Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Analogy for Nigerian politics

Are presidential politics in Nigeria like the story of Br'er Rabbit?

Muhammadu Buhari gears up for a second presidential term
THE mantle of power is so heavy in Nigeria that presidential candidates must be begged to run for office, or at least give that appearance. There was no serious doubt that the current president, Muhammadu Buhari, would run in 2015; that was his fourth attempt to win through the ballot box. Yet even he had to maintain the fiction ahead of that vote, with allies saying that they had pleaded with him to stand. Now, little more than a year away from the next presidential election in 2019, the theatrics are starting again…
Yet before the 74-year-old Mr Buhari can even consider winning an election, he has to secure the full support of his party and his allies. And that is not necessarily a given, particularly since his approval rating slumped to 45% in December, from a high of 80% in October 2015…

In mid-January Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president and still-powerful statesman, wrote an open letter urging him to quit after one term… Last year Atiku Abubakar, a former vice-president and serial party-switcher, defected back to the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP)…

The pivotal figure is Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state, whose domination of politics in Nigeria’s south-west won Mr Buhari the presidency… Mr Tinubu, no spring chicken at 65, is thought to want the top job himself.

But Nigeria’s main parties cling to a convention that ensures the presidency rotates between northern and southern politicians after two terms. If Mr Buhari is eased out after one term, he should be replaced by another northerner. If so Mr Tinubu’s first shot at the presidency would be in 2023, so people think he would rather throw in his lot with Mr Buhari than back a different northern politician who might want to serve two terms.

Nor is the opposition standing still. Mr Abubakar has a huge war-chest and he is formidable on the campaign trail. But his wealth and party-hopping are viewed with suspicion. “The greatest asset Buhari has right now, politically, is the incompetence of the opposition,” says Chris Ngwodo, an analyst. If the incumbent wins the backing of Mr Tinubu again, their electoral machine will be hard to beat.

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