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Buhari vs. Abubakar: Who Analysts See Winning Nigeria’s Vote


Whether President Muhammadu Buhari or his main opponent, Atiku Abubakar, will win Nigeria’s election on Saturday has split analysts down the middle.

Polls in Nigeria tend to be unreliable, given the difficulty of sampling a nation of 200 million people and factoring in rigging, which has marred almost every vote since Africa’s biggest oil producer got independence from the U.K. in 1960.

Here are the forecasts of eight analysts, with four expecting that Buhari, a 76-year-old former general, will win a second term and the same number predicting a victory for Abubakar, 72, a businessman and former vice president who’s pledged to privatize the state oil company and float the currency. Both men are Muslims from the north, which could make that area a crucial battleground.

The election commission will probably announce the results early next week.

Abubakar to Win

  • Fitch Solutions: Abubakar, who’s widely known as Atiku, has the edge given how Buhari’s “struggled to fulfill key election pledges’’ made when he came to office in 2015, according to the London-based research house. Moreover, Abubakar may be able to take a large chunk of votes in the north, a region Buhari dominated last time when he was facing former President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian southerner.

  • Songhai Advisory: Abubakar will benefit from the support of key powerbrokers, including ex-army chiefs and former heads of state such as Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo. The latter “continues to sway election outcomes,’’ and since he stepped down as president in 2007, whoever he’s backed has gone on to win the presidency, said Adedayo Ademuwagun, an analyst at the Lagos-based firm.

  • Teneo Intelligence: The New York advisory company projects Abubakar to get up to 57 percent of the votes, against 42 percent for Buhari. That assumes there’s a “reasonably free and fair’’ process, said Malte Liewerscheidt. Both main parties will probably try to rig the results in their favor through tactics such as vote buying and using security forces to cause disruption in areas where opponents are strong, he said.

  • Verisk Maplecroft: Buhari’s chances of victory stand at just 41 percent, according to Ed Hobey-Hamsher, an Africa analyst at the Bath, U.K.-based firm. That’s in part because he’s been damaged by recent military setbacks against Boko Haram and other militants affiliated to Islamic State in the northeast. There’s a chance Buhari will refuse to accept defeat, which could lead to civil unrest.

Buhari to Win

  • Control Risks: Buhari will triumph by a small margin thanks to the divisions within Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party and its lackluster campaigning. The London-based company says a close race will increase the likelihood of post-election violence and the results being contested in the courts.


  • Eurasia Group: The New York risk firm says Buhari has a 60 percent chance of victory and that his cause has been helped by some key PDP politicians -- including Senate President Bukola Saraki and governors in the southeast -- remaining disengaged from Abubakar’s campaign. It doubts there’ll be much violence. “Atiku’s voters do not match Buhari’s in passion and are unlikely to risk their lives on the streets for him,” said Amaka Anku, who heads Eurasia’s Africa team.

  • NKC African Economics: While Buhari’s approval ratings have dipped since he came to power four years ago, incumbent presidents in Africa win around 85 percent of the elections they contest, according to Jared Jeffery, an analyst at the research house in Paarl, South Africa. Added to that, Buhari’s from the northwest, which is the region with the most voters, and he’s maintained an “image of incorruptibility.”

  • Capital Economics: “The advantages of incumbency will help President Buhari clinch a narrow win,” according to John Ashbourne, an economist at the London-based research group. But he thinks that whoever comes out on top will find it tough to boost a struggling economy and that Abubakar would face plenty of opposition to some of his market-friendly plans.

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