Kano from Dala hill

Electioneering is in full swing in Nigeria, despite the next poll not taking place until 2027.

Two high-profile figures, six-time presidential hopeful and opposition People’s Democratic Party leader Atiku Abubakar, and former Kaduna State Gov. Nasir El-Rufai, visited former President Muhammadu Buhari in late June. Abubakar’s visit was part of a tour of northern Nigerian heads of state and traditional leaders. 

El-Rufai’s visit was slightly more complex: Only 16 months ago, he was trying to forestall a currency changeover to support Tinubu’s shot at the presidency. However, his exclusion from Tinubu’s cabinet seems to be swaying his allegiance. 

Both visits demonstrate how early election chess moves begin in Nigeria. 

Coalitions Forming?

Opposition coalition-building has begun in northern Nigeria, where Tinubu is on the back foot. Saving several top appointments for his fellow southwesterners has not helped, especially amid insecurity and raging food inflation. 

If he does not announce plans for big spending or some high-profile northern appointments, the president may find it difficult to build a constituency there. 

There are hints about an alliance between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP). The APC felt the losses to the NNPP in Kano, Nigeria’s most populous state, during the last elections. However, with the election three years away, allegiances will continue shifting. 

Effects of Political Power Plays

These early scrabbles for political power have more widespread implications. In major oil producers Rivers and Bayelsa, it raises security risks, as demonstrated by the violence between political factions in Port Harcourt in mid-June. 

Nigerian officials may find themselves in fluctuating favor or decide to run for office at state level. Doing so may distract them from federal duties — keep an eye on the chessboard of Nigerian politics, especially with the long-rumored and delayed cabinet reshuffle still looming.

Horizon Engage on Africa

Fresh from her trip to Lagos, Clementine Wallop looked at how Tinubu’s reforms have Nigeria spinning. Request the latest issue.

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