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The race for Nigeria’s presidency in 2019 • The Foreign Desk

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By Paul Carsten

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigerians will on Feb. 16 select between two septuagenarians to steer Africa’s largest democracy: President Muhammadu Buhari and former vice chairman Atiku Abubakar. The pair have run for president 9 occasions between them.

There are greater than 60 different candidates, although their probabilities of profitable are slim because the wealth and patronage networks of the 2 most important events drive the politics of Africa’s prime oil producer and most populous nation.


Buhari’s 2015 victory together with his All Progressives Congress (APC) celebration was constructed on three guarantees: to rid Nigeria of endemic corruption, repair the financial system and deal with safety threats.

The federal government says it’s making progress however the army’s efforts to struggle the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency and its Islamic State-allied offshoot, now in its tenth yr, are crumbling.

The financial system entered and climbed out of recession beneath Buhari, but the typical Nigerian continues to be getting poorer; and opponents say his authorities is failing to deal with corruption, concentrating on solely the president’s enemies and ignoring allegations towards his allies.

Amnesty Worldwide and Human Rights Watch say the military has been chargeable for human rights abuses, together with the bloodbath of protesters. The military has stated its use of drive is justified.

After spending 5 months in Britain in 2017 receiving remedy for an undisclosed ailment, opposition teams and different critics stated Buhari was unfit for workplace and his administration was beset by inertia. However the president has stated he’s robust sufficient to serve.

If Buhari wins once more, Nigeria can be in for an additional 4 years of political torpor and disrespect for rights, his opponents say.

The president stated he would proceed to develop the rail and street community if reelected for a second time period. He has additionally vowed to increase a nationwide vocational expertise program, enhance entry to credit score for entrepreneurs and proceed his struggle towards corruption.

Atiku, the candidate of the primary opposition Individuals’s Democratic Social gathering (PDP), has been caught up in corruption allegations since serving as vice chairman from 1999-2007. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

His companies embrace a port logistics agency and a personal college. He has promised business-friendly insurance policies to double the dimensions of the financial system to $900 billion by 2025 if elected.

He needs to denationalise elements of the state oil firm and create a $25 billion fund to help personal sector infrastructure funding.

Atiku’s opponents say he would exploit these pro-business insurance policies to complement himself and people round him.


Nigeria is deeply divided. The north is especially Muslim and the south is essentially Christian and the inhabitants is pretty evenly cut up between religions. There are additionally greater than 200 ethnic teams. The three largest are the Hausa within the north, the Yoruba within the southwest and the Igbo within the southeast.

The divisions have led to an unofficial power-sharing settlement amongst Nigeria’s political elite. The presidency is meant to alternate between the north and south after each two four-year phrases.

Buhari, a northern Muslim, is in his first time period, having held the publish since 2015. His predecessor, the PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan, is a southern Christian. Consistent with the accord, the PDP chosen Atiku, a northerner, as its candidate for 2019.

As it isn’t the flip of a southerner, and each Atiku and Buhari are Muslims from the Fulani ethnic group – one of many largest within the north – the prospect of election violence round ethnicity, faith and area is decreased. Nevertheless, the south has favored the PDP up to now, whereas the north is Buhari’s stronghold.

Within the numerous Nigerian hinterland states referred to as the Center Belt, the image is much less clear. Lengthy-running violence over diminishing arable land between farmers and nomadic herders has exploded, with a demise toll of greater than three,600 since 2016, based on Amnesty Worldwide.

This might flip the Center Belt, a lot of which voted for Buhari, into swing states.


Nigeria’s median age is simply 18, in response to the United Nations. Many youths say the growing older leaders are out of contact and began the “Not Too Younger to Run” campaigns to encourage youthful individuals to hunt workplace.

Buhari, 76, is the oldest individual to steer Nigeria because the transition to civilian authorities in 1999 and the PDP selected 72-year-old Atiku as their candidate. Each males have stated they continue to be energetic sufficient to tackle the highest job.

Nigeria’s former army leaders additionally retain a robust affect over politics almost 20 years after the beginning of civilian rule.

Buhari himself is a retired common who was head of state from 1983-1985. Different military-era chiefs proceed to wield political leverage, together with Olusegun Obasanjo, who led the nation within the 1970s and was president from 1999-2007, and Ibrahim Babangida, who dominated from 1985-1993. Each again Atiku.


The 2 primary events, the ruling APC and opposition PDP, wouldn’t have clear ideological variations. Competitors for management of nationwide oil revenues by elites, patronage and sophisticated rivalries between ethnic teams have performed a a lot greater position in elections than ideology.

Nevertheless, Buhari’s 2019 marketing campaign has prioritized poverty alleviation and social schemes, whereas Atiku has careworn the necessity for a greater enterprise setting. Each vow to enhance the decrepit infrastructure.

Buhari gained in 2015 after assembling a broad coalition throughout the north and southwest underneath the APC celebration, a model of the opposite automobiles he used to run in 2003, 2007 and 2011.

The PDP has hyperlinks to the army and held energy till Jonathan’s defeat in 2015. The social gathering has historically appealed to the enterprise group, which developed in the course of the army regime.

Atiku, a long-time PDP member, joined the APC and have become a key ally and funder of Buhari through the 2015 marketing campaign, permitting him to make use of the tycoon’s personal jet. Atiku switched sides in late 2017.


Worldwide observers and civil society teams worry election interference and rigging. They expressed concern about the best way some state degree votes have been carried out final yr and have referred to as at no cost and truthful elections to happen.

The 2015 contest is the one time Nigeria has had a handover of energy from a defeated incumbent since civilian authorities took over in 1999. Even then, unbiased observers noticed proof of vote shopping for, voter intimidation and different types of corruption.

Final month, Buhari triggered a constitutional row when he suspended the chief decide, who has an important say in resolving election outcome disputes, over his alleged violation of wealth declaration guidelines. The decide has not responded to the fees and his legal professionals say the tribunal investigating the allegations doesn’t have the authority to attempt him.

The European Union, United States and Britain stated they have been involved concerning the transfer. Nigeria stated overseas governments ought to “tread with warning” and that their interference was “insulting”.

The elections function in discussions and on information feeds in social media. The federal government launched a marketing campaign towards “pretend information”. Fb stated it will roll out a few of its political promoting guidelines and instruments for curbing election interference to Nigeria.

The Nationwide Safety Adviser’s workplace launched a press release on Feb. 1 saying the web wouldn’t be shut down in the course of the vote.


Voter turnout within the 2015 election was 29.four million, or 44 % of the 67.four million registered voters, based on Unbiased Nationwide Electoral Fee knowledge. For 2019, the variety of registered voters has risen by 1 / 4 to 84 million, with simply over half of them aged 18-35.

The candidate with probably the most votes is said winner so long as they’ve at the very least one-quarter of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and the capital. In any other case there’s a run-off.

(Modifying by Alexis Akwagyiram and Anna Willard)

The Overseas Desk publishes a steady stream of breaking information tales powered by Reuters as a service to readers, with out further modifying of those articles.

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