Nigeria: Developments in Gubernatorial Contests in Osun, Kano, and Borno

Nigeria is in full-blown election mode in advance of the 16 February* 2019 presidential vote. Some of the most consequential political developments are taking place in the states. Here we look at three states: Osun, in the southwest, where a contentious gubernatorial election result is raising questions about ruling party interference and electoral officials’ biases; and two key northern states, Kano and Borno, where gubernatorial primaries are approaching.

Osun

Last week I wrote about the off-cycle gubernatorial election in Osun, which I believe is the last major election before the presidential vote. In Osun, incumbent governor (and member of the ruling All Progressives Congress or APC) Rauf Aregbesola is stepping down due to term limits, and so the race is between his chief of staff Gboyega Oyetola and Osun West Senator Ademola Adeleke. The latter represents the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which ruled Nigeria from 1999-2015.

Osun’s election took place on 22 September, but problems occurred at seven polling units. The election was re-run at those units on 27 September, and the returns from those units changed the overall outcome. After the 22 September results, the PDP’s Adeleke had a lead of 353 votes; after the 27 September results were added to the tallies, the APC’s Oyetola had a lead of some 482 votes and was declared the winner.

The close margin, and the reversal in the party’s fortunes, has led to outcry and concern not just from the PDP, but also from other observers. The Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room released a statement critical of the process and questioning the integrity of the final result. The Centre for Democracy and Development in West Africa’s statement similarly concluded (see second tweet in thread) “that the conduct of some key stakeholders clearly ran contrary to democratic norms & standards, as well as best practices in the conduct of credible elections.”

And here is part of the joint statement from the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States:

In contrast to our overall findings on the vote of September 22, we were concerned to witness widespread incidents of interference and intimidation of voters, journalists, and civil society observers by some political party supporters and security agencies.  Many of our findings mirror those of leading civil society groups that observed the election.

We commend the work of INEC leadership during both elections. But it is clear that the neutrality of the security services and responsible conduct by party agents, both inside and outside polling units, will be essential to ensure free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in 2019.

For both the APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission, then, there is skepticism in the air about their ability to conduct a successful and open process in February.

Kano

Back in August, I took a look at party shifts and realignments in Kano, the most populous state in northern Nigeria. Four prominent personalities are fighting for influence over the upcoming gubernatorial election. Most gubernatorial votes will take place (or are scheduled for) 2 March 2019. So here are the major players in Kano:

  • Former Governor (and current Senator) Rabiu Kwankwaso (served 1999-2003, 2011-2015)
  • Former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau (served 2003-2011)
  • Current Governor Abdullahi Ganduje (took office 2015)
  • Ex-Deputy Governor (as of August) Hafiz Abubakar (in office 2015-2018)

The latest big news is that Kwankwaso is backing Abba Yusuf to win the PDP gubernatorial nomination. Nigerian media (corporate and social) has been buzzing with the news that Yusuf is Kwankwaso’s son-in-law, although Kwankwaso himself has sought to correct (or spin?) the perception of nepotism by arguing that Yusuf is not married to one of his daughters but rather to someone from his extended family.

Kwankwaso also reportedly sought to arrange a game of musical chairs that would place Yusuf in the governor’s seat while placing Abubakar and long-time Shekarau ally Salihu Takai (who has, however, so far not followed Shekarau’s lead in defecting to the APC after Kwankwaso defected to the PDP)** into Senate seats. Here is a paraphrase of what Kwankwaso said about the proposal he made to Abubakar and Takai:

He also explained his reasons for not anointing the former Kano deputy governor, Prof Hafiz Abubakar, and a prominent politician in the state Alhaji Sagir Takai. He said he had known Prof Hafiz for over 40 years and has assisted him wherever necessary. The Prof was asked to contest for the Kano Central senate seat, a seat currently occupied by Sen Kwankwaso, in the coming 2019 election but he showed no interest. Likewise Sagir Takai had also been asked to contest for the seat of the southern Kano senatorial zone but had also declined to the arrangement, Sen Kwankwaso explained.

Within the PDP, then, you have a major contest for the nomination brewing – and then the nominee will face off against Ganduje, who remains in the APC and remains governor. Part of Kwankwaso’s ambition, of course, is to win the PDP nomination for the presidency and then bring Kano into his column in the general election.

Borno

Borno is the largest state in Nigeria by landmass and is the epicenter of the Boko Haram crisis. Incumbent Governor Kashim Shettima of the APC is term-limited and will likely seek the Borno Central Senate seat. As in other states, outgoing governors can wield tremendous influence in picking a successor (Shettima himself was hand-picked in 2011 by then-outgoing Governor Ali Modu Sheriff after Sheriff’s initial pick, Modu Gubio, was assassinated, likely by Boko Haram).

The big news out of Borno, then, is that Shettima has endorsed Babagana Zulum for the APC nomination. Zulum is a professor and the former state commissioner for reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement. (Here, if you are interested, are micro-bios of the other candidates.)

In Shettima’s endorsement statement, he focused on how Zulum’s professional experience will be crucial for Borno as it focuses on post-conflict reconstruction. But other parts of the statement allude, cryptically, to intra-party conflicts:

We cannot pretend not to be aware that an otherwise leader in our party, the APC, has deliberately created an unnecessary division within its membership in the state. This has led, to borrow from the satirical wisdom of Distinguished Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, the existence of what is akin to a match between “home based players” in the majority and with local support and a minority “foreign based players”. Four months ago, when we received some fleeing leaders back into the APC fold, I had thought that those who choose to work against the majority have learned lessons. I had expected us to once again, fuse into one indivisible family so that together, we could give our party a direction and confront our opponents as a united force. How wrong I was! Perhaps, I ignored the common saying, that a leopard does not change its spots.

This is, of course, a reference to Shettima’s difficult relationship with Sheriff, who rejoined the APC in a May 2018 “peace deal” with Shettima. Since then, however, political conflict between the two has flared up again.

There is also a hint, in Shettima’s endorsement statement, that Zulum is something of a consensus candidate:

Of our 21 aspirants, if I were to support and hand pick what some people might call any of my closest boys as successor; I most certainly would go for Barrister Kaka Shehu Lawan or Adamu Lawan Zaufanjimba. If, on the other hand, public service is the only consideration, none of the aspirants can be more qualified than our elder statesman, Ambassador Baba Ahmed Jidda. If loyalty to political association is my main consideration, Distinguished Senator Abubakar Kyari has proved unalloyed loyalty to political association with me. If years of sincere and mutual friendship are my main consideration, Distinguished Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai and Alhaji Mai Sheriff are my closest friends amongst all our aspirants. If the consideration is about humility and ability to carry people along, His Excellency Shettima Yuguda Dibal is legendary. I have relationship and so much respect for majority of the aspirants, the likes of Hon. Umara Kumalia, Makinta, name them. In fact, two of the aspirants, Mustapha Fannarambe and Umar Alkali are my relatives. All aspirants have divergent qualities. However, because of the situation we found ourselves, considerations for the next Governor of Borno State requires specific quips tailored to our needs for now.

Perhaps I am too cynical, but it also seems to me that Zulum may be a somewhat technocratic choice who lacks a constituency of his own and therefore may be seen as pliable by Shettima and his team. But I welcome readers’ thoughts and corrections on this point in particular.

So there you have it – three crucial states, one of whose governorships has been held for the APC in a potentially ugly way (Osun), one of whose governorships is increasingly contested (Kano), and one whose governorships may pass smoothly from incumbent to successor (Borno). In any case, these remain three states to watch, especially in terms of how gubernatorial politics interact with presidential politics in the lead-up to 2019.

*Delays are always possible, although the constitution requires that the next presidential term start by 29 May 2019.

**No one said this was easy to follow!

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Nigeria’s Decamping Wave and Preparations for 2019: Spotlight on Kano

In Nigeria, a wave of “decamping” is occurring as politicians switch parties. I’ve written a little about it here and here, as have Matt Page and Lagun Akinloye. All of the party switches have national implications, but in this post I’d like to zoom in on some of the dynamics in one key state: Kano, the most populous state in northern Nigeria and the second-most populous state in the country as a whole. Kano’s decampings give a sense of just how complicated all this has become, and also point to some of the key actors who will shape the outcome in the state in the 2019 elections. Kano is probably a must-win state for incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari – if he loses in Kano, that might spell trouble elsewhere for him in the north, and if he starts to lose pieces of the north then his whole map falls apart.

To begin describing Kano State politics, we can point to two former governors: Rabiu Kwankwaso (served 1999-2003 and 2011-2015) and Ibrahim Shekarau (served 2003-2011). A long narrative on their rivalry can be found here. Both men have decamped in the past, but at the time of the 2015 elections Kwankwaso was in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Shekarau was in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In 2015, the APC won the presidency and the PDP, Nigeria’s long-time ruling party, lost. In 2015, the APC also won the governorship of Kano, with Kwankwaso’s Deputy Governor Abdullahi Ganduje defeating Shekarau’s ally Salihu Takai. Kwankwaso himself moved to the Nigerian Senate, representing the Kano Central senatorial district.

This summer, Kwankwaso became part of a larger group of Senators, governors, and other politicians who left the APC to return to the PDP, the party to which many of them previously belonged. Some of these defections, and particularly Kwankwaso’s, reflect presidential aspirations. Kwankwaso has been seriously discussed as a major presidential contender since at least the 2015 cycle, so his aspirations are far from delusional.

Back in Kano, Kwankwaso’s decamping raises a few important questions. Is there room for both him and Shekarau in the PDP? Perhaps. And what about Ganduje, who will face re-election in 2019? So far, Ganduje is remaining in the APC, although his own deputy governor, Hafiz Abubakar, has already resigned (h/t Matt Page), and may well defect to the PDP. Does Kwankwaso have the upper hand over Ganduje? Or does the outcome of 2019 in Kano come down to which two of the state’s three past and present governors (Kwankwaso, Shekarau, Ganduje) align against the third, given “rumours that Kwankwaso and Ganduje are struggling to win the heart of Shekarau”? And what does any of this mean for Takai, already being floated unofficially (Hausa) as a candidate? Don’t think that having lost a few elections (2011 to Kwankwaso, 2015 to Ganduje) counts someone out – just ask Buhari, for whom the fourth time was the charm.

Far be it from me to say what all this means. But it’s interesting to watch the consequential knock-on effects of national politicians’ decisions and decampings as they reverberate down through the political system, compelling deputy governors, state legislators, and other figures to make their own decisions. The wave of decampings, then, is throwing into relief the various networks and rivalries that make up Nigerian politics. The struggles within the states also highlight that perennial feature of politics, particularly in systems with term limits – the “godfathers,” no matter how formidable they may be, never have complete control over their hand-picked successors, and the resulting rivalries can have major consequences for party unity.

 

Nigeria: Boko Haram Continues to Increase Range and Sophistication of Attacks

Last week, Nigeria’s Boko Haram movement claimed responsibility for a bombing at the police headquarters in the capital Abuja. Boko Haram has struck outside of its base in the Northeast before, but the Abuja bombing and other recent attacks have shown that the group is expanding its geographical range and increasing the sophistication of its attacks, sometimes coordinating multiple strikes at once.

Another example of these trends came yesterday in Katsina State, which is slightly west of the center of Nigeria’s upper North (map), and a fair distance from Boko Haram’s stronghold of Borno State (map). Accounts of the attack vary slightly, but here is AFP’s report:

Suspected members of the radical Boko Haram Islamist sect on Monday staged simultaneous bomb and gun attacks on a police station and a bank killing seven people, witnesses and local journalists said.

The dead included five policemen, witnesses said, in an attack coming just four days after the sect bombed the country’s police headquarters in the capital Abuja killing at least two.

A gang of 10 gunmen launched the two attacks on a police station and a bank in Kankara town, 130 kilometres (80 miles) south of the northern city of Katsina.

AFP’s whole piece is worth reading for a sense of Boko Haram’s tactics.

This attack follows threats by Boko Haram to stage attacks throughout the North and indeed throughout the country. The “nationalization” of the Boko Haram problem will intensify pressure on elected leaders and security forces to deal decisively with the group and prevent further attacks. Nigerian officials have proposed solutions ranging from crackdowns to outreach programs to amnesty offers. The government has to some extent pursued all of these options. Yesterday former Kano State Governor Ibrahim Shekarau proposed a hybrid approach of sorts, which would rely on intelligence gathering to defeat the group while advancing employment programs to deal with social and political grievances in Northern society.

Whatever course the government pursues, the Boko Haram problem has already led several Northern leaders, including the newly elected Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, to speak quite bluntly about the North’s serious problems of economic stagnation and political isolation. Northerners have been voicing such concerns for some time, but perhaps now these concerns will reach a broader audience and stimulate a debate that goes beyond just the issue of Boko Haram.

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’s Presidential Candidates

After a spate of party primaries last week, Nigeria is moving into its general election. Registration has begun (accompanied by some problems), and presidential candidates are starting their campaigns in earnest. Here’s a look at some key figures:

President Goodluck Jonathan (People’s Democratic Party)

The PDP has won all three of Nigeria’s elections since the country’s 1999 democratic transition, and many observers (including me) expect Jonathan to win this year’s contest. The 53-year-old former governor of Bayelsa State, who holds a Ph.D in Zoology, was elected vice president in 2007. Following the illness and death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, who headed the ticket in 2007, Jonathan became president (acting from February-May 2010, official from May 2010-present). Jonathan did not immediately proclaim his electoral intentions upon assuming office, waiting until September to declare his candidacy. By running for re-election, Jonathan has disrupted an unofficial agreement about North-South power-sharing in Nigeria: he faces opposition within the PDP from members who believe he should withdraw in order to let a Northerner run for the second term that death denied to Yar’Adua (a Northerner). Nevertheless, Jonathan handily won the PDP primary.

General Muhammadu Buhari (Congress for Progressive Change)

Buhari, who finished second in the 2003 and 2007 elections as a candidate for the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP), left the ANPP in 2010 to form his own party, the CPC. Buhari, 68, led a bloodless coup against President Shehu Shagari in 1983, and ruled Nigeria until 1985, when General Ibrahim Babangida displaced him in another palace coup. Today, Buhari enjoys substantial popularity in Northern Nigeria, but potentially lacks a national base. Having mounted legal challenges after his losses in 2003 and 2007, Buhari and many of his supporters view the electoral process with distrust. I have analyzed Buhari’s campaign rhetoric here; briefly, he has focused on themes of corruption and security. Many observers expect Buhari to be Jonathan’s strongest opposition.

Governor Ibrahim Shekarau (All Nigeria People’s Party)

The ANPP holds several governorships in Northern Nigeria, and Kano (the North’s largest city) is one of its strongholds. With Buhari’s departure, Shekarau, the governor of Kano State, has emerged as the ANPP’s candidate for 2011. Shekarau, 55, won the primary decisively, indicating he has strength within the ANPP. He served two terms as governor (and is term-limited from running again), and still commands real support in Kano. But last summer some people I spoke with said his popularity was slipping. My sense is that Buhari has stronger support across the North. The danger for Buhari and Shekarau is that they will compete for the same (Northern) votes, weakening each other without seriously threatening Jonathan.

Nuhu Ribadu (Action Congress of Nigeria)

Ribadu, 50, served from 2003 to 2007 as Executive Chairman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and established a reputation as an anti-corruption stalwart. After his removal from office, he lived abroad and worked as a fellow at the Center for Global Development. Some expected Ribadu to return to Nigeria and work with Jonathan, but he has decided to run as the ACN’s candidate. The ACN (known as the Action Congress or AC at the time) scored around 8% of the official vote in 2007, and ran former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its candidate. Despite Ribadu’s name recognition, it does not seem that he will be a serious threat to Jonathan, and as a Northerner he could split the Northern vote further. His presence in the race may increase the significance of corruption as an issue.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Former President Ibrahim Babangida

Two other Nigerian political heavyweights are not official presidential candidates at the moment. Abubakar, 64, was President Olusegun Obasanjo’s running mate in 1999 and 2003. He challenged Yar’Adua for the presidency in 2007 and challenged Jonathan for the PDP nomination last week, but was unsuccessful in both efforts. Some speculate that following his primary loss he will mount an independent challenge for the presidency, but so far his intentions are unknown. Similarly, former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida, 69, has indicated that he may leave the PDP and run for president. Nevertheless, he congratulated Jonathan for his primary victory, speaking of “our great party” and indicating that he will not depart from the party. Still, Babangida has kept observers guessing. A run by either Babangida or Abubakar could change the dynamics of the race, though probably not tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Many of Jonathan’s major challengers are Northerners, and there is a real possibility that these politicians, by competing for the same votes, will only weaken each other. Still, it’s a relatively long time until April, time enough for the upredictability and dynamism of Nigerian politics to show itself once again.

Have I missed anyone? What do you think of each candidate’s chances?