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Blog | David Gaberle

The elections and future of Nigeria: what is at stake?

Throughout Nigeria, people’s attention is slowly turning towards the presidential elections in April which will decide who will run the country for the following four years. The leading People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and current president Jonathan Goodluck is believed to stand the highest chance of proceeding into the following presidential term, especially after his smooth procession through the presidential primaries on the 13th of January. Does the support of the PDP members and the president’s triumph in the primaries stem from Goodluck’s access to the country’s budget and what possible risks is Nigeria facing in its presidential elections?

Despite the fact that the president was recently advised by a key advisory panel to reduce the allowance for the government’s running expenses, nothing has been done to reduce the current proposal of $27.6bn. Such an amount constitutes approximately 75% of the nation’s budget and presents a serious threat to the country’s development. The fact that the parliamentary salaries are not publicized further emphasizes the government’s kleptocratic nature. Goodluck’s possible exploitation of his access to the national budget during the primaries is believed to have had a negative impact on the unity of the PDP, the country’s largest political party.

The major concern is over its influence on questions concerning the North-South division of the country, further sparked by the resignations of some of the party’s Northern delegates. With these facts in mind, it is particularly significant that the presidential elections run in a transparent manner, because the possible opposition of Goodluck against the Muslim candidate Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential elections could be at the root of a future conflict between the Christian South and the primarily Muslim North.

Now that Jonathan Goodluck has passed through the presidential primaries, it could be in the interest of powerbrokers and the Northern political elite to possibly stir up ethnical and religious conflict either to take the remaining Muslim votes away from Goodluck or to generally discredit the eligibility of the elections. If either of the two is the case, it could, in combination with the notorious graft of the Nigerian government, cause further deterioration to the country’s frail stability and security.

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On account of this, the Nigerian government is in a position where it needs to overcome its corrupt practices in order to prevent the country from further civil conflicts. Such practices are deeply embedded in Nigerian culture that values individual effort and prosperity and commonly uses the ends to justify the means. As the political North-South unity based solely on the agreement of the PDP members has been disrupted by the president’s corrupt behaviour, the question whether or not Goodluck will suffice to keep Nigeria out of conflict remains unanswered. 

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