5 possible scenarios for Nigeria election

2015-03-26 18:18
Supporters of Nigeria President Goodluck Jonatha attend an election campaign rally at the National stadium in Lagos, Nigeria. (Sunday Alamba, AP)

Supporters of Nigeria President Goodluck Jonatha attend an election campaign rally at the National stadium in Lagos, Nigeria. (Sunday Alamba, AP)

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Lagos - The outcome of Saturday's Nigerian presidential election is uncertain, in contrast to previous years when the incumbent leader was seen as unbeatable.

It has been a closely-fought race between President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Muhammadu Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Here are five possible scenarios that could follow election day.

Jonathan wins

A win for Jonathan would hardly be a surprise in a country where the national ruling party has never been ousted through a democratic vote and where the benefits of incumbency, including access to public resources, are significant.

Jonathan has vowed to do better if given a second four-year term, promising to create two million new jobs a year to ease Nigeria's unemployment crisis.

He has however failed to deliver on past pledges, including on ending the Boko Haram uprising.

If Jonathan is declared the winner, acceptance of the result in the mainly Muslim north - Buhari's stronghold - will be the key to avoiding widespread post-election unrest.

Buhari wins

Victory for the opposition candidate would set a new precedent of democratic change in Nigeria and cap a remarkable transformation for the former military ruler to "converted democrat".

But what would happen next is far from clear.

The APC, which has campaigned on a slogan of "change", has vowed to clean up government and improve delivery of nearly every public service, from education to electricity to national security.

But the party has never controlled power nationally, meaning Nigerians will likely adopt a wait-and-see approach.

Some militant leaders in the southern, oil-producing Niger Delta, Jonathan's home, have vowed to cause trouble if the president is defeated but whether the threats are pure bluster is unclear.


If neither candidate wins a simple majority of the vote and 25% support in 24 states, Buhari and Jonathan will square off in a second round.

Nigeria has never conducted a run-off before and while electoral law indicates a second round must be held within a week of the first vote, few believe that is realistic.

Should it be necessary, electoral officials will likely announce a revised timeline for the run-off, possibly within a month of polling day.

Legal challenge

The results of many previous Nigerian elections - federal, state and local - have been challenged in court and few will be surprised if petitions are filed swiftly after the result.

PDP loyalists have a pending High Court case questioning whether Buhari meets the academic requirements to serve as president - a case that many believe is baseless.

The potential mass disenfranchisement of people displaced from their homes by Boko Haram Islamist violence could also raise legal questions, the APC has said.

Constitutional crisis

Nigeria has a long and bitter history of military coups and cancelled elections since independence from Britain in 1960.

One of the darkest moments came in 1993, when Moshood Abiola, a prominent businessman, looked set to take the presidency in an election that promised an end to military rule.

But the military annulled the vote before the result was announced, leading to the brutal dictatorship of Sani Abacha that ended in 1998.

Political, military and civil society leaders have unanimously ruled out any return of such episodes.

Read more on:    muhammadu buhari  |  goodluck jonathan  |  nigeria  |  west africa  |  nigeria elections 2015

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