Nigeria election update – approaching the brink?

Dear reader

This year we have been busy analysing a range of issues and their implications for African trends. Clients have been particularly interested in oil prices, gas, drivers and robustness of growth, China slowdown implications for Africa, Boko Haram, fiscal space, Zambian and Nigerian elections. We have produced analysis and “deep dives” into all of the above issues and more and will continue to do so.

Many blog followers have asked for our views on the Nigerian elections. Below our headlines and summary ideas. As always, comments, suggestions and views are most welcome.

Headlines:

  • We think PDP and Jonathan will win, but quite likely through a less than credible process. A run-off is also possible – this would increase the likelihood of a Buhari victory.
  • Tension is rising with the announced postponement and increases the risk of post-election violence.
  • Growth prospects for 2015 should be adjusted downwards, initially due to 6 weeks of additional (costly!) electioneering and uncertainty, but above all due to the risk of post-election violence or tension – this time round potentially involving the Lagos growth-engine. The risk of “tectonic shifts” – Nigeria dancing on the brink or breaking up is on the rise.

Analysis:

The 2015 presidential elections seem to become the closest fought since return to democracy. Despite the coming together of the formidable PDP election machine during the last 6 months, it’s clear that Buhari and the APC are very strong. The main difference compared to 2011 is the fact that Lagos and the South West have a stake in the elections this time round.

PDP and Jonathan have the advantage of incumbency. With Jonathan’s credibility at a minimum he has gone to extremes, even by Nigeria standards. The postponement this weekend may just be a first step. If pre-election indications or initial election results indicate a loss, expect anything – there is too much at stake. State of emergency, instigated violence in the North or other opposition areas and exceptional voter turnout in pro-PDP areas may be part of the tools.

We agree with the view of many observers that the reasons from security heads are broadly speaking not credible. First, it’s surprising that an offensive against Boko Haram has to start on the 14th February. Second, cynically speaking, it’s arguably in Jonathan’s interest to have Boko Haram more active (more insecurity equals less voter turnout in his main opposition areas). That’s aside the ATM analysis that Boko Haram is more about social solutions supported by military interventions rather than military solutions only.

The election commission, INEC and the chairperson Prof. Jega accepted the advice. We think that was partly out of no-choice and partly helpful. We understand that almost 30 million voter cards are still to be distributed, reportedly mainly in Lagos and the north. If not handled well, this would have led to major challenges for the elections. On balance however, the postponement leaves INEC weaker.

We are working on a number of scenarios for growth. Short-term growth is affected. Ideology between the parties does not matter much, but obviously a new president would have implications for certain contracts and issues. It would take significant and persistent violence to fundamentally slow the Lagos growth engine, but the risks are increasing. We are presently not attaching disproportionate weight to delta militants’ threats of violence if Jonathan does not win, but this obviously has to be monitored.

Methodology:

We are working with a wide range of partners and stakeholders. On top of that, we have in-house analysis of key faultlines and demographics as well as detailed analysis from the 2007 and 2011 elections, all at state- and geopolitical zone levels. We combine that with key lessons and differences to the 2011 elections (e.g. stronger APC unity, Lagos stake in elections).

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