Nigeria’s hugely anticipated presidential election is just 24 days away, and if you’re like most people, you’re probably sick of story after story about who should rule Nigeria. But with all the attention on President Goodluck Jonathan and his primary challenger Muhammadu Buhari, most people have forgotten a few key facts about Nigeria’s Election 2015.
Here are a few things you should know about the people running for president:
1) It’s not a Jonathan vs Buhari contest; There are more than two candidates:
Actually there are 14 people currently seeking Nigeria’s top job. Local and international coverage of the upcoming presidential elections can easily mislead you into thinking that there are only two presidential aspirants.
President Goodluck Jonathan and Former Military Dictator Muhammadu Buhari. Both candidates are no doubt the front runners. President Jonathan is from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which has won every presidential election since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. General Buhari is from the All Progressives Congress (APC), formed two years ago from the merger of several opposition parties to provide a credible counterweight to the PDP.
But there are 12 other candidates representing 12 of Nigeria’s 27 political parties. None of these other parties hold governorships in any of Nigeria’s 36 states. None of them have any representation in Nigeria’s Senate—the upper chamber of the National Assembly. Only one party, the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), has representation with just one seat in the Federal House of Assembly—the lower chamber.
This is also the second lowest number of presidential contestants since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule 16 years ago. The 1999 election had only two contestants with former president Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP running against the Chief Olu Falae of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). The 2007 election saw the highest number of contenders with 25 candidates appearing on the ballot. It was also the most controversial since the return to civil rule with local and international bodies alleging grave malpractice.
2) Only one woman running for president
Of the 32,718,943 Nigerian women, who are eligible to run for office, only one is a contestant for the Presidency of a country in which they make up 49 percent of the population. One would think that a novelty candidacy should garner the lone female candidate Professor Comfort Oluremi Sonaiya some attention, but she is virtually unknown.
She doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page and only 867 people follow her on twitter. Only a few human interest blogs have bothered to discuss her candidacy. Nigerian women fair better in the Vice Presidential position where they occupy the number two slot for five parties.
These parties in which women are involved have very little realistic chance of winning the presidential election. The 2003 elections had the highest number of female presidential contestants – two – which double the current number. Perhaps the only positive here is that every poll since 1999 has had a woman on the ballot.
3) The age average of contenders is 52, but both front runners are older:
An average age of 52 for contestants is not bad in a country where the majority of the population is below the age of 40. But the current President and the man who wants to replace him are older than that. Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan is 57 and his chief contender Buhari is 72. The two front runners, along with Professor Oluremi Sonaiya who is 59 and of another, Rafiu Salau 58, are the four oldest aspirants. If they are removed from the list, the average age falls to 48, which would have been perfect for a country where one third of the population is made up of young people between the ages of 10 to 24.
Muhammadu Buhari, the oldest candidate this year, is the third oldest presidential candidate in Nigeria’s history, after founding fathers Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo, who were 79 and 74 respectively the when they contested for the presidency in 1983. If Buhari wins, he will also become Nigeria’s oldest president ever. When first elected to the presidency, Goodluck Jonathan was Nigeria’s youngest ever democratically elected President, assuming office at 53. He is the second youngest democratically elected head of government after Tafawa Balewa who was 48 years old when he became the first and only prime minister of a newly independent Nigeria. Nigeria’s current oldest president at his election was Olusegun Obasanjo who was 62 when he assumed office in 1999 and 70 when he left in 2007.
4) All but one of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones has a presidential candidate:
The North-East, the geopolitical zone all of the presidential candidates have promised to save from the Boko Haram insurgency, is the only region without a presidential candidate. Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first elected head of government, was the last elected head of the country to come from the region. All other regions have more than one candidate, except the Northwest which has one— Muhammadu Buhari. Shehu Shagari and Musa Yar’Adua the other two democratically elected northern presidents have come from this region. Nigeria’s Southeast has the highest number of candidates, five, but none of them have any real chance of winning. No Southeastern candidate has ever won a Nigerian presidential election, in fact none has ever been runner up. The Southwest has the second highest number with four candidates. It also provides the sole female candidate. Current President Goodluck Jonathan and one other contender, Chief Ambrose Albert Owuru, are from Nigeria’s oil rich South-South region. The North Central region currently has two candidates — Rafiu Sanau and Dr Mani Ibrahim Ahmad.
5) There are one professor and five PhD holders running for president:
If the polls were to be determined by academic qualifications, then the sole female candidate wins outrightly as the only professor in the pack. However, the other aspirants are no dunces. Five of the contestants, including the current president, have PhD degrees. Another five have a Bachelor’s degree as their highest educational qualification.
There is one Master’s degree holder. There is also one candidate with a Higher National Diploma (the degree attained from polytechnics). Most interesting however is the fact that two candidates have presented Senior School Leaving Certificates, the lowest acceptable academic qualification for a presidential candidate. Buhari, the main opposition challenger registered with this qualification, although his presentation of a court affidavit rather than his actual school certificate has raised questions about the veracity of his academic claims.