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”


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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

Kano: Boko Haram strikes Nigeria’s 2nd largest city

Reuters reports on a major terrorist attack yesterday in Kano, Nigeria’s second most populous city:

Gunmen set off three bombs and opened fire on worshippers at the central mosque in north Nigeria’s biggest city Kano, killing at least 81 people on Friday, witnesses and police said, in an attack that bore the hallmarks of Islamist Boko Haram militants.
The mosque is next to the palace of the emir of Kano, the second highest Islamic authority in Africa’s most populous country, although the emir himself, former central bank governor Lamido Sanusi, was not present.

It is presumed to be the work of Boko Haram, although it is fairly far outside their normal recent range of operations in northern Nigeria.

This is a direct attack on the authority of the Emir of Kano, one of the most progressive high ranking Muslim religious leaders in the world right now, as I previously examined:

But there are already plenty of Muslim scholars, Sunni Imams and other interpreters of holy text and Islamic law who are quite progressive and forward thinking. In their quiet way, they have obtained the support of the vast majority of the faithful – those who have opposed the extremist acts supposedly committed in their names.

Take for example, the recently elevated Emir of Kano — one of the most significant semi-religious offices in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north. Muhammad Sanusi II, formerly Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, used to be Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

In stark contrast with groups like Boko Haram, Sanusi supports education for girls, ending child marriage, protecting women’s rights, investment attraction for the north, a “Marshall Plan” for agricultural upgrades and more. Moreover, he believes all of this is based in – and required by – his religion.

That in itself is a threat to the group, but he has been specifically very vocally opposed to Boko Haram, according to Reuters:

Islamic leaders sometimes shy away from direct criticism of Boko Haram for fear of reprisals. But Kano’s emir Sanusi, angered by atrocities such as the kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls from the village of Chibok in April, has been increasingly vocal.

Sanusi was quoted in the local press as calling on Nigerians this month to defend themselves against Boko Haram. During a broadcast recitation of the Koran he was reported to have said: “These people, when they attack towns, they kill boys and enslave girls. People must stand resolute … They should acquire what they can to defend themselves. People must not wait for soldiers to protect them.”

This is surely meant to try to silence him.


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)

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)

Cameroon forces hold the borders against Boko Haram

Boko Haram has spent much of the second half of 2014 attempting to breach the Nigerian-Cameroonian border permanently, to spread the war and their territory to a wider sphere of control — much like ISIS crossing from Syria back into Iraq and breaking up the colonial borders. Boko Haram kidnapped the Cameroonian Deputy Prime Minister’s wife from her home (she was eventually released under undisclosed terms) and staged dozens of major attacks on border villages in the country’s less populous and less hospitable northern regions.

AFD Background Briefing: The country, which is located next to Nigeria, Boko Haram’s home base, said it was going to war with Boko Haram back in May of this year when hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped in a raid. The girls are believed to have been taken to the forests near the border with northern Cameroon.

At great cost, Cameroon has held the line so far:

The strain is tangible. Cameroon’s elite Rapid Intervention Battalion, commonly known by its French acronym BIR, has lost dozens of men since the beginning of the year in the fight against Boko Haram.

About 1,000 men from BIR, trained by US and Israeli forces, have been deployed along a 500-km (300- mile) stretch of porous border with Nigeria. Boko Haram is advancing and Cameroon’s military fight daily battles to keep the boundary with Nigeria – Africa’s most populous state – intact.

Cameroon’s military recently dispatched another 2,000 soldiers to the border region to reinforce troops.
Last month, Boko Haram attacked the military post at Amchide with a tank.

They are certainly a more competent military force than Nigeria’s. But troops on the ground are already starting to wonder why France has not sent help from their base not so far away in the capital of Chad.
Read more

Boko Haram humiliate Nigeria government: What deal?

Finally ending a lengthy silence of several weeks, the man that Nigeria claimed (again) to have killed in September issued a video confirming that there is no ceasefire deal and there is no deal on the kidnapped Chibok girls, contrary to the claims of Nigeria’s government:

In a video released on Friday, [Boko Haram leader] Abubakar Shekau said: “We have not made ceasefire with anyone. We did not negotiate with anyone. It’s a lie.

“We will not negotiate. What is our business with negotiation? Allah said we should not.”

Shekau also claimed that the militants were holding a German national, thought to be a teacher, who was kidnapped by gunmen in July.

There was no indication of when or where the group’s latest video was shot.

The BBC’s Tomi Oladipo in Lagos says the video will come as a huge embarrassment for the Nigerian government after it said it had secured a ceasefire with Boko Haram.

Nor is there likely to be a deal (tragically):

But the Boko Haram leader said the girls were “in their marital homes” after being married off by the group.

Last week, Human Rights Watch said in a report that Boko Haram was holding more than 500 women and young girls captive and that forced marriage was common in the group’s camps.

I don’t root for failure in a terrible situation like this, but I have to point out that I predicted exactly how this would pan out. There was never a deal to begin with, as everyone should have suspected from the moment that there was no matching announcement by Boko Haram. This video is actually the first comment on the situation at all. This was either a gigantic mistake by the Nigerian government or a spectacular lie. Whichever it was, it sounds like time has run out (potentially quite a while ago) for the girls taken in May and probably many taken since then, due in large part to the ongoing ineptitude of the Nigerian government and military.

This should also “come as a huge embarrassment for” all the Western media outlets that reported it as fact, despite its obvious absurdity.

Arsenal For Democracy Radio Conversation – October 29, 2014:

Why is Western media reporting on Nigeria so bad?
Part 1 – Nigeria – AFD 105

Still image (via AFP) from the Boko Haram video communiqué received October 31, 2014.

Still image (via AFP) from the Boko Haram video communiqué received October 31, 2014.