North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Nigeria election is historic - now the hard work begins

Gratifying to see pretty good coverage of Nigeria's recent election by news agencies. Because this election, conducted Saturday, March 29, resulted in the nation's first apparently successful and peaceful transition from one party to the opposition, a public exchange of respect and support by the incoming and outgoing president, a pledge to tackle corruption which has plagued this oil rich nation for decades, and finally a resolve by the new Muslim President to get serious about Boko Haram.


Nigeria - huge potential, still unrealized. Graphic from nigeriamasterweb.com

As a Voice of America report stated, "President-elect Muhammadu Buhari said his country has "embraced democracy" and put its one-party-state past behind it. “We have proven to the world that we are a people who have embraced democracy and a people who seek a government by, for and of the people," Buhari said. He spoke Wednesday in Abuja, just hours after the electoral commission declared him the official winner of Saturday's presidential election, defeating incumbent Goodluck Jonathan by more than 2 million votes.

Buhari says his government will "spare no effort" to defeat insurgent group Boko Haram. Buhari called Jonathan "a worthy opponent" and said he extends the "hand of fellowship" to the outgoing president. Jonathan, who conceded, called for peace, saying, “The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else.” ... There have been no reports of post-election violence in Nigeria - a major change from 2011, when news of Jonathan's victory over Buhari sparked violence in the north that killed about 800 people."


President elect Muhammedu Buhari (left) being publicly acknowledged by incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan. (Is that Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary in the background?) Photo from http://nationalmirroronline.net

Election factoids (from the Voice of America article)

*Jonathan's People's Democratic Party has ruled Nigeria since 1999.

*Buhari, 72, of the All Progressives Congress, is to be inaugurated May 29.

*Nigeria's Electoral Commission chairman Attahiru Jega announced earlier Wednesday that Buhari had officially won the election, getting 15.4 million votes to Jonathan's 12.9 million.

*President-elect Buhari was previously Nigeria's military ruler for 20 months after officers seized power in a December 1983 coup. He was toppled by another military coup, but has run for the presidency four times since democracy was restored in Nigeria in 1999.

Teatree musings

Mr. Buhari has declared two great directions for his incoming administration - 1) an end to endemic corruption that has stemmed to a great degree from revenues generated by the country's oil industry. 2) A serious fight to degrade if not destroy Boko Haram. These militants recently declared their allegiance to ISIS, the Islamic State jihadists ravaging Syria and Iraq and elsewhere.

His hands will be full. High oil prices that have long buoyed Nigeria have fallen in half in the past six months. Budgets that have been used to lavish funds on a variety of important and phantom needs alike are facing deep cuts. Now it gets serious - how to cut the fat and waste while leaving essential services functioning.


While Nigerian oil overwhelmingly flows via pipeline, apparently some fossil fuel is still delivered in barrels. In either case, the fortunes of Nigeria and revenues from its oil reserves go hand in hand. Photo from www.djazairess.com

Corruption

From an al-Jazeera article, "fundamentally, Buhari will need to oversee structural changes to the Nigerian state. Constitutional reform is needed to update or even replace the 1999 constitution with one that empowers citizens, decentralizes power and enables a more efficient governance framework. He will also need to revamp the oil sector. Jonathan’s administration was incapable of even enacting a new oil law, let alone tackling the massive corruption in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. There are perhaps 10 to 15 profitable years left before the world begins a concerted move away from hydrocarbons. Buhari’s administration can steer the Nigerian economy away from the curse of oil. A more efficient use of its diminished oil revenues could offer an opportunity for long-term infrastructural development and rapid turnaround in the power sector."

Military effectiveness and Boko Haram

Perhaps most intriguing is the emphasis that Mr Buhari has placed on defeating the Boko Haram insurgency. The nation, long split between a Christian south and Muslim north, has to some degree united behind the promises of Buhari to take the fight to Boko Haram. With his Muslim credentials, he has a high degree of support from many northern Nigerians, and thus may be able to push security initiatives against the jihadists in more certain terms. Certainly the very low bar of military effectiveness to this point gives him room to improve. As recently as January, the UK Guardian stated the prognosis succinctly, "Army corruption, troop mutinies, alienated citizens and a lack of political will are among reasons that militants continue to thrive." Items three and four may have changed dramatically with this election.


Nigerian soldiers training. To Teatree, the readiness and trustworthiness of Nigeria's military is a mystery. Certainly its performance in the past several years attempting to deal with the jihadists is dismal enough. Photo from africajournalismtheworld.com

As to turning around Nigeria's military effectiveness (items one and two above), that may be a much more difficult task. Time Magazine carried a recent piece (here) where it stated, "Nigeria’s military has been in decline for the past 16 years, says J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Washington D.C.- based Atlantic Council, ever since the country moved from a military dictatorship to a democracy in 1999. The intervening years have seen the country’s armed forces hollowed out by a combination of poor leadership, graft, misdirected staff training and a succession of civilian governments so worried about another coup that they have starved the armed forces of key resources.

To a certain extent, part of the issue is size. The country may have a 90,000 strong standing army, says Pham, but not all of them are soldiers. Nurses, medics, administration personnel and military police don’t fight, “so the actual number of combat ready troops is much lower.” Add to the fact that some 3,000 troops are currently serving in United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world, and the number left is “inadequate for the task of defending a country the size of Nigeria,” with its population of 174 million and a history of local insurgencies."

Nigeria should be respected for its successful, clean election, while the leadership's unity during the changeover should not be minimized. And yet, now the hard work of good governance has just begun.

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