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.