Home > Democracy, Election, Nigeria > Decision 2011 in Nigeria

Decision 2011 in Nigeria

Foreign Affairs has a good article on Nigeria’s 2011 election. It offers a brief run through of Nigeria’s democratic history since 1999, when the last military government held elections and handed power over, right up to the present. All in all, it’s pretty pessimistic of both the quality of the elections and the chances of a positive (democratic and civilian) outcome:

Logistical preparations for the 2011 elections have not started. There is no voters roll, and despite the president’s signing of an electoral reform bill, some of these reforms remain unimplemented four months before the election. The election therefore will almost certainly lack legitimacy, especially in the eyes of the losers. This will further drive the country to the brink, especially if winners and losers are defined by their religious and ethnic backgrounds. There is at the moment no standoff between northern and southern leaders, at least nothing comparable to that between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe or between Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga in the aftermath of the 2007 elections. Nevertheless, the danger of Nigeria plunging into postelection violence is a real possibility.

The Nigerian military still regards itself as the ultimate guarantor of the state’s security, and most political elites agree. In the event of postelection sectarian violence and a political breakdown, it could intervene if the civilian government loses control. The army, given its history, could move quickly, and unlike in Kenya following the 2007 postelection crisis, there would probably be little time for the international community to try to facilitate a political settlement. Only if the military itself fragments would there be space for the international organizations such as the African Union to intervene in search of a political solution. Yet the return to power of the so-called men on horseback in Nigeria would pose special challenges for Washington, considering congressional requirements that Washington scale back contact with military governments that overthrow civilian governments. It would also be anathema to the African Union’s principled stand against military coups.

It points out the origins of Nigeria’s north-south power sharing deal as an “elite consensus formed around an unwritten… agreement” within the “non-ideological” People’s Democratic Party (PDP). I’ve always thought the power sharing deal- though necessary due to the ethnic, religious and linguistic divisions in Nigeria and the need to avoid violence– does quite a lot that is bad. It emphasises ethnic differences and normalises a focus on north-south interests as opposed to national or even state-based interests (which would engender competition for business and more business-friendly state level regulations and processes).

Then there’s the personalisation and unaccountability of power seen in Nigeria (as elsewhere in Africa). This gives us a political elite in each region who spend the other region’s “turn” power broking behind the scenes. The figure who wins this game is then guaranteed office, by hook or by crook. Mostly crook.

Combined, you get a mix of ethnocentric policymaking- leaders running for the betterment of their region to, sometimes, the detriment of others-,by-all-means political tactics including murder, and by-all-means resource appropriation to pay-off those who helped to get them there.

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