The Buhari Challenge: Making Nigerian Democracy Work

By Richard Joseph

Nigeria’s president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, has few illusions. He has been in and out of power at the highest level since the 1970s. He has already spoken boldly about tackling corruption and the Boko Haram insurgency. And he recognizes the need to rebuild fractured ties among Nigerian communities and between Nigeria and its global partners.

It can be expected that the United States will no longer be blamed for not providing enough armaments for Nigeria’s ineffective armed forces. No longer should the giant of Africa depend on a small autocratically-run neighbor, Chad, to reclaim its border towns from the insurgency. And no more should office holders pilfer public funds with impunity while their people lack clean water, electricity, and gainful employment.

The clock is ticking. Nigerians were forced to wait six weeks to register their judgment on the Goodluck Jonathan presidency at the polls. They must wait another six weeks to witness the ceremony in which power will be transferred to the new head of state. However they voted on March 28, and in state-level elections on April 11, Nigerians must now rally behind Mohammadu Buhari and the drive to reduce regional, ethnic, and religious tensions.

The Nigerian transition could echo the assumption of power by Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress in South Africa and the building of a rainbow nation. In myriad constitutional exercises over a half-century, the core principles intended to guide Nigerian party politics were identified. It is now up to Buhari and the political class to make the federal democracy work in the interests of a much abused population.

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Nigeria’s 2015 Elections: Prologue to the Past?

By Richard Joseph

In the 45 years since the Nigerian civil war ended in January 1970, Nigeria has often seemed on the verge of making significant political advances. While its population soared, however, the country stumbled through one contentious electoral exercise after another, interspersed with military rule. The recent 2015 elections, which elevated Muhammadu Buhari to the powerful presidency, have produced a significant shift in control of national and state governments from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC). The PDP had been the dominant party for 16 straight years.

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Nigeria: The Global Significance of Buhari’s Victory

By Richard Joseph

Muhammadu Buhari’s convincing defeat of incumbent Goodluck Jonathan in the Nigerian presidential election is an event of global significance. To his credit, President Jonathan promptly conceded defeat, thereby discouraging any attempt to impede the transfer of power.

APC supporters celebrate Buhari's win in Kano, Nigeria (Source: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)

APC supporters celebrate Buhari’s win in Kano, Nigeria (Source: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)

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Peacemaking and Democracy in Mozambique: Lessons Learned, 1992-2014

By Carrie Manning

For the past quarter-century, sub-Saharan Africa has been an arena of political, economic, and social transitions. Different trajectories have been pursued in its 49 states. The reflections of a new generation of Africa scholars, who have built their careers tracing these developments, will increasingly be featured in AfricaPlus.[1] Carrie Manning is a member of this cohort of scholars who possess a deep understanding of the dynamics in play, great knowledge of the political actors, and are fully aware of the pertinent theoretical issues.

Mozambique represents a striking model of peace building and democracy. Armed struggle against Portuguese rule was succeeded by a civil war fanned by the South African apartheid regime. Externally-facilitated peace talks resulted in two decades of imperfect democratization. These experiences, in which the losing party in the civil war, the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo), has been a subordinate participant in state and democratic institutions, contrasts with that of Angola where the armed opposition, The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), was forcefully eliminated. In view of its ever-growing resource wealth, vast land acreage, a liberalized economy, and fitful democracy-, peace-, and state-building, the evolution of Mozambique merits close attention. It shows how post-conflict electoral politics has been complemented by consociational norms of consultation, compromise, and inclusion. The recent slaying of a prominent lawyer echoes similar incidents in Botswana where the struggle for political power is also exacerbated by natural resource wealth and the plentiful spoils of economic growth.

Since the end of the Cold War in 1990, “liberal peacebuilding” has dominated post-conflict politics. Liberal peacebuilding privileges electoral politics in the negotiation of political agreements. There has been much debate over the effectiveness of this approach in generating peace and democracy. In most cases in which civil wars ended in 1990 or later, provisions were made for the conversion of armed opposition groups into political parties. They participated in the founding elections and continue to do so. Moreover, they have performed relatively well, gaining representation in the national legislature about a quarter of the time, and averaging around 20% of the legislative seats.[2]

Former President Armando Guebuza of Frelimo, who served from 2005-2015

Former President Armando Guebuza of Frelimo, who served from 2005-2015

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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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Good Growth and Good Governance in Africa: An Experts Forum

By Jeffrey Herbst, Tim Kelsall, Goran Hyden, and Nicolas van de Walle

Richard Joseph

In 1993, IMF Director Michel Camdessus called sub-Saharan Africa “a sinking continent.” Just three years later, however, he said that the signs of an economic recovery were evident. 1 In his state visit to Ghana in July 2009, President Barack Obama saluted the striking turnaround in the political economies of Africa. He memorably gave the main reason for this historic advance “Development depends on good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. It is the change that can unlock Africa’s potential.”

In a decade and a half, Africa had gone from being a sinking to a “rising” continent, a change not deterred by the 2008-2010 global recession. Is this experience attributable to much improved governance in sub-Saharan Africa? If that is the case, what are the mechanisms by which better governance unlocked economic growth? Further, it can be asked, how good must this governance be? As major economists returned to the study of Africa, voices emerged among them questioning a new “orthodoxy”. It was difficult, they contended, to connect the “good governance agenda” of democratic institutions, civil society, and human rights with the East Asian models of rapid transformative growth. 2 Notable among the critics was Mushtaq Khan of the University of London. He rejected the notion that good governance, broadly understood, was a precondition for economic growth. Instead, Khan argued, what was needed were “growth-enhancing governance capabilities.”3 Continue reading