On February 16, 2019, eighty-four million Nigerian voters will have the chance to elect their next president before returning to the polls to elect state governors and members of the national assembly on March 2. In the run-up to the hotly contested elections, the political atmosphere has been charged by intense party campaigns, sporadic incidents of political violence, and rising expectations. Political tensions are also being fueled by the high stakes of the presidential election. The contest features the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Alliance (APC), a former military head of state, and Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and a former vice president. The security situation is fragile with continued sporadic attacks by Boko Haram and other armed groups in the Northeast, Central, and Northwest regions of the country. Nigerians are also keen to pass their verdict on government policies aimed at tackling the persistent socio-economic challenges of rising poverty, inequality, and high levels of youth unemployment.

The 2019 Nigerian election bears the hallmarks of a two-horse race—in this case between the APC and PDP. In some states, based on local factors and the popularity of certain candidates, fringe parties will likely win elections, but without threatening APC-PDP dominance at the national level. Given Nigeria’s pivotal status as Africa’s most populous country, largest economy, and a major player in the global oil market, local and international observers are keen to ensure that the elections are legitimate, free, and fair, and that all disagreements that may arise after results are declared are resolved in a non-violent manner that promotes peace, stability, and security in West Africa’s regional powerhouse.

This special issue of Kujenga Amani brings together reflections and informed analyses by Nigerian researchers on the upcoming 2019 elections. The challenges of electoral management in Africa’s largest democracy—including infrastructural deficits, geographical constraints, and the fact that ninety-one political parties have candidates contesting political offices at various levels—underscore the political significance of the polls.

Contributors to this volume address issues such as the politics of inclusion and exclusion of marginalized groups, such as women, youth, and internally displaced persons (IDPs), and the role of security agencies in ensuring elections are held under conditions that guarantee they are free and fair, and that intimidation and political violence, particularly in hotly-disputed contests and conflict-affected states, do not occur. Other contributors focus on the nature of Nigeria’s elections, the scant attention being paid to economic issues during the campaigns, and the role of the international community.

In spite of the acrimonious political campaigns in the lead-up to the 2019 elections, our analysis suggests that fears of impending catastrophe are mostly exaggerated. Despite the various challenges, the presidential elections in particular, though closely fought, will be a two-horse race free of major violence and a winner will emerge. What the country should brace for are the post-election litigations and a realignment of forces in preparation for the next elections in 2023.

The articles in this special issue are:

  1. Displaced but not Disenfranchised? Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and the 2019 General Elections in Nigeria, by Patience Adzande
  2. Women and Nigeria’s 2019 Elections, by Titilope Ajayi
  3. The International Community and Nigeria’s 2019 Elections, by Temitope Akinyemi
  4. Security Agencies and the 2019 Elections in Nigeria, by Dare Arowolo
  5. Bullets and Ballots: Exploring Insecurities and the 2019 Elections in Nigeria, by Noah Attah
  6. Not Ready to Run? Youth and Nigeria’s 2019 General Elections, by Hakeem Onapajo
  7. Political Campaigns in the 2019 Election: Economic Debate Takes a Backseat, by Taiwo Owoeye