The Nigerian Elections 2015

Earlier this year, on March 28, the citizens of oil-rich Nigeria turned out en masse to vote in the presidential election. A couple of days later, on April 1, Nigeria’s electoral commission announced the official results of the election, declaring opposition leader General Mohammadu Buhari as the winner of the polls.

General Buhari’s victory is a hugely significant moment in Nigeria’s turbulent history. Never before has a sitting president been defeated in an election. Since independence from Britain in 1960, there have been numerous coups and claims that most of the elections have been rigged. Of course in any election there will be many voters who are not pleased with the outcome, but the whole process has shown that democracy is deepening in Nigeria.

The poll has once again brought to the surface religious and regional differences a circumstance of Nigerian politics and often a factor of the threat of violence.

Second time round for Buhari

Nigerians have chosen former military ruler General Buhari, over incumbent Goodluck Jonathan to be their president. Following an election that saw 41 people killed in the north of the country, Jonathan conceded defeat, and congratulated Buhari on his victory.

Buhari’s military regime from 1983 to 1985 was draconian: he systematically repressed freedom of expression through the jailing of journalists, radical public intellectual and student protesters. He is now saying that “the global triumph of democracy has shown that another and a preferable path to change is possible”.

Nigerians decide

Nigerians and the international community will be watching whether this time around Buhari will work for the common good in Nigeria.

Despite its economic growth and leading position in the African continent, there are still aspects that create a problematic environment for Nigeria. There are perceptions that Nigeria is home to a corrupt government. According to Transparency International, Nigeria is ranked 136 out of 175 states in terms of perceptions of corruption. Gender equality still requires great progress, with women being underrepresented in political affairs. Until now, the House of Representatives had only one female principal officer, and only 7% of the 362 members were women. The House of Representatives committee on women has called for more participation from women in the nation’s politics. One will have to wait and see if the new government responds to this demand.

Continued economic growth and infrastructural development

The Nigerian economy has an unhealthy dependence on its oil exports, which represent more than 80% of its national income. Given the instability of this sector, there has now been a drop in oil prices, public sector jobs are in threat of being cut, the economy has to move towards diversifying. In addition, 24% of Furthermore, Nigeria has to increase investment in health. The World Health Organisation recommends that governments spend 15% of their budget on health, whilst Nigeria spends only 6% of its budget. Nigeria had 40,000 pregnancy-related deaths a year account for approximately 14 percent of the world’s total in 2012.

As Nigeria dawns into a new political paradigm, everyone will be watching whether the former military leader will keep his manifestos and realise the dream he promised his citizens.

Opinion piece by Lulu White-Raheem

Research compiled by Kevin Onyancha for Elections Consulting Agency of Africa (EMCA)

April 2015