Nigeria is a country located in the region of Western Africa. Nigeria was largely led by military regimes from the mid-1960s until 1999, but since then there has been civilian rule. The 2015 elections led to the first democratic power shift in Nigeria’s history. New president became Muhammadu Buhari, who was re-elected in 2019. At the same time, the Islamist terrorist movement Boko Haram continued to pose the most serious threat to the country since the Biafra war in the 1960s.
Just over two years before the March 2015 elections, the leading opposition parties merged in an attempt to challenge the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which has had a monopoly on government power since democratization in 1999 (see Political system). With the new All Progressives Congress (APC), the opposition had for the first time a clear anchor in different parts of the country.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Nigeria, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
In addition, many PDP members, at both national and state levels, came to the APC. When dozens of MPs changed their sides around the turn of the year 2013/2014, the PDP lost its majority in the House of Representatives. The APC candidate in the presidential election became Muhammadu Buhari who led a military regime in the 1980s and came second in the previous three elections (see Modern History).
The presidential election led to a clear victory for Buhari, a Muslim from Northern Nigeria. The loser, incumbent PDP president Goodluck Jonathan, was praised as he quickly confessed defeat and urged his supporters to accept the election defeat. The peaceful shift of power was seen as a role model for the whole of Africa. Significantly fewer outbreaks of violence were reported than in previous elections and observers from the EU, AU and the regional cooperation organization Ecowas approved the election. APC also secured its own majority in both chambers of the National Assembly.
Fight against corruption
Upon his entry, Buhari promised to deal with the corruption and he soon showed signs of being serious. The new president reported his own assets and took the initiative to legislate against money laundering and shoddy investments abroad. A proper audit of some 80 revenue-generating state companies was ordered, including the oil company NNPC. Legal proceedings were initiated against companies and individuals who were suspected of wasting at least a third of the security budget in counterfeit defense equipment contracts.
However, falling world market prices of oil led Nigeria to a financial crisis in 2016, with growth falling below zero (see Economic overview). The confidence of Buhari’s government has gradually cooled and he has been increasingly criticized for authoritarian rule and lack of initiative to deal with the country’s many security challenges (see below). He has also been sick and absent from the country during periods of treatment abroad.
President Buhari is re-elected
Despite the criticism, then-74-year-old Buhari, in the spring of 2018, announced that he would stand for re-election in February 2019. But his position was subsequently undermined when the APC government began to falter. Dozens of MPs left the party and many of them chose to transition (in many cases return) to the PDP – in a clear parallel to developments ahead of the previous election. Senate President Bukola Saraki also joined the resignations and in August he announced his candidacy in the presidential election. Another strong challenger was considered to be former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
The electoral movement started relatively calm, but became more and more troubled over time, especially when the electoral authority postponed the election for a week due to “logistical problems” in distributing election material. During Election Day and the day before, a total of forty people were killed. According to SBM Intelligence, which analyzes political and economic development, 233 people were killed in election-related violence between October 2018 and February 22, 2019. That means two deaths per day.
Among other things, the administrative and technical problems involved handing out the necessary ID cards to voters. It was also difficult to reach the 1.8 million homeless in the northeast where Boko Haram forced them to flee. In central Nigeria, the same problem arose as a result of the fighting between livestock farmers and farmers.
Important issues were the security of the country, the high unemployment rate and the deep socio-economic gaps in the population.
The end result showed that President Buhari became the winner, while Abubakar finished second. In the election to the lower house of the National Assembly, APC became clearly the largest party. The PDP claimed that electoral fraud and irregularities in the electoral process had occurred and demanded recalculation of votes in some areas.
In August, Buhari presented his new government, almost three months after he swore the presidency. Of 43 ministers, seven were women. Buhari received criticism from those who believed he primarily chose loyal veterans within the APC instead of focusing on young people, women and experts.
After an eight-month trial, in September 2019, the Supreme Court finally rejected the opposition’s appeal of the election results and found that the victory in the presidential election had gone to Buhari.
Action against extremist Islamists
When Buhari took over, intensified and regional action against the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram had begun. The effort was successful in 2015 to the extent that the group was pushed back from cities and larger land areas it has taken. Thousands of civilians who lived under Boko Haram’s violent rule were liberated, even from camps where not least women were kept as sex slaves. But hundreds of thousands of people had been expelled from their homes and many communities were largely destroyed. Over 20,000 people had been killed in six years. Furthermore, the attacks have not ended. Schools, marketplaces, churches and mosques also continue to be targets for suicide bombers. Often the perpetrators are young women or girls, sometimes as young as seven years. Despite Boko Haram being pushed back, the refugee crisis in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring countries remains very large,
Boko Haram is said to have split in 2015, into an al-Qaeda-linked group called Ansaru and a more violent group that has proclaimed a caliphate and claims to be affiliated with the Islamic State (IS), under the new name of the Islamic State’s West African Province (Iswap). But the violence has continued to demand many victims. A number of attacks, in Nigeria as well as in Niger and Cameroon, have caused more and more to question the official image that Boko Haram (or its successor) has in fact been defeated.
Other security threats
Several new security threats have also been reinforced. Violence discharges in central Nigeria between different groups of people – often livestock farmers – have some of them come to be considered a more serious security problem than the Islamists. In southeastern Nigeria, there are still separatists who have not given up on the dream of Biafra. In September 2017, the Supreme Court stamped the separatist group Ipob as a terrorist group.
Furthermore, the dissatisfaction over the political and economic situation in the Niger Delta, a few years after the crisis there was dampened in 2009 (see Modern history). There is a risk of a new upsurge in widespread crime with theft, illegal oil refining and kidnapping of politicians, religious representatives and journalists.
In the fall of 2019, the UN Refugee Agency reported on how violence also intensified in the northwest of the country, towards the border with Niger. By the end of September, more than 40,000 people had fled to Niger in the last ten months, with the exception of violent attacks from criminal gangs ravaging the states of Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina. The attacks have no connection to Boko Haram, which is mainly located in the northeast. The violence that the gang is guilty of is kidnappings, murders, sexual crimes such as rapes and serious violent crimes.
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READING TIP – read more about Nigeria in UI’s web magazine Foreign Magazine:
Deferred elections in Nigeria increase the risk of violence (2019-02-22)
African elections to keep track of in 2019 (2018-01-30)
FACTS – POLITICS
Federal Republic of Nigeria / Federal Republic of Nigeria
republic, federal state
Head of State
President Muhammadu Buhari (2015–)
Head of government
President Muhammadu Buhari (2015–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Progress Congress (APC) 217/65, People’s Democracy Party (PDP) 115/39, All Progressives’ Great Alliance (APGA) 9/0, African Democratic Congress (ADC) 3/0, other 7/1, unallocated mandate 9/4 (2019) 1
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Progress Congress (APC) 225/60, People’s Democracy Party (PDP) 125/49, others 10/0 (2015)
35% in the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections, 44% in the 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections
presidential and parliamentary elections 2023
- The figures show the number of seats in the House of Representatives (lower house) / Senate (upper house)