With Nigeria’s economy struggling and insecurity rife, four top presidential candidates start campaigning this week for next February’s election in an open race to replace President Muhammadu Buhari. Less than five months before the ballot, no clear frontrunner has emerged with major candidates all confronting challenges on their path to the top political seat in Africa’s most populous country.
After two terms, Buhari steps down with Nigeria battling high inflation, oil production at record lows and security forces battling jihadists, separatist gunmen and criminal gangs across the country. Top candidates lining up are Bola Tinubu, a former Lagos governor and stalwart of the ruling All Progressives Congress or APC and opposition Peoples Democratic Party or PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president on his sixth bid.
Two other candidates are challenging the dominance of the APC and PDP: Peter Obi, a former state governor generating a following among young Nigerians and another ex-state governor and former minister Rabiu Kwankwaso. Campaigning starts officially on Wednesday, but five months is an unusually long time for Nigeria, analysts say, increasing risks that party infighting and the north-south ethnic and religious divides will complicate the election buildup.
Since returning to democracy after military rule in 1999, Nigerian elections have been marked by violence, delays, fraud claims and court challenges.