The week before last I posted a poll: “If #Nigeria held a referendum on national unity today, how would you vote?” The results were not great for those who believe in Nigerian unity. A whopping 80% of responses voted for a fundamental change to Nigeria. 35% want the country to break-up, and 44.6% of people voted for Nigeria to be turned into a confederation.
The vote result was a massive rejection of Nigeria’s current structure. Only 20% of people want Nigeria to continue as currently structured The fact that more than a third of people want Nigeria to end is deeply worrying.
Podcast interview with Dan Snow of on-demand History Channel History Hit regarding a part of the British Empire that rarely gets attention (West Africa/Nigeria). This podcast is a precis of how and why despite originally being called “The White Man’s Grave”, Britain conquered territories in that part of the world.
Today is the 36th anniversary of the December 31st 1983 military coup that overthrew Nigeria’s President Shehu Shagari only 3 months after Shagari was sworn in for his second and final term of office. The military ruler who replaced Shagari was Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, who today, is once again Nigeria’s president (this time as as an elected civilian).
January 15, 2020 will be the 50th anniversary of the ceremony that marked the end of the Nigeria -v- Biafra civil war. To commemorate the anniversary, I will be showcasing an 18 part series of videos on the war’s key causes, events, and battles – as told by the participants themselves (including Gowon, Ojukwu, Babangida, Obasanjo, Ejoor, Achuzia, Ogbemudia etc).
On this day 26 years ago, Nigeria’s military ruler General Ibrahim Babangida resigned and handed over governing responsibility to an interim National Government led by businessman Ernest Shonekan.
If one told Nigerians about a country that has experienced terrorist attacks or large scale insecurity in over 60% of its states in the past decade, they would probably think the country in question is Afghanistan or Iraq rather than their own.
Yet every single one of Nigeria’s six geo-political zones has experienced serious violence and insecurity in the past 20 years; from the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east, clashes between farmers and cattle herders in the middle belt and south, ethnic, communal, and religious violence in the middle belt between the Tiv and Jukun, and the Fulani and Birom, the Niger Delta insurgency in the south-south, kidnapping and extortion in the south-east, to political violence, and clashes between Hausas and Yorubas in the south-west. Even Nigeria’s offshore waters are not safe and have experienced piracy. What is the cause of all this? Let us examine each in turn…
The Boko Haram insurgency has received more attention than any other conflict in Nigeria’s history, so I will not dwell on it here. Instead I will focus on two other conflicts that have not got as much attention. These are the spate of kidnappings around the country, and the conflict between nomadic cattle herders and farmers has killed more than 3600 people in the last three years.
A POLICING PROBLEM
This security issues to some extent reflect a failure of Nigeria’s police system. Although Nigeria has approximately 380,000 police officers, about 150,000 of them are engaged as escorts or on guard duty for VIPs (AKA nearly 40% of the NPF are not actually protecting the public, but instead are protecting VIPs FROM the public).
Secondly, Nigeria is under-policed. It has a ratio of one police officer to every 526 civilians. That is well below the United Nations’ recommended ratio of one police officer per 400 citizens. Training and equipment is also sub-optimal. 11 years ago, a presidential committee report on police reform bluntly stated that the police is “saddled with a very large number of unqualified, under-trained and ill-equipped officers and men many of whose suitability to wear the respected uniform of the Force is in doubt”.
Recently the BBC streamed an interesting video documentary about kidnapping in Nigeria. Kidnapping for ransom has become a serious security issue in Nigeria with kidnapping gangs making huge sums of money by kidnapping people, and releasing them only after large ransoms have been paid. Prominent victims who have been kidnapped include Michael Obi: the father of the captain of the Nigerian football team John Obi Mikel, and Kamene Okonjo – the mother of Nigeria’s (then) Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Norum Yobo, the brother of Nigeria’s former football captain Joseph Yobo.
In response the police has set up an anti-kidnapping unit called the Intelligence Response Team under Deputy Commissioner of Police Abba Kyari. This BBC documentary is an excellent expose of how serious the kidnapping issue has become in Nigeria. Recently there was a long Twitter thread where kidnapping victims and their families shared stories of how well organised the kidnapping gangs are, the huge sums of money they demand as ransom, and how the families of hostages have to borrow or crowd-source money from friends, family, employers, and their community to pay ransoms to get their family members released. After the release the money they raised is then converted into a loan which they must repay. This sends them into a spiral of economic vulnerability where they are simultaneously financially burdened by debts they have to pay, and also vulnerable to more kidnaps since the kidnappers are now aware that they can and have paid.
How and why did the kidnappings start? In 2009 Nigeria’s government ended an insurgency in the oil producing Niger Delta area in the south by doing what Nigeria normally does: use money to solve problems. What originally started as a protest against economic exploitation and pollution in Nigeria’s oil industry also included a campaign of kidnapping oil industry workers. The workers were usually released after their companies or families paid ransoms. 10 years ago I asked on this website, whether the amnesty programme would reward violence by setting a “Cash for guns” precedent by paying militants to not be violent. Not everyone supported the amnesty. The former Rivers State governor Rotimi Amaechi said of the militants: “80% of them are criminals”. That amnesty programme has set a precedent of paying ransoms for hostages that Nigeria has found free to break from.
THE FARMER VERSUS HERDER CONFLICT
This is a regional problem that has presented a growing trans-national security threat in West Africa (especially in Ghana, Nigeria, and Mali). In March 2016 herders attacked and killed 300 people in Agutu, Benue State in Nigeria. Then last month they killed over 40 people in Enugu State. They have also attacked the Agogo community in Ghana and shot several farmers dead. The herders state that they are acting in self defence and revenge against farmers who attack them and kill or steal their cattle.
The non-human catalyst for the conflict is ecology. The Sahara desert’s southward expansion at a rate of nearly 50km a year has dried up grazing areas; causing nomadic cattle herders to head further south and west in search of new grazing and water sources for their cattle. Desertification has simultaneously shrunk farmers’ crops and grazing sources for herders; thereby making green land more scarce and valuable to both.
Farmers have accused herders of cutting down trees, and allowing their cattle to eat their crops and destroy farmland. Farmers also bitterly complain about herders’ marauding attacks during which they murder farmers, and rape their wives and daughters. Herders contend that farmers plant crops on established grazing routes, steal, and kill their cattle. The fact that the herders are mostly Muslims of Fulani or Tuareg ethnicity, and that farmers in the areas they migrate to are mostly Christians of other ethnic groups, introduces a lethal sectarian context to the conflict.
To avoid the Boko Haram insecurity in Nigeria’s north-east, herders from Niger and Mali adopted new cattle grazing routes, migrated further to southern areas of Nigeria and to Ghana; which brought them into contact with communities that are not accustomed to their presence. Boko Haram and cattle rustlers are also acting as agent provocateurs in the conflict. Boko Haram get their meat from stolen cattle provided to them by bandit cattle rustlers. The rustlers often attack herders, kill them, and steal their cattle. Herding communities often assume that resentful farmers are responsible and take misdirected revenge against them. Although the Fulani and Tuareg are geographically dispersed across several west African countries such as Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal, strong kinship networks and solidarity between them means that their revenge can be deadly.
So how can the conflict be stopped? Containing it by closing borders is not an option due to the herders’ nomadic nature and the open borders of the ECOWAS region. The Nigerian government’s proposed solution to the conflict threatens to pour fuel on the already burning fire. It proposes to set aside land as Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) for herdsmen and their cattle. Already, many states in southern Nigeria have condemned the plan and announced they will not participate in it.
Insurgency, kidnapping, terrorism, and communal violence are now occupational hazards of daily life and Nigeria must plan accordingly by dedicating a special security force to these issues. Specialist units such as the Intelligence Response Team are likely to become more frequent.
The APC has won in 17 of the 28 states where results have been released by INEC so far and Buhari leads Atiku by 3.5 million votes. Keep checking back as I will update this page as results continue to be announced.
#NIGERIADECIDES2019 – ELECTION RESULTS RELEASED BY #INEC SO FAR
AAC – African Action Congress
ADC – African Democratic Congress
ADP – Action Democratic Party
APC – All Progressives Congress
PDP – People’s Democratic Party
SDP – Social Democratic Party
Winning party in bold text
|STATE||PARTY||TOTAL REGISTERED VOTERS||TOTAL ACCREDITED VOTERS||TOTAL VOTES CAST||INVALID VOTES|
|Abia||AAC: 212 ADC: 336 ADP: 131 APC: 85,058 PDP: 219,698 SDP: 472||1,793,861||361,561||344,471||21,180|
|Anambra||AAC: 124 ADC: 227 ADP: 427 APC: 33,298 PDP: 524,738 SDP: 932||2,389,332||675,273||625,035||19,301|
|Bauchi||AAC: 183 ADC: 296 ADP: 123 APC: 798,428 PDP: 209,313 SDP: 516||2,453,512||1,075,330||1,061,955||37,648|
|Benue||AAC: 309 ADC: 554 ADP: 312 APC: 347,668 PDP: 356,817 SDP: 4,927||2,391,276||786,069||763,872||34,960|
|Ebonyi||AAC: 205 ADC: 213 ADP: 102 APC: 90,726 PDP: 258,573 SDP: 452||1,392,931||391,747||379,394||20,263|
|Edo||AAC: 3,106 ADC: 850 ADP: 714 APC: 267,842 PDP: 275,691 SDP: 184||2,150,127||604,915||599,228||38,517|
|Ekiti||AAC: 400 ADC: 406 ADP: 126 APC: 219,231 PDP: 154,032 SDP: 48||899,919||395,741||393,709||12,577|
|Enugu||AAC: 219 ADC: 348 ADP: 137 APC: 54,423 PDP: 355,553 SDP: 130||1,935,168||452,765||451,063||30,049|
|FCT||AAC: 583 ADC: 246 ADP: 145 APC: 152,224 PDP: 259,997 SDP: 410
|Gombe||AAC: 165 ADC: 248 ADP: 135 APC: 402,961 PDP: 138,484 SDP: 248||1,385,191||604,240||580,649||26,446|
|Imo||AAC: 467 ADC: 541 ADP: 421 APC: 140,463 PDP: 334,923 SDP: 772||2,037,569||585,741||542,777||31,191|
|Jigawa||AAC: 226 ADC: 261 ADP: 107 APC: 794,738 PDP: 289,895 SDP: 5,011||2,104,889||1,171,801||1,149,922||43,678|
|Kaduna||AAC: 243 ADC: 558 ADP: 227 APC: 993,445 PDP: 649,612 SDP: 1,737||3,861,033||1,757,868||1,709,005||45,402|
APC: 1,464,768 PDP: 391,593 SDP: 635
APC: 1,232,133 PDP: 308,056 SDP: 150
|Kogi||AAC: 250 ADC: 4,369 ADP: 499 APC: 285,894 PDP: 218,207 SDP: 2,226||1,640,449||570,773||553,496||32,480|
|Lagos||AAC: 8,910 ADC: 2,915 ADP: 1,262 APC: 580,825 PDP: 448,015 SDP: 770||6,313,507||1,196,490||1,156,590||67,023|
ADC: 339 ADP: 107 APC: 289,903 PDP: 283,847 SDP: 359
|Niger||AAC: 324 ADC: 588 ADP: 2,582 APC: 612,371 PDP: 218,052 SDP: 239||2,375,568||911,964||896,976||45,039|
|Ogun||AAC: 3,196 ADC: 25,283 ADP: 7,705 APC: 281,762 PDP: 194,655 SDP: 1,374||2,336,887||613,397||605,938||41,682|
|Ondo||AAC: 4,414 ADC: 6,296 ADP: 1,005 APC: 241,769 PDP: 275,901 SDP: 1,618||1,812,567||598,586||586,827||30,833|
|Osun||AAC: 1,022 ADC: 1,525 ADP: 9,057 APC: 347,634 PDP: 337,377 SDP: 259||1,674,729||732,984||731,882||17,200|
|Oyo||AAC: 4,041 ADC: 40,830 ADP: 25,384 APC: 365,229 PDP: 366,690 SDP: 766||2,796,542||905,007||891,080||54,549|
|Plateau||AAC: 268 ADC: 590 ADP: 1,395 APC: 468,555 PDP: 548,665 SDP: 599||2,423,381||1,074,042||1,062,862||28,009|
APC: 324,906 PDP: 374,743 SDP: 862
|Yobe||AAC: 137 ADC: 162 ADP: 107 APC: 497,914 PDP: 50,763 SDP: 180||1,365,913||601,059||586,137||26,772|
Stears Business are doing a wonderful job of tracking the results live here.
You can also follow the results live on Channels TV.
#NigeriaDecides – Buhari and Atiku Have Opened Door to Political Forces They Can’t Control or Stop –
This is my latest article in Foreign Policy regarding Nigeria’s upcoming election:
Nigeria Is Headed for Dramatic Changes No Matter Who Wins
The issue of restructuring the country’s delicate federal system has long been a taboo. Both candidates have now put it front and center, ensuring that reforms are on the way.
On Feb. 16, Nigerians will go to the polls for a presidential election. At stake is not only who will be president but also fundamental issues about the structure of the Nigerian state and relations between its constituent units. Who should control the country’s oil resources and security forces? In which areas should the federal and state governments have preeminence over each other? These previously taboo questions have been elevated as key topics on the national political agenda. Regardless of who wins, President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress and his main opposition rival, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party, have opened the door to political forces they cannot control or stop.
At first glance Buhari and Atiku (as he is known in Nigeria) appear to be opposites. Buhari is austere, tough on corruption, and lacking in flair. The euphoria that greeted his election victory nearly four years ago has dissipated, and some say his antiquated fiscal approach has contributed to economic stagnation. Last year, former President Olusegun Obasanjo (who remains a vital kingmaker despite leaving power nearly 12 years ago) told Buhari to “dismount from the horse” and retire from politics.
Atiku is a gregarious multibillionaire businessman and veteran politician who is seen as business-savvy and has promised economic liberalization, but he has been dogged by corruption allegations. It seems that voters can have a fight against corruption or economic stimulus, but not both. But there is a third and more serious issue bubbling beneath the surface.
Similar levels of support for the two main candidates have made the election result too close to call. Since both men are ethnic Fulani Muslims from northern Nigeria, neither can resort to pandering based on ethno-regional or religious sentiment to take votes away from the other, as is frequently the case in Nigerian elections. Due to Nigeria’s gentleman’s agreement to rotate the presidency between the country’s north and south, there is not much southern ferment against the regional origin of the two leading candidates, with the expectation that the south will have its turn in power next time.
Yet between the candidates, the pressure to secure a decisive advantage has changed the political narrative and forced both Buhari and Atiku to address uncomfortable existential questions about Nigeria that were delicately circumvented by past governments. For the past 20 years since Nigeria returned to democracy, the country has been stuck with a highly centralized federal structure bequeathed to it by past military governments. This structure gives the federal government huge power over states, control of the country’s oil deposits and security forces, and the power to declare a state of emergency in any state whether or not that state consents. Rather than being reservoirs for local interests, Nigeria’s states are consequently little more than conduits for the implementation of federal government policies.
Atiku has described Nigeria’s current political system as “unworkable” and has advocated “devolution of powers and resources to states and local governments” and greater autonomy for states. To combat the insecurity that has led to the military being deployed in at least 32 of Nigeria’s 36 states, he also supports allowing Nigeria’s states to form their own police forces to reinforce Nigeria’s currently federally controlled military and police forces. Buhari is a conservative and has rejected a political restructuring of Nigeria.
Such proposals will reverberate at both ends of Nigeria. The issue of restructuring Nigeria’s unusual federal system has been a big talking point for the last three decades. However, regional autonomy is a potentially explosive issue in a country that fought a civil war from 1967 to 1970 and sacrificed over 1 million of its citizens to prevent one of its southern regions from seceding, and in which just three of the country’s 36 states today produce 75 percent of the country’s oil and over 50 percent of government revenues. Those revenues, derived from the oil-producing states in the country’s south, are shared between all of Nigeria’s states and the federal government. The oil-producing states currently receive 13 percent of oil revenues derived from their lands, but if they claw back a greater share of those revenues, many states that aren’t oil-producing would be pushed into extreme poverty. Indeed, only eight of Nigeria’s states are thought to be economically viable enough to survive without financial allocations from oil revenue.
Atiku’s proposals will delight many younger and southern Nigerians who have campaigned for such measures for three decades, hoping that it will allow Nigeria’s oil-producing states to have a greater say over and share of the profits from the oil drilled from their lands. However the proposals seem radical coming from a northern Muslim such as Atiku, who comes from the part of the country that has traditionally resisted southern-inspired changes to Nigeria’s political order. Historically, many northerners feared that such changes to Nigeria’s constitutional order would reduce the poorer northern states’ share of lucrative revenues from the oil fields in Nigeria’s south. The chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, Ango Abdullahi, claimed that some have “personalized restructuring with a view to targeting a section of the country, and this is the area that we feel very sensitive about, and we will resist it.”
Yet the north also has its own reasons to support Atiku’s restructuring ideas. Many complain that Nigeria’s police and soldiers (who are recruited from all over the country under a quota system) are disadvantaged in their fight against the militants of Boko Haram because most of them are not from the northeast where the insurgency emerged, are not familiar with the terrain, and don’t speak the local Kanuri language of the region, thereby making it difficult for them to win the trust of locals and obtain intelligence from them. Some argue that troops should be locals with knowledge of the local language, terrain, and customs.
Localization of the security forces has already been occurring slowly, albeit unofficially and without constitutional backing. Nigeria’s Constitution recognizes only those security forces that are established by the federal government and forbids states from creating their own police forces. Yet some states have allowed militia to exist in a legal twilight zone alongside the constitutionally recognized military and police forces.
Some of the military’s successes against Boko Haram have been due to the assistance given to them by a militia of local volunteers called the Civilian Joint Task Force. Using their local knowledge, the group has provided vital intelligence to the military, set up security checkpoints, arrested or executed Boko Haram members, and even assisted the military during raids. Twelve states in Nigeria’s north operate under Sharia. Some of these states created enforcement corps known as Hisbah to police their legal code. Several years ago, some southern states also allowed vigilante groups to apprehend armed robbers.
Critics pointed out that some of the vigilantes spent as much time eliminating political rivals of their state governor as they did fighting criminals. These local ethno-cultural and religious differences demonstrate the challenges of allowing local communities to create their own security forces. In one part of the country they may be used to fight insurgents, to enforce a theocracy in another, or as political thugs in another. In a country with deep sectarian cleavages such as Nigeria, legislating different legal regimes for these groups would be impossible without accusations of ethnic, geographic, or religious bias. Thanks to Buhari and Atiku’s candor these are no longer academic debates but immediate real-life problems that Nigeria’s next government must confront.
If Buhari holds on to power, he will be under pressure to respond to these thorny issues. If Atiku wins, the electorate will expect him to deliver on his campaign promises. Even if neither man intends to touch the restructuring time bomb, the issues they have raised are likely to be picked up by whoever contests the next election.
They have unwittingly elevated the restructuring issue to such a high level on the national agenda that they are likely to remain campaign issues even for the next election in 2023, when a younger candidate from the south is almost certain to become president.
In Nigeria, younger politicians are far more likely than their conservative elders to implement massive reforms. No matter what Buhari and Atiku do, a southern successor is far more likely than them to push for radical changes to Nigeria’s structure. And that means four years from now Nigeria may have a president with the motivation to not only espouse reforms, but implement them, too.
Max Siollun is a Nigerian historian and the author of the books Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture 1966-1976 and Soldiers of Fortune: a History of Nigeria (1983-1993). Follow him on Twitter: @maxsiollun
I had the privilege of speaking to the renowned Zeinab Badawi last week. She is working on an exciting sequel to her documentary series on the History of Africa. You can watch the first series here. The great news is that she is currently doing preparatory work for the next series which will feature Nigeria! She will interview a lot of prominent people in Nigeria and give insight on pre-Colonial Nigeria.
Ms Bedawi is rather busy these days. I first came across her when she was a news reader on Channel 4. These days she is the chair of the Royal African Society and works with UNESCO. I am very much looking forward to her next series and highly encourage you to watch her first series above.