Challenges Confronting Buhari in Nigeria

Part II. Advancing Economic and Constitutional Reforms

Rotimi T. Suberu

In the second part of Professor Suberu’s sober analysis of the challenges confronting Muhammadu Buhari and the APC government, he dissects the myriad problems posed by the mismanagement of the country’s extensive oil and gas resources. Equally significant, but seldom appreciated, is the great experiment in democratic constitutionalism represented by the Nigerian federation. Professor Suberu is an outspoken advocate of a moderate and incremental approach to constitutional reform. He outlines the failure to enact many of the cogent proposals recommended by legislators, commissions, and a national conference. Will Buhari and the APC implement the fundamental changes in political and economic governance promised to the Nigerian electorate? Major hurdles must be surmounted including managing a grand coalition party. According to the author, both cautious optimism and reasonable pessimism are warranted. Continue reading

Challenges Confronting Buhari in Nigeria

Part I. Political Inclusion, Violent Conflict, and Corruption

Rotimi T. Suberu

On the eve of the highly anticipated meeting between U.S. president Barack Obama and Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, on July 20, 2015, Professor Rotimi Suberu has written a magisterial review of the major issues confronting the new Nigerian government. This important document is being published by AfricaPlus in two parts. The first concerns the challenge of meeting the demand for equitable participation in the affairs of government by the country’s diverse identity groups, reducing persistent violent conflict especially by Boko Haram, and reducing corruption that has crippled many institutions. The second will cover economic policies to expand growth and reduce pervasive poverty, and incremental reforms of Nigeria’s federal constitution and government practices. Professor Suberu contends that the euphoria which greeted Buhari’s election and the successful operation of the voting system, will soon give way to insistent demands for the fulfillment of electoral promises.

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Obama, Buhari, and African policy dilemmas

by Richard Joseph

In his inaugural speech as Nigerian president on May 29, 2015, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari memorably declared: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”. He has already taken drastic action to reduce corruption in the oil sector and even cut his official salary and benefits. Just days before his July 20 meeting with U.S. president Barack Obama, Mr. Buhari replaced his country’s top military and security leaders. They had been criticized for incompetence and human rights abuses in the fight against Boko Haram. These actions and others set the stage for an agenda-setting meeting between the two leaders. Soon afterwards, Mr. Obama will leave on his third presidential trip to sub-Saharan Africa with stops in Kenya and Ethiopia. Richard Joseph discusses the significance of the Obama-Buhari meeting, the need to reframe American policies towards Africa, and hopes for a new era in U.S.-Nigeria relations.

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Building on Success: Advancing Electoral Reform in Nigeria

by Richard Downie

A major threshold was crossed in Nigeria during the 2015 elections and transfer of power. Since the democratic openings of the 1990s, African countries have often witnessed the refusal of incumbents to respect term limits and the declining quality of elections. In 2006, the Nigerian Federal Senate firmly upheld the two-term presidential limit. In 2015, because of a well-led Electoral Commission, a revitalized and coherent political opposition, dedicated civil society groups, and a determined electorate, Africa’s largest nation was able to produce a fairly-elected government. As important as these gains were, however, Richard Downie shows how much remains to be done to construct a fully-effective electoral system.

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The Constitutional Devolution of Power in Kenya: Will It Work?

By Ken Opalo

Africa has become a workshop of growth and developmental governance. In the case of Kenya, a dynamic and democratic model is taking shape. Its centerpiece is the devolution of power to sub-national governing units. Virtually every aspect of post-colonial governance must adjust to changes in investment strategy, revenue allocation, infrastructure development, and communications technology. If the decentralizing of power by constitutional means works in Kenya, it will have a powerful impact on many African countries seeking pathways from insecurity and dysfunctional governance.

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Nigeria’s Renewed Hope for Democratic Development

By Richard Joseph

When the Union Jack was lowered in Nigeria on October 1, 1960, the potential of Africa’s most populous nation seemed boundless—and that was before its abundant reserves of petroleum and natural gas were fully known. However, Nigeria has since underperformed in virtually every area. A massive fuel shortage, just days before the historic change in political leadership, underlined how criminalized and dysfunctional the oil sector had become.

On May 29, Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s president since 2010, transferred power to a former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari. Despite important policy reforms, Jonathan will be remembered mainly for his unusual name and the failure to defeat Boko Haram. Similar transfers of power took place in other federal and state offices. As a result of the March and April elections, a new coalition, the All Progressives Congress (APC), prized a commanding share of government positions from Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Muhammadu Buhari salutes his supporters during his inauguration in Eagle Square, Abuja, Friday, May 29, 2015 (Source: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Muhammadu Buhari salutes his supporters during his inauguration in Eagle Square, Abuja, on May 29, 2015
(Source: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

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Boko Haram and Nigeria’s 2015 Elections: A Fighting Chance for Democracy?

By Brandon Kendhammer

One thing has been certain about Nigeria since the overthrow of the post-civil war military government in July 1975: No one knows what will happen next. Stability has eluded the country under both military and civilian administrations. Brandon Kendhammer, a rising scholar of this bewildering but vital country, provides guidance through the thicket of uncertainties on the eve of the elections on March 28 and April 11, 2015. On February 8, 2015 an ostensible civilian government had its chief security official, a career military officer, declare that democratic elections should be postponed. A former military, and civilian, president, Olusegun Obasanjo, has campaigned openly for the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan, whom he steered into the country’s highest elected office. The likely beneficiary of Obasanjo’s denunciation of Jonathan is the latter’s main electoral opponent, retired general Muhammadu Buhari who also served as a military ruler.

To cap it all, a jihadist insurgency – which should have been defeated several years ago by Africa’s largest army – has terrorized large swaths of the country’s northeast, exploded bombs within and outside this sphere, and obliged the government to permit the troops of its smaller neighbors to join the fight on its own soil. Boko Haram, long dismissed as a local phenomenon, achieved heightened notoriety when its declared allegiance was accepted by the Islamic State. The respected Chairman of the country’s “independent” electoral commission has been obliged by security and military leaders to retract his opposition to postponing federal and state elections. Meanwhile, reports of mega-corruption and mega-thefts of crude oil gush forth. Will Boko Haram be defeated? Will Nigerian democracy advance or retreat during the 2015 national elections? Nothing is certain at present in Nigeria but uncertainty.

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Militant Islam and Democracy in Nigeria: A Forum on Boko Haram and the 2015 Elections

By Rebecca Shereikis, Ibrahim Hassan, Richard Joseph, Brandon Kendhammer, and Rotimi Suberu

Nigeria is embroiled in military and political struggles in which its future as a stable, prospering, and constitutional democracy is increasingly challenged. On February 11, 2015, a group of leading scholars spoke at the Program of African Studies of Northwestern University, under the sponsorship of the Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA). Created by the esteemed Islamic scholar, John Hunwick, ISITA has conducted pioneering research on Islam in Africa since 2000.

The 2015 workshop was organized by ISITA’s Interim Director, Rebecca Shereikis, who also prepared the report on this important exchange of ideas. AfricaPlus will provide an arena for pertinent academic scholarship and incisive policy commentary as Africa’s most populous country, and one of the world’s complex pluralist democracies, goes through the twists and turns of contentious electoral politics and intensified counter-insurgency warfare. Militant Islam is now a global challenge. How well Nigeria responds to it, while strengthening its multi-religious and democratic institutions and cultures, is of profound significance to its people, the African continent, and the world community.

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Botswana Democracy: On Course or Derailing?

Amy Poteete and John Holm

In her October 20 AfricaPlus essay- “Democracy Derailed? Botswana’s Fading Halo” – Amy Poteete provides a critical assessment of democratic institutions and practices in this southern African country. She contends that in Botswana, a stellar democratic and economic performer since independence in 1966, corruption and mismanagement are increasing. The abuse of governmental authority, she claims, reflects “the absence of effective checks on executive power”. Poteete criticizes the shift from “cooperation to coercion” under President Ian Khama and the long-ruling BDP (Botswana Democratic Party). John Holm, a senior scholar of Botswana government and politics, responds to Poteete’s contentions. We publish this important debate – including remarks on the October 2014 parliamentary election and post-election disputes – which should be read in conjunction with Poteete’s initial essay:

President Ian Khama, who was re-elected in the October 2014 elections. (

President Ian Khama of Botswana, who was re-elected in the October 2014 elections. (Photo from UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

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Democracy Derailed? Botswana’s Fading Halo

by Amy R. Poteete

Botswana earned a reputation for political stability, electoral democracy, and economic growth in the 1970s and 1980s, when much of the African continent appeared to be mired in economic stagnation and authoritarian rule. This reputation has persisted despite contradictory developments. Since the 1990s, many other African countries introduced multiparty elections, and economic performance improved across the continent. Over the same period in Botswana, corruption and mismanagement have become increasingly prevalent while the abuse of governmental authority have drawn attention to the absence of effective checks on executive power.

Many observers – foreign governments, international financial institutions, Freedom House, Transparency International, and academics researchers – tend to downplay these problems. They insist, by and large, that Botswana has remained stable, democratic, and well-governed relative to other African states. The southern African country continues to enjoy “a halo effect”. But the halo has faded. Political tensions are much more serious and deeply rooted than most observers acknowledge. They have now erupted in the run-up to parliamentary elections on October 24th.

Ballot boxes from the 2014 elections. (Photo from the Independent Electoral Commission, Republic of Botswana, 2014.)

Ballot boxes for the 2014 elections. (The Independent Electoral Commission, Republic of Botswana.)

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