By Kede Aihie (Editor in Chief)
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, largest economy and the continent’s leading oil and gas producer, holds presidential and National Assembly elections on Saturday, 28 March, 2015. It will be a rematch between incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari in a tight contest.
Buhari had previously lost to late President Yar A’dua in 2007 and also lost to incumbent President Jonathan in 2011.
The elections were postponed for six weeks, a week before they were originally scheduled to take place on 14 February. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said this was because the military had advised it would be unable to provide security as its soldiers were committed to the fight against Boko Haram terrorist.
President Jonathan and APC’s Buhari sign another peace accord in Abuja.
The accord, initiated by the National Peace Committee, was signed Thursday by President Goodluck Jonathan, the candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and his main challenger, Muhammadu Buhari of the opposition All Progressives Congress.
The agreement, contain an undertaking by the parties to avoid actions that could promote violence during and after the polls.
The National Peace Committee is led by a former Military Head of State, Abdusalami Abubakar, under whose supervision Thurday’s pact was signed.
The agreement signing ceremony held at Transcorp Hilton Hotel and the presidential candidates were accompanied to the venue by the national chairmen of their parties: Adamu Muazu [PDP] and John Oyegun [APC].
The main candidates
There are fourteen candidates contesting the presidential election, however President Jonathan and Gen Buhari are the only candidates with a realistic chance of winning. Jonathan (PDP) is seeking a second four-year term.
President Jonathan has promised to defeat Boko Haram in April, he is also seeking greater regional and international cooperation to tackle the insurgency, terrorism, piracy and organised crime. Mr Jonathan says he will continue with his economic blueprint known as the “2011-2015 Transformation agenda”.
He views economic diversification as a key step towards addressing the fall in global oil prices. On accusations of not doing enough to fight corruption, he says “we are fighting corruption. It is not by publicly jailing people. Yes, we believe in suppressing corruption, but our emphasis is in prevention.”
He has also promised to create two million jobs each year and showcased the YouWIN scheme for young entrepreneurs and Sure-P initiative aimed at helping graduates find jobs.
He credits his administration with reviving the railway system and improving road infrastructure. Says government’s privatization of the power generation and distribution companies will ensure regular power supplies in the future.
Mr Jonathan’s government has been fiercely criticized by the opposition APC for its failure to combat Boko Haram in the north-east. General (Rtd) Buhari has lost the last three elections to the PDP. Buhari is popular in northern Nigeria and has in the past supported the implementation of Islamic law.
General Buhari is backed the national leader of the opposition APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, current governor of oil rich Rivers State, Mr Rotimi Amaechi.
Buhari has made inroads in the South west states of Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Lagos He has made security a priority during his presidential election campaign. Buhari also promised to crush the Islamist terrorist within months if elected. He says one of his key priorities is to wipe out corruption. “If Nigeria doesn’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria”
The electoral system
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised a clean ballot. All 14 candidates have signed an agreement binding them to credible and non-violent elections. Official campaigning is due to end on 27 March – 24 hours before polling day.
To win in the first round, a candidate needs more than 50% of the national vote and at least 25% of the votes in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states.
Biometric cards will be used for the first time. INEC says more than 80% of the nearly 70 million eligible voters have obtained their identity cards. The minimum voting age is 18.
Polls will open at 08:00 local time (07:00 GMT). All voters must be present at their designated polling station by 13:00 local time to be allowed to cast their ballot. Polls will close when the last person in the queue has voted.
The authorities say 360,000 police officers will be deployed at strategic areas, along with sniffers dogs. INEC has approved the presence of international and local observers to monitor the elections, although the European Union says its observers will not deploy in the north-east due to security concerns.
If there is no outright winner in the first round, the law states a run-off election must be held within seven days. But INEC has said it is doubtful whether a run-off vote could be organized in a week. Victory in a run-off election is by simple majority.
The National Assembly elections will also take place on 28 March, with 739 candidates vying for a place in the 109-seat Senate and 1,780 seeking election to the 360-seat National Assembly.
Nigerians will vote again on 11 April to choose new governors and state assemblies for 29 of the 36 states. Like the president, governors are limited to two four-year terms, so this election will see new occupants in many states.
The key states to watch are Lagos, Kano and Rivers, because of their large populations and economic power. Some of these states have budgets larger than those of neighbouring countries, meaning there is fierce competition to run them.
Many voters in Nigeria, Africa’s largest mobile phone market will be using their registration card and their mobile phones making democratic history with the help of tech.
According to Femi Longe, co-founder of Co-Creation Hub which meshes tech and social issues. “Technology is helping people get involved in the conversation around democracy and elections, which is very important, as the general interest in the air has waned since the voting date was changed.”
Nigeria has a population of over 180 million people, and is Africa’s most populous nation, one in five sub-Saharan Africans are Nigerian
Nigeria overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest economy in 2014, after a rebasing calculation almost doubled its GDP to more than $550 billion, and growth of around 6 % has made it one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
The banking sector is growing rapidly and capital markets are deepening, attracting foreign investment, although the currency falls linked to the elections and the declining oil revenues have led many foreign investors to sit it out for now. Inflation is now in single digits, despite Nigeria’s dependence on imports.
Nigeria produced about two million barrels per day (bpd) in 2014, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says. Much of it used to be exported to the U.S. but, since that country’s shale boom, the biggest buyers are in Asia and Europe.
Nigeria has the world’s seventh largest gas reserves and has ambitious plans to increase supply to 13 billion cubic feet per day (cfd) by 2015, roughly double current levels.
Nigeria is home to more than 250 ethnic groups, the three biggest being the Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo. English is the official
Sources BBC, CNN, Reuters, World Bank, NAN