Nigeria 2019: a preview

Next February Nigerians will go to the polls in what promises to be one of the most interesting elections in recent times. The current President Muhammadu Buhari of the All People’s Congress faces tough challenges from a variety of candidates. This includes Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Until Mr Buhari won in 2015, the PDP had held the Presidency since elections were resumed in 1999.


Nigeria holds elections every 4 years. All Nigerian citizens over 18 can vote providing they’re registered. For Presidential elections Nigeria uses a ‘two-round system’. Any number of candidates can run in the first round. A candidate can win an election by getting 50% of the overall national vote and winning at least 25% of the vote in 2/3rds of the states. If no candidate meets these requirements, a second round ‘run-off’ between the two candidates with who got the most votes occurs. This is won by the candidate with the most votes. This second round has never had to occur.

There are also elections for the two houses of the National Assembly. In the House of Representatives 360 seats representing local constituencies are contested. In the Senate the 109 members are elected from three seat constituencies based on states.


Despite a large number of potential candidates there are only two likely winners. These are Mr Buhari and Mr Abubakar who represent the two major parties; APC and PDP respectively.

One reason why this election may be so interesting is that they are both Muslim, from the North, and part of the Fulani ethnic group. Nigeria is a country which often votes on religious and ethnic grounds. As such, candidates cannot be distinguished along ethnic and religious grounds, so policy differences may play a greater role in deciding the minds of voters.

Mr Buhari, a former military leader of Nigeria, has claimed he has, and will, make progress in the fight with jihadists such as Boko Haram in the north of the country. He has also made attempts to make Nigeria’s economy less dependent on oil.

Mr Abubakar, a former vice-president, wishes to be friendly to business, in a hope to stabilise and stimulate the economy.

Corruption might be a deciding factor in this election. Mr Abubakar has previously been associated with corruption. He was implicated in the bribery case of William Jefferson, a former member of the US House of Representatives. It is important to remember though, that no charges have ever stuck against Mr Abubakar.


There are also three other minor, but potentially significant candidates; Oby Ezikwesili (former vice-president of the World Bank), Donald Duke (former Governor for Cross Rivers) and Kingsley Moghalu (former deputy governor for Nigeria’s Central Bank). Mrs Ezikwesili, is also the founder of the internationally renowned #BringBackOurGirls movement, referring to the kidnapping of 276 students by Boko Haram.

Although unlikely to make a significant impact in the election, these three candidates show that political participation in Nigeria does not have to come through the established route.


It is important for everyone to have a voice in their country’s decision of their political leaders. Please remember to register to vote. Here is a link to the Independent National Electoral

Commission’s registration page: .



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