Editor’s Note: January 29, 2019

Don’t expect much from Nigeria’s election

The Nigerian Bar Association has announced a two-day strike in protest of president Muhammadu Buhari’s suspension of the country’s chief justice last Friday, less than three weeks before presidential elections.

The incident has sparked international criticism, heightening tensions ahead of what is expected to be a tight race between Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) Atiku Abubakar.

From warnings about vote rigging, to fears of an internet shutdown and post-election violence ,the stage is set for a tense contest.

But there is something conspicuously absent from the election – the prospect of meaningful change.

Buhari, 75, and his rival Abubakar, 72, come from a small pool of Nigerian leaders that have dominated the country’s politics for decades. 

Their respective parties are effectively two wings of the same ruling elite, with no ideological distinction between them. Defections are common, with Abubakar rejoining the PDP last year, having crossed over to Buhari’s APC ahead of elections in 2015.

This lack of competition is reflected by little to no progress on economic development in the last two decades, despite impressive growth and investment since the turn of the century.

More than anything this election underlines the need for meaningful alternatives to Nigeria’s political status quo.

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