Having won 56% of the popular vote in the presidential election on 23 February and even higher margins of victory in the House and Senate elections, Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) will have no excuse for failure to deliver on their promises of economic and security reform in the second term.
Although the chances of a successful legal challenge to Buhari’s 4-million-vote victory are slim to none, the elections cast light on serious problems in the political system. Most glaring is the minimal participation of women and young Nigerians (under 35) in general.
Compared to countries such as South Africa and Rwanda, Nigeria is falling far behind on gender-equality indices, despite an impressive succession of high-level women appointees in government over the past decade. Nigeria now has the lowest percentage of women parliamentarians anywhere in Africa – a terrible indictment given the key role that women play in the Nigerian economy.
However hard the APC will spin it, there was no national vote of confidence in Buhari the man. Voter turnout slumped to 36%, almost 10 percentage points lower than in the landmark election of 2015. Buhari held the north but comprehensively lost in the south; in some states, he failed to scrape 25% of the vote.
In the Lagos bailiwick of Bola Tinubu, Buhari’s fixer-in-chief, the turnout was under 20%. Some say that shows the political sophistication of the 20 million denizens of the commercial capital, who found little to recommend either Buhari or his challenger, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
For sure, the APC used every trick at its disposal: the suspension of the chief justice, the distribution of largesse on the campaign trail, deployment of security forces, and the sporadic use of thugs. There are also concerns about an APC politician who is a shareholder in a company producing biometric voter cards.