The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has dominated every single Nigerian presidential election since 1999. Using sophisticated forms of electoral rigging and relying on a relatively unified political class built on patronage, a PDP incumbent or his anointed successor has secured electoral victory at every turn. Such a scenario would all but ensure the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan in the February 14, 2015 elections. But, that mold is broken. Under pressure from falling oil prices, a decline in the value of the national currency, the fall in values on the Nigerian stock exchange, the increasing success of the Boko Haram insurgency, and repeated episodes demonstrating that the Nigerian state can no longer provide security for its citizens have fractured agreements between the political elites that have run Nigeria for decades. Many elites also appear increasingly detached from the Nigerian people because of their association with corruption and poor governance.
Reflecting these new realities, there is anecdotal evidence that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, are generating exceptional excitement around the country, not merely with Buhari’s core constituency in the Muslim north. For example, a faction of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), based in an area that voted overwhelmingly for Jonathan in 2011, has endorsed Buhari. In a sign of the splintering of the elite consensus, former president Olusegun Obasanjo who anointed Jonathan in the first place, has stated that the president has “failed Nigeria.” Most of the leaders of the APC have been part of the PDP at one time or another. Yet at this time, some political elites are transferring their support to the APC in order to repudiate the behavior of the PDP.