President Buhari - Elections

As the political class accelerates its activities in the coming weeks and months, the Nigerian voter is clearly in a painful process of decision-making. The Buhari administration has not delivered sufficiently on their promise of improved security, more jobs and a successful war against corruption. They would therefore have great difficulties campaigning for re-election. The PDP would not find it easier to campaign…


On the first of January 2017, I published a trend analysis for last year entitled: “2017 Trend Analysis and the Contours of Inertia”. It was focused on my projections of what would happen, or rather what would not happen due to inertia in the arena of presidential action, or rather, inaction. I had argued that the key word for 2017 remains the same one that has determined political and economic dynamics since the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari – INERTIA. In 2016, the political movers and shakers within the ruling APC resisted the temptation to come out openly to confront the president over his refusal or inability to make political appointments, hoping that there would be changes. I argued that in 2017, they would be unable to restrain themselves and that they would have to come out and do what politicians do – struggle for power. I thought that 2017 would be the year that they would do so with gusto, given their fury at winning power in 2015 and the decision of President Buhari to block a significant slice of the APC political class from access to power.

The APC barons, except Atiku Abubakar, however continued to display patience throughout 2017 and at the end of the year, board appointments were made accompanied by controversies over the inclusion of a number of dead persons in the list, while many of the living are still waiting. The explanation from the president’s spokesperson was that the list was made two years previously, hence the errors. The real question was: Why make the list and keep it in the drawer for so long? The even more pertinent question was: Why did the president ask governors and stakeholders to submit lists for appointments a couple of months ago and then proceeded to publish the old list he had kept in his drawer since 2015?

My argument has always been that essentially, President Buhari hates politics and distrusts politicians; and he cannot change himself if he can help it. Finally, the moment has come, from all indications, and President Buhari is making preparations to announce his candidature for a second term, which means he has to return to the life he does not like – that of a practicing politician. Party primaries are scheduled for later this year in preparation for the February 16th 2019 presidential elections. The political class will come out and tell President Buhari that they forced him into politics and funded him for twelve years and after “success” in 2015, they did not get the political positions and opportunities they expected and believed they deserved. In the coming weeks, we would see the response he would offer them.

This year would be a very interesting one for political pundits, as there are many fundamental questions we are seeking answers to. The first one is: What has happened to the political coalition that brought Buhari to power? To what extent does Buhari still maintain the fanatical support he once had in his core northern base? Does Tinubu still control the South-West political machine…?


In 2017, there was huge resentment within the APC at the president’s political inertia but there was limited action, except for Atiku Abubakar who went back home to PDP. As the countdown to the primaries ticks, all eyes would be on the competition within – Bukola Saraki, Bola Tinubu and Rabiu Kwankwaso; would they continue their individual quest for power or would they fall in line behind the president. If they fall in line, would they be safe, would they keep some power and positions as 2019 approaches? They would have sleepless nights now that they have the knowledge that if Buhari gets a second term, he would have no need of them and can therefore treat them with even more disdain than he has done so far. At the same time, the president would need resources to run his campaign, so where would the money come from?

Within the PDP, now that the Ali Modu Sheriff “strangle to kill the party” attempt has been resolved, the struggle for presidential nomination in the party primaries would be as bloody as it deserves to be. With the party’s governors in control, Atiku may find the struggle to get the ticket more difficult than he envisaged. Governors Wike and Fayose have positioned themselves as the godfathers and may prefer a different candidate, not to talk of their own individual political plans.

This year would be a very interesting one for political pundits, as there are many fundamental questions we are seeking answers to. The first one is: What has happened to the political coalition that brought Buhari to power? To what extent does Buhari still maintain the fanatical support he once had in his core northern base? Does Tinubu still control the South-West political machine, and if he does, would he be prepared to deploy it to get Buhari re-elected? Does Tinubu have a Plan B? PDP appears to believe that the possibilities of shifting coalitions are real and is therefore hoping that it could emerge as the only credible alternative to Buhari’s APC that can guarantee the political class the type of goodies it provided during its 16 years in power. The most important question that would arise in that context is whether the Nigerian voters’ would accept to vote for the PDP, knowing as they do how the party ruled and ruined the country. Others are posing the question about a real possibility for a third force as Nigerians have become disappointed by the performance of both the PDP and APC. Could a third force galvanise sufficient resources to be a real threat to the two big parties?

Nigeria remains in great difficulty today. By the end of 2017, the misery associated with the economic crisis has accelerated the social decomposition of society and anarchic responses as the youth engage in self-help projects based on kidnapping, cattle rustling and rural banditry.


Nigeria remains in great difficulty today. By the end of 2017, the misery associated with the economic crisis has accelerated the social decomposition of society and anarchic responses as the youth engage in self-help projects based on kidnapping, cattle rustling and rural banditry. The killing spree associated with violent conflicts between herdsmen and farmers continues to spread and deepen. The violence has been accompanied by the lingering Boko Haram crisis and the revival of militancy in the Nigeria Delta, which has created a massive security challenge that our military and police forces have been unable to address adequately. Many Nigerians are today reminding President Buhari about his promises on improving security.

As the political class accelerates its activities in the coming weeks and months, the Nigerian voter is clearly in a painful process of decision-making. The Buhari administration has not delivered sufficiently on their promise of improved security, more jobs and a successful war against corruption. They would therefore have great difficulties campaigning for re-election. The PDP would not find it easier to campaign as memories of their 16-year bad governance remain strong in the popular imagination. The history of Nigerian elections has however been binary and people may be forced to decide on the principle of the least terrible option rather than a choice they really believe in. Yes, let the exciting times begin.

A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of PREMIUM TIMES.