Appearance on ATTWIW Podcast

On Tuesday I was a guest on Derek Davison’s And That’s The Way It Was podcast, where we discussed Boko Haram, farmer-herder violence, and Nigerian politics. Derek asked a ton of great questions – hopefully I did not monologue too much in trying to answer them!

Derek’s blog, which covers a tremendous range of global political affairs, is here.


Nigeria’s Decamping Wave and Preparations for 2019: Spotlight on Kano

In Nigeria, a wave of “decamping” is occurring as politicians switch parties. I’ve written a little about it here and here, as have Matt Page and Lagun Akinloye. All of the party switches have national implications, but in this post I’d like to zoom in on some of the dynamics in one key state: Kano, the most populous state in northern Nigeria and the second-most populous state in the country as a whole. Kano’s decampings give a sense of just how complicated all this has become, and also point to some of the key actors who will shape the outcome in the state in the 2019 elections. Kano is probably a must-win state for incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari – if he loses in Kano, that might spell trouble elsewhere for him in the north, and if he starts to lose pieces of the north then his whole map falls apart.

To begin describing Kano State politics, we can point to two former governors: Rabiu Kwankwaso (served 1999-2003 and 2011-2015) and Ibrahim Shekarau (served 2003-2011). A long narrative on their rivalry can be found here. Both men have decamped in the past, but at the time of the 2015 elections Kwankwaso was in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Shekarau was in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In 2015, the APC won the presidency and the PDP, Nigeria’s long-time ruling party, lost. In 2015, the APC also won the governorship of Kano, with Kwankwaso’s Deputy Governor Abdullahi Ganduje defeating Shekarau’s ally Salihu Takai. Kwankwaso himself moved to the Nigerian Senate, representing the Kano Central senatorial district.

This summer, Kwankwaso became part of a larger group of Senators, governors, and other politicians who left the APC to return to the PDP, the party to which many of them previously belonged. Some of these defections, and particularly Kwankwaso’s, reflect presidential aspirations. Kwankwaso has been seriously discussed as a major presidential contender since at least the 2015 cycle, so his aspirations are far from delusional.

Back in Kano, Kwankwaso’s decamping raises a few important questions. Is there room for both him and Shekarau in the PDP? Perhaps. And what about Ganduje, who will face re-election in 2019? So far, Ganduje is remaining in the APC, although his own deputy governor, Hafiz Abubakar, has already resigned (h/t Matt Page), and may well defect to the PDP. Does Kwankwaso have the upper hand over Ganduje? Or does the outcome of 2019 in Kano come down to which two of the state’s three past and present governors (Kwankwaso, Shekarau, Ganduje) align against the third, given “rumours that Kwankwaso and Ganduje are struggling to win the heart of Shekarau”? And what does any of this mean for Takai, already being floated unofficially (Hausa) as a candidate? Don’t think that having lost a few elections (2011 to Kwankwaso, 2015 to Ganduje) counts someone out – just ask Buhari, for whom the fourth time was the charm.

Far be it from me to say what all this means. But it’s interesting to watch the consequential knock-on effects of national politicians’ decisions and decampings as they reverberate down through the political system, compelling deputy governors, state legislators, and other figures to make their own decisions. The wave of decampings, then, is throwing into relief the various networks and rivalries that make up Nigerian politics. The struggles within the states also highlight that perennial feature of politics, particularly in systems with term limits – the “godfathers,” no matter how formidable they may be, never have complete control over their hand-picked successors, and the resulting rivalries can have major consequences for party unity.


Nigeria: Another Rotation of Senior Officers in the Northeast


Maj.-Gen. Abba Dikko has been appointed the new Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole in Maiduguri, in a major redeployment of senior officers announced by the Nigerian Army on Friday.


The exercise sees Maj.-Gen. C.O. Udeh, the Chief of Transformation and Innovation takes over as the new Commander, Multinational Joint Task Force –MNJTF – in Ndemena. Udeh takes over from Maj.-Gen. Lucky Irabor, who has been redeployed to the Defence Headquarters as the Chief of Defence Training and Operations.

The Nigerian Army’s full press release is here. The press release basically states that Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai is the one making these personnel changes.

Dikko has been commanding Operation Last Hold, which began this May 1 and which you can read about here and here. It appears that Dikko will, for the time being, be “wearing a double cap as the Theatre Commander as well as Commander Operation Last Hold.”

Irabor, it may be recalled, was himself commander of Lafiya Dole from March 2016 until May 2017. Lafiya Dole is the anti-Boko Haram operation. And there’s a lot of turnover among its commanders. With the 2019 election now very close, politically speaking, I wonder if we won’t see more pressure on the senior officers and perhaps even another rotation before the vote.


Roundup on the Violence in Zamfara State, Nigeria

Here is some useful background. And here are a few recent stories:

New Telegraph, 29 July: “A new development was introduced into the killings in Zamfara State, yesterday, as armed bandits sacked 18 communities, killing 42 people and displacing over 12,000 in Zurmi Local Government Area of the state.”

Leadership, 29 July: “A renewed attack in Zamfara State has ransacked 15 communities in Mashema district of Zurmi local government area, resulting in the death of many people. LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that not few than 37 persons were killed after a similar attack on Thursday. An official of Zurmi local government, who did not want his name in print, said inhabitants of the villages have relocated to Zurmi town. The official said thousands of displaced persons have abandoned their communities, even as a team of combined security agents has been dispatched to the villages to scout for the littered dead bodies for burial. ‘Dead bodies were yet to be counted as at the time I am talking to you. A team of security agents were sent to search for the dead bodies and bury them’, he added.”

Vanguard, 29 July: “Some irate youths in Zurmi town, Zurmi local government area of Zamfara attacked the community police station demanding that officers should hand over the three suspected bandits arrested by the army to them.”

Channels, 29 July: “The Federal Government has assembled a 1000-strong military force to launch fierce attacks on the bandits terrorising the villages and towns of Zamfara State.”

Premium Times, 25 July: “The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) says it is deploying more helicopters and fighter aircraft to Zamfara State to enhance air operations in the state.”

Premium Times, 30 July: “The Speaker, Zamfara State House of Assembly, Sanusi Rikiji, has said that 15 persons were kidnapped by unknown gunmen on Saturday in Maradun Local Government Area of the state. Mr Rikiji told journalists in Gusau on Sunday that the security situation in the state called for serious review.”

And a few tweets:

Three Recent Reports on Nigeria: Corruption, Civilian Vigilantes, and Farmer-Herder Conflicts

Three notable reports have come out recently on Nigeria, covering three very different but crucial topics.

  • Matthew Page, Carnegie Endowment: “A New Taxonomy for Corruption in Nigeria.” The taxonomy is summarized on p. 5, and here is a key quote from p. 6: “The first part of this taxonomy classifies corruption in Nigeria according to the context (sector) in which it takes place. These categories are based on where corruption happens, who may be engaging in it, and the nature of the damage it causes. The following section identifies twenty of these different sectors, discusses the scope and scale of corruption in each, and provides examples of its negative effects. These sectors tend to be seen as stovepipes, however. In many instances, forms of corruption cut across two or more sectors, resulting in negative synergistic effects. Likewise, several of these areas—like the police and judicial sectors—overlap, blurring the lines between them. This taxonomy embraces these connections, recognizing that some forms of corruption can belong to more than one category.”
  • Chitra Nagarajan, Center for Civilians in Conflict, “Civilian Perceptions of the Yan Gora (CJTF) in Borno State, Nigeria.” Key quote (p. 3): “Civilian perceptions towards the yan gora have changed significantly over time. Every civilian interviewed was concerned for the future. In particular, civilians shared concerns over: 1) the increased politicization and mobilization of the group associated with the 2019 elections; 2) that the group’s involvement with politicians was diluting their focus on protection; 3) the group would become increasingly involved in criminality and gangs; 4) the group derailing processes of disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, and rehabilitation; 5) tensions within the yan gora, or between the yan gora and yan banga and/ or kungiyar maharba, would develop into a new phase of the conflict.”
  • International Crisis Group, “Stopping Nigeria’s Spiralling Farmer-Herder Violence.” Key quote (p. i): “The conflict’s roots lie in climate-induced degradation of pasture and increasing violence in the country’s far north, which have forced herders south; the expansion of farms and settlements that swallow up grazing reserves and block traditional migration routes; and the damage to farmers’ crops wrought by herders’ indiscriminate grazing. But three immediate factors explain the 2018 escalation. First is the rapid growth of ethnic militias, such as those of the Bachama and Fulani in Adamawa state, bearing illegally acquired weapons. Second is the failure of the federal government to prosecute past perpetrators or heed early warnings of impending attacks. Third is the introduction in November 2017 of anti-grazing laws vehemently opposed by herders in Benue and Taraba states, and the resultant exodus of herders and cattle, largely into neighbouring Nasarawa and, to a lesser degree, Adamawa, sparking clashes with farmers in those states.” I must say, though, that I’m a bit concerned about the report’s use of “the conflict” in the singular. Are these instances of farmer-herder violence not conflicts, plural, rather than one singular phenomenon? The media coverage of the report has heavily emphasized the idea of farmer-herder violence being “six times deadlier than Boko Haram” (or variants on that language), but it seems to me that the comparison is apples to oranges, given that the farmer-herder violence is much more decentralized than Boko Haram’s violence (and yes, I know that Boko Haram is factionalized and perhaps even significantly decentralized, but I still don’t think its violence is directly comparable to the farmer-herder clashes where the locations, causes, and perpetrators are much more diffuse and dispersed). And it is very important, I think, not to inadvertently stoke the fires of the “Fulani are all jihadists” narrative that has gained an alarming amount of traction.


Two Recent Reviews of My Books

As some readers know, I’ve published two books. Each has recently been reviewed: