Meet Nigeria’s Top Two Presidential Contenders, Vying for Power in a Sea of 70 Candidates

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Olamikan Gbemiga

Only two of the more than 70 candidates running for president in the upcoming February 16 elections have a real shot at winning in Nigeria, home to the largest democracy in Africa, according to various reports.

Over the weekend, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) described 76-year-old incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari (pictured) from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and 72-year-old Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), as the “two principal candidates” in the country’s crowded field of presidential aspirants, noting:

Muhammadu Buhari. A former general who ran a military government in the 1980s, Buhari leads the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Plagued by health issues, he has spent much of his current term abroad for medical treatment. Buhari’s focus has been on defeating a resurgent Boko Haram, dealing with an economic downturn amid a slow recovery of global oil prices, and battling corruption, but he has had little success. He remains popular with the poor.

Atiku Abubakar. A former vice president, Abubakar is the candidate of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He advocates pro-growth fiscal policies and more foreign and domestic investment, though he has offered few specifics. He made a fortune in the oil services business, and he is widely viewed in the media and among civil society as being corrupt, which he denies. He has not faced legal charges.

Reuters adds:

To his admirers, Buhari is frugal, moral and prizes loyalty above other qualities in his allies – a foil to the alleged excesses of the PDP. To his critics, he is an ailing relic with little head for policy and no concern for the rule of law. …To his supporters, Atiku is an accomplished businessman with the economic credentials needed to boost growth, create jobs and attract foreign investors back to Nigeria as it struggles to recover from the first recession in a generation. His opponents say he is a kleptocrat who lacks a moral compass and consistent ideology.

As for an unexpected third party victory in Nigeria, the odds are reportedly daunting.

The African Exponent noted:

It happened in DR Congo when Felix Tshisekedi was named the president of the country after the December 30, 2018 elections. No one saw it coming, and it gave credit to the phrase that ‘anything is possible’ – but not in Nigeria!

“While a handful of the other candidates are touted as civil society alternatives, their chances of winning are slim without the big parties’ wealth and patronage,” Reuters explained.

Quartz, nevertheless, identified the most prominent “third force” candidates as “former Central Bank deputy governor, Kingsley Moghalu, motivational speaker and coach, Fela Durotoye as well as activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Yele Sowore.”

Nigeria’s Pulse adds:

Another notable Third Force candidate, Oby Ezekwesili, a former minister, recently withdrew from the race due to a clash with her party, the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), while another one, Donald Duke, a former governor, has had his campaign tied up by litigation and internal party crisis he might as well not be competing.

Nigerian candidates opposing the sitting administration have blasted the president’s record on combating the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-linked Boko Haram insurgency, which continues to wreak havoc despite the Buhari’s repeated claims of victory over the group.

Moreover, the opposition claims that Buhari has failed to tackle the violence against predominantly Christian farmers at the hands of Muslim Fulani herdsmen.

Both Buhari and Abubaker share their ethnicity with the Fulani.

To be president, a candidate must win a majority of the nationwide vote in addition to at least 25 percent of the votes in two-thirds of the country’s state.

If the candidates fail to get the required votes, the top two would compete in a run-off election, something that has “never happened,” CFR adds.

Over 84 million Nigerians are expected to go to the polls, which also involve the election of the country’s National Assembly.

Al Jazeera noted:

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with nearly 200 million people. The country has played a vital role in resolving political conflicts in neighboring countries. Nigeria has also contributed troops to quell uprisings and maintain peace in some African countries.

The African continent’s largest democracy still struggles with infrastructure deficit and two-thirds of its population not having access to safe water. Half of its population also has no electricity despite billions of dollars budgeted for power supply over the years.

News outlets have identified the economy, corruption, and insecurity as the top issues for voters.

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