A Look Ahead to 2019

Nigeria Goes to the Polls

On 16th February 2019, Nigeria will hold a general election in which the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari will face a tough contest against the formerly dominant People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar. Buhari and the APC were swept into government on a wave of optimism in 2015, which, in light of the country’s faltering economy and increasing communal violence in central Nigeria, has dissipated since he assumed office. Although Buhari has consistently secured electoral support across Nigeria’s northern states, this no longer seems guaranteed, especially as Abubakar is also a northern Muslim. That said, given the controversy surrounding Abubakar in his previous role as vice president, he is far from a popular choice and, as a result, voter apathy is noticeably high. Against this backdrop, tensions are beginning to show. The PDP have called into question the independence of the electoral commission and alleged that the APC plans to rig the election, while the APC has accused the PDP of fomenting electoral violence. This has increased the potential for social unrest during and after the election, which will be most pronounced in central and northern states, and could have repercussions for Nigeria’s stability throughout 2019.

Ramaphosa’s First Test

South Africa’s general election is expected to take place in May 2019 and will be President Cyril Ramaphosa’s first electoral test since narrowly securing the support of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in December 2017. This year’s election is expected to be the toughest yet for the ANC, which has seen its parliamentary majority decline in every election since 2004. In the past, local elections have provided a strong indication of the ANC’s performance at subsequent general elections and, as the ANC’s vote share fell below 55 percent in municipal elections in 2016, there is good reason to believe that a similar result will be replicated in May. Since assuming the presidency in February 2018, Ramaphosa has struggled to unite a divided ANC in which former President Jacob Zuma and his allies continue to exert influence. There have been rumours of plots to oust Ramaphosa as leader and, given the sluggish state of South Africa’s economy and the fact that Ramaphosa was forced to remove his own finance minister as a result of the inquiry into ‘State Capture’, he is struggling to live up to his promises of kick-starting the economy and tackling corruption. Ramaphosa needs a convincing win to stamp his authority on the party and the country; however, as things stand, this year’s election looks as if it will be another chapter in the ANC’s continuing decline.

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Britain Dances Around Relations with Africa

Africa Integrity finds it remarkable that five years elapsed between former prime minister David Cameron’s attendance at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in 2013 and prime minister Theresa May’s official visit to Africa in August this year. The most recent previous prime ministerial trade mission was in 2011. Quite apart from a tendency to treat the entire continent as one country, it is also striking how limited both leaders have been in their continental ambitions. In 2011, Cameron had intended to spend five days on the continent, visiting South Africa, Nigeria, Rwanda and the then-newly formed South Sudan.  In the event, he cut the visit to just two days and then slashed that paltry window of time by seven hours to return home for domestic political reasons.  He managed to make flying visits only to South Africa and Nigeria, both pretty obvious destinations that already enjoy reasonably cordial trade relations with Britain.

In August, Theresa May did slightly better, calling again on South Africa and Nigeria, and adding Kenya to her itinerary, where she showed off her dance moves and extolled a bright trading future between Britain and Africa.  If this is what she intends, her actions don’t match her rhetoric. A whirlwind tour of the three anglophone giants among the African economies is simply not good enough.  Where is the engagement with francophone economies, some of which (such as Rwanda and Gabon) have made symbolic overtures to the UK by bringing the English language to the centre of their political and commercial spheres? Why are Britain’s diplomats and politicians hesitant to engage meaningfully with the francophone bloc, which – with its currencies tied to the Euro – is increasingly keen to break free of the constraints put on it by the European Central Bank and reduce its dependency on the former colonial power?

Where is the engagement with Angola, an oil-economy to rival Nigeria that has recently embarked on an exciting new post-dos Santos era?  Why did Zimbabwe, historically so close to the UK and now struggling to free itself from the mire of the Mugabe-era, not merit a supportive visit?  And, as for South Sudan – which so badly needs friends in the west – and Somaliland – which wishes to establish itself as independent from Somalia – they might as well not exist.

Africa is a mighty continent, with a young, generally well-educated population that is as hungry for political change as it is for consumer goods. Whether or not Brexit is the right choice for Britain, it is looming large.  And, in Africa Integrity’s experience, many Africans embrace Brexit. They see opportunities for post-Brexit Britain to adopt a more inclusive global immigration policy.  And they are optimistic about the advantages that potentially freer trade with Britain – still held in such high regard and affection by many Africans – will bring.  The youth of Africa no longer see themselves as supplicants for aid but as potential partners to a more globally-orientated Britain after its departure from the EU.  The response from Britain’s political leaders to date has been woefully inadequate, if not insultingly dismissive, and will only weaken its relationship with the continent as other international players increase their engagement.

This article originally featured in Africa Integrity’s October 2018 Newsletter. To join our newsletter mailing list, please contact us.

A Look Ahead to April 2018

Gambia’s Road to Democracy

On 12th April, the Gambia will hold its first municipal election since the fall of Yahya Jammeh, who lost the presidential election in late 2016. This represents another step towards strengthening democracy in the small nation after a successful parliamentary election in April 2017. As the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) – Alieu Momarr Njai – stated last year, the municipal elections are a “key pillar in promoting and building grass roots democracy” in the Gambia. While EU observers identified shortcomings in the electoral legal framework following last year’s parliamentary election, it recognised that these were “offset” by broad trust in the IEC and genuine political competition. They concluded that “goodwill on behalf of the people and institutions of the Gambia provided for the restoration of key democratic rights”. Undoubtedly, democratic reforms are still needed, as too much power continues to lie with the president; however, it is expected that the Ministry of Justice’s constitutional review should bring about such reforms. Although more needs to be done to engage the electorate, as there was only a 42 percent turnout last year, next month’s election is set to be another free, fair and peaceful election in this fledgling democracy.

Politically speaking, next month’s election is extremely important for the former ruling party – Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) – which lost 43 of its 48 seats in the 58-member National Assembly. Given the APRC’s association with Jammeh, it is likely that it will experience similar losses in the municipal elections, which could spell the end of its role in Gambian politics. While Adama Barrow won the presidential election as a representative of an opposition coalition, after this coalition separated, it was his party – the United Democratic Party (UDP) – which dominated last year’s election, securing 31 seats in the National Assembly. Although progress has been slow, the UDP is expected to perform well again, in light of the praise bestowed on Barrow by the IMF for stabilising and strengthening the economy. However, the long-term maintenance of such support will be largely dependent on the UDP’s ability to reduce unemployment in the Gambia, particularly amongst the country’s youth.

Counter-terrorism Conference Converges in Algeria   

Late last year, the African Union (AU) announced that Algeria would be the coordinator of its counter-terrorism strategy and, on 9th April, the country will host a conference on counter-terrorism in Africa. The conference is expected to be attended by high-level political and security officials from across the continent and it is seen as an opportunity for different countries to exchange ideas about counter-terrorism strategies. Such a conference opens the possibility of broadening co-operation between different countries, which is vital in the fight against terrorism on the continent. The majority of terrorist organisations active in Africa have a regional, rather than national, focus and have launched attacks across the continent’s porous borders. Consequently, regional co-operation will be important for any counter-terrorism strategies. Furthermore, the conference will specifically address cross-border terrorist-financing and ways in which different countries’ security apparatuses can restrict funding sources.

In March 2017, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation reported that terrorist attacks had grown by 1000 percent in Africa since 2006 and, considering the attacks in Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Somalia earlier this month, there is little sign of this slowing. Countries have begun to recognise the importance of regional co-operation, which was shown by the meeting of the heads of intelligence agencies from 13 East African countries in Kampala on 19th March; however, much more is needed. While the G5 Sahel Taskforce exists in northwest Africa, Algeria has been criticised for not supporting its operations, supposedly because it considers it a tool of France. Algeria has also been criticised by Morocco for its lack of co-operation in counter-terrorism initiatives in North Africa. The country was chosen by the AU because of its “pioneering experience” of dealing with terrorism and hopefully next month’s conference will demonstrate its desire to share this experience and represent the beginning of a greater level of continental co-operation on security matters.

Elections in the Ashes of Gabon’s Democracy

In the aftermath of the disputed 2016 presidential election, Gabon’s National Assembly was set on fire by opposition demonstrators. Images of this event became a symbol of the heated dispute between the government and opposition, which is continuing to engulf Gabonese politics. While the building has been repaired, for many in the opposition, little has been done to address what it represents. Despite only narrowly defeating Jean Ping by less than two percentage points, President Ali Bongo Ondimba has increased presidential powers over the last two years and failed to make any headway in negotiations with the opposition. In January 2018, changes were made to the constitution, which, not only removed presidential term-limits and provided Ali Bongo with immunity from prosecution, but also enabled the president to determine the policy of the nation without government or parliamentary consultation. Consequently, political power in Gabon is now firmly concentrated around Ali Bongo.

Since the presidential election, Gabon’s National Assembly election has been postponed twice because of the failure of reconciliation talks between the government and opposition and is now scheduled to take place before the end of April. The ruling Gabonese Democratic Party dominate the National Assembly holding 115 of the 121 seats; a majority used by Ali Bongo to increase presidential powers. Given its performance in the presidential election, there were strong indications that the opposition Coalition for the New Republic (CNR) would be able to end this dominance. However, in light of the weakening of the National Assembly’s role in Gabonese politics, it appears that the coalition is fragmenting. Nine of the twelve parties in the coalition have called for a boycott of the election, while other senior CNR figures met with the Minister of the Interior in early March to discuss preparation for them. Significantly, the coalition’s presidential flag-bearer has remained silent on this matter. Accordingly, it appears that the Gabonese Democratic Party’s dominance is not under significant threat.

Despite the election being less than a month away, there has been little preparation for it. The Gabonese Elections Centre, which is meant to manage the election, has not yet been established and, given that its chairperson is meant to be selected by the government and opposition, it is increasingly unlikely that it will be ready to run the election. There are growing calls for the election to be postponed again amid concerns that it could descend into violence. Although this will do little to address the underlying political tension in the country and only enable it to continue to build, if the election goes ahead, it is likely to cause widespread social unrest as elements of the opposition come out in protest.

Oiling Over the Cracks: The End of Peace in the Delta

In 2009, the International community watched as the Niger Delta took a break from the violence that had plagued the region for a decade. In the midst of plummeting oil prices and a state of emergency, former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had declared an amnesty and unconditional pardon on persons associated with militant activities in the Niger Delta. At the time, this programme was widely applauded for bringing peace to a region defined for so long by the masked militant armed with the ubiquitous Kalashnikov. Indeed, over the past seven years, Boko Haram replaced the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in national and international headlines and the oil-producing region was referred to only in regards to the recent plunge in global oil prices.

However, as predicted at the time by conflict analysts, this programme’s strategy of divide and conquer “sticks and carrots” has failed to secure a long-term peace. And when in March 2016, the Delta resumed its place in the international media as a region inflicted with instability, many were left unsurprised. For a programme that benefited just a small minority and one which failed to address the root cause of the conflict, the long-term outcome was never likely to be a positive one. And this recent resurgence in violence, headed by a new group – the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) – is symptomatic of a long-line of such failures by the federal government to implement an effective strategy to deal with the Niger Delta question. This is evident when you study this group’s rhetoric and how it has strayed unremarkably from that of the early peaceful movements of the Okigwe and Owerri divisions in the 1950s; to the later Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP). Nor, despite the deliberate distancing by former leaders, has the NDA’s rationale drifted drastically from that of its predecessor, MEND.

The basic tenets remain the same: the government should expel international oil corporations operating in the Delta; there should be an immediate clean-up of the land; employment opportunities should be opened up to marginalized minorities; and environmental and economic development should be allowed to occur. All this should be coupled with economic remediation for the fallout of 50 years of living with the international oil industry. The oil industry’s presence in Nigeria was steeped in contention from early on and it is perhaps not surprising that enmity has underlined the inhabitants’ relationship with the government and oil corporations. Since oil was discovered in Oloibiri in 1956, the Nigerian government (as a majority shareholder in the oil industry) has accumulated over $1.6 trillion in revenue. Yet, whilst the “sweet” Delta crude that runs beneath the region’s labyrinth of waterways has lined the pockets of the elite in Abuja for decades, the people of the Delta remain some of the poorest in the world. It is the feeling of exclusion that this paradox has created that has provoked years of conflict and is a principal reason for the latest perturbation of peace.

Indeed, the notion of exclusion is an important one to get to grips with when trying to understand the complex situation in the Delta. Exclusion from employment; exclusion from education; exclusion from oil wealth; exclusion created necessarily through an entrenched system of neo-patrimonialism; exclusion from adequate resources to combat the environmental fallout of the extractive sector; and finally exclusion from the amnesty programme. All these elements have combined to create a melting pot of tension. And although the current groups in the Delta differ in superficialities – in essence they are all united by this concept.  As such, it is not the close of the amnesty progamme per se that is to blame for the current resurgence in violence. Rather it must be seen as just the latest element in a complex concoction of ingredients that have been simmering in the Delta over the past 50 years.  Indeed, when President Muhammadu Buhari announced the winding up of the scheme in 2016 – due to Nigeria’s bleak economic outlook – the region had already been suffering from smaller scale and largely unreported attacks on oil installations. For example, in April 2015, gunmen reportedly killed nine people and wounded two before setting fire to a major oil pipeline. The group that carried this out – “Urhobo Gbagbako” – does not align itself to either MEND or the NDA and does not seem to have launched an attack since. However, it provides an indication of underlying tensions that were beginning to boil over as early as April last year.

Additionally, many of the majority youths who have taken up arms were not even recipients of the Amnesty Programme. And, in fact, they were recipients of very little over the 7 years of relative peace. Development promised to the region by former President Goodluck Jonathan – an Ijaw himself – was never delivered and the citizens of much of the Delta would certainly not have been recipients of the oil proceeds. Unemployment remained the same and parts of the region continued to witness the disastrous environmental impact of the extractive sector. Thus, whilst the 2009 amnesty had temporarily stemmed the tide of resentment for one swathe of the populace – by 2016 another generation of discontented youths were assembling and it is these young men who now pose the greatest threat to stability. As such, whilst it is highly likely some disillusioned amnesty beneficiaries are entangled in this latest violence, disorder would have occurred with or without Buhari’s announcement to draw the programme to a close. Put simply, if, as many believe, former MEND Commander Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo) is using his current predicament with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to fan the flames of disorder for his own ends, he would not have had to look very far to find sympathetic ears amongst the disillusioned and marginalized youths of the Delta.

Furthermore, it is a similar sense of exclusion that has prompted the re-emergence of pro-Biafran agitators, whose very presence and increasing association with the recent conflict in the Delta, has the potential to propel the current disorder into something quite devastating. The southeast region of Nigeria has struggled for decades to find its place in the nation state and its position remains as fragile now as it ever has been. The oil industry’s presence has complicated this over the years – but the calls for separation have not infiltrated oil related protests in the Delta since the 1960s. It is not clear the extent to which NDA and pro-Biafra agitators are interrelated and presently it appears that the association between the two causes is primarily originating from the NDA. The agitation of the NDA is not directly aligned with Nnamdi Kanu or the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – a majority Igbo group fighting for secession. The NDA and Ijaws’ complaint have always been centered on resource control and “true” federalism, where it is believed that their farmlands have been divided into oil blocks among Nigerians at the exclusion of Ijaws.

However, the NDA’s call for the release of Kanu is telling and the pairing of these two groups against a common enemy and their mutual interests in re-working the federation make it a powerful matrimony. To rub salt in the wound, the recently reported killing of pro-Biafra protesters in Onitsha is not only alarming but is likely to have drawn these groups closer together. This was demonstrated by a pronouncement from the NDA, which stated, “the Federal Government should know that the more attacks on Biafra, the more aggressive we become. This is a war that involves all of us”.  Events surrounding the “Onitsha massacre” are still unfolding, yet historians and those alive to remember Nigeria’s bloody civil war first hand will no doubt be drawing some alarming parallels with a not too distant past. This is particularly the case given the increasingly controversial presence of the military in the region against the backdrop of recent allegations that Buhari is pursuing a “northern agenda” through retiring senior southern officers in the armed forces and a growing sentiment for secession in the southeast. It is hoped that enough people remember the cataclysmic effects of the Biafran War to prevent a similar scenario playing out.

The NDA mean business and with oil prices at an all-time low, so too will the Buhari administration. The Nigerian government’s next steps are critical. Some groups in the region are already pledging to lay down arms and enter into dialogue, whilst the NDA remains adamant that until their demands are met, no such discourse will occur. What is clear is that using military might to address the challenges is not a long-term solution and has the potential to antagonize an already dire situation. Heavy-handed brute force has historically underlined the relationship between state and citizens in the Delta and has only ever worked to alienate the latter. Indeed, it was the violent suppression of the early peaceful protests and the inability to forge sufficient lines of dialogue that lead many men to replace the protest placard with the Kalashnikov. Since the formulation of MOSOP in 1993 – the government persistently used force against protestors from the administration of Ibrahim Babangida to that of Sani Abacha, escalating but not abating in 1998 with the state execution of Ken Saro Wiwa.

When all means of peaceful protest and attempts at dialogue were exhausted, it is little wonder that in recent years militants took up arms. This fact helps to explain militancy in the Delta; behind many of the NDA agitators is a political subject who feels compelled to use an AK47 to restore their rights. The fact that the majority of these men are not simply violent criminals is indicated by militant groups’ strategies in the region and that, to date, and historically in the Delta, citizens tend not to have been deliberately harmed through militant activity. The sole aim is to disrupt oil supply not to harm the population – either international or domestic. For groups that are relying heavily on international support and favour for their cause, killing innocent citizens would not be conducive.

That said, the NDA, like MEND before them, have singlehandedly brought the country’s already trembling oil supply to its knees. To avoid further escalation, the government will need to move fast. However, development and allocation of revenue to the region is the only long-term solution and given the state of the country’s budget sheet, spending more money will be a bitter pill to swallow. Buhari may need to look to the international community for monetary support and will need to avoid another miscalculated amnesty solution to provide temporary relief to a problem in a region that could take years to heal.

President Buhari: The Honeymoon is over

Silhouettes of People Holding Flag of Nigeria“I belong to nobody, yet I belong to everybody”. These words were uttered by President Muhammadu Buhari during his inauguration speech on 29th May 2015 and resonated amongst Nigerians who had voted for him two months earlier. Both Buhari and his party – the All Progressives Congress (APC) – tapped into widespread discontent over how the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had governed the country for the past 16 years, promising to rid Nigeria of three major evils: unemployment; insecurity; and corruption. The optimism and expectation surrounding Buhari’s victory was almost unprecedented in recent Nigerian history, as many people genuinely believed in the President’s ability to change the country for the better.

Unfortunately for Buhari, Nigeria’s economic conditions were not favourable to such an ambitious plan. Even before his inauguration, the fall in the price of oil had badly affected over-reliant government finances and the government was forced to borrow heavily in order to cover costs. Additionally, unlike elsewhere, the previous administration had failed to create substantial savings during the boom years for the country to fall back on. And since Buhari assumed power a year ago, these conditions have gone from bad to worse.

On 24th May 2016, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria – Godwin Emefiele – warned of an “impending recession” after it was reported that GDP had contracted by 0.36 percent in the first quarter of 2016. This followed reports in April, which revealed that Nigeria was overtaken by Angola as Africa’s largest oil producer, with oil production falling to 1.69 million barrels per day (bpd). It is projected that this will continue to fall, which is extremely worrying for the government as this year’s budget is based on production at 2.2 million bpd.  Although the country’s oil sector was obviously a driving force behind this slowdown, it was not restricted to this area of the economy; the non-oil sector also contracted by 0.18 percent in the first quarter. Moreover, even sectors of the economy which grew in the first quarter, such as agriculture, had slower growth levels than in 2015. In addition to this, it was reported that foreign investments were down by 74 percent in comparison to 2015, and that the inflation rate was at 13.7 percent at the end of April, which is well above the Central Bank’s tolerance point of 9.6 percent. Inflation is also likely to worsen following a recent outbreak of tomato blight in Northern Nigeria, which has reportedly destroyed as much as 80 percent of crops in Kaduna State and caused the price of tomatoes – a staple food in Nigeria – to increase by 400 percent.

Against this economic backdrop, it is unsurprising that Buhari has failed to reduce unemployment as  he pledged to do so in 2015. Recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that the population of unemployed Nigerians increased by 518,000 to over 1.45 million (12.1 percent) in the first quarter of this year, while underemployment also increased to 19.1 percent, compared to 18.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015. Furthermore, even for those in employment, in both the private and state sectors, unpaid salaries are becoming an increasing problem. Thus, it appears that job opportunities and living conditions have deteriorated for the majority of Nigeria’s population since Buhari took power.

Although it would be unfair to solely attribute Nigeria’s worsening economic conditions to the current government, the Buhari administration has faced fierce criticism over some of its economic policies, most notably regarding exchange rates. The government’s decision not to devalue the Naira, which trades at around 340 to a dollar on the parallel market compared to an official rate of 198 to a dollar, has been criticised for exacerbating fuel shortages, reducing foreign investment and damaging Nigeria’s fledgling manufacturing sector. Moreover, it has seemingly failed to contain inflation. Although the government are beginning to adapt to the situation and are open to a greater level of “flexibility”, it seems likely that the refusal to devalue the Naira has done damage to Nigeria’s economy and restricted Buhari’s ability to reduce unemployment.

On assuming the Presidency last year, the overriding security concern facing Nigeria was the activities of Boko Haram in the northeast of the country. The group had taken over large areas of the region and were conducting a violent campaign against civilians and the Nigerian armed forces. Although Buhari has failed to meet his target of destroying the group within a year, Nigeria’s armed forces have made significant inroads in the northeast. Boko Haram no longer controls the territory it once did and its attempt to create a caliphate has seemingly failed. Under Buhari, international co-operation in dealing with Boko Haram has increased and the group’s waning strength is undoubtedly a signal of success for the President. However, Boko Haram is far from being defeated. The group has resorted to its previous strategy of using suicide bombers to attack soft targets, rather than engaging in conventional warfare. This was shown on the anniversary of Buhari’s inauguration, when 5 people were killed in a bombing on the outskirts of Biu in Borno State. Furthermore, although much was made of the rescue of one of the Chibok schoolgirls last month, a further 275 still remain missing, along with hundreds more who were kidnapped by the group in 2014-2015. Thus, although significant gains are being made, the Buhari administration still has a long way to go before it can claim victory over Boko Haram.

Moreover, it appears that while conditions have improved in the northeast, insecurity has increased in other sections of the country. In the south, which was relatively peaceful under the previous administration, unrest has increased during Buhari’s first year in office. Pro-Biafra groups have become more active and on 30th May, ten people were reportedly killed during a protest commemorating the 49th anniversary of the declaration of an Independent Republic of Biafra. Furthermore, a new militant group has emerged in the Niger Delta. This umbrella group –the Niger Delta Avengers – is primarily made up of youths who did not benefit from the previous government’s amnesty programme and is seen as responsible for Nigeria’s decline in oil production through attacks on pipelines and other facilities. In a recent statement, the group warned oil companies operating in the region that “it’s going to be bloody this time around”. Thus, it appears that insecurity, and its effect on Nigeria’s most important export, is set to increase over the coming years. This rising threat in the Niger Delta will be examined in depth in an upcoming article.

Separately, the security situation in central states also appears to be deteriorating. Conflict between predominantly Christian farmers and Muslim Fulani Herdsmen has been a longstanding problem in central Nigeria. However, it seems that this conflict has intensified over the past year. In February 2016, 300 people were killed by Fulani Herdsman in Benue State and in April 2016, more than 40 were killed in Enugu State. These increasing attacks mean that Fulani Herdsman have killed more people in 2016 than Boko Haram. Nonetheless, it seems that this problem has not garnered as much attention from the Buhari administration as might be expected. Although Buhari pronounced in April that the police and armed forces should “take all necessary action to stop the carnage”, his decision not to include this matter in his Democracy Day speech on 29th May 2016 has led to him being heavily criticised. In response, it seems that central state governors are taking matters into their own hands. As the Governor of Ekiti State – Ayo Fayose – stated, “we must take all action to stop it […] This Ekiti war must be fought with the totality of our spirit [and] strength”. Such rhetoric illustrates a growing anger and suggests that reprisals against Fulani Herdsmen are increasingly likely.

These developing pockets of insecurity in the south and centre of the country could potentially re-ignite underlying ethnic and religious tensions. This is particularly the case, if Buhari – a northern Muslim – is viewed as paying more attention to southern Christian militants than the northern Muslim Herdsmen. Thus, although Buhari is seemingly dealing with Boko Haram in the northeast, other security situations have developed, which have the potential to be even greater problems.

During his campaign for the presidency, Buhari’s tough stance on corruption was viewed as a major factor in drawing support from outside his usual strongholds in the north of the country, and it seems that this has been carried in to his first year as president. Under the Buhari administration, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been re-invigorated and, despite the country’s economic conditions, the government has invested more in anti-corruption organisations than its predecessor. Buhari has opened talks with countries in Europe and the Middle East over the repatriation of stolen assets and set up the National Prosecution Co-ordination Committee (NPCC), in order to deal with high profile corruption cases. Moreover, unlike previously, Nigeria’s anti-corruption bodies have pursued high profile targets, such as the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP – Olisa Metuh – and the former National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan – Sambo Dasuki. Although such figures have not yet been convicted of any offences, it indicates the intent of the administration. Moreover, even though this is beyond the ability of one president, the culture of ethics and anti-corruption around the presidency is likely to have a trickle-down effect and begin to address the ingrained corruption which exists across Nigeria. In order for this to happen, the EFCC must also look beyond high profile targets to try to change the culture of corruption.

Nevertheless, Buhari has faced criticism over the fact that the vast majority of those targeted for prosecution are members of the opposition PDP and have close ties to the previous administration. Although this is unsurprising given how corruption increased under the previous government, many from the opposition have criticised the Buhari administration for its bias, and allege that senior members of the APC are being provided protection from prosecution. As such politically motivated prosecutions are not unheard of in Nigeria, it is important that Buhari attempts to reduce the apparent bias in order to maintain legitimacy. However, the prosecution of senior APC figures could put pressure on the alliance between the political elite in the north and the southwest of the country, which the APC rests upon. Thus, it is possible that the legitimacy of Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign may come into conflict with the management of the APC.

After one year in power, Buhari is one quarter of the way through his presidency, as given his age, it is highly unlikely that he will run again. Despite worsening economic conditions, it appears that the majority of Nigerians still support him and are understanding of the problems he has had to face. This was indicated by the distinct lack of public outcry over the removal of the fuel subsidy on 12th May 2016, in comparison to a similar removal under the previous administration in 2012, which sparked the Occupy Nigeria protest movement and forced the government into a policy reversal. It seems that many Nigerians were receptive to Buhari’s Democracy Day speech, in which he pointed out that “in short, we inherited a state near collapse” and said “I thank you and appeal to you to continue supporting the government’s efforts to fix Nigeria”. However, given Nigeria’s deteriorating economic conditions, worsening security situations in central and southern states – which could amplify ethnic and religious divides – and the apparent bias of the administration’s anti-corruption campaign, it is questionable how long the majority of Nigerians will remain receptive to Buhari’s message. With the pressure mounting after one year as president, the honeymoon looks like it is over for Buhari.

The Social Media Myth

Since the Arab Spring in 2010 it seems that any revolution, mass protest or social upheaval has become defined by its relation to social media. Many point to social media as a catalyst for such events, with groups using platforms such as twitter as an organisational tool. However, in reality, this does not appear to be the case, particularly in Africa.

One major impediment to the influence of social media in Africa is simply the lack of access to it. Although internet penetration has increased rapidly over the last few years, according to figures produced by Project Isizwe (an NGO which aims to increase Wi-Fi access in South Africa) only 18% of Africa’s population had access to internet in 2014. This percentage had increased to 26% by January 2015 – according to We Are Social (a social media PR and marketing agency) – which, despite being a significant increase, still means that 74% of Africans do not have access to the internet. Moreover, internet penetration varies dramatically between different African countries. This was demonstrated by a World Bank study which showed that there were over 40 internet users per 100 people in South Africa, Egypt and Tunisia in 2013 compared to fewer than 2 users per 100 people in Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guinea, Niger, Sierra Leone and Somalia.

Thus, it seems highly unlikely that social media would play a major role in precipitating political protest in the majority of African countries. As Professor Wisdom Tetty noted at the LSE Africa Summit in April 2015, social media platforms are privileges of the middle class. Social media therefore tends to be a lagging indicator of large scale unrest or political change. This was illustrated by a graph produced by Topsy (a social media and analytics company) and published by IRIN News, which showed the twitter activity associated with Burundi between 13th April and 13th May 2015. The graph showed that a spike of activity occurred only after the attempted coup took place on 13th May 2015. This indicates that twitter is predominantly associated with reporting, as also shown by the #lwili hashtag used during the Burkina Faso uprising, and is therefore not a useful intelligence tool in predicting events.

Even in terms of social media’s role in reporting, this is primarily used by people outside of Africa. As a report in the Mail & Guardian on 5th May 2015 showed, only 7% of Africans access their news through social media. This is compared to 46% that use radio and 37% that use television, which also indicates another hindrance for social media: illiteracy. As a UNESCO report showed, in 2012, the African adult literacy rate was 59% overall and in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone it was under 50%. Thus, social media’s influence in Africa will continue to be limited by the region’s relatively high illiteracy.

It seems that many commentators have become obsessed with social media and its role in political opposition – to the point that we overlook the fact that such events have taken place for centuries. If an event such as the Soweto Uprising happened today, it would almost certainly be attributed, at least in part, to social media. The importance of radio communications and civil society organisations are far too often overlooked. In Burundi, the closing of independent radio stations was a far more significant development than any internet blackout. Moreover, in Burkina Faso, the actions of Le Balai Citoyen were far more important than any hashtag. Even with regards to significant political change through the ballot box, social media is no replacement for old fashioned political organisation. As Funmi Iyanda – a Nigerian broadcaster, producer and journalist – noted at the Royal Africa Society’s ‘How to Fix Nigeria’ event in May 2015, “most of the people who went out to vote were not the people on social media, they were the people going out on a daily basis everyday”.

Nonetheless, this is not to say that technology has no part to play in political organisation and protest. It appears that we have skipped a step in explaining how technology aids the creation of political opposition, overlooking increased voice communication through the use of mobile phones. In contrast to internet penetration, Project Isizwe showed that in 2014 70% of Africans had a mobile handset. Professor Tetty also noted the importance of mobiles in fomenting political discussion in Ghana through radio phone-ins. Moreover, mobile voice communication is not hindered by high illiteracy rates, making it accessible to everyone. Thus, with regards to increasing the ability of people to organise political protests, it is far more likely that mobile phone communication is playing a bigger role than social media in Africa.

[The above is an extract from Africa Integrity’s upcoming June 2015 newsletter. To request a copy of this newsletter and join the mailing list please contact us]

Great Expectations

Silhouettes of People Holding Flag of Nigeria

On 29th May 2015 Nigeria’s President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, will assume office. Not since Barack Obama entered the White House in January 2009 has so much expectation of change rested on one man’s shoulders. Many Nigerians believe that Buhari’s victory signals the dawn of a “New Nigeria” which will finally fulfil its potential and rid itself of insecurity, unemployment and corruption. This monumental task has been placed at the feet of Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) government, who succeeded in breaking the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) 16 year domination of Nigerian politics in March 2015.

Nonetheless, Buhari’s APC did not reluctantly accept this mantle. The party and Buhari specifically stood on a platform of change and promised to bring an end to insecurity and wage a war on corruption. During his speech at Chatham House in February 2015, Buhari was highly critical of the PDP saying that it had allowed “waste and corruption” to bloom during their time in office; something which he vowed to change. In early May 2015, Buhari outlined his administration’s priorities. According to the president-elect, his top priority is insecurity, followed by unemployment and then corruption. He stated that “we have to get the issue of the economy right to make sure the jobs are available and we should try to kill corruption before corruption kills Nigeria”. Such statements are welcomed in Nigeria and many believe that Buhari will be able to fulfil his promises.

Nevertheless, it must be recognised that this is a monumental task. Although Nigeria’s armed forces have been successful in regaining much of the territory in the northeast of the country from Boko Haram, the group still remains a threat. This was indicated by an attack on Maiduguri on 13th May 2015. Moreover, Virginia Comolli – a research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies – noted at the Royal Africa Society’s “How to Fix Nigeria” event on 12th May 2015, that Boko Haram are very “resilient and adaptable” and that the “root causes” of the insurgency must be addressed if they are to be defeated. Thus, in order to reduce definitively the threat posed by Boko Haram Buhari must address the underlying socio-economic conditions which foster support for the insurgency.

It appears that Buhari has taken this into account, seeing that youth unemployment is often cited as a major factor in increasing Boko Haram’s recruits. However, solving Nigeria’s unemployment crisis is no easier than defeating Boko Haram. In January 2015 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, McKinsey & Company estimated that Nigeria’s youth unemployment was as high as 50 percent. The prominent Nigerian businessmen, Aliko Dangote, reacted by stating that “our entire society is in danger of destruction” unless they pay attention to this section of the population. Buhari appears to share this view and in early May 2015 stated that “60 percent of Nigerians are youths, most of them, whether they went to school or not, are unemployed and that is dangerous”. In order to deal with the youth unemployment crisis, the APC pledged in their manifesto to create at least 1 million jobs every year and make Nigeria’s economy grow at an annual average of 10 percent

However, Nigeria’s economy and particularly the relationship between economic growth and employment have previously been restricted by corruption. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2014 Nigeria was ranked 136 out of 175, placing the country in the bottom 16 percent. This also meant that Nigeria was recorded as the 3rd most corrupt country in West Africa after Guinea and Guinea Bissau. Goodluck Jonathan’s administration was beset by three major corruption allegations in relation to the country’s oil industry during his term in office. In one case, the then central bank governor – Lamido Sanusi – alleged that $20bn in oil revenue had not been accounted for between January 2012 and July 2013. The state run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said the claim was “unsubstantiated” and the government similarly denied the allegation. Furthermore, within the same month as Sanusi reported his allegation to a Senate committee he was suspended by the president for “financial recklessness and misconduct”. As noted previously, Buhari has made it clear that he aims to tackle corruption. In early May 2015 he said that “the problem of Nigeria is not ethnic or religious, it is corruption”. Nonetheless, this will not be easy as an attack on corruption will have an impact upon a wide range of powerful players who have a vested interest in the status quo. This was demonstrated by the removal of Sanusi shortly after he put forward his allegations. Furthermore, corruption has become ingrained in Nigeria, with petty corruption an everyday occurrence for most people. Such prevalence of corruption will therefore make it extremely hard to eradicate.

Thus, the task set by Buhari would be extremely hard at the best of times and sadly Nigeria is currently far from this. Underlying this ambitious project of change lies Nigeria’s faltering economy. The dramatic fall in oil prices in 2014 has left Nigeria’s oil dependent economy in dire straits (For more information read “A Tough Year Ahead for Africa’s Oil Exporters”). As the Nigerian government owe 70 percent of their revenue to oil, the country has been forced into borrowing heavily to cover expenditure. On 6th May 2015, Nigeria’s finance minister – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – said that the federal government has already used 473 billion naira of the projected borrowing allowance for 2015 of 882 billion naira to meet recurrent expenditures. In addition to this, the value of the naira has depreciated dramatically (20th May 2014 $1 – N163.1 to 20th May 2015 $1 – N199.1) and the IMF has projected that Nigeria’s average GDP growth in 2015 and 2016 will be 2.5 percent lower than previously predicted. This means Nigeria’s projected growth is half of that which the APC pledged to achieve in their manifesto. Furthermore, in reaction to this, the House of Representatives has proposed a reduction in capital expenditure and the removal of the fuel subsidy in the 2015 budget. This not only reduces Buhari’s ability to tackle unemployment but also increases the likelihood of social unrest.

Nonetheless, the belief in Buhari is so strong amongst some Nigerians that they still have complete confidence in his ability to fulfil his promises. This belief is primarily based on Buhari’s anti-corruption drive, through which many think he will be able to recoup funds previously stolen from the Nigerian state, offsetting the impact of the oil price fall. However, as noted earlier, Buhari’s anti-corruption drive will face strong opposition from powerful vested interests and tackling these is too large a task for one man. Unlike his previous stint as Nigeria’s head of state, Buhari’s powers are restrained and he will require the full support of his government in tackling corruption. Buhari’s administration’s first few months in power will be key to providing an indication of both their willingness and ability to achieve this. However, even if they are able to recoup funds through preventing the outflow of government revenue via corruption, it will only soften the damage caused by Nigeria’s dependence on oil.

The expectation created by the APC’s election campaign and placed on Buhari’s shoulders by the Nigerian people may ultimately mean he is destined to disappoint. The difficult tasks of tackling Nigeria’s insecurity, unemployment and corruption have been exacerbated by Nigeria’s economic situation, which has the potential to create social problems of its own. This is not say that Buhari will fail in all of his aims but one must ask if the expectation is too high against such a bleak reality.   People will only support leaders for so long based on their ideals and promises; after a while they will expect results, and if these are not forthcoming they will consider their leader a failure.