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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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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Chibok Girls Freedom and Boko Haram Ceasefire: Seeing is Believing

By Richard Joseph

Boy with #bringbackourgirls sign at protest

A #bringbackourgirls protest in New York City, May 3, 2014. Photo by Michael Fleshman, CC BY-NC 2.0.

The announcement by senior Nigerian military and government officials that an agreement has been reached with Boko Haram for the release of more than 200 kidnapped Chibok girls is welcome, although it has understandably been greeted with considerable caution. And news that a ceasefire has also been agreed, and that further negotiations will take place, is another positive development.

But this is a case when we will actually need to see the girls emerging from their six-month confinement before we can truly believe.

After all, it was only recently that it was announced that Abubakar Shekau, reputed leader of the jihadist group, had supposedly been killed… again. Yet Shekau, or someone claiming to be him, probably lives on in a country where much political, economic and now military affairs take place in the shadows.

Read the full oped at CNN

Nigerian Pathways: Towards Stability, Security, and Democratic Development

By Richard Joseph

July 23 marks 100 days since the Chibok girls were abducted. The Boko Haram insurgency has brought to world attention the shortcomings of Nigeria’s army, police, and other security services. President Goodluck Jonathan is seeking $1billion in external loans to enhance their capacity. His government has shifted from one bold declaration to another: a state of emergency, total war, and now adding more funds to the billions already poured into these services. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive strategy focusing on the wider Nigerian predicament as well as the opportunities for sustainable progress. This essay and others to follow will address this need.

Untitled by Issek of Cameroon

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The Chibok Girls and an Embattled Nigeria

By Richard Joseph

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on

Two centuries ago, John Keats wrote his enigmatic “Ode on a Grecian Urn”. It came to mind after President Barack Obama’s foreign policy address at West Point. The unheard message was about the Nigerian Urn, filling with human ashes from terrorist atrocities and military counterattacks. The heard melody was about the girls of Chibok, hauled away like livestock into the Sambisa Forest: “Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave”.

 

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Escaped Chibok schoolgirls meeting with Borno state governor

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Bring Back Our State: Another Nigerian Plea

By Ayo Olukotun

“Democracy Day Blues” republished with the permission of The Punch, Nigeria

“The national protest, Bring Back Our Girls, should be complemented with Build Us a State. There are some missions, such as overcoming the Nigerian state crisis, that require more than advanced intelligence technologies”
– Prof. Richard Joseph, May 22, 2014

May 29 was Democracy Day in Nigeria, the 15th edition of the milestone which marked the formal inauguration of civilian rule on May 29, 1999. Political science professor Richard Joseph captures, in the opening quote of this essay published by The PUNCH on Thursday, May 22, the sombre, despairing mood in which this year’s Democracy Day was marked around the country. This writer quibbles mildly with Joseph’s refrain, “Build Us a State”, by suggesting that it should have read, “Bring Back our State”, without disagreeing with the agenda he proposes.

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Confronting Boko Haram and the Nigerian Predicament

By Richard Joseph

This post first appeared on the Brookings Institution’s ‘Africa in focus’ blog. The original text can be read here.

The mass kidnapping of girls has brought the Nigerian Predicament to global attention. The insistence by Nigerian authorities that these and other incidents reflect global terrorism is not the full story. For a long time, Boko Haram was portrayed as a local phenomenon. Now it is depicted, most recently in a UN Security Council resolution, as an al-Qaeda affiliate. There is more conjecture than hard knowledge about this elusive entity.

Photo credit: Brookings Institution

Photo credit: Brookings Institution

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Boko Haram and the Nigerian State Crisis

By Richard Joseph

This post first appeared on the Brookings Institution’s ‘Africa in focus’ blog. The original text can be read here.

“Africa will not make sustainable progress in building democratic systems and fostering economic development until the continent acquires coherent, legitimate, and effective states.”

I had Nigeria very much in mind when those words were written a decade ago.1 Today, the veil concealing the ever- deepening state crisis has been shredded. The federal government has turned to western nations for intelligence capacities to help locate the abducted school girls. France, long distrusted by Nigerian authorities, has been asked to craft a regional coalition to combat Boko Haram. However, beyond the security missions in the remote northeast, the broader aspects of the Nigerian predicament must be confronted.

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