Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) closed the sale of its nomination forms on 13 May and is currently screening the 28 presidential candidates who submitted their forms before the deadline. There are likely to be some defections before the APC’s presidential primaries on 1 June by those who now believe that they have little or no chance of being selected for the party’s ticket.
The Senate president Ahmad Lawan (b.1959) is one of those who submitted the forms on time. Despite his late entry into the race to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, he has emerged as one of the frontrunners as the APC seeks ways to respond to the possibility of facing a northern candidate representing the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Lawan’s chances of winning the APC ticket have improved following the failure of a plan to draft Nigeria’s 2010-2015 president Goodluck Jonathan into the presidential election race. Yobe State’s Governor Mai Mala Buni — who until recently was the APC’s caretaker chairman, and who hatched the plan to draft Jonathan — appears to have been behind the move to bring Lawan into the race after the previous plan failed.
The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele, did not submit the completed APC forms and will therefore not be screened. This is despite receiving a last-minute legal injunction preventing the CBN’s board from stopping him from competing. President Buhari’s instruction for all political appointees who have declared their intention to run in 2023 to resign on or before 16 May appears to have deterred Emefiele from proceeding with his plans. Nonetheless, he is likely to be fired anyway because he has demonstrated his political partisanship as an APC member.
Meanwhile, completed nomination forms were submitted on behalf of the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) president, Akinwumi Adesina, who has not yet categorically stated whether or not he will run. His aides have avoided answering such questions which has given the impression that he is hesitant to rule himself out of the race even though he has not committed to running.
An increasing number of cabinet members — including Minister of Labour and productivity Chris Ngige, and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami — have abandoned their political ambitions after Buhari instructed all candidates to resign their portfolios by 16 May. Ngige had purchased the presidential nomination forms, while Malami had obtained the ones for the Kebbi State gubernatorial election. The fear of losing their powerful jobs appears to have compelled them to reconsider their quest. However a number of cabinet colleagues, including Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi, have resigned so that they can run for one of the posts in next year’s general election.
There is a growing likelihood that neither the APC or the main Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will win the 2023 national elections on the first ballot and that regional parties will subsequently emerge. The APC’s overwhelming dominance is likely to dwindle; the PDP is likely to remain in its South-South strongholds; while the smaller parties will be strong in specific states and the National Assembly.
Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje’s Chief of Staff announced his defection to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) on 14 May. He is the state’s latest high-profile defector to the NNPP which gained popularity after its 1999-2003 and 2011-2015 governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, defected from the PDP. The NNPP recently welcomed Abdulmumin Jibrin — Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s campaign director general in the North — who defected from the APC to the NNPP despite pleas from Tinubu not to do so.
Fourteen PDP members in Kano State’s House of Assembly have subsequently defected to the NNPP which has transformed into the major opposition in Kano which, after Lagos, has the second largest number of voters and but boasts the highest turnout. Because of Kwankwaso’s popularity in many parts of the North, the party could become the party of choice for potential defectors from both the APC and the PDP which makes the NNPP a force to be reckoned with in 2023. The NNPP now also has a good chance of winning Kano State in next year’s gubernatorial election thanks to Kwankwaso’s support — because the APC appears increasingly divided in the state — and may also become a strong contender in other northern states.
The emerging shape of country’s new politics is:
- the likelihood of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) winning more states in the Southeast after both the APC and the PDP fail to field an Igbo candidate;
- the NNPP winning Kano and some states in the core North; and
- the Social Democratic Party (SDP) possibly winning some states in the Southwest after the defection of some APC bigwigs if Lawan is selected as the party’s candidate.
Meanwhile, the brutal killing of a Christian girl by fellow students after she was accused of blasphemy has sparked ethnic tensions across the country. After the suspects were arrested by Sokoto State police there were protests which forced its governor to impose a 24-hour curfew. Nigeria’s former vice president Abubakar Atiku — who is currently the PDP frontrunner to was forced to delete a tweet condemning the incident after Muslims threatened not to vote for him. This comes as the National Security Advisor, Babagana Monguno, has warned that some politicians are stoking the febrile political environment.This excerpt is taken from Nigeria Politics & Security, our weekly intelligence report on Nigeria. Click here to receive a free sample copy.