Winds of change start blowing in Nigeria

As Nigeria’s parliamentary elections finally got underway this past weekend, delayed by a week, results that have started coming in from the legislative and senatorial vote suggest the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), is losing some ground to its rivals, and may lose its grip on parliament.

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

The Financial Times, quoting Nigerian media, reported that PDP stalwarts, including vice-president Namadi Sambo, had lost their seats. In the south-west, opposition party Action Congress of Nigeria looked set to secure a majority in at least five states. In the north, voters appeared to turn against the PDP in favour of candidates from the opposition Congress for Progressive Change. In the south-west state of Ogun, both Dimeji Bankole, House of Representative speaker, and Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, the Ogun State senator and a daughter of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, were also headed for defeat. Final results have not yet been announced.

A poor showing at the legislative and senatorial polls would mean the PDP loses control of the national assembly, which determines the legislative agenda. Most observers say that the results of the presidential and gubernational polls in 36 states next weekend will determine who wields power in Nigeria. Despite these initial results, President Goodluck Jonathan is still the frontrunner, with a 62% approval rating.

The elections have been largely peaceful, with most observers deeming them free and fair, despite the violence and postponements that preceded Saturday’s polls. A bomb blast in Suleja, just north of Abuja, and two bombing incidents on Saturday in Maiduguri, northern Nigeria, left at least 20 people dead. An official of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said the electoral body will continue working with all security agencies in an effort to prevent future violence in the run up to the presidential vote scheduled for Saturday 16 April.

Nick Dazan, INEC assistant director of public affairs, said the electoral body regretted the bomb attacks and other violence ahead of the parliamentary elections that were held over the weekend. “The commission regrets the violence that greeted the election, especially a day before the election . . . But the commission and Nigerians are determined that this violence is not going to affect the conduct of this particular election and subsequent ones. And this resolve is expressed in the large number of Nigerians that turned up for the elections,” said Dazan.

Article written by the Imara Africa Securities team. Imara is an investment banking and asset management group renowned for its knowledge of African markets.