Nigeria Election Scenarios and Recommendations

Disclaimer: The following analysis is based on discussions with State-level actors and so reflects their perceptions, not the view of the Peace and Security Working Group. These scenarios were produced prior to the 2014 primary elections and are thus subject to change. Where relevant, updates have been made to reflect evolving dynamics.

Borno At-a-Glance

Current Governor
Kashim ShettimaCurrent Ruling Party
All Progressives Congress (APC), formerly All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP)Key February 2015 Elections
(uncertainty about whether a gubernatorial election will be held)
State House of Assembly

Borno state has been considered one of the most volatile states, placed in the highest threat level (red category) of CLEEN’s report.

CLEEN Map of Hot Spots for Election Violence
Peace Map ( Violence Heat Map Jan 2009-Dec 2014

Political Developments

  • Borno has always been a state in opposition with the party at the centre and has a APC administration
  • Created out of the old Borno state in 1991 and continues to have close links with Yobe
  • Agricultural state and commercial hub of the North East region because of its borders with Niger, Chad and Cameroon
  • 3 Senatorial zones and 27 LGAs:
    • Borno North: Senator Maina Maji Lawan (APC); 10 LGAs; all Kanuri and Muslim, no Christians; less developed than other Zones, has produced all civilians Governors in Borno apart from Sheriff and Shettima; conflict here is mostly of a political nature; low levels of education, development and population in comparison to Borno Central and South; desertified; borders Chad, Cameroon and Niger
    • Borno Central: Senator Khalifa Zanna (PDP); 8 LGAs; predominantly Kanuri (5 LGAs) and Shuwa (2 LGAs) but Maiduguri is multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan with Kanuri, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and other groups; Muslims predominate in all LGAs except in Maiduguri and Jere where have settler Christians, with small Christian population elsewhere; most schools within state located here especially in Maiduguri, Jere, Kondugua and Bama; those with money located here in state capital; where everything happens in terms of political and religious crises especially over 2001/ 2002 sharia and 2005 Danish cartoons, birth place of JAS
    • Borno South: Senator Ali Ndume (elected under APC but defected to PDP); 9 LGAs; predominantly Gwozan tribes and Baburbura and Marghi language groups; predominantly Muslim but with large Christian population with Hawul and Chibok LGAs having predominantly Christian populations
  • 7 Emirate Councils: Borno, Dikwa, Biu, Askira, Gwoza, Shani and Uba
  • The current Governor, Kashim Shettima (APC), is from Borno Central
  • The Deputy Governor, Zanna Umar Mustapha is from Borno South
  • Secretary to the State Government, Baba Ahmed Jidda, is from Borno North
  • Borno has seen a rise in violent conflict since 2005
    • Emergence of a sect known as ‘Taleban’ in Borno, moved to Yobe in 2002, with attendant violence there.
    • 2005 protestors attacked churches and killed worshippers in Maiduguri (and Potiskum) following the publication of a controversial cartoon depicting the Prophet by a Danish journalist.
    • Metamorphosis of Taleban into JAS in 2005 under a new leader, Mohammed Yusuf, with major crisis from 2009 onwards, triggered in Bauchi, spread to Yobe and Borno.
    • JAS resurfaced with targeted killings and reprisals in 2010-11 of security agencies, religious and community leaders including traditional rulers and politicians
  • State of Emergency has been in place since May 2013
  • Violent conflict between Jama’atu Ahlu Sunna Lih Dawa’ati Wal Jihad (JAS), commonly known as Boko Haram, and government forces and the Civilian Joint Task Force, leading to human rights violations committed by all sides, abductions, sexual violence, killings, closure of schools since February 2014 and increasing militarisation in the region
  • Despite the urgent humanitarian situation, Borno is the only state without a functional State Emergency Management Agency
  • Elections and campaigns are often violent
  • Borno has adopted sharia law since 2000 and the majority of the people in the State are Muslims, with significant Christian populations in Borno South

Elections in 2011

  • Governor Ali Modu Sheriff, the first Borno Governor to win two consecutive terms, completed his second term in 2011 on the ANPP platform
  • Engineer Modu Gubio was selected as the Governorship candidate during the ANPP primaries in January 2011 but was killed by gunmen and a second primary in February 2011 selected Kashim Shettima as the ANPP candidate.
  • Kashim Shettima won the April 2011 elections under the ANPP ticket (now part of the APC)
  • Perception that the former Governor is aligned with JAS led to some voters wishing for the ANPP to lose and there was high turnout in the elections. Sheriff lost his senatorial race to represent Borno Central in the Senate.
  • ANPP lost ground – lost two senatorial seats (Central and South) and 3 House of Representative seats and almost lost Governorship elections
  • People on ground believe PDP candidate won Governorship election but Abuja manipulated elections; also believe House of Representative elections were rigged – this is suspected to have happened in 2007 and 2011. Why did Abuja manipulate elections so that PDP lost and ANPP won?
  • Tension increasing but due to loss of Sheriff’s senatorial seat– people relaxed and this stopped violence
  • Lots of court battles over outcomes of elections
  • Those who lost shifted back to Abuja and visit Borno only rarely now.
  • JAS claimed they came out to fight against Sheriff and his people because he ‘killed the state’ and so political killings by JAS started in 2011

Key Political Developments between 2011-2014

  • Increasing politicisation, criminalisation and cultification of JAS
  • Peak of violence and criminality in end of 2012, including mass abductions of women and girls and kidnapping of children of key government officials and those with skills e.g. geography lecturer, mechanics, medical personnel, and high level of impunity for JAS who were openly walking with guns on the streets of Maiduguri, until declaration of state of emergency in May 2013
  • State of emergency and high-handedness of soldiers led to the emergence of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF)
  • Women and girls have been abducted by JAS since 2012. This has been from schools, from their homes and from the street. Those who have managed to escape or be rescued report rape and other sexual violence and are now dealing with HIV infection, pregnancy, psycho-social trauma, stigma and shame as a result. This issue gained prominence in the aftermath of the abduction of over 200 girls from Chibok GSS in April 2014 which led to international media and political attention on the issue.
  • CJTF effective in identifying and extra-judicial killings of JAS members; they broke climate of fear and continue to be safeguarding Maiduguri. People believe they are the ones who prevented JAS taking over the city and the whole of the state.
  • When CJTF pushed JAS out of Maiduguri, JAS started attacking communities in Northern Borno then moved to Central then moved to the South then moved to Sambisa and took this as an operational base, operating between the Yobe, Borno South and Central and Adamawa axis
  • Attack on Maiduguri air base in December 2013 has meant that the airport has not been open to the public since then, reducing flows of information and people between Abuja and Maiduguri
  • Attack on Giwa Barracks in March 2014
  • Insecurity in the North-East impacts security in other parts of the country, with bombs exploded and suicide attacks in Jos, Kaduna, Kano, Abuja and Lagos in 2014.
  • Killings and ambushes mostly taken place in intersections between cattle routes on the main roads at Jakana, between Beniseikh and Ngandu and Kawuri in Konduga LGA but the army has still not established checkpoints
  • Increasing numbers of people fleeing violence and attacks are coming into Maiduguri – where there is an increasing humanitarian emergency given lack of systematic support
  • Women are actively involved in JAS and this is becoming more apparent. Three women suspected of mobilising women into the female wing of JAS were arrested. Teenage girls are ferrying IEDs in food containers. There have been cases of women taking part in suicide bombing.

Major Political Players in Borno State

Name Position Elected/
Party Additional
Kashim Shettima State Governor 2011 APC (1)
Zanna Mustapha Deputy Governor 2011 APC
Maina Ma’aji Lawan Senator 2011 APC
Ahmed Khalifa Zanna Senator 2011 PDP
Mohammed Ali Ndume Senator 2011 APC

Additional Information:
(1) Governor Shettima is running for a second term in 2015.


Current Political Dynamics

  • Borno is experiencing severe violent conflict at present: insecurity has led to deaths, abduction, sexual violence, displacement, destruction of rural communities and destruction of economic activities
  • Politics in the 3 states of emergency changes quickly.
  • JAS is amorphous, evolving and fast changing so it is difficult to define
  • Low levels of trust between security agencies and communities. Allegations by community members that security agencies are slow to respond or did not respond at all to intelligence that would have forestalled attacks – refuted by security agencies themselves. Indications of human rights violations by military actors, including extra-judicial killings, profiling, arrests and prolonged detention of young men and sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls. Trust has increased slightly in recent months, due to the involvement of the CJTF which are more trusted by communities that security agencies.
  • Low morale and motivation among soldiers due to heavy casualties, perceived insensitivity by political leaders and little training and equipment being provided with hints that security personnel are abandoning their posts
  • Nigeria listed for human rights violations against children committed by JAS in September 2014 by the UN Security Council. This mandates the UN in country to set up a Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism to document 6 human rights violations of children’s rights.
  • According to the Catholic Church in Maiduguri, as of 1st Sept 2014, Damboa, Gwoza, Bama, Marte, Dikwa, Gamboru-Ngala, Mafa, Kaga and Kala-Balge LGAs were under the control of JAS (a total of 16 LGAs in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe) who have declared an Islamic Caliphate and installed an Emir.
  • As of mid-October 2014, 16 out of 27 LGAs had no government presence but the situation is dynamic and changing quickly.
  • Fear as JAS seems to be transforming into a guerrilla group able to hold territory, appoint emirs and declare an Islamic Caliphate.
  • Tension between Governor Shettima and federal government and security forces but this may have improved recently. In 2013, Shettima declared that JAS was better armed than the military. Narratives that APC is undermining counter-insurgency efforts to damage the prospects of a GEJ candidacy in 2015 and PDP not taking strong enough action to counter insurgency to extend emergency rule in an opposition stronghold from PDP and APC actors respectively. This has adversely affected the cooperation required for effective efforts to tackle insecurity e.g. indications that the Governor is not involved in decision making on security.
  • Tension between the former and current Governors, with Sheriff having defected to the PDP. This is adding to the conflict dynamics in the state of the post office bomb planted the day Sheriff arrived in Maiduguri. Mutual accusations between Sheriff and Shettima are common.
  • It is thought that Sheriff wants to remove Shettima from power and feared that this tussle will lead to perpetration of violence in the name of JAS.
  • Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), groups of people who organised to defend their communities, have committed a number of human rights violations and are a matter of concern in the forthcoming elections – there is a strong likelihood they may be used as thugs during the elections. They are increasingly been seen as the go-to people for security rather than the police or traditional rulers with many responsibilities e.g. to resolve disputes and providing security being taken over by them.
  • Traditional mechanisms for mitigating conflict have been destabilised as a result of the violence and the increasing power of the CJTF.
  • Impact of food security in elections: people have been unable to farm the land due to the violence, with accompanying negative impact on harvest. Furthermore, many of the markets have closed due to the violence. Most of the food crops are produced in these LGAs so there is a high likelihood of malnutrition.
  • Size of the tilapia fish has increased substantially as not much fishing has taken place
  • There are cases of people trying to escape their communities which are being held by JAS (due to violence and lack of food), only to be returned by them.
  • JAS have taken over storehouses and livestock of the rich to distribute food to their members and women in the communities (men killed, recruited, abducted or have left the area), especially in Bama, Damboa and Gwoza LGAs, but stocks have now been used.
  • Borno is a state bordered by 3 countries (Cameroon, Chad and Niger) and due to the porous nature of borders, the flow of small arms, drugs and people is difficult to control.
  • The use of hard drugs by JAS, CJTF, security agencies and other young people is playing a very prominent role in the conflict. People are having increased access to more and stronger drugs than previously. It is believed most JAS members are on drugs. When they, CTJF and security, are killed, drugs are recovered from their bodies e.g. in Kondugua and Sambisa. The Borno State Conflict Management Alliance is planning a strategy to address issues around drug abuse among youth, particularly focused on the 2015 elections.
  • The government estimates at least 150,000 families have been displaced in the entire area of NE. People in Maiduguri say the real figure is likely to be much higher – and the figures of people displaced into different areas of Borno are unknown as external actors are unable to access them but many have not been able to leave the state. Most of the people in LGAs where there is/ has been a high degree of violence have been displaced into Maiduguri to stay with friends and relatives with a small number in Gombe and Bauchi. INEC has announced it will register IDPs but how will all of them be registered when most are with families and at present, the struggle to survive is more urgent than getting voter cards.
  • The key question debated is whether elections can be held where over 1/3 of the state is not accessible and given the amount of displacement of people from areas worst affected by violent conflict
  • Whether people think elections can be held depends on who they are and their interests: local PDP say yes but local APC is unsure. This may be linked to the military resources that the PDP has. Some people believe that PDP assessment of their chances may be decisive in whether elections are held.
  • Even if elections are conducted, how can they be judged free and fair as people will not be able to vote in their constituencies with buildings and possessions now burned and razed to the ground? Who will the winning candidate elected represent if nobody remains in the area?
  • Fear JAS will disturb the elections – taking ballots, conducting attacks or setting off bombs
  • Current analysis that elections will be impossible to be held in at least 9 LGAs (Gwoza, Bama, Kondugua, Mafa, Ngala, Marte, Dikwa, Kalabarge, Damboa,), in some parts of 5 LGAs (Abadam, Monguno, Kukawa, Mobbar and Guzamala) and possible in the remaining. This is because JAS have completely taken over or people have left. The conflict is very dynamic and this is likely to change.
  • Situation in the NE is playing into national political dynamics, with PDP saying only opposition states are unstable and APC saying the situation shows the government is incapable of tackling insecurity.

Key issues

  • Will elections take place? Will there be some parts of the state where elections are not held?
  • Will all displaced people be able to vote? How?
  • Possibility of rigging and political thuggery
  • High level of apprehension around elections – fear for life and property
  • What role will the CJTF play in the run up to, during and after elections – fear of political manipulation

Potential drivers

  • Desperation to win at all cost so actions to rig elections in area where cannot win.
  • Political rallies and destroying election materials e.g. posters may lead to campaign clashes among supporters.
  • Impact of JAS related violence and perceptions that this is linked to the former Governor.

Potential types of violence

MMC, Jere, Biu, Hawul, Kwaya-Kusar are likely to be major flashpoint as government presence is there; in other LGAs violence may be JAS rather than politically related as very few people remain.

Dimensions of violence: inter-party, intra-party, JAS-related


  • Clashes between PDP and APC supporters rather than within parties
  • Hijacking of materials possible
  • Disruption/ clashes at campaign rallies and political thuggery
  • Bombs or attacks in this period by JAS may be possible
  • Intimidation by security agencies and CJTF due to heavy presence

During election

  • Military presence at polling stations leading to apprehension may lead to low voter turnout
  • Rigging of elections
  • Police and soldiers, under federal control and State of Emergency, used in intimidating APC
  • Bombs or attacks in this period by JAS may be possible


  • Declaration of results may lead to violence – if APC wins, PDP supporters may protest and vice versa (including legal tussles)
  • Bombs or attacks in this period by JAS may be possible

To consider:

  • JAS attack – bombs including suicide bombings of women in Kano and Lagos
  • Impact of CJTF and what their involvement in elections may be
  • Impact of supposed ceasefire may lead to delayed response from soldiers
  • Trauma experienced by survivors of violence is unaddressed and may impact conflict dynamics
  • Proliferation of arms and drugs

2015 Elections Scenario 1
Before Elections

  • Government decides elections cannot be held due to insecurity
  • Perceptions that this decision has been made because of PDP interests as APC feels they are highly likely to win
  • Uncertainty over who will be in charge – will the current Governor and State House of Assembly continue or will there be an interim arrangement by the federal government e.g. military administration?
  • Governor and supporters unhappy and protest decision – publicly and in court
  • Protests instigated by current administration in Maiduguri, using CJTF – may turn violent
  • Clashes between CJTF and soldiers may have deadly consequences
  • Women and women’s groups in Maiduguri march for peace and justice
  • People who remain in southern Borno happy about the decision as many people support PDP, especially in Hawul
  • Most of the rest of the state has very few people remaining
  • Civil society call publicly for peace

During Elections

  • Elections held elsewhere in the country but not in Borno
  • Federal government imposes 24 curfew and no vehicle movement on election days to ensure violence does not take place
  • Heavy military presence all over Maiduguri to prevent violence
  • JAS attacks in other LGAs on election day – statements by opposition supporters that this shows present administration is weak on security

After Elections

  • National debate over whether elections should have been held in Borno
  • Uncertainty over who will govern still continues: Shettima might insists he will continue as Governor until elections are held and federal government could insist that Borno come under federal control, leading to an escalation of conflict between CJTF, police, and solders.
  • In such a scenario, relationships between military and CJTF could be damaged severely as a result – with implications for conflict and cooperation in fighting JAS

2015 Elections Scenario 2
Before Elections

  • Government decides elections can be held despite insecurity
  • APC and PDP start campaigning and supporters clash in inter-party conflict; violence in Maiduguri and Jere
  • JAS release video saying they will disturb the holding of elections
  • Likely that elections will be held only in Maiduguri, Jere, Hawul, Kwaya-Kusa, Bayo, Shani, Askira-Uba, Chibok and Biu as there is government presence here
  • CJTF not campaigning but rather give security cover to APC candidates and some PDP candidates – depending on who pays
  • Military and police intensify security measures in preparation for the elections
  • Women and women’s groups in Maiduguri march for peace and justice
  • Civil society call publicly for peace

During Elections

  • Ballot snatching by CJTF causes clashes and violence between them and the soldiers
  • Coordinated JAS attacks in Southern Borno LGAs where elections are being held on polling stations – Shani, Biu, Hawul, Bayo, Kwaya-Kusa, Askira-Uba and Chibok
  • People stop voting as news of the attacks spread and those in queues in other polling stations and on their way to vote flee back home
  • Many people from areas attacked by JAS flee into Maiduguri
  • Military fail to deploy to areas of JAS attacks – deepens community/ security tensions

After Elections

  • National debate over whether elections should have been held in Borno
  • Federal government declares total emergency in Borno and declares they will remove the Governor
  • Heavy military presence all over Maiduguri to prevent violence
  • Shettima might insist he will continue as Governor, with backing by CJTF, leading to increased conflict between CJTF, police, and soldiers
  • Under such a scenario, relationships between military and CJTF would be damaged, with implications for conflict and cooperation in fighting JAS
  • Civil society call for peace, justice and protection of human rights

These reports are a collaborative effort of The Fund for Peace and other members of the Nigeria Peace and Security Working Group (PSWG) in Nigeria. These reports reflect the result of a participatory process with national and local-level stakeholders on potential risk factors and scenarios for the February 2015 Nigeria general elections.

For more information, please contact:
Nate Haken at The Fund for Peace, [email protected].