From Terrorism to Talakawa: Explaining Party Turnover in Nigeria’s 2015 Election

A. Carl LeVan (American University), Matthew T. Page (Chatham House), and Yoonbin Ha (American University).

Forthcoming in the Review of African Political Economy, fall 2018.

What explains the 2015 defeat of Nigeria’s ruling party by a new party less than two years old? Despite a spike in terrorism and widespread public complaints about government waste, we find that neither violence nor patronage systematically explains voting patterns. Instead, statistical evidence points to state-level economic performance and perceptions of national economy. Using surveys, original variables measuring economic performance and – for the first time – presidential election results at the local government level, the authors demonstrate that ‘economic voting’ helped the opposition. We attribute opposition success to a ‘talakawa effect’ rooted in a class-based coalition.

Carl LeVan (left) and Matthew Page (right) in Gombe State, during a research trip for this article.