April 8, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 123


Topics: Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, Nigeria’s election outcome. People: Bill, Nate, Sasha. Produced: April 6th, 2015.

Episode 123 (42 min):
AFD 123

Discussion points:

– Why is Saudi Arabia leading a massive military intervention in Yemen?
– What is the significance of Nigeria’s peaceful democratic transfer of power between parties?

Related Links:

Al-Bab: Yemen-Saudi Arabia Relations
AFD: Nigeria: The call that changed it all


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iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

The call that changed it all

Kingsley Moghalu, former Deputy Governor of Nigeria’s central bank, on the significance of Nigeria’s election outcome:

No sitting Nigerian president and his government have ever been removed from office through the ballot box. This is a rarity in Africa as a whole. There has been only a handful of opposition electoral victories, including in Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal and Zambia.

Perhaps just as important is incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan’s phone call to Buhari conceding defeat before final poll results were announced. This sets the tone for a peaceful transition devoid of the violence that characterized previous elections.

As it happened:

Jonathan apparently conceded in a telephone call to Buhari at 5:15 pm even before the final results were declared, earning him praise from politicians of all stripes.

The inside story of the call, from Mansur Liman, editor of BBC Hausa, who broke the news:

He told me that Gen Buhari had just received a phone call from his rival, in which the president conceded and congratulated him.

I did not doubt that this was true as I trusted my source, but given what has happened before in Nigeria, this kind of concession was up to that point unimaginable.
There were, of course, people who were very concerned about what could happen if the result was contested.

And I have since discovered that members of the National Peace Committee, which is headed by former President Abdulsalami Abubakar, visited President Jonathan as the results were being announced.

I understand they were the ones who persuaded the president to do something to avoid any trouble, and shortly after the visit he made the call.
By making that call the president saved Nigeria a great deal of pain. If the PDP had insisted that they had won the election, and the APC had said the same, the country would have been in chaos.

Lives would have been lost and property would have been destroyed. That call showed that in Nigeria, people can put the country first.

I have heard from PDP supporters that the president took the decision to make the call without consulting anyone. They told me that if he had talked to some of his advisers, they would have objected.

The President continues to enforce his will to concede, over the objections of the diehards, thanks to the positive affirmation he received from around the world:

“The President has prevailed on PDP to drop plans to go to tribunal against Buhari. He said he wants his word to be his bond, having been applauded by the international community,” a source told The Nation.

“At a point, Jonathan said ‘I don’t believe in post-election petition at tribunal because it distracts the incoming administration’. He also said Nigeria must emulate other nations where once the presidential poll is lost and won, the new government must not be distracted with election petitions. He told party leaders that he was not interested in going to the tribunal. It is now left for PDP leaders to heed his advice,” the source added.

Now, the APC’s President-elect Muhammadu Buhari must begin the difficult work of reviving Nigeria’s economy and extricating it from a mishandled and brutal northern rebellion.

Logo of the All Progressives Congress opposition coalition. (Credit: Auwal Ingawa)

Logo of the All Progressives Congress opposition coalition. (Credit: Auwal Ingawa)

Nigeria military forces elections to be postponed

This weekend, the Nigerian elections commission announced that the presidential, parliamentary, and state elections scheduled for mid-February would be postponed — the national vote for six weeks until the end of March and the state vote into April. The stated reason was the deteriorated security situation in several northern states (although most of the country — which is twice the size of California — is not actively threatened by or anywhere near the insurgency). Indeed, some remote areas are effectively under occupation by Boko Haram. However, it didn’t take long for the news to emerge that the decision had actually been undertaken under heavy pressure by the Nigeria’s security establishment.

This is very troubling, particularly in a country with such a long history of military interference in politics prior to the transition to democracy in 1999. The Nigerian security agencies and military essentially ordered the election commission to postpone the election, saying that they refused to defend polling sites against attacks unless there was a delay. Their reason for this refusal was that they were “too busy” planning a six-week counter-offensive against Boko Haram at the same time. As numerous people pointed out in response: Why are they suddenly now attacking Boko Haram after years of inaction, and how are they suddenly now going to be able to wrap this problem up in time for the delayed elections?

“The security agencies forced [Election body chairman Attahiru Jega] into postponing on an issue that is frivolous,” said Jibrin Ibrahim, a political analyst with the Centre on Democracy and Development.

“They say they need six weeks to defeat Boko Haram. Boko Haram has been growing for six years. If in six weeks Boko Haram has not been defeated, they could call for another delay and ultimately destroy Nigerian democracy,” he added.

There is also serious suspicion that the military itself may have been pressured (to cause a delay) by the ruling People’s Democratic Party, which is facing the strongest challenge yet to its continuously elected rule since 1999, and had recently started to head toward defeat in the polling, as town after town fell to the insurgency, corruption scandals continued to break, and people became unhappy with the economy (especially with falling oil prices).

Even before the chaos of January, a December poll found voters nationwide tied 42% to 42% in presidential voting intention, but just 29% trust in the ruling PDP. Traditional PDP strongholds were starting to erode and the northern-favored APC candidate, former military President and General Buhari, was making inroads in the south. An extra six weeks might very well make the chances of defeat greater at this point, but at least it’s an opportunity to try to turn things around; in contrast, not delaying the election might have sealed the party’s fate for sure.


The Questions Posed by the World’s 2015 Elections

15 national elections I’m watching on 2015 and the questions I’m asking about them, organized in chronological order.


Greece: Can modern Greek democracy survive the combined effects of years of extraordinary fiscal mismanagement, a devastating recession, and a sudden day of reckoning (austerity) stage-managed from Berlin? That’s the bigger question the world is asking when Greece heads to the polls this coming weekend, behind narrow questions of what might happen in the next six months. Newcomer “Syriza” – a party with moderate rhetoric, yet still an unknown quantity – has led the polling average since November 2013, more than a year before snap elections were called. Syriza could shake things up — for good or ill — in the country whose ancestors founded much of Western democracy. On the other hand, the ancient Greeks also formalized the concepts of “oligarchy,” “aristocracy,” and “tyranny,” so that’s not a huge comfort. Modern Greek democracy is just 40 years old, and Plato might forecast a turn to a less participatory form of The Kyklos (the cycle of governance between such forms) is about due. The rise of the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” as a potent force in Greek politics offers that grim path.

Nigeria: Should a young democracy re-elect a civilian president from the same party that has won every election since 1998? Should it do so despite his record of extreme incompetence in handling an insurgency that has now seized more territory than ISIS controls in Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy? What if the alternative choice is a former military dictator and perennial also-ran? These are the basic questions facing Nigerians in February’s election that will see once-accidental President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party face off against Gen. Muhammadu Buhari at the head of an increasingly powerful opposition coalition and amid plunging oil prices. The legislative chambers are also up for election. Even if Jonathan is re-elected, he may face a hostile majority.

Israel: Can the Israeli left make a serious comeback in the country’s politics after Israel voters increasingly veered to the right and after significant party changes shattered the Labor Party for almost a decade? Would it make any difference to Israel’s relations with its neighbors and the world at large? Would it change the economic fortunes of average Israelis?

United Kingdom: Is the Westminster System — as it has traditionally existed in its tripartite form since the arrival of universal male suffrage — finished in Westminster itself? UKIP, the Scottish National Party, and other parties outside the Big Three make another coalition government of some kind almost a certainty – likely with huge effects for the British populace and their place within the European Union.

Mexico: Will the insulated Federal District finally be shaken out of its slumber by a growing protest movement and other reactions to the total capture of Mexican state and local government by the cartels? The Congress is up for election, but without a sea change in the foreign-focused Peña Nieto administration, few expect serious policy shifts at home, whatever the outcome of the midterms. Still, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition any more than they expect a spontaneous mass uprising that forces just such a sea change. Could be too early to tell.
Read more

December 3, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 109


Topics: Big Ideas – Cash transfers for poverty; Nigerian politics; US state legislatures. People: Bill, Nate, Sasha. Produced: December 1st, 2014.

Discussion Points:

– Big Ideas: Are cash transfers more effective on poverty than “workfare” and tax cuts?
– Is Nigeria’s ruling PDP feeling threatened in the upcoming elections? Are Boko Haram attacks widening?
– What should we expect from US state legislatures after heavy Republican wins in 2014?

Episode 109 (53 min)
AFD 109

Related links
Segment 1

AFD: “Social inclusion, anti-poverty policy are great for the economy!”
The Globalist: “Bolivia: Where Socialism Appears to Work”
AFD: “Weirdly, tax cuts don’t solve poverty, finds UN in New Zealand”
AFD: “Indonesia debuts world’s largest cash transfer program ever”

Segment 2

AFD: “Report: Tear gas used in Nigeria parliament”
AFD: “Nigeria government raids opposition offices”
AFD: “Kano: Boko Haram strikes Nigeria’s 2nd largest city”
African Arguments: “Nigeria Forum – What Happens When Oil Prices Fall?”

Segment 3

AFD: “Beyond the Senate: The 2014 state losses”
Al Jazeera America: “The Democratic comeback plan”


RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

What happens to Nigeria’s PDP if oil prices keep falling?

A lot of foreign policies and domestic spending programs in 2014 have, like the best laid plans o’ mice and men, been severely disrupted by the dropping world oil prices as supply jumps significantly. Those countries with a particularly heavy economic and governmental dependence on oil exports — including Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria — are especially susceptible to policy disruption.

On our upcoming episode of the “Arsenal For Democracy” show, my radio co-host Nate pointed out that if global crude oil prices keep falling, certainly Nigeria as a whole is going to be in for a pretty bumpy ride, but none more so than the country’s ruling party, the PDP. They’ve ridden the ten-fold increase in crude prices (higher even, at times before now) since taking power in 1999 to a lot of sketchy, payola-infused campaign victories. It’ll be much harder to buy votes, 15 years into power, if revenues drop sharply.
Read more

Nigeria government raids opposition offices

After more than 15 years in power, the ruling party in Nigeria doesn’t seem too keen on letting a credible opposition emerge. Between the police assault on the country’s House Speaker inside the National Assembly last week and the subsequent raid of his party’s Lagos offices, I think it’s pretty clear what’s going on right now.

Here’s the BBC report on the raid:

Nigeria’s main opposition party has condemned a weekend raid of its Lagos offices by state security agents.

“We call for an independent commission of inquiry to ascertain the reasons why armed officers raided our office,” the All Progressive Congress (APC) deputy chairman Lawal Shuaibu told the BBC.

The party said computers were destroyed and documents seized during the raid.
But the APC said the incident was “another one in the string of attacks and illegal actions of the administration.” It said “more than a dozen” computers had been destroyed, a server had been “vandalised” and 28 people arrested.
“Just like the Watergate scandal in the USA, the state-sponsored security operatives apparently acting at the behest of the ruling PDP [People’s Democratic Party] government turned the office upside down, and pulled out and vandalised everything in sight,” he told the AFP news agency.

The conservative PDP — delicately balancing market liberalization supporters with Christian and Muslim social conservatives from the north and south — has held the presidency since first democratic elections of the Fourth Nigerian Republic, in 1999, and then again won elections in 2003, 2007, 2011. (In 2003, the win came easily and freely. In 2007, there was serious controversy over whether it had been rigged — which seems fairly likely. In 2011, the PDP won relatively easily in a fair election.)

Incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, who assumed office in early 2010 when his predecessor died, is now almost five years into office and wants another full term, amid mass disatisfaction with his tenure and a chaotic insurgency. Unfortunately for him, after years of PDP domination, the splintered opposition has formed a left-leaning unity party (the aforementioned All Progressives Congress) and is coalescing around a single candidate for the presidency. They have also captured key defectors from the ruling party, including the House Speaker in the assembly, to the point that the APC now holds a slight majority in the House and may even have a majority in the Senate (depending on the exact defector count). Nearly as many governorships are also now in APC hands.

The PDP is facing its darkest political hour right now and is very reluctant to give up power after 15 years of control. But beyond the inherent dangers of single-party democracy cycle after cycle, the PDP, and their leader in President Goodluck Jonathan, have been massively incompetent in the past four years. It’s time for Nigeria to give someone else a crack at it.

Logo of the All Progressives Congress opposition coalition. (Credit: Auwal Ingawa)

Logo of the All Progressives Congress opposition coalition. (Credit: Auwal Ingawa)