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.

Africa News Roundup: President Kenyatta, Maiduguri Bombings, CAR, and More

Reuters:

Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding president, won the presidential election with a slim margin of 50.03 percent of votes cast, provisional figures showed, just enough to avoid a run-off.

Reuters again:

Seven loud explosions shook Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri on Friday, witnesses said, hours after President Goodluck Jonathan ended a trip there to try to galvanize support for his battle against Islamist insurgents.

The Punch: “Boko Haram Destroys 209 Schools in Yobe.”

CNN:

French forces have seized a significant arms cache in northern Mali believed to have belonged to Islamist jihadist groups, including “tons” of heavy weapons, suicide belts and equipment for improvised explosive devices, France’s defense minister said Friday.

Magharebia: “Algeria Focuses on [AQIM Fighters in] Kabylie.”

IRIN: “Briefing: Militias in Masisi.”

RFI (French): “Central African Republic: Refugees Continue to Flee Fighting and Insecurity.”

What else is happening?

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.

Africa News Roundup: Kenyan Elections, Jonathan in 2015, Meth, and More

The big news for the coming week will be, of course, the elections in Kenya on March 4. The BBC profiles the candidates here.

Reuters:

Opponents [of Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan] within his own party say since he has already been sworn into office twice, another term would break the constitutional two-term limit. Cyriakus Njoku, a member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), brought the case.

But Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of the High Court in Abuja rejected that argument.

“After the death of Umar Yar’Adua, there was no election. President Jonathan was merely asked to assume the office … in line with doctrine of necessity,” he said.

“He is therefore currently serving his first tenure of office and if he so wishes, he is eligible to further seek his party’s ticket … to run for office in 2015.”

Njoku did not say whether he would appeal to the supreme court.

In my view Jonathan is highly likely to win the 2015 elections.

AFP:

Efforts were underway Friday to confirm the killing of a notorious Al-Qaeda commander during fighting with French troops in Mali, with Washington calling reports of his death “very credible”.

Algeria’s independent Ennahar TV reported this week that Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, a chief of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was killed in northern Mali along with 40 other Islamist militants.

In Washington, a US official speaking on condition of anonymity said reports of his death seemed “very credible” and that if Abou Zeid was indeed slain “it would be a significant blow to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”

French officials have so far reacted with caution, with President Francois Hollande saying Friday: “Reports are circulating, it is not up to me to confirm them.”

Bloomberg relates that Sudan is reinforcing troop levels in Blue Nile State.

Jeune Afrique (French) on Gao, Mali.

Europe1 (French) reports that Boko Haram is attempting to recruit youth in Cameroon. “Today, dozens of members of the religious sect are in prison in Cameroon. It is to obtain their liberation that the group chose to kidnap seven members of a French family last week in the northwestern part of the country.”

VOA: “Methamphetamine ‘Growing Concern’ for West Africa.”

IRIN: “Why the Sahel Needs $1.6 Billion Again This year.”

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.

What Does Kaduna’s Tragedy Teach Us About Nigerian Politics?

During Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, there has been a tradition and an expectation that if a Christian southerner holds the presidency, a Muslim northerner will hold the vice presidency, and vice versa. The sample is small, so we should not perceive the pattern as written in stone, and religious dynamics in Nigeria are much more complicated than a “Muslim north” and a “Christian south.” But since 1999 the pattern has held: the southern Christian President Olusegun Obasanjo and his northern Muslim Vice President Atiku Abubakar from 1999 to 2007, northern Muslim President Umaru Yar’Adua and his southern Christian Vice President Goodluck Jonathan from 2007 to 2010 and, presently, President Jonathan and his northern Muslim Vice President Namadi Sambo. All of these politicians have come from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Kaduna State, a PDP stronghold, has had a version of this rotational system, though usually under Muslim governors. The Muslim Governor Ahmed Makarfi from 1999 to 2007 had two Christian Deputy Governors: first Stephen Shekari until his death in 2005, and then Patrick Yakowa until Makarfi was term-limited in 2007. The Muslim Governor Namadi Sambo succeeded Makarfi, with Yakowa continuing on as Deputy; when Sambo ascended to the vice presidency in 2010, Yakowa became Governor with a Muslim, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero (who is seen as close to Sambo), as his Deputy. Yakowa, who won an extremely close re-election battle in 2011, was the State’s first Christian governor, and the first governor from the southern zone of Kaduna.

Kaduna city was the capital of the defunct Northern Region, and Kaduna is part of northern Nigeria. But some also consider the State (or its southern zone) part of the “Middle Belt,” a zone of tremendous religious and ethnic diversity. The Nigerian census does not ask respondents for their religious affiliation, so the religious demographics of states are unknown, but Kaduna is religiously mixed. Kaduna State has a history of interreligious violence that includes periodic riots since 1987, including major riots in 2000 and 2002 as well as recent clashes stemming from the ongoing cycle of church bombings in northern Nigeria. While the causes of riots and interreligious clashes should not be reduced to religion, religious identity is one focus of tension in the state. That helps explain why it matters who holds the posts of governor and deputy governor (though the complexities of officeholders’ religious identities turn on more than just questions of conflict).

On December 15, Governor Yakowa died in a helicopter crash that also killed former National Security Adviser Owoye Azazi and others. Deputy Governor Yero has taken over as Governor. The transition introduces various political complexities, including the immediate question of whom Yero will appoint as deputy (perhaps Yakowa’s widow) and what will happen with the governor’s seat in 2015.

Here are three takes on those questions and their significance:

The Guardian predicts that while the new deputy will come from Kaduna south, it will be some time before that zone produces another governor. This situation may produce dissatisfaction in the southern zone:

To what extent will [Yakowa’s] death alter the political configuration of the state? What is apparent is that Southern Kaduna has lost the chance to produce a governor that spent a full tenure in office. Will Yero, who is also from Kaduna North like Sambo and Makarfi, step down in 2015 and ask the Southern Kaduna zone to throw up a candidate to finish Yakowa’s tenure. This scenario is unlikely, following the precedent set by President Goodluck Jonathan when he did not step down for the North to produce someone to complete the tenure of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in the 2011 election.

The Southern Kaduna senatorial zone had waited for a while to grab the chance that made Yakowa governor…

And it is almost certain that Yero, the incumbent governor will appoint his deputy from the Kaduna South, to maintain the political balance that had secured peace and kept everyone satisfied in the state. With the belief that the next deputy governor would come from the Christian-dominated Southern Kaduna, there are long faces asking that ‘certainly we are not likely to rejoice over that for a number of reasons,’ after previous nominees, Shekari and Yakowa have died in office.

It is a cheering prospect for a people who since the history of the state had only one chance of occupying the seat of power, a chance cut short by death, after two years. What will 2015 offer the people of Southern Kaduna?

Vanguard, depicting Yarowa as a unifying figure, suggests that Yero will have to work hard to manage the state’s interreligious tensions:

As governor Yakowa undoubtedly had his job well cut out. Given the history of delicate relations between the Muslim and Christian populations in the state, Yakowa as governor was always quick to calm tension that repeatedly broke out during his short reign. He was particularly passionate in wooing the Islamic population.

Though he had a difficult time winning election in 2011, he was by some account already worming his way into the heart of the muslim population through his government’s charm offensive to Muslims through such programmes as Ramadan feeding and hajj sponsorships…

Yakowa was, off course not universally popular among Christians at the time of his selection as Sambo’s deputy in 2007. He was regarded in bad light for having helped what some regarded as the conspiracy to frustrate their brother, Isaiah Balat in the 2007 gubernatorial primary. He, however, over time won all but extremists to his side.

Nigeria Intel portrays the interreligious politics around Yakowa differently, suggesting that Yakowa’s story – coming to the governor’s seat only through Sambo’s elevation to the vice presidency, and then struggling bitterly to retain the seat in 2011 – illustrates division rather than unity. The difficulty Yakowa had in obtaining and holding his post, the author writes, “raises serious concerns about our brand of politics, the concepts of majority and minority, competence in the selection of candidates and the entire electoral process itself.” Somberly, the piece continues:

In essence, at a time when Nigeria should be electing its best people to strategic positions, too many states and local government areas in the country remain bogged down by the politics of balancing ethnic and religious interests. Thus, competence, capacity, qualification, experience, honesty and other considerations that should determine a candidate’s eligibility and electability are relegated to the background.

In the final analysis, this is a time when Kaduna, like other states battling with majority/ minority agitations should reach out to all groups to forge a consensus. This is a sombre, delicate dance that the new leadership must do in order to rebuild trust and togetherness.

In Kaduna’s tragedy and its political aftermath, then, we find much to ponder about Nigerian politics.