Speaking at Chatham House Event on Elections, Boko Haram and Security in Nigeria

I will be participating in a panel, at an event organised by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, aka Chatham House. The title is: Elections, Boko Haram and Security: Assessing and Addressing Nigeria’s Complex Challenges. It is taking place at Chatham House offices in London, on 9 December 2014, from 9.30 am to 12 noon GMT.

I will be speaking on the political landscape, the context, the key actors and forecasts of the possible outcomes of the 2015 elections in Nigeria. This will be largely based on the ongoing elections forecasts by my colleague, Olly Owen and I.

The event will be live streamed, and will be made available from 9:30 on the Chatham House website.

Here is an overview:Read More »

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‘Who Speaks for the North? Politics and Influence in Northern Nigeria’ by Chatham House

The late Emir of Kano Dr. Ado Bayero, with English Prince Charles. Photo Credit: BBC News

The Royal Institute of International Affairs, aka Chatham House, recently released a report on northern Nigeria titled: “Who Speaks for the North? Politics and Influence in Northern Nigeria”. The report is an outcome of a research project by research fellow Dr. Leena Koni Hoffman, under the think tank’s Africa programme.

It was launched both in London, and very recently, in Abuja, Nigeria.

You can download the full report (in PDF) from the Chatham House website here.

Find below, the executive summary:

  • Northern Nigeria is witnessing an upheaval in its political and social space. In 1999, important shifts in presidential politics led to the rebalancing of power relations between the north of Nigeria and the more economically productive south. This move triggered the unprecedented recalibration of influence held by northern leaders over the federal government. Goodluck Jonathan’s elevation to the presidency in 2010 upended the deal made by the political brokers of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to rotate power between the north and south, from which the party had derived much of its unity.

  • The decisive role played by the power shift issue in 15 years of democracy raises important questions about the long-term effectiveness of the elite pacts and regional rotation arrangements that have been used to manage the balance of power between the north and the south. It also highlights the fragility and uncertainties of Nigeria’s democratic transition, as well as the unresolved fault lines in national unity as the country commemorates the centenary of the unification of the north and south in 2014.

  • The significance and complexity of challenges in northern Nigeria make determining priorities for the region extremely difficult. Yet overcoming the north’s considerable problems relating to development and security are crucial to the realization of a shared and prosperous future for all of Nigeria. Strong economic growth in the past decade has provided the government with the opportunities and resources to pursue thoughtful strategies that can address the development deficit between the north and the more prosperous south as well as creating greater political inclusion.

A cross section of Christian and Muslim leaders. Photo credit: Premium Times
  • When Sharia law was adopted in 12 northern Nigerian states many in the Muslim community envisioned this as a panacea for the complex and messy problems of social injustice, poverty, unemployment and political corruption. However, after the expansion of Sharia the unchanged circumstances of many who had celebrated its signing created even more anger and disaffection towards the state governments that had adopted the new laws. The disappointment with the implementation of Sharia opened up the north’s social space for extreme religious ideologies to be seeded and for older strands of radical Islamism to be revived.

  • Growing distrust in political leadership, a lack of government presence and chronic underdevelopment created the perfect context for radical groups to take root and flourish in northern Nigeria. Initially a fringe movement that believed in the strict observation of Sharia and providing social and financial help to poor Muslim families, Boko Haram was transformed into the most devastating threat to the northeast’s stability during the latter years of the last decade. The connectedness of today’s globalized world has allowed local extremists like Boko Haram to graft themselves into universalized debates on Muslim resistance to domination through Jihad in order to puff up their otherwise local profile.

  • Northern Nigeria’s political leaders, particularly the state governors, must move swiftly and strategically to deliver on repeated promises to invest in infrastructure, education and other social services, as well as encourage new sources of income for the region. Ultimately, the economy, security, stability and health of the north and south are intricately intertwined, and persistent violence and grinding poverty in any part of the country threaten the long-term progress of the whole.

The Appendix section maps out powerful individuals from the North, their personalities and their degree of influence. These include, former head of state General Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark, former Central Bank Governor Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and a host of others.

At just 20 pages, the publication is an easy read. Enjoy!

“Nigeria’s Criminal Crude” – A Report by Chatham House

The London-based think tank, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, otherwise known as Chatham House recently published a report titled “Nigeria’s Criminal Crude: International Options to Combat the Export of Oil”. The report analyses the international dimensions of Nigerian crude oil theft and explores what the international community could do about it.

A summary of some of the findings include:

  • “Nigerian crude oil is being stolen on an industrial scale. Nigeria lost at least 100,000 barrels of oil per day, around 5% of total output, in the first quarter of 2013 to theft from its onshore and swamp operations alone. Some of what is stolen is exported. Proceeds are laundered through world financial centres and used to buy assets in and outside Nigeria, polluting markets and financial institutions overseas, and creating reputational, political and legal hazards. It could also compromise parts of the legitimate oil business.
  • Officials outside Nigeria are aware that the problem exists, and occasionally show some interest at high policy levels. But Nigeria’s trade and diplomatic partners have taken no real action, and no stakeholder group inside the country has a record of sustained and serious engagement with the issue. The resulting lack of good intelligence means international actors cannot fully assess whether Nigerian oil theft harms their interests.
  • Nigeria’s dynamic, overcrowded political economy drives competition for looted resources. Poor governance has encouraged violent opportunism around oil and opened doors for organized crime. Because Nigeria is the world’s 13th largest oil producer – exports often topped two million barrels per day in 2012 – high rents are up for grabs.”

The report recommends the following four first steps for building a cross-border campaign against Nigerian oil theft:

  • “Nigeria and its prospective partners should prioritize the gathering, analysis and sharing of intelligence.
  • Nigeria should consider taking other steps to build the confidence of partners.
  • Other states should begin cleaning up parts of the trade they know are being conducted within their borders.
  • Nigeria should articulate its own multi-point, multi-partner strategy for addressing oil theft.”

The report rightly places a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the Nigerian authorities to take the lead in combating this illegality and plunder. After all, the theft takes place within the country’s shores with the active connivance of Nigerian actors, before the oil is shipped off elsewhere.

The onus clearly lies on the Nigerian government to demonstrate political will in curbing the flow of stolen crude from the source. It has so far embarked on an effective campaign for the international community to regard stolen crude oil as “blood oil”, in the same manner as “blood diamonds” are treated. Yet the root source has to be plugged. At a Chatham House meeting a few months ago, I made the same point to (Mrs.) Erelu Olusola Obada, the Nigerian Defense minister when she requested in her presentation, for the international community’s assistance in rejecting stolen Nigerian crude oil (the Minister was relieved of her appointment along with 8 others in a cabinet reshuffle earlier this month). I pointed out that there has been no major prosecution within Nigeria, of those involved in this criminal enterprise and their alleged collaborators in the oil companies, the army and in other government institutions. The responsibility lies squarely on the country to block the source of stolen crude within its shores.

The authorities need to show resolve, go beyond rhetoric and put action to words. To start with, known criminals need to be put behind bars for a long time. Though the security agencies may be under-equipped and due for reform, they are not thoroughly incompetent. Once a few high profile arrests of the middle men, financiers and “godfathers” are made and convictions are secured, then the international community will be assured of Nigeria’s readiness to tackle oil theft and its criminal networks.

Truth is, the exhibition of firm political will by the government can singularly breathe life into the Chatham House and several other reports’ recommendations. After all, even the most meticulously crafted strategy is only effective when it is actually implemented.

Addendum:

In a televised Presidential Media Chat on Sunday 29th September, President Goodluck Jonathan had this to say about the phenomenon of oil theft:

“The stealing of crude oil didn’t just start now, it started since the military regime […] Oil theft is not done by petty thieves but by big people and exporters, to end it, we need the assistance of our foreign country friends and refiners to stop accepting stolen crude. In addition, we have committees on the issue who meet regularly”

Keep Talking, They Can Hear Us!

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The NASS delegation at Chatham House, London. 27th February 2013

During the course of an interactive session with members of the Nigerian National Assembly (NASS) ad-hoc Constitution Review committee, at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the NASS delegation alluded severally to the power of Facebook and Twitter in engagement on national issues. The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, RT Hon. Emeka Ihedioha encouraged Nigerians to continue using Facebook and Twitter to deliberate on national issues rather than “abusing each other”, at least with reference to the Constitution review. And this got me thinking: so they can hear the voices on social media, they can hear the “children of anger“.

Apparently, the tweeting, Facebook posts and groups, blogs, online news and other social media tools through which many of us are able to articulate our views and general feelings towards national issues, policies, corruption, national disasters and so on is not in futility as some would like to think. Not only does this admission by the NASS delegation reinforce this, but recall, President Jonathan last year, said he was the “most criticised President” in the world, implicitly referring to the critical social media voices of Nigeria. Jonathan’s spokesperson Dr. Reuben Abati also acknowledged, albeit derisively, the increasingly loud and critical voices of young Nigerians referring to us as the “…idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger“.

Yes, we are angry, as any sane person remotely interested in the progress of Nigeria should be, and we are pouring our hearts out in many ways via social and new media tools. Even better, our voices are no longer chattering meaningless noises to those whom it is aimed for, the voices are audible and real. Our leaders can hear us, make no mistake about that. Whether they use their own social media accounts, or deploy their army of Special Assistants to trawl through cyberspace, they can hear us, even though hearing does not necessarily equate to listening. The latter connotes a two-way communication and an implicit obligation on the part of the listener to respond or act on the information they are receiving.

The onus thus is on us, to move to the next phase, to ensure our voices are not only heard, but that our leaders listen, and that the voices translate into effective demands for transparency and accountability at the national level but importantly, at the sub-national level. We need to use our 45million strong internet population according to the World Internet Statistics (2011 figures) to focus less on unfounded, hateful, unsubstantiated, malicious and mindless chatter and focus more on productive engagement with one another. Sharing gory pictures of unverified crime scenes, unconfirmed rumours of religious or ethnic violence, distasteful jokes stereotyping other faiths or ethnic groups and being reflexively antagonistic and needlessly suspicious of anything-government-related with little logic or few facts, is unproductive.

Social and new media tools provide a unique opportunity — they have widened the democratic space, no voice or opinion can be marginalised anymore within this sphere of discourse. Let’s use this opportunity well, let’s keep engaging in productive talk because they can hear us!