Akhdari: A Jurisprudential Text Used in Northern Nigeria

In Northern Nigeria, many Muslims seek religious instruction to learn about the tenets and practices of their faith. In the “traditional” curriculum (the word “tradition” can be problematic, for example if it implies that systems are static, but I use it as a placeholder sometimes), Muslim children and young adults begin by memorizing part or all of the Qur’an. They typically move next into a series of jurisprudential texts from the Maliki School, one of the four main legal schools in Sunni Islam. The Maliki School is widespread in North and West Africa and takes its name from Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 795), who lived in Medina and was one of the Successors of the Successors (i.e., the third generation of Muslims).

The Maliki texts that many Northern Nigerian Muslims read are summaries or manuals. They focus on issues like the details of how to perform ablutions before prayer. These texts, in the sequence they are typically read, progress in complexity and length. The first Maliki text in the “traditional” sequence is called Mukhtasar al Akhdari fi al ‘Ibadat ‘ala Madhhab al Imam Malik (Arabic: Akhdari’s Summary of Worship Practices According to the Legal School of Imam Malik). It was authored by Shaykh ‘Abd al Rahman al Akhdari (d. 1585). The text is known as Akhdari for short. The version here (Arabic, .pdf) is 19 pages, which may seem short – fitting for an introductory text, though I hope you will keep in mind that students would typically read this text together with a teacher, and that the text might spur conversations, meaning that the total time to study and master the text might be longer than its page length would lead one to expect.

Akhdari opens with an introductory section on faith and ethical behavior, before moving through the following sections: (a) purity; (b) ablutions with sand; (c) menstruation; (d) childbirth; (e) times of prayer; (f) conditions of prayer; and (g) negligence (i.e., during prayer). Akhdari focuses on prayer, in other words, as a core ritual duty of the individual.

I hope this short treatment of Akhdari has provided some background on what many Northern Nigerian Muslims read. In the media and even in academia, we hear a lot of ideological chatter about what such texts mean – “these texts represent rote memorization and the evils of the ‘madrasa’ system” or “these texts represent a living tradition that evil modernists have scorned.” My aim here is not to engage that ideological chatter, but simply to give you a snapshot into what these kinds of texts are about.

Nigeria: Shettima Ali Monguno, Boko Haram, Oil, and Amnesty

Shettima Ali Monguno (b. 1926), of Borno State, is a former oil minister. On Friday May 3, gunmen kidnapped Monguno at Mafoni mosque in Maiduguri after congregational prayers. An account of the kidnapping, which includes a biography of Monguno, is here.

Maiduguri is the epicenter of violence associated with the Muslim sect Boko Haram. Most observers suspect Boko Haram of organizing the kidnapping. Boko Haram showed relatively little inclination toward kidnapping for much of the period since its latest guerrilla campaign began in 2010, but the sect appears to have turned more systematically to kidnappings in recent months, partly in order to obtain ransom payments.

Monguno was released yesterday, possibly after a payment anonymously reported as some $318,000. Notably, this amount is much less than the $3 million ransom that Boko Haram reportedly received for the release of a French family that had been kidnapped in Cameroon.

I want to make two points in this post. First, I do not think the kidnapping of Monguno signals a growing threat from Boko Haram to Nigeria’s oil industry. Monguno served as oil minister from 1972-1975 and is currently retired; my conjecture is that the kidnappers targeted him because he is a prominent northeasterner, because they hoped to obtain a ransom, and possibly because he is chairman of the Borno Elders Forum. I do not believe the kidnappers seized him a message to the oil industry. It is always possible that Boko Haram’s activities will spread into the far south, and several suspected members of the sect were arrested in Lagos in March, but I would still at this point be surprised to see Boko Haram attacks in the Niger Delta.

Second, I do think the kidnapping further complicates the politics surrounding efforts to create an amnesty program for Boko Haram. President Goodluck Jonathan’s Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, inaugurated April 24, has already caused controversy. Monguno’s kidnapping may weaken some Nigerians’ hopes that amnesty is possible. One member of the Northern Elders Forum told the press that Monguno’s kidnapping represented an effort to sabotage plans for amnesty. While the committee will undoubtedly be heartened by Monguno’s release, the prospect of further kidnappings and ransom payments casts a shadow over the committee’s ongoing deliberations, and may even scare individual members. In my view some form of dialogue will be necessary to end the Boko Haram crisis, but movement toward dialogue faces daunting political and security barriers.

Baga, Nigeria

Baga (map) is a fishing village on the coast of Lake Chad in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. The international media (see ABC), drawing on local accounts, has reported that fighting between the Nigerian military and the militant Muslim sect Boko Haram caused around 187 casualties during a battle on April 16-17. Human Rights Watch, on Wednesday, released satellite images and an analysis suggesting over 2,000 homes were destroyed in a military raid. The Human Rights Watch analysis is worth reading in full, as is an AFP report from post-raid Baga.

For many observers, alleged abuses by Nigerian soldiers will immediately raise the question of security sector reform. How, observers may ask, can Nigeria deal with Boko Haram, politically or military, if harsh military crackdowns fuel ordinary people’s mistrust of the government? In the worst case scenario, military abuses might even increase Boko Haram’s capacity to recruit among young men. Concerns about abuses are not new: back in fall 2012, Human Rights Watch (in October) and Amnesty International (in November) published reports detailing abuses by Nigerian security personnel. Amnesty called the security forces “out of control.”

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan promised after the Baga attacks that  his government will punish any soldier found to have committed abuses. Reuters called these words “a rare statement admitting the possibility of abuses by his forces.” We will now see whether more information comes to light about the events in Baga, and whether that information prompts any change in accountability measures within the Nigerian security forces.

Boko Haram, Prison Breaks, and Cameroon

The northern Nigerian sect Boko Haram employs a constellation of tactics in its fight against the Nigerian state and other targets. Boko Haram is constantly experimenting with new tactics, from drive-by shootings to suicide bombings to the destruction of cell phone towers to arson to, more recently, kidnappings. While prison breaks are far from the most spectacular tactic in Boko Haram’s arsenal, they have remained a core tactic since the start of the group’s current guerrilla campaign in fall 2010 – indeed, one of the very first incidents in that campaign was a prison break in Bauchi, where Boko Haram set some 700 inmates free. Prison breaks aim at releasing the group’s imprisoned comrades, and possibly also aim at gaining new recruits among other freed inmates. Without in any way minimizing the importance of other tactics the group uses, I would argue that these prison breaks deserve more attention as analysts continue attempting to understand the group and its recruitment patterns.

At least two prison breaks occurred recently.

March 14:

There was jailbreak on Thursday night in Borno town of Gwoza as men suspected to be members of the dreaded BokoHaram sect attacked a prison in the town with missiles.

It was also gathered that the suspected militant sect attackedFadagwai Village where they shot dead two other persons.

The sect members were alleged to have attacked the same town on March 4, 2013 where a police station and bank were partially destroyed.

The Thursday attack on Gwoza which is about 135 kilometres from Maiduguri, the capital town of the troubled Borno state, started at about 6.30pm and a civilian was said to have been killed in the melee as several prisoners were set free.

March 22:

At least 25 people died when gunmen attacked a prison, a police station, a bank and a bar in an eastern Nigerian town, police said.

The simultaneous attacks took place in Ganye, a remote town near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.

The attacks happened on Friday but the death toll was only reported on Saturday.

No group has said it carried out the attack but police said they suspected Islamist militants Boko Haram.

That the latter attack occurred near Cameroon, where a French family now held by Boko Haram was recently kidnapped, may further alarm Cameroonian authorities. Indeed, Boko Haram recently threatened attacks in Cameroon, specifically mentioning that some of its members are imprisoned there. I wonder if we will eventually see Boko Haram staging prison breaks – in addition to other kinds of violence – in Cameroon itself.

Quick Items: Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on Mali, Goodluck Jonathan Visits Yobe and Borno [Updated]

Two noteworthy stories:

Mauritania and Mali

In a speech on Monday, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz expressed greater openness than in the recent past to the idea of Mauritanian deployments in Mali. Mauritanian forces chased fighters from Al Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb into northern Mali at several points in 2010 and 2011, but during 2012 Abdel Aziz stated repeatedly that Mauritania would not intervene in Mali.

On Monday Abdel Aziz also emphasized his country’s role in “encircling [hardline Islamist fighters] in the north of Mali in order to enable Malian units to intervene and finish them off in their dens.” ANI (Arabic) has more on the speech.

Nigeria

On February 28, governors from an alliance of Nigerian opposition parties held a day-long conference in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, epicenter of the violent Boko Haram sect. The Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust commented, “the fact that the governors took the bull by the horns and held their meeting in Maiduguri, despite security reports that there may be attacks and blasts by suspected insurgents speak volume of their determination to give the [ruling] Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a run for its money.”

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan is set to visit the northeastern states of Yobe and Borno (where Maiduguri is the capital) today. One source says this visit “will be his first to the troubled states since his assumption of office.” Residents in Borno and Yobe interviewed by Leadership expressed a range of views about the visit, with some optimistic that Jonathan may use the moment to announce compensation programs or other initiatives, and others fearful that the visit will bring an even tighter security lockdown.

The Sultan of Sokoto, meanwhile, called on Jonathan this week to offer an amnesty to Boko Haram fighters. The Sultan said, “If there is amnesty declared we believe so many of those young men who have been tired of running and hiding will come out and embrace that amnesty.”

UPDATE: Reuters:

“I cannot talk about amnesty with Boko Haram now until they come out and show themselves,” Jonathan told reporters in Yobe state capital Damaturu, a town regularly hit by the sect’s guerrilla-style bomb and gun attacks.

See also Chike’s remarks in the comments section below.

A Cross-Border Educational Venture in Nigeria/Niger

Daily Trust:

Kano State governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso said at the weekend that the state government is building a mega secondary school in Niger Republic to boast industrialization.

[...]

“We have so far built 400 houses for teachers in junior secondary schools, especially the [ones] outside the city of Kano to encourage them. As we are sitting here today (Saturday) the deputy governor is in Niger laying the foundation of the mega secondary school which we intend to run together with the government of Niger Republic, and our children who will go there will be trained in French so that when they graduate, they will stay there and complete their degree courses or go to other French speaking countries to do other programmes,” he said.

As the article and others detail, this initiative is part of a broader agenda on the governor’s part to strengthen education in Kano State. But the cross-border aspect of the school is particularly interesting to me. I have four initial reactions that may prove more or less relevant when and if more information emerges about the school:

  1. Assuming the school will be located in southern Niger (in Zinder or Maradi, perhaps?), this initiative could reinforce the shared Hausa cultural and linguistic zone that transcends the border. As William F.S. Miles’ Hausaland Divided shows, the border and the colonial legacies it reflects have separated Hausa in Niger and Nigeria in profound ways. Yet Nigerien and Nigerian Hausa communities have also remained tied to each other through migration, trade, religion, marriage, and, in this context, education and politics. It is significant to me that this partnership is not between Niger and Nigeria per se, but between a particular Nigerian governor and the government of Niger.
  2. The school’s emphasis on French is noteworthy. As Kwankwaso suggests, graduates of the school could work not only in Niger and Nigeria, but also throughout West Africa. More schools like these could strengthen regional integration efforts from the bottom up, by producing skilled workers capable of moving throughout the whole region.
  3. Is the school partly meant to retrain itinerant Qur’anic students? Various states in northern Nigeria have experimented with different models for absorbing these students into government-run schools, partly due to a fear that such boys and young men might otherwise become targets for recruitment by radical groups. Some in northern Nigeria also complain that many Qur’anic students are not Nigerian at all, but rather come from Niger, Chad, and elsewhere. Does the school represent an effort to train some of Kano’s Qur’anic students while simultaneously repatriating some of the students who come to northern Nigeria from Niger?
  4. Does some of the funding come from Niger’s oil profits? I have heard the complaint that despite Nigeria’s oil wealth, northern Nigerian localities sometimes import fuel from Niger. Perhaps this school represents an attempt by a northern Nigerian governor to benefit from Niger’s (mini) oil boom.

Nigeria: Opposition Merger and Geographical Considerations

Four Nigerian opposition parties are creating a coalition in hopes of defeating the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 presidential elections. The four partners are the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN, official site here), the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).

On February 5, ten governors from these parties met (some by proxy) in Lagos “and unanimously endorsed merger plans by their leaders.” Here are the names of the governors:

Those who attended the Lagos meeting included the five governors from the Action Congress of Nigeria-controlled states viz; Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Abiola Ajumobi (Oyo), and Rauf Aregbesola (Osun).

The sixth ACN governor, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State was absent from the meeting.

Others who were present included, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, All Progressive Grand Alliance; Nasarawa State Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura, Congress for Progressive Change; and Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari, All Nigeria Peoples Party.

The other ANPP governors, Kashim Shettima (Borno) and Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe) were represented by Senator Dejere Alkali.

You can read some remarks on the merger by these governors here.

There are many ways to look at this list of attendees at the Lagos meeting, but here I’d like to talk about geographical patterns. Worth noting is the concept one sometimes hears that Nigeria has six “geo-political zones,” a map of which can be found here.

Of Nigeria’s thirty-six states, twenty-three have PDP governors, and thirteen have non-PDP governors. Of the opposition parties, the ACN holds the most governors’ seats – six – five of which are in the South West zone (Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Osun, and Ekiti) and the last of which is in the South South zone (Edo, which borders the South West). The final governor’s seat in the South West is held by the Labour Party – making the South West the only zone in the country to have no PDP governors. The ACN has national ambitions – its candidate during the 2011 elections was Nuhu Ribadu, who was born in Adamawa in the North East – but the South West is its stronghold. On the international level, the ACN’s Babatunde Fashola, Governor of Lagos State, enjoys a major profile.

Next is the ANPP, with three seats (Borno, Yobe, and Zamfara). the ANPP’s strength lies in the North East (where Borno and Yobe are) and the North West. Indeed, the ANPP held Kano (in the North West) from 2003 to 2011, and former Kano State Governor Ibrahim Shekarau was its 2011 presidential candiate.

The APGA holds two seats (Imo and Anambra). Both of these are in the South East. Imo’s governor was at the Lagos meeting, but Anambra State’s  Governor Peter Obi was not.

Finally, the CPC holds one governor’s seat, in Nassarawa (North Central Zone). The CPC’s presidential candidate in 2011 was former military ruler General Muhammadu Buhari, who was runner-up against President Goodluck Jonathan.

The opposition merger, if it remains on course, will bring some geographical diversity to the table, with representation from five of the six zones. Having geographical diversity is important if nothing else because of legal requirements for winning presidential elections in Nigeria, namely the stipulation that a winning candidate must receive at least 25% of the vote in at least twenty-four states. At the same time, there are obvious limits to the geographical reach of this merger. It is strongest in the South West, it has very limited representation in the North West and North Central, and it has no representation in the South South – the home region of President Goodluck Jonathan (or maybe it does, if Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, an ACN member, is considered part of the merger).

How should we rate their prospects for success? Perhaps the question is premature – it is only early 2013, after all, and we will have to see whether the merger holds at all. If it does hold, their prospects seem better united than divided. Yet the PDP still seems more likely to win in 2015, by means fair, foul, or both (the PDP has won every presidential election since the Fourth Republic began in 1999). In any case, the evolution of the merger effort will be a development worth following over the next two years.

Boko Haram’s Assassination Attempt on the Emir of Kano

The term “traditional” can be misleading. When talking about northern Nigeria, I prefer to say “hereditary Muslim rulers.” So I’ll say that hereditary Muslim rulers have substantial religious, political, economic, social, and cultural importance in many parts of northern Nigeria. These rulers, including the Sultan of Sokoto, the Shehu of Bornu, emirs, and other figures, trace the origins of their offices to two pre-colonial Islamic empires in present-day northern Nigeria and its environs: the Empire of Sokoto and the Empire of Kanem-Bornu. From the Sokoto side, in addition to the Sultan of Sokoto himself, the Emir of Kano, Al Hajj Ado Bayero, is one of the most important figures. He took office in 1963, making him one of the longest-serving rulers today (he is 82 years old). The assassination attempt against him on January 19, in which six people died, has caused considerable consternation, and has already led authorities to increase security measures in Kano State and elsewhere.

To condense a lot of history into a few quick sentences, the rulers from the Sokoto side came to power after the jihad of Shaykh Uthman dan Fodio started in 1804. Kano was under Sokoto’s control during the nineteenth century but this does not mean that Sokoto could always impose its will there – for example, Kano fought a civil war in the 1890s to resist an unpopular candidate for the Emirate installed by Sokoto (see a brief account here, p. xii). British colonial officials in northern Nigeria from approximately 1900 to 1960 left hereditary Muslim rulers in office. But the British had complicated relationships with these rulers, relationships that could involve coercion and manipulation as well as strategic cooperation. In the postcolonial period, hereditary Muslim rulers have retained significant influence in politics and society. But critics of the emirate class from the independence era to the present have accused hereditary rulers of blocking progress and drawing too close to politicians. Since at least the Boko Haram uprising of 2009, some critics have also charged that hereditary rulers have not been forceful enough in speaking and acting against radicalism and violence. Despite criticism, however, hereditary rulers retain tremendous prestige among some of their constituents; when Boko Haram attacked Kano in January 2012, many people were deeply moved by the Emir’s public grief.

The Boko Haram sect originated in northeastern Nigeria and its epicenter to some extent remains Borno State. That area was part of Kanem-Bornu before the colonial era. But Boko Haram’s westward spread has brought it into areas that were part of Sokoto, including Kano.

When Boko Haram began its campaign of guerrilla-style attacks in 2010, I initially felt that its attitude toward the hereditary rulers was ambivalent. The incident that gave me that sense was a prison break in September 2010 when Boko Haram fighters spared the life of the Emir of Bauchi, even though they had an opportunity to kill him. With various assassination attempts against emirs and their relatives from 2010 to 2013,* however, it seems that hereditary rulers are now at least tertiary targets for Boko Haram (I say tertiary because there have been many more attacks on security personnel and Christian sites). It is also possible, as with other forms of violence, that the insecurity and uncertainty created by Boko Haram’s attacks has given space to violent opportunists who are not necessarily affiliated with Boko Haram. Nigerian officials have stated, however, that they arrested Boko Haram fighters, at least one of whom who confessed to the attempt against the Emir.

Assuming Boko Haram is behind the attack, what would motivate them to kill a hereditary ruler? I can think of two main reasons. First, they may view the emirs as part of the political establishment that they seek to destroy; in the Salafi milieu from which Boko Haram emerged, harsh criticisms circulate painting the hereditary rulers as allies of politicians and opponents of Salafis. Second, they may target emirs for their symbolic importance; the attack on the Emir of Kano may have been timed to coincide with the first anniversary of last January’s mass attack in the city. If terrorism in one sense aims at spectacle, killing the Emir near the anniversary would have been a shocking piece of political symbolism.

What effects will this incident have? Already, it has spurred a ban on commercial motorbikes in Kano (the likely reasoning being that Boko Haram frequently makes use of motorbikes in its attacks). Daura Emirate in neighboring Katsina State has cancelled public celebrations connected with the Mawlud (anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday). This is not the first time such celebrations have been cancelled or abridged in recent months. Politicians, the Sultan of Sokoto, and other Muslim leaders are calling for investigations and increased security measures; the Christian Association of Nigeria also condemned the attack. I imagine we will see hereditary Muslim rulers being even more cautious than before about how and whether they appear in public.

In terms of what this incident says about the position of hereditary rulers in the north, perhaps it is possible to see this as a sign of their vulnerability and their prestige all at once, even in ways that are contradictory. In the fall, after an assassination attempt on the Emir of Fika, the commentator Shehu Salisu argued, “All over the North, the inbred respect for ward and district heads, as well as emirs, is fast diminishing and, consequently, the authority and the myths behind the traditional institutions they head. For those who feared the institutions, a new boldness is in place; for those who had high regards for them, a subtle disdain has emerged and for members of the ruling clans, the rewards of being part of the royal classes are fast ebbing.” I think is some powerful evidence for this point of view. But there is also evidence that people hold hereditary rulers in high esteem. Even Boko Haram’s choice of the Emir of Kano as a target says something about the symbolic importance of his office.

I think that neither the hereditary rulers’ decline nor the maintenance of their current prestige is inevitable. Rather it seems to me that they stand at a crossroads, and that it will be for the younger ones among them – including the Sultan of Sokoto, who is relatively young at 56, and the next Emir of Kano, whoever he may be** – to make some difficult and fateful decisions about their roles in politics and society. The challenges posed to their authority by the fragmentation of the religious landscape in the north, and by Boko Haram as one manifestation of that fragmentation, are quite formidable. But these hereditary institutions have proven highly flexible over time, and their occupants have frequently been quite adept at navigating social and political change. I would not, in other words, count the emirs and the Sultan out quite yet.

*In my list of attacks on emirs last week, I missed two alleged assassination attempts/plots against the Emir of Kano – one in 2010 and one in 2011.

**Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and a grand-nephew of the current Emir, is often mentioned as a potential successor, but he will face rivals.

Partial List of Alleged Boko Haram Attacks on Hereditary Muslim Rulers in Northern Nigeria

This post lays the groundwork for an analytical post I hope to write next week on the recent attempt to assassinate the Emir of Kano. Before doing that, I want just to list four incidents where fighters suspected of links to Boko Haram have targeted hereditary Muslim rulers in northern Nigeria. I also want to crowd-source this a bit: What other similar incidents have I left out? Please let me know in the comments.

  • May 30, 2011: Gunmen kill Shaykh Abba-Anas Umar Garbai, a younger brother of the Shehu of Bornu, in Maiduguri. At the link AFP reports that Boko Haram was suspected in the assassination of another of the Shehu’s siblings in April 2011, but I have not been able to find a separate story for this incident.
  • July 13, 2012: The Shehu (whose name is Umar Garbai el-Kanemi) and Deputy Borno State Governor Zannah Mustapha survive a suicide bombing outside a mosque in Maiduguri after Friday prayers.
  • August 3, 2012: The Emir of Fika, Alhaji Muhammed Abali Ibn Mohammed Idrisa, survives a suicide bombing after Friday prayers at Potiskum Central Mosque, in Yobe State.
  • January 19, 2013: Gunmen fire at a convoy carrying the Emir of Kano, Abo Bayero, in Kano city, killing four people but not the Emir.

There is also another encounter that took place between Boko Haram and a hereditary Muslim ruler that is worth mentioning. During a prison break on September 7, 2010, Boko Haram fighters held the Emir of Bauchi and other worshipers inside a mosque near the prison they were targeting.

According to eyewitnesses, the militants entered the Bauchi Central Mosque at about 6.00 p.m. after setting up their armed men round about the entire area, and participated in observing the Magrib prayers, before breaking their fast. Immediately after the prayers, they announced that everybody inside the mosque, including the Emir of Bauchi, Alhaji Rilwanu Suleiman Adamu, should remain where they were, as they were out for an operation at the prisons in order to free their colleagues who had been in detention awaiting trial since last year.

The armed men then opened fire from all directions and headed for the prisons, which is located directly opposite the Central Mosque and close to the emir’s palace using locally-made, but powerful devices which exploded like grenades and bombs. With these explosive devices, they set the prison and other property including vehicles, motorcycles and other valuables ablaze, before gaining entry into the prison yard.

In that incident it does not appear that they wanted to kill the Emir.

PDP Governors and Nigeria’s 2015 Elections

Nigeria will hold not its next national elections until 2015 but campaigning, or pre-campaigning, has in some sense already begun. Posters appeared in the capital Abuja on New Year’s Day promoting the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan. While I am not an expert in Nigerian constitutional law, my understanding is that Jonathan, since he served less than half of his late predecessor President Umaru Yar’Adua’s term, and is now serving a full term of his own, will be eligible to run in 2015 without running into the country’s two-term limit. And I think he will run, and I think he is likely to win.

But it will be important to see who challenges him, particularly for the nomination of his party, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Some northern PDP members felt that Jonatha’s decision to contest the 2011 elections violated a “zoning” agreement within the party, wherein the presidency, after the tenure of the southern President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999-2007, should have remained in northern hands from 2007-2015. But competition for the presidency has to do not simply with “north” versus “south” (Jonathan is a southerner), but also with the country’s six “geopolitical zones” and with a host of other factors, including factional splits within the party that don’t always boil down to geography, but rather to personal alliances or rivalries between major figures. The PDP, as a party, is currently undergoing struggles over key personnel such as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. These struggles have activated rivalries and zonal competitions.

I hope to attempt a more systematic analysis of intra-PDP affairs next week, but in the meantime here is one PDP governor who seems to be throwing his hat in the ring: Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State (North Central Zone):

The first strategy being adopted by the Niger Governor is to send the State Working Committee, SWC, of the PDP on a tour of other state chapters of the party “on a thank you tour over the election of Umaru Chiza as National Youth Leader of the PDP.”
Mr. Chiza was elected almost a year ago in March 2011 at the same time as other PDP leaders like Messrs Tukur and Oyinlola ridiculing any claim of a thank you visit on his behalf.
The delegation, which commenced the tour from the North Central states, was at the PDP secretariat in Jos, the Plateau State capital, on Monday, and was led by the Niger State Chairman of the Party, Mahmud Abdulrahman.
Mr. Abdulrahman in his short remarks said the aim of their visit was to create a lasting relationship among states within the North Central zone with a view to getting their support to “contesting key positions come 2015 general elections”.
However, in a chat with newsmen after the event, Mr. Abdulrahman denied that Mr. Aliyu is nursing the ambition to contest the presidential race.

We’ll see who else hints at a run.