The below report, authored by Zainab Usman, a doctoral candidate in International Development at Oxford University and her colleague, Dr. Olly Owen, presents a thorough analysis of Nigeria's coming general election, to be held in February. The report lays out major highlights of the election, for both the presidential and gubernational contests, as well as an interesting examination of the political landscape leading up to the 2015 elections.
Originally published in African Arguments, and titled "Incumbency and Opportunity: forecasting Nigeria’s 2015 elections", this piece was re-published from Premium Times.
In order to win the Presidency in 2015, the successful party will have to control the majority of Nigeria’s 36 state Governorships.
In the 2015 elections half of the State Governors will have completed their maximum two terms, so state-level elections are likely to be extremely competitive across the country.
Of the 28 governorship elections taking place, 18 states (or two-thirds) will have vacant seats. 10 of these 18 states have 40.9% of all registered voters.
This numerical analysis indicates both the PDP and APC could each secure 17 states in Governorship elections.
To win, a Presidential candidate needs an overall majority and at least 25% of the votes in two-thirds of the states (24 states). On current indications, if President Goodluck Jonathan runs as PDP candidate he is likely to get an overall majority. However, he may not automatically get the necessary one-quarter of the vote in two-thirds of states and the FCT.
Therefore if voting patterns are similar to 2011 a run-off election situation would be likely. This would be a historic first under Nigeria’s present electoral system.
However, this run-off outcome is likely to be determined by the choice of candidates put up by the main APC opposition party and the issue of North-South ‘zoning’.
It is difficult to predict the outcome of this run-off. If it does not favour an outright win for the PDP, it may further weaken its chances at the subsequent gubernatorial elections given that half of the seats are vacant.
2011’s results are only a useful guide to 2015 if conditions stay the same, including INEC’s conduct in voter registration and election management.
Therefore, with high incentives for many actors to rig, it will be important for stakeholders in democratic consolidation to focus on issues such as registration and collation, which are likely to be hot in all states.
As the 2015 elections inch nearer, the spaces of Nigerian public discourse are beginning to fill with speculation as to the chances of various contenders, the possible alignments of political forces, and likely outcomes.
Yet most of this discussion is conjectural and instinctive rather than analytical. Here, we attempt instead to make some projections about 2015’s elections by generating conclusions from 2011’s election results, turnouts and voter numbers.
Our central assumption is that since 1999, the parties which have controlled Nigeria’s 36 state Governorships have been able to strongly influence the result of Presidential elections in each state.
In 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan won the election with 22,495,187 total votes across the country, winning not only states where the ruling PDP governed, but also all states in the South-West apart from Osun, thanks to an electoral pact between the PDP and the now-defunct ACN which ran most South-Western states.
Although President Jonathan did not win in 12 Northern states (including nine which returned PDP Governors but where a majority voted for Muhammadu Buhari of the now-defunct CPC for President), he was able to get over the 25% of votes threshold in all but four (all Northern) states; of which only two were PDP. This indicates that local voter appeal can be an important modifier of the power of incumbency.
But in 2015, the landscape appears very different. As control of the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) are key to how national elections are won, we must first examine the state-level elections. In 2011, one of the authors analysed gubernatorial election results (as posted by Nigeria Elections Coalition).