Nigeria Election: Take two…


The week-long election delay has been nothing short of eventful, with incumbent Muhammadu Buhari and challenger Atiku Abubakar somewhat united in their criticism of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), accusing  each other of working in tandem with INEC to manipulate the vote. INEC denies this…

On Tuesday, Buhari warned that anyone trying to tamper with the election on Saturday “will do so at the expense of his own life”, raising fears that security agencies could potentially be used to intimidate voters. Nigeria’s army chief General Tukur Yusuf Buratai warned officers on Wednesday to “deal decisively” with vote-rigging, speaking at a meeting of senior army staff. Atiku responded saying that the military “has no role to play in the conduct of an election”.

With INEC adamant Nigeria will hold the election as scheduled this time around, and the government having declared a public holiday on Friday to enable voters to return to their home neighbourhoods to vote, we suspect the delay will not significantly influence the outcome.

To give this some context, elections have been postponed before in Nigeria – they were delayed by a week in 2011 and six weeks in 2015.

On both occasions, we believe tensions were running higher and there was more at stake. Those elections pitted Southern against Northern candidates. But it’s different this time around, with Buhari and Atiku both from the North. Also, despite much uncertainty and significant violence, the results of both of those elections were ultimately accepted. We believe this is important to note when interpreting the recent delay.

Nevertheless, the move does raise tensions in a situation where the chief justice is under investigation, the oil-producing Delta militants have pledged their preference for Atiku, and Atiku has made clear his intention to change the central bank governor, pursue reform of the multiple FX regimes and federal-state relations.

In the short term, we believe there will also be an economic cost from a longer period of lost output.

Obviously, events are fluid and we will update our interpretation as they develop but, at this stage, there is no change to our views on the election, as laid out in our recent detailed free report and previous blog post: “Nigeria elections: status quo versus a pro-market push.”