Nigeria: Goodluck Jonathan’s Northern Campaign Concludes

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, campaigning for re-election, has stopped in each of the country’s 36 states. This national tour has included heavy emphasis on Northern Nigeria, where many elites and voters believe the presidency should return to their region as part of an informal national power rotation. For Jonathan, a Southerner, to win the April election, he will need some Northern support. That’s why he has devoted time to the “Middle Belt” or North Central Zone, emphasized themes of shared national prosperity and unity, and sought endorsements from Northern statesmen. And that’s why two of his last campaign stops were Katsina and Kano, strongholds of the Core North.

In Kano, with tight security, Jonathan addressed thousands of supporters from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Reuters analyzes the electoral calculus at work:

Securing support in this ancient Islamic city, Nigeria’s second most populous after the southern commercial hub of Lagos, will be key if Jonathan, who is from the southern Niger Delta, is to clinch victory in the first round of the April polls.

As the incumbent, Jonathan is considered the front-runner, but his main rival, Muslim ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, has strong grass roots support in many parts of the north and the opposition is hoping to force a run-off.


Much is at stake in Kano and Nigeria’s other northern cities. Jonathan must win at least 25 percent of the vote in two thirds of the states to clinch victory. The core north, along with opposition strongholds in the southwest, are seen as the most likely regions to prevent him succeeding.

In addition to boosting his own support, Jonathan’s last stops in the North seem calculated to show that Jonathan is willing to take on Buhari on the latter’s own turf.

On Tuesday Jonathan attended a rally in neighbouring Katsina, Buhari’s home state, where he was treated to a rousing welcome at the city’s main stadium.

Before that he had flown to Daura, Buhari’s hometown, where he visited the traditional chief in what is considered the oldest chiefdom in northern Nigeria and the heartland of the Hausa, the largest ethnic group in the north.

Jonathan’s “Northern outreach” is not over – around three week remain in the campaign. In his states’ tour, though, Jonathan has already systematically courted the North, from the Hausa Muslim areas of Kano and Katsina to the mixed areas in the Middle Belt. I do not expect Jonathan or the PDP to win opposition strongholds like Kano. But if Jonathan outperforms expectations in the North, he may return to office with ease, and with what the PDP will call a decisive mandate to continue in power.

11 thoughts on “Nigeria: Goodluck Jonathan’s Northern Campaign Concludes

  1. Pingback: Nigeria: Goodluck Jonathan's Northern Campaign Concludes « Sahel Blog | 9ja Business

  2. Could you provide a link explaining the Nigerian electoral process? I presume it’s at least mostly a parliamentary system but I’m simply unsure.

    • Hi Gyre. First of all, thanks for all your comments recently. Sorry I’m not always quick to respond!

      Nigeria’s Independent National Election Commission provides a detailed schedule here: The most important dates are April 2 (National Assembly elections), April 9 (presidential elections, and April 16 (gubernatorial elections). Nigeria has a federal system based in part on the American system: Nigeria has a president, a bicameral legislature, etc. I believe there will be a presidential run-off if no candidate secures 50%, and the winning candidates must also secure a certain minimum percentage (25%, I think) in a certain number of states (2/3 of the 36 states, I think). I should do a full post on this issue but information can be surprisingly hard to find, so I’m still unsure about some aspects.

      • Gyre and Alex:

        In a more than two candidate race for president, the constitution dictates victory by plurality (plus the 1/4 in 2/3 rule). So, Goodluck (or any other candidate) doesn’t need to hit any particular national threshold.

        As a side note, much of the relevant constitutional language was ported directly from the old 1979 constitution. In the 1979 election, Shagari (the eventual winner) failed to hit the 1/4 in 2/3 standard, and the conflict was resolved not through a run-off, but in the courts. These rules haven’t really been tested since.

      • Thanks for the clarification Brandon. I was confused because Reuters was talking about a run-off, but I didn’t see a date mentioned there or anywhere else. I guess we’ll see how INEC handles it if no one hits the required numbers.

      • Thanks for the explanation. Figuring out electoral systems based on mishmashes of United States, European and local methods is headache inducing*.

        *Heck, the U.S system is headache enough for anyone.

  3. Despite the fact that most of the press coverage emphasizes the competitiveness of the upcoming elections, I would be **shocked** if Goodluck didn’t carry most Northern states with PDP governors (Katsina maybe excepted). The PDP is very well-positioned to both get out its vote and to prevent (in a variety of extra-legal ways, most likely intimidation) its opponents from bringing a high turnout. Governors like Wamakko (Sokoto), Shinkafi (Zamfara), and Dakingari (Kebbi) are all up for re-election, and have a huge stake in the PDP’s continued success.

    • Good points all. I think Jonathan will win easily. What do you think will happen in Kano and in the North East?

  4. Kano’s hard to call, because Shekarau’s done (and on to a Quixotic presidential campaign, ala Bafarawa in 2007), and it’s hard to say if the ANPP will be able to marshal the votes when members stand to gain by defecting to the PDP. The PDP’s division in the state (they’re running the former governor, Kwankwaso) complicates things further. All in all, I typically observe that presidential elections in Nigeria come down to conflicts between local party machines, and in Kano, the machines (at least from a distance) are of uncertain strength.

    A lot of the same issues hold in the NE. The ANPP has been really hollowed out by defections, and Buhari (as the “Northern” candidate) is really unattractive to a lot of people. I just don’t think there’s anyone (even in a fairer election than 2007’s) that can match the PDP’s ground game.

  5. Pingback: Polling on Nigeria’s Presidential Race « Sahel Blog

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