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.

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.

Nigeria: More Boko Haram Attacks on the ANPP

As electoral campaigning in Nigeria comes to an end, Boko Haram, northeastern Nigeria’s Islamic rebel movement, is escalating its campaign of violence against Borno State’s ruling All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). Over the weekend Boko Haram assassinated an ANPP leader, and yesterday Boko Haram targeted an ANPP rally in Borno State’s capital, Maiduguri.

Suspected Islamist sect members on Tuesday opened fire outside of a political rally in northern Nigeria, sparking panic and a stampede that killed at least four people, police said.

The incident, days ahead of general elections, occurred after police earlier Tuesday discovered two homemade bombs in a car carrying three suspected Islamists believed to be heading for the same rally in the city of Maiduguri.

“Three suspected members of Boko Haram fired several shots from their AK-47 rifles from outside the venue, which caused panic and a stampede among party supporters attending the rally,” said assistant police commissioner Zakari Adamu.

“This resulted in the deaths of four people. The attackers slipped away before they could be arrested.”

Thousands of people were attending the rally for the All Nigerian Peoples Party, the ruling party in Borno state, where Maiduguri is the capital. No one was believed hit by the gunfire.

I have not yet seen a statement from Boko Haram explaining the goals behind these attacks, but I assume their purpose is to make the ANPP appear vulnerable, weak, and incapable of governing. Some Nigerian conspiracy theorists see Boko Haram as covert agents of another party, but from what I understand the movement rejects electoral politics, and instead advocates an Islamic state and the elimination of Western institutions in Nigeria, including Western-style democracy.

Nigeria: Boko Haram Assassinates Another ANPP Leader

Nigeria’s Boko Haram movement has become a lethal opposition to the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). The ANPP, an opposition party nationally, rules Borno State, Boko Haram’s stronghold. Boko Haram, a radical Muslim rebel sect, attracted global attention during its battle with the Nigerian military in July 2009. The ongoing pattern of violence against state politicians demonstrates how far the movement’s tactics have shifted from 2009: Boko Haram may intend to rise up again in open battle with the state, but for now it is working to disrupt the political process by killing high-profile targets.

The ANPP has cause to fear. In October 2010, members of Boko Haram shot Awana Ngala, a regional vice chairman for the party.* In late January of this year, Boko Haram assassinated Modu Fannami Gubio, gubernatorial candidate for the ANPP in Borno State. Now Boko Haram has assassinated another major political figure in Borno State: Alhaji Modu Gana Makanike, a youth leader in the ANPP.

Makanike, the Gwange II Ward Chairman of ANPP, was shot and killed shortly after a political meeting at the residence of another chieftain of the party at Gwange III of Maiduguri metropolis.

Some witnesses said Makanike was apparently killed in “error” as the actual target appeared to be the special adviser to Governor Ali Modu Sheriff on political affairs Alhaji Baba Kura Habeeb who was also at the meeting.

It was gathered that the four gunmen who went to the venue of the meeting around 10:00am yesterday hid behind a generator room of a borehole and opened fire immediately the ANPP officials appeared in the public after the meeting.

These shootings fit into a broader pattern of assassinations perpetrated by the movement. But most of Boko Haram’s other murders have targeted security personnel or rival Muslim clerics. Felling three major politicians shows that Boko Haram wants not only to control the streets and the religious space in Borno State, the movement also wants to systematically intimidate the ruling party. The approach of April’s elections may be increasing the violence, but Boko Haram’s bid to disrupt political life in Nigeria’s north east will not end once the votes are counted. The next governor of Borno State will have good reason to fear for his personal safety.

*I missed this incident in earlier lists of Boko Haram’s assassinations.

Nigeria Elections: Muhammadu Buhari Announces Presidential Run

General Muhammadu Buhari was military ruler of Nigeria from December 1983 to August 1985. The shortcomings of his administration, including a failure to resolve Nigeria’s economic and political problems, resulted in his ouster in a palace coup. But Buhari remains tremendously popular in much of the North. Among many elites and ordinary people I talked to in Kano last summer, Buhari enjoyed a reputation for personal integrity and incorruptibility. He ran as the presidential candidate of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) in 2003 and 2007, officially receiving around 32% of the vote in 2003 and 18% in 2007 – though he mounted (unsuccessful) legal challenges to the results each time. Buhari quit the ANPP in January of this year, citing “fundamental and irreconcilable ideological differences between the leadership of the Party and myself,” and founded the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). On Thursday, Buhari declared that he will run for the presidency in 2011 against President Goodluck Jonathan (of the People’s Democratic Party or PDP) and other figures both inside and outside of the PDP, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida (whose recent actions I analyzed here). In this post I look briefly at Buhari’s message and potential impact on the race.

Buhari’s announcement included both attacks on his opponents and ideas for the future of Nigeria. Here is a look at the former:

Describing the last 12 years of the country’s democratic experience under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a catalogue of betrayals and bungled opportunities, Buhari expressed his loss of faith in the nation’s judiciary, believing it had compromised and did not act independently in upholding the 2003 election of Olusegun Obasanjo and the 2007 election of Umaru Yar’Adua.

His words: “Our experiences at the polls are supported by credible reports from several independent, local and international observers and showed clearly that those elections were not transparent, credible, free or fair. Nor did they reflect the true will of the people.”

Recalling the judgment of the Supreme Court in the 2007 election, he said, “In the face of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it hardly conformed with the idea of justice and it creates the common feeling that the judiciary was not acting independently.

“This time, we are not going to court”, he said. “Democracy cannot survive if its operators refuse to play by the rules and those in authority continually conspire to subvert the system.

“Unfortunately, this country witnessed in 2003 and 2007 elections that were characterized by massive fraud, unprecedented in electoral exercises in this country.”

One could call this framing pessimistic – Buhari sounds as though he expects fraud to occur. And one could say that his words raise the stakes – Buhari sounds as though he feels this is Nigeria’s last chance to have a credible election. But if democratic politics in Nigeria cannot survive another flawed election, what is Buhari implying will come after?

At any rate, his criticism of the PDP is clear and harsh.

In terms of ideas for change, Buhari focused on the Niger Delta:

On the vexed issue of the Niger Delta crisis, he regretted that it has been allowed to turn into a full scale and sophisticated insurgency rather than the government proffering solutions to the grievances of the people of region.

According to him, “The situation has escalated from random vandalisation of pipelines, often dismissed as the work of hoodlums, to full scale sophisticated insurgency. They are well armed, have their website and established coherent communication network to both local and international media.”

Consequently, he said, “If elected as president, my promise is to engage the region’s people in dialogue. We intend to make genuine effort to tackle the problems of Niger Delta from the roots.

“The roots of the problems are corruption and the failure of the Nigerian elite to understand the grievances and deep-seated feeling of the people of Niger Delta.”

Talk of problems in the Niger Delta also, to state the obvious, reinforces Buhari’s message that the PDP is failing Nigeria.

Buhari also discussed security issues in the country as a whole:

Buhari promised to evolve an overall security effort involving the Police, armed forces, civil society, traditional authorities and the public, with a view to arresting the country’s rapid and palpable descent into anarchy.

“The main task of my government will be immediately to tackle rampant insecurity across the land because Nigerians do not feel secured in their homes,” Buhari said.

To achieve this, Buhari said recourse would be made to rural constabularies, neighbourhood watch and other forms of local and community based supervision, stressing that “deployment, remuneration and discipline would be examined and implemented in the context of their suitability to localities, culture zones, communities and traditions.”

Finally, he promised to tackle corruption.

Buhari has real support in the North, but he may lack the resources to translate that support into victory, especially if other Northerners like Babangida or other parties like the ANPP divide the Northern vote, or if some Northern governors line up behind Jonathan. At the announcement, Buhari appeared surrounded by elites, but some of the most prominent figures in attendance were former governors, not sitting ones. It is also not clear to me whether Buhari has substantial support outside of the North. Still, given the North-South tensions at play in this election and intensity of the support he does have, his candidacy will be a major factor in the race and after. Undoubtedly some of Buhari’s supporters share the general’s feeling that Nigerian democracy has reached a dangerous crossroads, and some of them may feel bitter and lasting disappointment if he loses for a third time. That bitterness could, in the event that Jonathan wins, severely undermine Jonathan’s legitimacy in the North.

Nigeria: Boko Haram Assassinations

Nigerian authorities and journalists say that Boko Haram, an Islamic sect that attracted major attention for its attack on Nigerian police last summer, is responsible for a recent spate of violent acts. The first of these was a jailbreak in which hundreds of prisoners, including some members of the sect, escaped. Here is a partial list of other crimes, all of which seem to have taken place in Bauchi and Borno States in northeastern Nigeria:

  • On Thursday, October 7th, in two separate incidents, gunmen on motorcycles killed Awana Ngala yesterday, a vice chairman of the All Nigeria People’s Party, and attacked the residence of the speaker of the state legislature, Goni Ali Modu, where they killed a security guard.
  • On Friday, October 8th, Boko Haram prisoners may have participated in a prison riot.
  • On Saturday, October 9th, “Two gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead [Islamic cleric] Bashir Kashara at his house in the heart of Maiduguri city…He was killed along with one of his students.”
  • On Monday, October 11th, suspected members of Boko Haram attacked a Maiduguri police station with homemade bombs and set it on fire, wounding three officers.

Assuming members of Boko Haram committed the murders, all of these acts bespeak both political and religious motivations. Kashara’s death seems to have stemmed from his religious opposition to Boko Haram, and more specifically from his “taking part in a radio discussion in which he condemned” the group. If Boko Haram is sending a signal, my reading is that they are trying not only to remove religious opponents, but to control the conversation in the media. Killing leaders in the ANPP is an even more explicitly political move. The ANPP is the major opposition party in Northern Nigeria and especially in the northeast. Likely they represent the northeastern establishment in the eyes of Boko Haram, and that’s why Boko Haram targets them. Other interpretations of the movement’s anti-ANPP streak are possible, though, including the interpretation that Boko Haram wants to sow chaos in advance of the presidential elections or the interpretation that they are conducting a campaign of revenge against specific leaders they feel have wronged them. As for attacking the police station, that shows the same willingness for open battle with security forces that Boko Haram displayed last summer.

Where does this go from here? In general I dislike saying that X, Y, or Z trend has “emboldened” a certain group, but that phrasing fits in this case: authorities suppressed Boko Haram last summer, but this fall they are acting with confidence and since the September jailbreak they have escaped punishment. An emboldened Boko Haram could substantially disrupt the northeast in the coming months – though their influence has limits outside of Borno and Bauchi States. Security is tight in Maiduguri and in other northeastern areas, but I would not be surprised to see the state and federal authorities mount another major crackdown on Boko Haram.

Another issue concerns Boko Haram’s leadership. The death last summer of Mohammed Yusuf, their leader at the time, wounded but did not cripple the group. Who leads them now? And, more importantly, are they able to act without a centralized leadership? A pattern of killings indicates some degree of organization, but so far no one has emerged to claim Yusuf’s mantle publicly. It will be interesting to see what comes to light about how they have regrouped since last summer.

Maiduguri, Nigeria: