Nigerian President Buhari Will Seek Second Term in 2019

(Bloomberg) -- Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has decided to run for re-election in February, ending months of speculation about whether the former military ruler would seek a second term.

The announcement of the decision by Buhari, 75, on Monday came at a time of growing criticism of his performance and uncertainty in his ruling All Progressives Congress about his plans. He was in the U.K. for a total of five months last year to treat an undisclosed ailment.

Nigerian President Buhari Will Seek Second Term in 2019

“Buhari’s desire for re-election was perhaps Nigeria’s worst kept secret, and his announcement will lift some of the uncertainty that was beginning to gather over the issue,” Cheta Nwanze, an analyst at Lagos-based risk advisory SBM Intelligence, said by phone. “There are multiple factions in his party who do not want him to have a second term. They will coalesce against him now.”

After becoming the first opposition candidate to win power in Nigeria at the ballot box, Buhari oversaw the most severe economic slump in 25 years, failed to end security threats such as the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency and has been unable to stop daily power cuts in Africa’s biggest oil producer. Yet so far there’s little sign of a unified opposition to defeat him.

Public Support

Buhari disclosed his decision to the APC’s national executive committee. The president is due to travel on Monday to the U.K. where he will attend a meeting of leaders of the Commonwealth, a group of mostly former British colonies.

Buhari said he was responding to “the clamor by Nigerians” to seek a second term, his office said in a statement.

“Let us strive to remain united in our purpose,” he said in a speech at the meeting. “Victory is sure by the Grace of God, and together we must continue to sanitize Nigeria’s political environment.”

Nigeria’s main stock index extended losses after the announcement, falling 0.8 percent by 1:48 p.m. in the commercial capital Lagos to its lowest since Jan. 9.

Favoring Continuity

“The market already had a sense he’d run for a second term,” Olalekan Olabode, equity analyst at Vetiva Capital Management Ltd., said by phone from Lagos. “The market does favor continuity and this is pretty much in line with expectations.”

The main challenger to the APC is the People’s Democratic Party, which remains scarred by a reputation for mismanagement and corruption that led to its defeat in 2015 elections. The PDP had governed Nigeria since the end of military rule in 1999 and left behind most of the seemingly intractable problems that the Buhari administration now faces.

“It is likely that Mr Buhari will be the APC’s candidate and, given the poor state of the opposition, will win re-election,” said Jared Jeffrey, an analyst at NKC African Economics near Cape Town, South Africa.

New movements have emerged in recent months that reject both main parties. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is touting the Coalition for Nigeria, the Nigerian Intervention Movement is headed by human-rights lawyer Olisa Agbakoba, and the Red Card Movement is led by Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former minister and ex-vice president of the World Bank.

By announcing his intention now, Buhari is probably seeking to outmaneuver possible rivals in the ruling party, Jibrin Ibrahim, the director at Centre for Democracy and Development, said by phone from the capital, Abuja.

“The fear for him would be if he does not make it clear that he is in the race, others who may also have plans might be bold and start making open moves within the party,” he said.

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