The Nigerian numbers game, and why the election will be decided by those who did not vote

The numbers shaping up the 2015 Nigerian election, with Buhari in the lead

Muhammadu Buhari has posted an early lead over Goodluck Jonathan in the Nigeria election, 2 million votes in the clear with more than half the country’s results in. To be declared winner, a candidate needs to garner at least 50% of the vote as well as a minimum of 25% of the vote in 28 states.

It’s a numbers game, and here are some stats driving the election:

Despite the hype in the run-up to the election, and endless news articles about how this was a pivotal and historic election, voters clearly felt differently. The majority of states barely managed to pull in a 50% voter turnout; in Abuja, for example it was an abysmal 18.5%.

The reason for the low turnout is varied, from logistical challenges on the part of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). A week to the election, over 12.4 million voters were yet to collect their voters cards, and the risk of violence may have kept people away from polling stations.

But more importantly, it’s been suggested that in this election, many Nigerians were faced with two choices, neither of whom they were particularly passionate about. Blogger Christian Purefoy writes that Jonathan has been disastrously weak, but Buhari represents something that Nigerians have faced before and have voted against in the past.

In other words it was the Nigerians who did not vote who have decided the election.

The poor voter turnout in PDP-stronghold southern states is sure to hit Jonathan badly, even if he gets an overwhelming victory there. Abia state saw a drop in turnout from 78% in the 2011 elections to 30% today.

Imo state’s turnout fell from 84% to 42%, and in Enugu from 63% to 42%. By not voting, Jonathan’s “homeboys” have given a hand up to Buhari. 

So far, 28 states plus the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja have been reported their results. But Buhari’s early lead, coupled with the low turnouts in Jonathan’s strongholds, means that in order to win, Jonathan would have to have a strong majority in the north-east – an opposition stronghold – as well as achieve results similar to the 2011 election in the south. Both scenarios are unlikely.

In Kano, the state containing Nigeria’s second biggest city, Buhari defeated Jonathan by nearly 1.7 million votes, compared with about 1 million four years ago. In Kaduna, where the two were virtually tied in 2011, Buhari won by 650,000 votes.

Early results showed that there were zero spoilt/ void votes in Jonathan’s stronghold of Enugu, while in Nasarawa, in central Nigeria, 79,000 spoilt or void votes were reported. The discrepancy raised suspicion, with bloggers asking how the “perfect” result in Enugu was possible.

IN OTHER NEWS: In Ogun state, Prince Buruji Kashamu, a wealthy businessman, has been elected senator. But the remarkable thing is that he has been wanted in the US for 17 years, suspected to be the kingpin of a drug smuggling and money laundering ring.

 It was the same operation that landed American author Piper Kerman in jail for a year and inspired her memoir Orange Is The New Black. Kashamu strenuously denies the charges and claims it’s a case of mistaken identity; he says the U.S. really wants his late brother.

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