Nigeria – election update 1

We continue to analyse and follow the Nigeria election preparations closely. At the same time clients are particularly interested in scenarios for post-election issues and results.

This update looks at two issues. First we offer further reflections on the postponement of the elections. Second, we outline our summary scenarios based on the two most likely election results.

Postponement: Most observers indicate that Jonathan and PDP are now less likely to win the elections. Further detail on the background for events and process behind the election postponement indeed indicate that Jonathan continues to loose control. The justification by security heads was never credible in the first place and with Jonathan later stating that he had nothing to do with it points to a very weak commander-in-chief.

The key question now seem to be who is behind Jonathan, what are their interests and levels of loyalty. The answers are not clear. The old godfathers appear to have abandoned him. A few delta big men are the most vocal (Tompolo, Boyloaf) supporters, but their loyalty may be limited; if their objective is further pay-off, they may be willing to go far to ensure a Jonathan win, but equally if he losses they will quickly form new alliances.

Could there be a further conspiracy around a rigged Jonathan win, leading to a “compromise” candidate being put in place? Certainly this would suit large parts of the PDP elite and depending on the candidate, may also be good enough for the South West, including Lagos’ crucial middle class.

Assessment: we continue to warn against underestimating Jonathan and incumbency, but recent events have further increased momentum for the APC camp. Expect increased use of violence; both in the north and in the delta. Election related violence – beyond very localised violence – in the SW, Abuja or other major cities would be indications of a further step-change in willingness to use excessive means to win.

Post-election scenarios: We are further refining our main scenarios for immediate post-elections (mainly on violence) and beyond (business environment, stability). Headlines:

  • A Jonathan win will almost inevitably lead to violence. The more use of pre-election violence and signs of election day malpractice, the worse it would be. The game-changer is Lagos and the SW. Should the SW destabilise or experience prolonged violence, risks of wider state-failure are significant.
  • A Buhari win will likely be cleaner and more widely accepted. The primary question is whether – or to what extent –  Jonathan’s hard-line supporters in the delta and elsewhere will stay loyal.
  • A “messy” result. Possibly the worst result and most likely a variation of a Jonathan rigged win. Key questions are how far would it go; how is the elite preparing for it and are the elite interests sufficiently aligned to come together and deal effectively with such a situation.

Our headline assessment beyond elections for the business environment is that it may take longer than usual to return to normal – and that the risks that “normal” will not return are not-neglectable. Time for caution.

As always, comments and questions are welcome.

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