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Ahead of Nigeria’s 2019 elections: expert predicts what will happen

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Manji Cheto PHOTO: http://www.teneoholdings.com


Ahead of Nigeria’s 2019 elections, the United Nations says the process will be largely free of violence. But as the political actors take position, Manji Cheto, vice president of Teneo Intelligence joined CNBC Africa’s Wole Famurewa to analyse some possible risk themes.

I think there’s still a certain amount of faith in the Independent Electoral Commission since the 2015 elections so on that note I’m a little bit more optimistic because effectively there is a good trend, with which the Electoral Commission has to work with. The key concern I have actually, is that if we look at the playing field since the Democratic transition in 1999, this is really the first time when there isn’t a very strong contender.

It isn’t clear if the president is going to run and even if he is going to run, it isn’t clear that he has a very strong mandate, so the potential playing field could be crowded. Nigeria could be facing the first elections where we have a second round and that’s unprecedented in the country. That is a key issue that I’m looking at.

Typically what is the disposition of investors ahead of the polls. What do you think could make them jittery?
Over the years I’ve worked with investors through Nigerian elections. The typical approach is to wait and see. To be fair this is not just unique to Nigeria. You see this with elections across Africa. But in terms of what seems to get investors very jittery, the first thing would be the pool of candidates- the rhetoric around campaigns. Whether it seems to be toxic or divisive.

That tends to get people very worried. If you remember back to 2015, that was really what got investors very jittery. Thank God we got through those elections without any major hiccups and in fact that was a fantastic election. I think another issue would be security. We tend to see a security deterioration in pockets of Nigeria, so that’s something investors watch very closely as we enter campaign season in the second half of next year.

How do you assess the issues that could potentially cause violence in these different parts of Nigeria?
You make an interesting point. In the South East there’s the Biafra agitation which we haven’t seen in this much force in a while. Since 1999, the power has been rotated between the North and South West. I think there is a real question on whether they’s going to get some degree of agitation from the South East.

Right now they’re agitating for secession, but whether that translates to a larger movement by the people of the South East saying we want to be part of the political fold and so we’re going to cause major issues. That is something to watch. And then within the Delta as well let’s not forget that some of those issues and some of the boundaries of that conflict overlaps with what we’re seeing as the potential resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta. I think those are going to be the two potential flash points as we head into the election season.

Would you agree that there’s a political angle to the Niger Delta militancy?
To be fair my take on most things to do with Nigeria is that there’s always politics involved. The statement that the Niger Delta Avengers issued was quite chilling and as far as I can remember the NDA has not really made a claim that it has not followed through on. That is something that I am definitely concerned about.

Now, whether the government can get the NDA back on the negotiating table remains to be seen. I am quite optimistic on that front considering that they managed to get them on the negotiating table in the past. So that’s something that I’m certainly watching closely and I think investors will be watching closely as well.


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Manji Cheto

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