Nigeria’s State Elections Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Nigeria will hold state elections. Although the victory of Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential vote of March 28-29 has rightly attracted major attention, it is important not to forget about the state contests, which will have a significant impact on the lives of Nigerian citizens – recall that the populations of some Nigerian states (Lagos, Kano) exceed the populations of many entire African countries.

I’ll mention two pieces I’ve written that hopefully shed some light on state-level dynamics. My backgrounder (.pdf) on the elections, written for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, discusses Lagos, Kano, Plateau, and Rivers (pp. 12-15). A follow-up post for the Washington Post‘s Monkey Cage blog discusses Lagos, Kano, and Rivers. Both pieces were written before the six-week electoral delay announced in February, but I think much of the analysis still applies. At a basic level, the most important thing to highlight is that many of Nigeria’s governors are term-limited, so the races in many states are open and will produce new officeholders.

To narrow down my list of key states even further, I will be watching Lagos and Rivers the most carefully. Lagos is a stronghold of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Buhari’s party, and both the outgoing governor and his predecessor are major APC figures. I would be surprised if the APC, in the person of its nominee Akinwunmi Ambode, does not hold the state. Yet the race in Lagos recently had a moment of tension when the Oba of Lagos, a ceremonial hereditary ruler, reportedly made threatening comments regarding any Igbos who might not vote for the APC candidate (the Oba later denied the threat). Lagos is a historically Yoruba area, and Ambode (as well as many other APC leaders in southwestern Nigeria, and the Oba too for that matter) are Yoruba. Ambode distanced himself from the Oba’s comments. The Yoruba and the Igbo are, respectively, the second and third largest ethnic groups in Nigeria. The point is this: just as Buhari is now expected to negotiate a politics of inclusivity as Nigeria’s incoming president, the victor in Lagos will face pressure to show inclusivity in a mega-city populated heavily by immigrants.

Rivers currently has an APC governor, Rotimi Amaechi, who defected from the People’s Democratic Party or PDP, the party of outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan, in 2013. Amaechi is term-limited, and the gubernatorial election will in some sense represent a contest of wills and resources between Amaechi and Jonathan’s wife Patience, who is also from Rivers. There is significant potential for violence in Rivers. During the presidential vote, Rivers was the site of protests by the APC, which alleged that the PDP had committed massive fraud. Electoral authorities, however, accepted the result from Rivers, which like the rest of the South South and South East zones voted overwhelmingly for Jonathan according to official results. The APC has asked for the removal of the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers, charging that she will not administer the gubernatorial election there fairly. Rivers heads into the weekend, in other words, facing considerable tension.

Which states are you watching?

Africa Blog Roundup: Kenya’s Elections, Nigeria’s Trains, DDR in South Sudan, and More

Ken Opalo: “Who Will Win the Kenyan Presidential Election?”

If the polls are right Uhuru Kenyatta still leads Raila Odinga by about 740,000 votes.  I estimate that Mr. Kenyatta will get 48.87% of the votes cast to Mr. Odinga’s 41.72%, which means that a run-off is almost inevitable. I don’t expect Mr. Kenyatta to hit the 50% mark since my model is slightly biased in his favor (especially coming from the Rift Valley turnout figures from 2007 that I use as a basis of estimating turnout in 2013).

Trains: Will Ross with a link to a BBC podcast segment on the Lagos-Kano Express. And Shelby Grossman with a photograph of a terminal under construction along a planned railway from Lagos to Cotonou.

Afendi Muteki: “The Oromo of Harerghe: On the Evolution of Urban Centers [in Ethiopia],” parts one and two.

Jairo Munive: “Disarmament, Demobilization And Reintegration In South Sudan: Feasible Under Current Conditions?”

Nasser Weddady on George Bush, Francois Hollande, and Mali.

Aaron Zelin compiles three new reports from Somalia’s Al Shabab.

I was thinking yesterday that my “Local Media Sources” list (in the right sidebar) was looking a bit thin, so I made some additions. Any suggestions for others to add?

Africa Blog Roundup: Algeria and Mali, MPs in Kenya, the Sudans, and More

At the Francophonie summit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Siddhartha Mitter writes, “The roster [of musical acts] replicates the schism that has occurred in Congolese music over politics – specifically, whether to endorse President Joseph Kabila, and gain from official patronage; or whether to oppose him, either from outside the country, where numerous soukous veterans have sought shelter, or domestically, in the largely hip-hop-driven Kinshasa underground.”

Loomnie, responding to a recent interview on Boko Haram at the Economist, discusses how Nigeria’s oil wealth affected Northern Nigeria’s economy.

The Moor Next Door on Algeria and Mali:

It appears likely that French efforts to assert control over the regional setting through ECOWAS will go ahead, as its leaders have said ‘with or without Algeria’; what success or buy in these will get from Algiers is not clear to this blogger at this time. What Algeria is seeking to work out in Mali, beyond avoiding military intervention and the expansion of AQIM and its fraternal organisations beyond Mali, is also relatively obscure; the Algerian end state has not been articulated clearly as much as its preferences for a process, or style of process, that allows Algiers to remain central and with some measure of control (or perception of control) especially with respect to the parts of Mali bordering southern Algeria. Since last winter Algeria has been seeking out its traditional role as a mediator and facilitator in northern Mali; this comes from both internal priorities as well as regional ones.

Texas in Africa, “Realities of Rape in War.”

Amb. David Shinn flags new reports on the United States and the Sudans and on pastoralists in northern Kenya.

Zanele Hlatshwayo: “Time To Improve State Participation In Africa’s Extractive Industries.”

Roving Bandit: “The State of the Game between Juba and Khartoum.”

Amb. John Campbell: “Nigeria’s Economic Reforms in Trouble?”

The Economist on Kenya:

As they swish past in their flashy cars on their way to parliament, members of Kenya’s legislature are often greeted nowadays by protesters shouting “Mwizi !”, Swahili for “thief”. Having lost the power to vote for a rise in their basic salary, thanks to a new constitution endorsed in a referendum two years ago, the lawmakers found a sneaky way to boost their pay. It has not been popular.

A student newsletter from Somaliland.

Art installations at the Lagos Business School.

Africa News Roundup: Traore Returns to Mali, Constituent Assembly Meets in Somalia, Senegal Boosts Electricity, and More

Mali’s interim President Dioncounda Traore returned home yesterday from France, after a two-month recuperation.

In Somalia, the National Constituent Assembly “began a marathon-nine-day meeting on Wednesday to debate on a provisional constitution, before final ratification by a national referendum.” This is a critical step in the transition process, though it comes behind schedule.

AP on evictions in the Makoko area of Lagos, Nigeria:

Makoko is a sprawling community of bamboo homes and shacks built out of driftwood, close to the University of Lagos campus and visible to daily traffic that plies the Third Mainland Bridge, the link from the mainland to the city’s islands. Those living in Makoko subsist largely as fishermen and workers in nearby saw mills, cutting up water-logged timber that’s floated into the city daily. Some work jobs outside of the slum as gate guards and in other industries, though most live almost entirely within its watery boundaries.

The people of Makoko have created their own life independent from the state, with its own schools and clinics, however ill-equipped. Commerce goes on in its creek alleyways as women sell sizzling dishes and goods from canoes. Others sell videos and telephone airtime cards from the shacks just above the waterline, where a maze of wooden planks connects the homes.

Senegal has received an $85 million loan to help boost electricity.

The Guardian: “Burkina Faso’s School for Shepherds Thrives”

Kenyan presidential candidates Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, even if one of them is elected in March 2013, would still have to stand trial at the International Criminal Court, where they face charges of fomenting post-electoral violence in 2007-2008.

After a strike that cost twelve production days, work has resumed at First Quantum’s Guelb Moghrein mine.

What else is going on?

Africa Blog Roundup: Dakar Fashion Week, South Sudan, Dual Citizenship, Lagos, Djibouti, and More

PEN’s statement on the sentencing of Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega.

Also from Ethiopia, reports of clashes between police and Muslim protesters (some background here).

Africa Is A Country on the cultural politics of representing Africa in fashion (and how Dakar Fashion Week breaks the mold):

As designers continue to release fantasy collections inspired by their latest trip to exotic, mystical and faraway lands (Michael KorsGiorgio Armani) and fashion editorials feature white models amidst backgrounds of hyper-sexualized dark bodies in seemingly equally dark continents (Daria Werbowy for Interview Magazine), it is clear that for the fashion world, Africa represents a sort of otherness. That otherness, and especially the sexuality of the other, is marketed as flavor and spice, something new, sexually raw and stimulating. Whether depicted in high-fashion advertisements or on the runway, racial difference becomes both at once threateningly pleasurable and seductively dangerous, positioning it at the intersection of most intimate obsessions with desire and death.

Lesley Anne Warner on Washington and Africa policy:

On one hand, DC is a highly intellectual, international city brimming with opportunity and access. On the other hand, it can be very insular and one can easily fall into the trap of assuming all knowledge can be found in DC or its immediate vicinity. It’s the latter that irks me.

On top of having writer’s block, I’ve also had a very introspective week – which is why I was reminded of this Beltway dichotomy at an Africa event I recently attended. The speaker was addressing a pretty controversial topic, but was very politic in their remarks and when it came to Q&A. Their remarks did not spark a heated debate, which should have been the case given the subject matter. Instead, it sounded like a pitch for maintaining the status quo of U.S. engagement in Africa – regardless of the inherent idiosyncrasies of our approach (security at the expense of democracy, for example), or any potential areas for improvement.

Amb. David Shinn flags two items from the US Institute of Peace on the trajectory of South Sudan.

Dr. Kim Yi Dionne on “Diaspora, Development, and Dual Citizenship”:

Last month, Malawi President Joyce Banda traveled to the UK and US to participate in international summits related to aid and development. During President Banda’s visit to the US, she spoke at a specially convened meeting of the Malawi Washington Association (MWA), an organization of the Malawian diaspora in the US.

There has been a lot of chatter recently about harnessing African diasporas to develop their home countries, and the MWA is no exception. The MWA discussion (at least as seen on the email listserv) focuses on the need for Malawi to offer dual citizenship.

Amb. John Campbell on Lagos, taxation, and success.

Reflections on Djibouti from an American soldier.

Don’t forget, if you are in DC, do come to discuss these topics (including the relationship between DC and Africa!) at Science Club on Tuesday.

Lagos on the Up and Up: French Aid for Buses

I don’t often write about Southern Nigeria on this blog, nor do I often write about my interest in urban transportation issues in Africa (especially because I am no expert on either topic!), but this AP story on French aid to Lagos’ bus system ($100 million total) is definitely worth a read:

The French Foreign ministry said in a statement Friday that the funds will go toward Lagos’ $330-million urban transport plan.


Lagos launched its first bus rapid transit line in 2008. However, the city still relies mainly on individually-owned and poorly-run rickety buses.

Lagos has won a lot of plaudits in recent years for the development strategy pursued by Governor Babatunde Fashola, who has relied on local taxes to broaden government services in the city and in the state. Lagos isn’t perfect – crime, poverty, and pollution are still major problems – but a lot of eyes are on the city as a potential model for other Nigerian and African cities.

A transportation revolution in Lagos could contribute to that perception. Around the world, public transportation in cities is a major concern, including in the US where I personally believe most major cities have a public transportation deficit. Having strictly private transportation in megacities is a recipe for a high rate of fatal accidents, massive pollution, congestion, and overall inefficiency. There are relatively few strong public bus systems in Africa (Dakar has one, and I used it frequently when I lived there), and even fewer urban train systems (on a side note, check out this article on the subway in Algiers), so it could be very important that Lagos is taking this step forward.

Africa Blog Roundup: Mauritania and Malawi Protests, Lebanese in West Africa, India and China in Africa, and More


Baobab writes about how Lebanese businessmen are prospering in West Africa:

Those in business say several factors have helped them to succeed. Most crucial are trade networks among the Lebanese diaspora and beyond, says Abdallah Shehny whose office-equipment business spans Sierra Leone, Liberia and Dubai. Contacts in countries Brazil to China—little trade is done with other African countries due to costs of overcoming poor infrastructure—are important for trade. But they also act as substitutes for the lack of local services such as access to finance. Family workers bring down costs.

Thousands Lebanese fled Liberia’s long civil war; those who stayed found plenty of opportunities for reconstruction. Many educated and well-off Liberians also left. But competition from businessmen from India and China is now growing.

Flexible responses to the changing political and economical situation has been key to the diaspora’s success, according to Mara Leichtman, an American academic who studies the Lebanese in Senegal.

Scott Baldauf looks at Indian-Chinese competition in Africa:

If it wasn’t already clear, India’s announcement of $5 billion in development deals in Africa should certainly put to rest any question of whether India is dedicated to doing business on the African continent over the long haul.

The pledge of development aid to African countries – essentially a fund to help African countries to meet their development goals – stands in stark contrast to Africa’s largest single trading partner, China.

While China trades large infrastructure projects (built mostly by Chinese labor) for access to African raw materials, India spends money on training Africans to develop their own countries. And while Indian countries certainly have come into Africa as investors, Indian diplomats are quick to stress that the relationship between India and African countries is more one of equal partners.

Loomnie posts an Al Jazeera documentary on Lagos.

G. Paschal Zachary gives his take on a recent article about corruption in Nigeria.

USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah discusses the organization’s response to the crisis in Abyei, Sudan.

Aaron Bady takes down Paul Theroux’s “myth of native intolerance” in Africa.

Any new blogs springing up?