The All People’s Congress candidate, Major General Muhammadu Buhari and the People’s Democratic Party candidate and current incumbent Goodluck Jonathan are less than two weeks away from one of Nigeria’s most historic elections. With the postponement of the presidential elections set for March 28th and the state elections to be held on April 11th, it has given Gen. Buhari more time to capitalize on Goodluck Jonathan’s military shortcomings in the fight against Islamic State-affiliated Boko Haram.
The rhetoric from Gen. Buhari’s camp is that his defense policy will be to combat Boko Haram aggressively and decisively if he wins the election. But this strategy against Boko Haram comes with a reality check. The lasting image of Buhari’s 1983 regime, which took power in a military coup, left much to be desired. Thousands of political opponents were detained without trial and their freedom of speech was suppressed. Buhari’s economic track record does not fare well either. In 1983, he unsuccessfully attempted to regulate the economy with price controls to combat currency depreciation.
Another important question to consider is how would a newly elected President Buhari deal with the Niger Delta. In 2009, Militants waged an armed insurgency within Southern Nigeria and halted oil production. Goodluck Jonathan’s administration made an economic treaty with the group, successfully quieting the disruption in a region that provides approximately 75 percent of Nigeria’s revenues and 90 percent of its exports. Many militants identify with the incumbent from the Bayelsa State and vow to return to their militaristic ways in the Niger Delta if Jonathan is not re-elected.
It remains to be seen how large of an impact ethnic, geographic, and religious lines will have on the election between Buhari, a northern Muslim and Jonathan, a Southern Christian. On its face it seems like Goodluck’s slogan “for the love of the country” might still give the current president an edge, but according to NigerianFM, a non-partisan media group, there is a 60 percent probability that Nigeria will elect Buhari. While many Nigerians still recall Buhari’s authoritarianism and failed economic policies, in the villages where people go to sleep at night in fear of Boko Haram, there’s a growing desire for change.