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Crisis Group report on upcoming Nigerian elections

Last month’s International Crisis Group report is pessimistic about the prospect of free, fair, and peaceful elections for Nigeria in February. The report cites ominous statements from political and societal leaders who explicitly threaten violence in response to various possible outcomes.

I thought the part of the report on the politicization of the police and security services was the most interesting. I had not realized the extent to which the police and Department of State Services (aka SSS) have been systematically targeting pro-APC people. Here are some examples.

Recent police conduct, particularly in Rivers state, has raised concerns. Between May 2013 and early 2014, the federally-controlled police in the state (there is no state police) were criticised for alleged bias against the state governor, Amaechi, and his APC supporters. On 16 July 2013, police reportedly stood by as hundreds of anti-Amaechi thugs stoned the motorcade of four northern governors on a solidarity visit to the governor in Port Harcourt. The police were also accused of repeatedly turn- ing a blind eye when groups (including hired thugs and ex-militants) opposed to the governor and the APC paraded Port Harcourt, intimidated residents, while at the same time repeatedly providing protection to pro-PDP groups who attacked and disrupted APC events, including a 12 January 2014 rally in Port Harcourt, at which Senator Magnus Abe, a strong Amaechi ally, was reportedly hit with a rubber bullet.


Similarly, in January 2014, security operatives summoned and interrogated Nasir el-Rufai, an APC official who had warned that the 2015 elections may be followed by violence if the polls are not free and fair. In August, the DSS questioned Joseph Waku, an APC leader who had sharply criticised Jonathan. In contrast, when pro-Jonathan individuals similarly threaten mayhem if Jonathan is not re-elected or criticise opposition leaders provocatively, they are mostly ignored.


In Osun state, just hours before the polls, hooded security operatives arrested the APC’s national spokesman, Lai Mohammed; the media aide to the party’s national leader, Sunday Dare; the deputy chief of staff to Osun state Governor Afolabi Salisu; Osun state’s Agriculture Commissioner Wale Adedoyin; and 96 other party members. Most were freed without any charges once voting was concluded, but no PDP leaders or members were ever arrested.

Managing your Political Godfather

Managing your Political Godfather: Lessons in Conflict Dynamics from the Ngige-Uba Imbroglio by Chris Uwadoka is possibly the most interesting book I’ve read on Nigerian politics. (h/t to Jonathan.) Uwadoka tells the story of an infamous falling out between Dr. Chris Ngige (the godson) and Chief Chris Uba[h] (the godfather — godfather is the Nigerian word for patron) in Anambra state in the early 2000s, and then draws on analytical frameworks from a variety of disciplines to draw broader lessons about how future godsons and godfathers can best manage their relationship.


Uba selected Ngige as PDP nominee for governor of Anambra state. Uwadoka describes strategies Uba used to try to ensure Ngige would remain loyal once in office:

In picking [Ngige] forGovernor, Ubah considered his lack of charisma, political base and his perceived servile disposition to be a great advantage to him [...]. Just to make assurance doubly sure, he arranged to have one of his elder sisters, Mrs. Eucharia Azodo, to emerge as the speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly. This would make impeachment of Ngige easy if he became recalcitrant. Ubah also appointed another close loyalist [...] who would take over from Ngige if the occasion arose. Then he reportedly took Ngige and other beneficiaries of his overnight political power base to the fearsome Okija Shrine and made them swear an oath of allegiance to him. He made Ngige sign a resignation letter in advance and to voice it into a recorder.

Uwadoka describes a strategy Uba used when trying to convince a reluctant Ngige to run for governor:

By putting Ngige away from other prospective and pretending godfathers, Uba may have been attempting to ensure that Ngige was left with no doubt as to who was buttering his bread. This is important because in the game of political jobbing, it is common for pretending godfathers to rush to a man whom they hear has been tipped for a political appointment and give him the impression that they are in the process of sponsoring him for that very position, whereas, in truth, they had no idea how the appointment came about.

In mid-2003, only one month into his term, Ngige’s relationship with Uba soured. I don’t completely understand what happened, but Uba attempted to formally remove him from office, and there was also a failed abduction attempt. Ngige hired his own security. In 2006 courts overturned his 2003 victory, and Ngige was replaced.

Uwadoka offers some “knockout questions for screening” for prospective godsons and godfathers. Here are my favorites

Knockout Questions for Screening Potential Godsons

  • Is he reasonably powerless without me?
  • Does he look like one that can live with the loss of some of his due privileges?

Knockout Questions for Screening Potential Godfathers

  • Can he muster the funds to bankroll me? (Should you be headhunted by a godfather and asked to be fielded for an elective position, ask for sufficient funds to be made available to you up-front. Many have been enticed out of employments and left to their own means.)
  • Can he offer protection? (If, for instance, my opponent hangs a murder accusation on my neck, how long will it take him to resolve the case by employing pressures from ‘above’?)

To further analyze godfather-godson relationships, Uwodoka brings in discussions of audience costs, the prisoner’s dilemma game, and credible commitments. It’s a really fun read, though I have no idea where one can find this book in the US.



Charles Taylor and Firestone

The part of the PBS/ProPublic documentary Charles Taylor and Firestone that was really shocking was the extent to which Firestone supported Taylor in the early 1990s. They could not operate without his permission, so (in hindsight, I guess, though the decision seemed pretty black and white at the time too) they really should have just not operated until things stabilized. Instead, they chose to cooperate with Taylor, who was of course at the time a warlord and not president. From the accompanying article:

The company signed a deal in 1992 to pay taxes to Taylor’s rebel government. Over the next year, the company doled out more than $2.3 million in cash, checks and food to Taylor[...].

While Firestone was operating:

Taylor used [Firestone] for the business of war. Taylor turned storage centers and factories on Firestone’s sprawling rubber farm into depots for weapons and ammunition. He housed himself and his top ministers in Firestone homes. He also used communications equipment on the plantation to broadcast messages to his supporters, propaganda to the masses and instructions to his troops. [...]

For Taylor, the relationship with Firestone was about more than money. It helped provide him with the political capital and recognition he needed as he sought to establish his credentials as Liberia’s future leader.

The effect of Firestone’s cooperation with Taylor on the war is unknowable. After all, Firestone needed to cooperate with him precisely because he already controlled so much of the country in 1991. In the short term, though, it seems clear things would have been more difficult for Taylor had they just stayed out of the country for a few more years.

Africa Confidential on Ebola

From a gated Africa Confidential article on Ebola, h/t to Nicholai:

So, early this year, [Samantha] Power drew up a list of about 60 senior Liberians, including the Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Lewis Brown, who will not be granted US visas because of their wartime ties to warlords. Although this issue was so dear to the Ambassador, it has been overshadowed by Ebola, which has now killed close to 2,500 Liberians and infected thousands more. [...]

While in New York in September, [Defense Minister Brownie] Samukai, a former UN humanitarian worker, was warned by Power’s office to prevent his soldiers from misusing the emergency measures any further [after the West Point incident]. He was also reminded that the 5,000 UN forces in Liberia had a Chapter VII ‘protection of civilians’ mandate, which meant that if the situation got bad enough, they could engage the Liberian army. Few outside the country know how nearly this came to pass. The harassment of civilians all over the country continued but no further army shootings were reported. Yet in early October, the government imposed strict censorship on the media regarding all Ebola-related incidents. [...]

Johnson-Sirleaf’s supporters continue to boast that the US response dwarfs anything that Guinea or Sierra Leone have been able to muster and that only she can attract such a gesture in Africa. Indeed, the intervention has helped to stabilise her regime as well as the Ebola situation. This is an established pattern. She has always been more popular abroad than at home, yet her legitimacy in Liberia is tied to her international clout.

Human Rights Watch report on Boko Haram violence

The new Human Rights Watch report on Boko Haram violence against civilians is devastating. Some excerpts:

On the increased abduction of women:

The increase in the number of abductions since mid-2013 appears to mark a change of strategy by Boko Haram. From 2009 through early 2013, the group did not appear to target women and girls specifically. Instead, it primarily launched assaults against those it considered part of an unjust and corrupt system: members of the security services, politicians, civil servants, and other symbols of authority. By early 2012 schools and students became increasingly targeted for attacks [...] From 2009 to early 2013, according to Human Rights Watch’s research and monitoring of abuses, Boko Haram abducted individual women and girls from their homes or from the street during attacks on their communities. In most of the documented cases, married women were abducted as punishment for not supporting the group’s ideology, while unmarried women and girls were taken as brides after insurgents hastily offered a dowry to the families, who feared to resist. [...]

Videos released by Boko Haram’s leaders in January and May 2013 suggest three key motives for the initial abductions: to retaliate against the government for its alleged detention of family members, including the wives of the group’s leaders; to punish students for attending Western schools; and to forcefully convert Christian women and girls to Islam. Some of the victims and analysts interviewed by Human Rights Watch have suggested women and girls are also being used for tactical reasons, such as to lure security forces to an ambush, force payment of a ransom, or for a prisoner exchange.

[...] Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has [said] “Since you are now holding our women, (laughs) just wait and see what will happen to your own women … to your own wives according to Sharia law.”

Post-Chibok support seems to benefitting only former Chibok abductees, and even them not that much:

The federal and state funds, set up with support from international agencies and foreign governments in the wake of the high-profile Chibok abductions, have targeted the escaped Chibok girls but appear not to have widely benefitted the many other victims of Boko Haram abuses. [...]

However, the young women and girls interviewed described the counseling received as religion-based; they said the Borno State government had arranged for pastors and Muslim clerics to speak with about 30 of them in a group at the Governor’s office. One girl described the counseling she received:

“We were all in a big hall, with many people that we did not know. It was when one of the speakers quoted from the Bible that I knew he was a pastor but I cannot remember what he said. As he finished his talk, the microphone was handed to a man dressed like a Muslim preacher, who also recited some Islamic words. Some other people also spoke. No one asked us any questions. I don’t think any of my school mates realized either that we were being counseled.”

I didn’t know all schools in Borno have been closed:

In March, federal government-run secondary schools in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states closed and their students were transferred to schools in other northern states, while all schools in Borno, the worst-hit of the states under emergency rule, have been closed since then.

On Chibok:

[...] the lack of security [at the Chibok school] made it easy for the fighters to overrun the compound, seize the young women and girls from their dormitory, and organize their transport. Boko Haram did not arrive with a sufficient number of vehicles, and tried to arrange for more. The students said they believed the primary objective of Boko Haram’s attack was the theft of a brick-making machine as well as food and other supplies. However, this apparently changed once the men realized they had access to the young women and girls and faced little resistance.

The relative ease with which it carried out the Chibok abductions appears to have emboldened Boko Haram to step up abductions elsewhere.

On motivations for abductions:

Other men appeared to have been targeted for abduction because of their specific skills or occupation, which filled a need in the insurgents’ camp. This was the case of a 46-year-old pharmaceutical salesman abducted from Buni Yadi in March 2014 while he sitting outside his shop with a group of friends. [...]

A 19-year-old girl who was held in a Boko Haram camp in Gwoza told Human Rights Watch that she was offered thousands of naira as dowry to marry one of the insurgents:

“I refused the dowry, asking them to go pay to my father if they wanted to marry me. An insurgent who knows my family accepted it on my behalf. He told me he was afraid I would be killed if I continued to refuse. I became confused at the implication of being married to a Boko Haram member, so I pretended to be very ill, and the wedding was postponed until the return of the camp leader, who was travelling to meet the group’s overall leader in the Sambisa camp. He ordered that I should be taken to the hospital [in the local town] for tests before his return. It was the break I’d been praying for. I threatened the woman sent to take me to a hospital in town that I would scream and expose her to Civilian JTF. She quickly walked away as I made my escape.”

Insurgents later took revenge on her family for her escape, arresting her brother and burning her family home and the churches in her village.

On accountability:

[A 22 year old woman said] “I did not bother to report to security or police after my escape because they are aware that these abductions have been happening. And even when others had reported to them in the past, they did nothing.”

Moments when things are not as they seem

I had a driver take me to Kaduna this morning. On the outskirts of the city I see police and military checkpoints approaching. But we get stopped by a man in plain clothes before the checkpoints. He has my driver step out of the car, and he sits next to me in the driver’s seat. He goes through every single compartment in the car. I am convinced we are being robbed. He opens up the middle container thing between the two front seats and finds two packages the size of baseballs. He takes them both, and I think he has taken my driver’s money. Then he demands more money from my driver. My driver pulls out from his pocket a big wad of 500 Naira bills and he lets us go.

My whole body is shaking, and I’m convinced my driver has just been robbed. I’m angry that the police and soldiers are so close and obviously know what’s going on. I feel that my presence in the car probably caused the robbery, so I pay my driver back for the cash he lost, 9,500 Naira, about $60. We complain together about the state of security in Nigeria.

I tell this story to people I meet with in Kaduna, and they say that it couldn’t have been a robbery. If it was a robbery they would have taken my money as well. They ask me to describe the location of the “robbery” and when I do, they tell me it’s an undercover drug enforcement checkpoint. The packages were almost certainly drugs, and the agent demanded money as a fine of sorts.

New details on Chibok negotiations

A fascinating interview with Stephen Davis, one of the government-supported negotiators for the Chibok girls, is here. H/t to Jonathan. Some claims Davis makes:

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  • Former Borno state Governor Sheriff is a main Boko Haram sponsor. Davis is mystified as to why Sheriff has not yet been arrested. Sheriff recently switched to the PDP in the hope of getting state protection, Davis claims.  Arresting Sheriff along with the other main sponsors will–at least temporarily–take Boko Haram out of action.
  • There are Boko Haram leaders who want both a peace deal and to hand over the Chibok girls. They can’t do this because their sponsors will kill commanders who enter into peace negotiations.
  • Davis says they got an agreement where about 20 Chibok girls would be released. Boko Haram released the girls to a village, notified the negotiators an hour later of the location, giving them time to flee, but by the time the negotiators arrived the Boko Haram sponsors had ordered for the girls to be re-kidnapped.  The negotiators were able to get 4 girls released, but after this happened more girls were kidnapped to compensate for the loss of girls, and in the process 60 or 70 people in the village were be killed. So the negotiators stopped negotiating.
  • In one case girls were released, but 24 hours earlier the police had offered a large reward for the girls. Some individuals within Boko Haram re-kidnapped the girls from where they were dropped off, hoping to reap this reward. Boko Haram commanders told Davis these people were “taken care of.”
  • Some things Davis said didn’t make sense. He said the Nigerian military doesn’t know when Boko Haram is heading to a village until the rebels are too close for the military to take preventative action. He thinks the international community should share aerial data with the military to allow for air strikes as Boko Haram approaches village. He says because the area is so arid, and the Boko Haram convoys are so large–often 40 to 60 vehicles–this should not be difficult.  But framing this as an information problem seems to go against what Amnesty and others have documented, where villagers report to the military that Boko Haram asks for directions to a village but the military does nothing.
  • More generally, Davis describes the emergence of Boko Haram and Niger Delta rebel groups as a result of politicians heavily arming civilians to win votes, and then abandoning the gangs they created immediately after elections.
  • Overall, Davis makes a compelling case for the importance of arresting the Boko Haram sponsors.



PDP-APC clashes in Port Harcourt

From Control Risks:

Clashes between supporters of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) party on 13 August in Port Harcourt (Rivers state) underline the credible risk of politically motivated unrest. Activists fired shots and threw stones and bottles during the disturbances, which began in the Rumuepirikom area and spread to other areas of the city, including Rumuokwuta and Rumuigbo. At least eight people were injured, several shops damaged and traffic disrupted in the affected areas. Riot police were deployed to quell the violence.

It is unclear what triggered the clashes. However, some reports indicate that the deposed traditional ruler of the Obio-Akpor local government area (LGA, Rivers) shot his son, who is a member of the PDP, and supporters of the party confronted APC activists who had gathered in Rumuepirikom to attend a meeting held by Governor Rotimi Amaechi as part of a tour of Rivers state that began in mid-July. The police arrested the former Obio-Akpor chief and several members of the APC.

“Piecemeal urbanization at the peripheries of Lagos”

Lindsay Sawyer (who has a great Twitter feed) has a new article in African Studies [gated] called “Piecemeal Urbanisation at the Peripheries of Lagos.” An excerpt from a section on Ogun state as a Lagos periphery:

[I]ndustries, institutions and manufacturers have been relocating from Lagos state and into neighbouring Ogun state, although staying within the urban footprint of Lagos. They are leaving Lagos state to avoid the multiple taxation, high land and rental rates, and lack of space. In the past two years 35 companies have relocated to Ogun state including pharmaceuticals, large cement plants, steel manufacturers and a power-generating plant. There are also a significant number of institutions relocating there including megachurches and university campuses. In response to and due to the increased Internally Generated Revenue, Ogun state has been investing in significant developments such as road infrastructure, security and industrial estates, and is promoting itself as a ‘Gateway state’.

Amongst these groups of actors, the state is perhaps notably absent. In fact, due to the fact that most of the periphery falls in Ogun state yet is clearly contiguous with the urban fabric of Lagos, it is unclear who is supposed to take responsibility for these peripheral areas. For example, in Nigeria roads come under a hierarchical structure of jurisdiction with the federal government responsible for national highways, the state government for main roads and local governments for smaller roads and tributaries. This division of responsibility is contentious even within Lagos state, as federal roads are in a notoriously poor state of repair but the state government is powerless to do anything about them as part of its fairly comprehensive road-upgrading scheme. In the peripheral areas the matter becomes more complicated. As most residents are employed in Lagos but residing in Ogun state, if they pay tax at all it will be to Lagos not to Ogun state. Thus Ogun state government is unwilling to invest in the residential roads under its jurisdiction. This is compounded by the fact that federal funds are allocated to the different states of Nigeria according to population figures derived from the shaky 2006 census. It is unclear whether the peripheral areas of Lagos were included in this census, and under which state. In either case, the population has increased significantly in the last eight years since, meaning that neither Ogun nor Lagos state is receiving federal funds to support this additional burden, leading to further reluctance to invest in residential areas.