Four enormous challenges face the winner of the Valentine’s Day presidential election: Boko Haram, tensions in the Niger Delta, the low oil price, and bringing together a politically polarised nation. Goodluck Jonathan, we can assume, will confront these challenges in a broadly similar manner to how he has been governing thus far. Buhari has a very different temperament. Those who worked closely with him in the military, such as his former commanding officer Lieutenant-General Theophilus Danjuma or former president General Olusegun Obasanjo, have described him as “inflexible”.
If Jonathan remains president, there is a fear that failure to protect citizens from Boko Haram will continue. If Buhari wins, his unyielding temperament and his record as a military officer suggest that he is unlikely to try to end the Boko Haram insurgency through compromise. Accusations of heavy-handed tactics by the army in tackling Boko Haram may increase. Ironically, if Buhari’s, probably firmer, approach ends the insurgency, it may play into the hands of conspiracy theorist opponents, who will interpret his success as evidence that the insurgency was a northern/Islamic plot to destabilise the presidency of a southern Christian.