Recent presidential elections herald a historic moment for African politics, but in a challenging economic and security situation newly elected Muhammadu Buhari faces significant challenges

On March 28th, Africa’s biggest and most populous economy conducted its presidential elections; General Mohammadu Buhari from the All Progressive Congress (APC) took the position of President and Commander in Chief as he defeated Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), with votes of 15,857,152 (55%) to 12,857,152 (45%), report Nigerian newspaper This Day.

Buhari, a staunch anti-corruption campaigner, seized power in a 1983 coup before being ousted 18 months later. Since then he has run for several elections, and received cautious support from the US following announcement of recent election results. He has strong support in Northern areas where he is viewed as the answer to security troubles, although the elections were more closely contested in the oil producing Southern provinces.


The elections were the intense focus of international attention, with electoral observers from the European Union (EU) and other participants from the African Union (AU), ECOWAS, Human Rights Monitor and Independent Election Monitoring Groups, amongst many others.

Nigeria’s Independent Election Commission (INEC), implemented an impressive array of micro and macro anti-fraud measures, tactics and pre-planning, to minimise the risk of vote-rigging. Networks of reporters operated at most of the 120,000 polling stations, recording proceedings on mobile telephone cameras.

Despite some incidents of Boko Haram insurgent attacks on voters, the elections have been some of the most orderly in Nigeria’s history, especially consider post-election violence in 2011 that left 800 dead. The actions of Jonathan Goodluck following his defeat also contributed greatly to continued peace; commentators note how he phoned newly elected Buhari, addressed the country as a conciliatory statesman and accepted defeat in a humble manner. It is not hard to see how the post-election situation could have been much different.

Post-Election Challenges

Buhari faces a steep task; aside from security troubles in the North, drops in the global price of oil have hampered the Nigerian economy, putting increased pressures on state revenues and risking devaluations of currency. According to Africa Confidential, one of Buhari’s first tasks will be to provide clear rules of accountability and transparency in the oil and gas sectors, addressing the perception of widespread corruption that contributed to the downfall of Jonathan Goodluck.

The divisions between the Northern areas hit by the Boko Haram insurgency and the richer oil producing south must also be carefully managed, as Buhari looks to overcome a tense period in the political landscape.

Since Jonathan Goodluck’s office in 2010, the per capita income in Nigeria has risen from US$4,740 to $5360, according to World Bank statistics, but the income disparity has also increased. Some suggest that this is due to the proceeds from Nigeria’s huge oil industry that have never made it beyond PDP supporters in the south. An info-graphic produced by the Wall Street Journal gives a visual representation of the disparity;


Ethnic division will continue to pose a huge challenge for stable democracy in Nigeria; the International Business Times explain that Buhari only narrowly won Lagos, a key state, by 792,460 to 632,327. However in the majority Igbo southeastern states of Imo, Anambra, Enagu, Ebonyi and Abia, Jonathan Goodluck’s PDP won landslide victories, and the Igbo have come to be seen as responsible for this.

On April 5th the Oba, or King of Lagos, threatened the Igbo with fatal consequences if they did not vote for Akinwui Ambode of the APC in upcoming governorship elections on April 11th. While the Oba has no political power over the state and Ambode has issued a statement distancing himself from the threats, he is closely aligned with Nigerian politicians in advisory roles.

In recent days stories have emerged of increased post-election violence; the APC claimed that the PDP had killed 55 of its members in Rivers state, a stronghold of PDP support, ahead of the governorship elections on April 11th. These developments highlight the political tension and challenges that still face Buhari and the continued stability of Nigerian democracy.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today

Nigeria: Poll Prepared?
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.3, Pp.20493A-20493B

Nigeria: Elections Postponed
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.2, Pp.20457B-20458B

Nigeria: Poll Campaign
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.1, Pp.20423C-20424C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today