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.

PDP Governors and Nigeria’s 2015 Elections

Nigeria will hold not its next national elections until 2015 but campaigning, or pre-campaigning, has in some sense already begun. Posters appeared in the capital Abuja on New Year’s Day promoting the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan. While I am not an expert in Nigerian constitutional law, my understanding is that Jonathan, since he served less than half of his late predecessor President Umaru Yar’Adua’s term, and is now serving a full term of his own, will be eligible to run in 2015 without running into the country’s two-term limit. And I think he will run, and I think he is likely to win.

But it will be important to see who challenges him, particularly for the nomination of his party, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Some northern PDP members felt that Jonatha’s decision to contest the 2011 elections violated a “zoning” agreement within the party, wherein the presidency, after the tenure of the southern President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999-2007, should have remained in northern hands from 2007-2015. But competition for the presidency has to do not simply with “north” versus “south” (Jonathan is a southerner), but also with the country’s six “geopolitical zones” and with a host of other factors, including factional splits within the party that don’t always boil down to geography, but rather to personal alliances or rivalries between major figures. The PDP, as a party, is currently undergoing struggles over key personnel such as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. These struggles have activated rivalries and zonal competitions.

I hope to attempt a more systematic analysis of intra-PDP affairs next week, but in the meantime here is one PDP governor who seems to be throwing his hat in the ring: Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State (North Central Zone):

The first strategy being adopted by the Niger Governor is to send the State Working Committee, SWC, of the PDP on a tour of other state chapters of the party “on a thank you tour over the election of Umaru Chiza as National Youth Leader of the PDP.”
Mr. Chiza was elected almost a year ago in March 2011 at the same time as other PDP leaders like Messrs Tukur and Oyinlola ridiculing any claim of a thank you visit on his behalf.
The delegation, which commenced the tour from the North Central states, was at the PDP secretariat in Jos, the Plateau State capital, on Monday, and was led by the Niger State Chairman of the Party, Mahmud Abdulrahman.
Mr. Abdulrahman in his short remarks said the aim of their visit was to create a lasting relationship among states within the North Central zone with a view to getting their support to “contesting key positions come 2015 general elections”.
However, in a chat with newsmen after the event, Mr. Abdulrahman denied that Mr. Aliyu is nursing the ambition to contest the presidential race.

We’ll see who else hints at a run.

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:

Dr. Attahiru Jega, the Symbolic Face of Nigeria’s Elections

Dr. Attahiru Jega, chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was born in 1957 in Kebbi State. In 1984 he obtained a Ph.D. in Political Science from Northwestern University, and afterwards occupied a variety of academic positions in Nigeria, most recently the vice-chancellorship at Bayero University Kano. Jega stepped into his current role with INEC last spring, and has become the main symbol of Nigeria’s elections. As with any symbol, people struggle to define what the symbol means.

In the context of Nigeria’s delayed elections, blaming or defending Jega has become a symbolic contest over the integrity of the elections themselves. For example, Northern Muslim elites I spoke with in Kano last summer frequently told me that Jega was their bellwhether for the legitimacy of the vote: if Jega resigned, they would know the elections were flawed; if he stayed, they would know the process was clean. Jega has also served to personify the work of Nigerian electoral reform for onlookers overseas: US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson recently called Jega “a person of integrity,” linking Jega’s personal reputation with the outcome of the entire electoral process.

Attaching such expectations and meanings to Jega’s actions magnifies the pressure he is under as an individual. Maggie Fick summarizes Jega’s predicament following the electoral delay:

Jega now finds himself between a rock and a hard place — if he resigns in the coming weeks (as was suggested by the Nigerian Human Rights Commission), he would be making a statement about the attempts of the political elite to discreetly undermine him, but he would forfeit the chance to attempt broader reforms within the electoral commission after the vote. Either way, the elections are coming, and it is clear that the consequences of the 2011 vote will not be inconsequential. Nigeria is a giant on the African continent: It is a diplomatic leader in regional crises from Libya to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, most recently, the Ivory Coast. And, as Africa’s largest oil and gas producer, it’s the undeniable economic motor of the region. The outcome of these elections will set the tone for a whopping 27 votes set to take place on the continent this year. No wonder the International Crisis Group recently warned that if Nigeria’s elections do not “reverse the degeneration of the franchise since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999,” the impact ill be felt locally and internationally.

There is a lot riding on these elections.

Pressure on Jega has increased – and the contest over his symbolic meaning has intensified – with recent calls from civil society groups and some opposition parties for his resignation. As rumors multiply, allegations are circulating that “powerful Nigerians” such as former President Olusegun Obasanjo have been maneuvering behind the scenes to oust Jega. Reports say that Jega nearly resigned during a “tempestuous meeting” on Saturday that pitted the INEC chairman against security officials who supposedly demanded – and were denied – a greater role in managing the elections.

Whatever the truth of such rumors, and whatever the content of Saturday’s meeting, the stories about Jega emphasize how he has become the focal point of competing claims about what is going on with the elections. The dominant view seems to portray Jega as the champion of the people against the machinations of elites, but counter-narratives are working to discredit Jega as weak, incompetent, or partisan.

The rumors and accusations have prompted public commentary by leaders from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), including President Goodluck Jonathan. Former military leader and current presidential candidate General Muhammadu Buhari‘s spokesman has charged that Jonathan, the PDP, and pro-PDP agents within INEC “deliberately engineered the delay and non availability of the critical materials as an act of sabotage to discredit Jega,” and alleged that Jonathan was pressuring Jega to resign. In response, Jonathan has publicly proclaimed continued support for Jega. I would guess that Jonathan understands well that if Jega leaves now, it will not only damage the credibility of the elections, but also Jonathan’s reputation.

Nigerians will return to the polls Saturday. The world will be watching. And many people, inside and outside Nigeria, will be watching Jega – pinning hopes on him, scrutinizing his words and deeds, and pointing to him as a symbol of what is right or wrong with the elections, and with Nigeria. I do not envy him that position. Whatever happens now, I compliment him for having shown considerable grace under considerable pressure.

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.

Campaigning Begins in Nigeria

Unofficial campaigning for April’s presidential elections in Nigeria began at least five months ago, when incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan announced his intention to run, but this week marked the start of official campaigning.

Following several extensions, Nigeria’s voter registration period ended yesterday. I was unable to locate current figures for registered voters, but last Thursday the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that 55 million voters (of 70 million eligible voters) had already registered. INEC predicted that the number would hit 62 million by the end of the registration period. As candidates begin to compete for the attention of those voters, many eyes are on Jonathan.

The President headed first to Nigeria’s Middle Belt, an area home to large numbers of both Christians and Muslims. The AP reports that he launched his campaign Monday in Lafia, capital of Nasarawa State (in the Middle Belt). Tuesday saw Jonathan in Ibadan, in Oyo State in Nigeria’s South West (outside the Middle Belt). Jonathan is scheduled to head to Minna, the capital of Niger State (in the Middle Belt), where he will campaign with Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu.

These visits serve multiple purposes. For one thing, they project the power of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). At each stop, Jonathan has appeared flanked by major PDP figures: former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, Jonathan’s Vice President Nnmadi Sambo, and various state officials. Second, the visits give Jonathan an opportunity to go on the offensive while staying in areas the PDP controls – in Ibadan, he called for the PDP to take Lagos from the opposition (note, though, that he did not go to Lagos to say this). Third, appearances in the Middle Belt offer Jonathan the chance to isolate his Northern rivals and prevent them from gaining support outside of the North. In the Middle Belt, Jonathan can also work to present his political and cultural credentials to (Northern) Hausa society as a whole: in Lafia, he “greeted the crowd…in the northern Hausa language and was flanked by his northern running mate, Nnmadi Sambo,” who is of course a Northerner.

This third factor – shoring up support in the Middle Belt and making inroads into the North – is potentially the most important for the logic of the early campaign. As VOA writes,

[Jonathan's] candidacy disrupts an informal regional power-sharing deal that would have given the ruling-party nomination to a northern candidate.

This means Jonathan needs to do well in central states to offset what could be opposition from some northern voters. The president’s three main challengers are all from the north, which could split the vote there. Political observers say the opposition’s best chance of defeating the ruling party is forcing the vote to a second round where President Jonathan would face a single opponent, likely from the north.

A PDP spokesman objected to such framing, saying that the choice of Lafia as a launching point reflected the PDP’s status as a national party and was part of the natural rotation that the party does from cycle to cycle. I don’t see why concentrating on the Middle Belt can’t be both a means of emphasizing the PDP’s national status and an acknowledgment of political competition over divided areas, but it will be interesting to see where Jonathan goes next and how party officials explain the logic of his moves.

Africa Blog Roundup: Ouattara Teleconference, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somali Soccer, and More

I have restrained myself from rounding up links on Tunisia because that’s pretty far out of the geographical zone of this blog’s coverage. Many of the sites on the blogroll, however, such as The Moor Next Door and Foreign Policy’s Passport (and its Middle East Channel), provide excellent writing on Tunisia and the broader North African context.

With that said, here’s my roundup of Africa blog posts for the week:

Cote d’Ivoire: The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosted a live teleconference with Alassane Ouattara on Friday. Video and audio available at the link.

Nigeria: Elizabeth Dickinson comments on the outcome of Nigeria’s People’s Democracy Party (PDP)’s primary this week:

Many a pundit has rehashed the point of contention going into yesterday’s primary: The party’s gentleman’s agreement to rotate the office between north and south every eight years should have shoehorned a northerner into the candidacy this year — but Jonathan is from the south. So not surprisingly, Jonathan was up against a popular northern politician for the nomination, a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar. That Jonathan won is no small testament to the political lobbying he has done in recent weeks (but also likely to the fact that the man in power controls the party machinery). The numbers look pretty convincing — 2,736 delegates voted for Jonathan while just 807 voted for Abubakar.

Dig down at the state level, however, and you’ll see the rift — particularly in the country’s middle belt, where north and south meet (and where intercommunal violence has erupted in recent months). A good example is Bauchi state, where Jonathan won by a margin of 2 votes — 46 to 44. In northern Zamfara state, Jonathan won just one-tenth of Abubakar’s share.

Ambassador John Campbell writes on the violence in Jos, and Loomnie excerpts two further articles on the subject.

Sudan: Baobab looks at ongoing economic changes in Juba. Roving Bandit asks what comes next for South Sudan.

Somalia: At his new blog, James Dorsey writes about al Shabab’s decision to ban soccer.

AQIM: Jihadology has a statement from AQIM on the recent kidnapping of two French citizens in Niger.

And finally, check out zunguzungu‘s “Invented Communities in Africa and America.”

What are you reading today?

Nigeria: Goodluck Jonathan Wins PDP Primary

Incumbent Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, a member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), won the PDP primary last night in Abuja. AFP has a nice summary of where things stand:

Jonathan, thrust into the presidency in May after the death of his predecessor, will now be favoured to win the April 9 election being viewed as one of the most important in the history of Africa’s most populous nation.

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party has won every presidential vote since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.

Jonathan’s primary victory also means he has upended an arrangement within the PDP that sees its candidates rotated between the north and south every two terms.

[...]Jonathan was expected to win the party primary, but he faced a challenge from ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar, who had the backing of a group of elite politicians from northern Nigeria.

In the end, Jonathan won handily with 2,736 votes compared to Abubakar’s 805.

I predict that Jonathan will win the general election.

What do you think about Jonathan’s primary victory? Were you there? What comes next for Nigeria?

Nigeria: Gubernatorial Politics Unfold Amidst Political Violence

Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will hold its national presidential primary on Thursday, but a lot of political action is also taking place at the state level. As governors around the country ran in primaries and special elections over the weekend, the PDP saw its dominance confirmed in many places but also experienced significant infighting. Meanwhile, political violence in different parts of the country continues to cast a shadow over preparations for the general elections in April.

One of the most high-profile gubernatorial races occurred Friday in Delta State, as former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan (PDP) decisively won a re-run election. In November, a court removed Uduaghan from office over allegations of fraud stemming from the 2007 elections. Journalists called the re-run election a test both for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s credibility and for the PDP. INEC officials and President Goodluck Jonathan were satisfied with how things went in Delta State, though INEC noted some problems with voter rolls. Violence also occurred in the context of the campaigning.

Yesterday, the PDP held gubernatorial primaries for the 27 (of Nigeria’s 36) states it controls. Party switches, open races (because of term-limited governors), and internal power struggles contributed to an atmosphere of political excitement and, in some cases, real tension. As Nigeria’s Daily Independent described the day, “There were hardly surprises on Sunday in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governorship primaries, as incumbents swept the tickets from Kaduna to Plateau to Bayelsa.” Yet, the report continues, the elections were “streaked with violence, the jumping of ship of one big fish in Adamawa, dispute in Ogun, and postponement in Oyo.” In Katsina State, disputes over the primaries left some PDP supporters threatening to defect to the new Congress for Progressive Change. Even before the primaries, political violence and party infighting in the states had become a serious concern for the PDP’s national leadership.

Political violence, in fact, has often accompanied this cycle’s campaigns and elections, whether it directly targets political partisans or just takes place alongside political contests. Christian-Muslim clashes continue in Jos, with an undercurrent of political discontent often pulling religious tension along with it. Shootings continue in northeastern Nigeria, at least some of them linked to the rebel group Boko Haram. And a battle broke out last week at a political rally in Bayelsa State in the South. Those are only some of the examples of violence.

As the PDP heads into its national primary, the trend is favoring the re-election of incumbents, which bodes well for President Jonathan. But incumbent candidates also face real challenges in the form of violence and dissent. We’ll see what happens Thursday, but more important may be what comes afterwards, and how the PDP’s presidential nominee builds consensus and enthusiasm within the ranks of his own party.