the opposition parties, including the CPC. That picture would accord with analysts’ predictions that Jonathan will win the presidential election but that the PDP will lose some seats nationally and in the states.

As I wrote above, the integrity of the elections will matter a great deal. The last elections, held in 2007, provoked worldwide outcry due to violence and allegations of massive fraud (more here and here). This time, world leaders, including the Obama administration, have placed pressure on Nigeria to ensure a safe and credible vote. Jonathan has entreated the entire nation to help keep the elections peaceful, and has paid special visits to religious leaders to enlist their aid in this effort. Nigerian troops are deploying to supervise the voting, a move that has been read on different sides of the political divide as either a positive measure or as a form of intimidation by the regime. Accusations of rigging are already sounding out, both from opposition parties and from the PDP. Still, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has won many voters’ trust and some international respect over the last year, and may play a strong part in minimizing problems.

I will be following the elections here and on Twitter, and there are a number of other sources you may find useful: Reuters Africa, BBC Africa, VOA Africa, 234 Next, Vanguard, and Amb. John Campbell’s blog. Let us know in the comments if you have questions, comments, predictions, or recommendations for sources.