Report: Tear gas used in Nigeria parliament

BBC Africa today:

Nigerian security forces have fired tear gas inside parliament, just before a crucial debate on security in the conflict-ridden north-east.

Reports say the police were trying to stop House of Representatives speaker Aminu Tambuwal from entering. Mr Tambuwal defected to the opposition [APC party] from the ruling PDP last month. His former colleagues have since argued he should be stripped of his speaker role.

(Police denied using tear gas, but the photos I saw clearly showed some type of gas or smoke canister had been used.)

Recently, Speaker Tambuwal briefly threw his hat in the ring for the next presidential election before dropping out earlier this week to run instead for Governor of the far-northwestern Sokoto State and clear the field for a single APC presidential candidate. He had adjourned his chamber following his defection to the opposition, to avoid being ousted from the speakership by the ruling PDP, which I think has now been narrowly surpassed in the chamber by the opposition APC. The House had only been called back into session today for a special vote.

In addition to the deployment of tear gas, there was an extended confrontation between security forces and the Speaker (along with his followers), according to the Premium Times of Nigeria:

Mr. Tambuwal had earlier managed to drive through the first gate of the complex before his convoy was stopped at the second gate.

After several minutes, Mr. Tambuwal was later allowed in after he abandoned his car and escort vehicles at the gate.

Other lawmakers, mainly from the All Progressives Congress, APC, were also stopped from driving through the second gate.

At least 15 APC lawmakers scaled the assembly fence to access the building, our correspondent at the assembly said.

Mr. Tambuwal was later stopped at the third gate, and was finally allowed in after a prolonged argument with security operatives.

Witnesses say lawmakers came out of the assembly, overpowered the security, and damaged the third gate to allow the speaker in.

Eventually, the Speaker and his supporters made it inside anyway, but reportedly (Daily Post of Nigeria) no vote was held in the chamber on the key measure.

The BBC again, to explain the significance:

Parliamentarians were due to debate a presidential bill seeking the extension of the state of emergency in three states hardest hit by the militant group Boko Haram. BBC Hausa editor Mansur Liman says many opposition MPs opposed the extension of the state of emergency because they say it has failed to bring an end to the insurgency.

The National Assembly has been closed until Tuesday in response to the events today. The Senate failed to pass an extension as well, suggesting it may not pass at all.

Map of Nigerian states attacked by Boko Haram from 2010-2013. An ongoing state of emergency exists across three northern states. (Credit: Nerika - Wikimedia)

Map of Nigerian states attacked by Boko Haram from 2010-2013. An ongoing state of emergency exists across three northern states. (Credit: Nerika – Wikimedia)

Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan should not be re-elected president

Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, is seeking yet another term in office, even after basically everything has fallen apart under his administration. His campaign team decided that the slogan #BringBackGoodluck2015 was somehow appropriate after he blatantly ignored, waved away, and disrespected #BringBackOurGirls. Now he’s being deservedly dragged by Nigerian Twitter for it, as reported by the BBC. My personal favorite:

But, aside from this latest (and certainly minor) show of incompetence and tone-deafness, let’s back out to look at the wider situation. Girls kidnapped, northern insurgency spreading across Nigeria and into its neighbors, Boko Haram proclaiming itself an independent Islamic State and laying siege to northern cities of 1 million people, sections of Nigeria’s army mutinying over alleged supply shortages, mysterious pilfering of counterinsurgency resources, ongoing attacks in the capital, alleged war crimes by state security forces… and so on.

All the while, the President’s plan was recently summed up by a local paper as simply: We Hope To Defeat Boko Haram But Not Now.

Look, I’m not going to blame President Jonathan for everything that has happened, and I’m not even sure his passivity and inactivity in the face of chaos is entirely his own fault. Consider his background and rise to power. He’s a zoologist and a hydrobiologist by training, who was an environmental minister briefly, and fortuitously became governor after being chosen to be a lieutenant governor in his state under a corrupt governor who later resigned; then he was unexpectedly chosen as running mate by the outgoing president orchestrating the 2007 PDP ticket that won, and suddenly he became president when the elected president died in office.

Although he subsequently won his own term, Goodluck Jonathan was never meant to be president. I suspect that his lack of both political establishment credentials and military experience, which seemed so promising for effecting transformative change when he became president, actually made him hopelessly dependent on the usual political cronies and military generals. He lacked both the constituency and independent experience to challenge them when they gave him bad advice. Unfortunately, he happened to enter office at a time of mounting crises in the country and the region. Now he’s just floundering.

It’s clear President Jonathan is now very far out of his depth and lacks either the will or the political base to govern and restore order (certainly not in a responsible, inclusive, and democratic manner). Whether or not it is his fault, the terrorism and insurgency situation has been rapidly spiraling out of control for nearly four consecutive years, since the end of 2010. Things are objectively worse on the security and stability front now than they were four years ago, and worse now than they were six months ago or two months ago. He is not turning things around.

Re-electing Goodluck Jonathan next year to another four-year term as president seems like the wrong direction for Nigeria.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. (Credit: U.S. State Department.)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. (Credit: U.S. State Department.)