Nigeria’s presidential election features more than 70 candidates but it is ultimately expected to be a head-to-head between just two main rivals: Muhammadu Buhari (All Progressives Congress) and Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party).
Below is a brief bio of the two leading contenders for Nigeria Presidential election:
Muhammadu Buhari (All Progressives Congress)
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is a political party in Nigeria, formed on 6 February 2013 in anticipation of the 2015 elections. The APC candidate Muhammadu Buhari won the presidential election by almost 2.6 million votes, with incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan conceding defeat on 31 March 2015. This was the first time in Nigeria’s political history that an opposition political party unseated a governing party in a general election and one in which power transferred peacefully from one political party to another.
In addition, the APC won the majority of seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives in the 2015 elections, despite the fact that it fell short of winning an overwhelming majority to override the ability of the opposition People’s Democratic Party to block legislation.
He unsuccessfully ran for the office of president of Nigeria in the 2003, 2007, and 2011 general elections.
Many of the economic problems that had existed under previous administration also plagued the Buhari regime, and Buhari instituted austerity measures to deal with them. He took a tough stance on corruption and during his tenure, hundreds of politicians and business officials were tried and convicted on corruption-related charges. His regime launched the “War Against Indiscipline,” a program which sought to promote positive values in Nigerian society.
Progress under Buhari was mixed. His presidency had a rough start, with the country falling into recession in 2016 in part because of declining revenue from oil sales. By 2018 there was evidence of some economic recovery from the recession, although many Nigerians were still living in extreme poverty. The struggle with Boko Haram factions continued. While the military initially experienced success in curbing the groups, the militants bounced back, and attacks escalated. Furthermore, Buhari’s government faced security threats in the southeastern part of the country from militants seeking to disrupt oil production as well as from Biafran secessionists. His administration’s war on corruption was both praised for its progress and criticized for focusing more on political opponents than on allies.
Throughout his tenure, Buhari’s health and subsequent his ability to lead Nigeria were called into question after he repeatedly went abroad for health care. In 2017 alone, he left the country multiple times for treatment of an undisclosed medical ailment. The lack of transparency regarding Buhari’s health and his extended absences led to rumours that he had died and been replaced by a body double. Buhari and his administration dismissed the concerns about his health, and he was named the APC candidate for the February 2019 presidential election.
Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party)
Atiku Abubakar is well-known figure in Nigeria, having served as vice president under Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007. In his Presidential campaign, he has outlined a number of free market reforms, including privatising the state-run oil firm, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, floating the naira national currency and abolishing multiple exchange rates.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) policies generally lie towards the centre-right of the political spectrum. It won every Presidential election between 1999 and 2011, and was until the 2015 elections, the governing party in the Fourth Republic. Currently, PDP controls 14 states out of 36 states in Nigeria.
Abubakar is the co-founder of Intels Nigeria Limited, an oil servicing business with extensive operations in Nigeria and abroad. He is also the founder of Adama Beverages Limited, and the American University of Nigeria (AUN), both in Yola, Adamawa.
Abubakar’s recent trip to Washington raised critical questions about his ideology and allegiance, after it emerged he had engaged lobbyists linked to US President Donald Trump and stayed at a Trump hotel.
Polls open in Nigerian election
Nigerians are heading to the polls in one of the most hotly contested presidential elections in the country’s recent political history, after a week-long delay which security fears and controversy claims.
More than 84 million Nigerians have registered to take part in this election, with long queues having been reported at several polling stations across the country early on Saturday (23 February 2019).
Pre-election violence overshadowed campaigning, with civil society organisations stating that 260 people were killed during elections campaigns between October and February.
Results from the elections are expected early next week.