Tim Cocks http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks Tim Cocks's Profile Mon, 27 Apr 2015 12:15:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 Lagos port still a bottleneck for Africa’s top economy http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/27/nigeria-port-idUSL5N0XI4V820150427?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/27/lagos-port-still-a-bottleneck-for-africas-top-economy/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 11:38:48 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/?p=1004 LAGOS, April 27 (Reuters) – The road leading to the Lagos
port, which handles nearly everything that Africa’s biggest
economy imports, is one of the most congested in a megacity
whose traffic jams are legendary.

Wide enough to accommodate only two lanes on either side,
along it move the goods that Africa’s top crude producer uses
its huge oil receipts to buy — everything from designer wear to
dried fish, champagne and shampoo.

The Apapa port is also one of the biggest bottlenecks in an
economy throttled by power cuts and institutional dysfunction.

Reforms to this behemoth by President Goodluck Jonathan and
previous administrations of his People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
brought huge improvements over the past decade, shippers say,
but bad roads and extortion by officials in a tangle of
government agencies continue to pile up traffic and costs.

“Apapa port is hell on earth,” wrote commentator Tokunbo
Oloke in The Tribune late last year. “A place where people
groan, curse, sweat, get infuriated, experience unending pain
and sorrow.”

That is a problem for foreign firms looking to cash in on
the incipient consumer boom in Africa’s most populous nation,
and Jonathan’s successor as president, former military ruler
Muhammadu Buhari, will need to crack down hard if he wants to
keep a reputation as a man with zero tolerance for graft.

A Reuters trip to Apapa, a virtual city of piled up
containers by a lagoon, took four hours past lines of fuel
trucks. That was despite volumes being relatively low owing to a
weaker naira and oil prices. Workers report much longer waits.

“ABANDONED CONSIGNMENTS”

Companies have to bring perishable goods through the port,
where bureaucratic delays can mean a shipment spoiling.

Privatising the port operators in 2006 eased congestion
dramatically, and Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in 2012
cut the number of government agencies allowed to inspect cargo.

“There were about 15 different agencies extorting money from
importers, and each would do a separate inspection,” former
presidential adviser Sylvester Monye told Reuters.

“Now we have seven, and the president introduced a regime
that all the inspections must happen simultanouesly.”

Importers however, say that rule is not always followed, and
those seven can still hold back shipments while they await
bribes. A Reuters reporter saw a man in uniform hold up a truck
for half an hour before the driver reluctantly handed over cash.

“They’ve all got a scam going, from the guy that wheels your
trolley out to the senior customs officers,” says an official at
container company at Apapa who declined to be named.

He added that Nigerian authorities inspect 70 percent of
cargo, compared with around 5 percent in the European Union.

“The reason is: that is the number that you find to be
unclean,” said Monye.

A spokesman for the Nigeria Customs Service did not respond
to a request for comment, but the head of customs at Apapa,
Eporwei Edike, was quoted in the local press last week as saying
that “If we notice any irregularities anywhere, we tackle them
immediately,” and that “we are not sparing erring officers.”

Monye said other improvements Jonathan introduced included
making it a 24-hour operation instead of 9 to 5 and rebuilding
the 30-year-old road with a foot of concrete underneath it.

But extortion remains the biggest gripe of importers.

Onyadinka, a durable goods importer from a small self-owned
firm who declined to have his last name printed, told Reuters
that once all the costs of shipping, formal and informal, are
factored in, he needs to sell his second hand cars at four times
the initial buying cost just to turn a profit.

The shipping and waiting charges are also huge because
“Nigeria just exports oil, so many containers go back empty.”

“The whole thing is a shake-down,” he said. “If you don’t
pay, nothing gets done. Even if they find nothing untoward.”

A fuel importer says every agency will ask for bribes.

“If you don’t pay they will say, sorry sir, we’re clearing
your papers still, it may take a while,” he said. “And they mean
it will take an eternity. Your shipment will just rot there.”

Monye said firms with proper paperwork had no problems.

“The problem is two dimentional,” he said “And the other
side is the bribe givers who don’t do their documentation
properly and are used to just paying their way out of trouble.”

“The big companies operating in a straight and narrow way do
not have these problems. Often they don’t get checked at all.”

Yet shipping agent Tolu Mustapha says long delays put
everyone at a huge disadvantage, because it isn’t long before
the accumulated cost exceeds the consignment’s value.

He said a client he worked for bringing in $25,000 worth of
diapers gave up when demurrage took him over that threshold.

“A lot of people just abandon their goods. The port is full
of abandoned consignments,” he said, which authorities auction.

There is a long list of ills that Nigerians are hoping
Buhari’s incoming government will quickly address — growing
insecurity, an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and
corruption in the oil sector.

But for Nigeria’s dynamic and fast growing economy,
finishing the job of port reform must be near the top.

(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Giles Elgood)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/27/lagos-port-still-a-bottleneck-for-africas-top-economy/feed/ 0
How the ‘Godfather’ of Lagos could shape Nigeria’s government http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/22/us-nigeria-godfather-idUSKBN0ND17820150422?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/22/how-the-godfather-of-lagos-could-shape-nigerias-government/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 11:15:01 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/?p=1002 LAGOS (Reuters) – “I am a talent hunter. I put talents in office, I help them,” says former Lagos state governor and opposition alliance leader Bola Tinubu, being quite open about his role as one of Nigeria’s most powerful political godfathers.

“I use the best hand, the best brain, the best experience for the job,” he told Reuters after voting this month in a governorship election in Nigeria’s economic capital which, as expected, his hand picked candidate Akinwunmi Ambode won.

But it isn’t only in his traditional fiefdom in the ethnic Yoruba southwest that Tinubu has sought to be a kingmaker. His support for former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari was seen as a key factor in the latter’s win against President Goodluck Jonathan in the March 28 presidential election in Africa’s biggest economy and oil producer.

The pro-Buhari alliance that Tinubu headed, the All Progressives Congress (APC), rallied elites around Buhari in the southwest, Nigeria’s wealthiest region. That enabled Buhari to tackle a perception that his support lies only in the dust-blown, largely Muslim north. The religiously mixed southwest had voted overwhelmingly for Jonathan in the 2011 race.

So ‘The Jagaban’, an honorific title beloved of Tinubu’s supporters, could have much say in what reform policies the new government will focus on, and who fills which cabinet posts.

“The party he led is half of the APC. He can … lay claim to that power,” said Clement Nwankwo of the Situation Room civil society group. “Buhari will feel (an) … obligation to him.”

To supporters Tinubu, a Yoruba Muslim, is a wily political operator with a passion for getting the job done and a knack for picking bright, committed technocrats to do it. To critics he is a ruthless godfather who doles out lucrative contracts to his friends’ firms, insists on installing his man in office and is capable of sending in street thugs if he fails to get his way.

The APC, which came to power on anger over corruption and growing insecurity, has declined to speak publicly about policies.

THE JAGABAN

The Nigerian practice of political godfathering has long been criticized by rights campaigners as impeding democracy by enabling powerful oligarchs to capture state institutions.

But few deny that in Lagos, at least, the former governor managed to fix things no one thought fixable.

Under his tenure at the turn of the millennium and that of his successor Babatunde Fashola, a technocrat hand picked by Tinubu, the city scrubbed up dramatically. Trash got collected, crime fell, trees were planted and traffic was better managed.

“There were refuse mountains around, tax collection was very low,” recalls Folarin Gbadebo-Smith, a former council leader under Tinubu. “But very quickly he seemed to sort things out.”

Gbadebo-Smith noticed an advantage Tinubu has over other Nigerian “big men” is that you could disagree with him and he listened, changing his mind when faced with a good argument.

He also sets high standards, says Lagos waste management head Ola Oresanya, to whom Tinubu gave three months to make a noticeable difference or be fired.

“He likes to say ‘I promised I would do this, and I have.'”

But like other powerful political figures in Nigeria, Tinubu’s power resides largely in the huge patronage he wields, which has given him influence over, for instance, the ‘area boys’ — Lagos street toughs who run rackets and guard cars. Ingeniously, he gave some of them uniforms and turned them into traffic cops.

After he voted on April 11, a group of area boys mobbed The Jagaban, and he lectured them on their disorderly behavior.

“If you want me to do something for you, line up in an orderly manner. Then I can share my peanuts,” he told them, adding: “some of you have not even voted.”

A day later, when celebrations erupted outside his home, two groups of area boys got into a fight over money that had been distributed and they began hitting each other with planks of wood, a Reuters reporter saw. But interviewed later, many of them said they loved Tinubu since “he’s a man of the common people.”

A businessman close to him says although Tinubu runs a formidable business empire, he is often short of cash because he gives so much away to oil the wheels of patronage.

Yet Tinubu may have less influence over Buhari than he had hoped, argues Kayode Akindele, CEO of consultancy 46 Parallels.

“He didn’t really deliver in the southwest. It was only a slight lead,” he said, compared to the absolute thumping Jonathan received from voters in the largely Muslim north.

“The APC, post-elections, is now very northern,” he added. That could limit any influence The Jagaban has — and replicate the north-south rivalry that divided Jonathan’s outgoing party.

(Editing by Giles Elgood)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/22/how-the-godfather-of-lagos-could-shape-nigerias-government/feed/ 0
Exclusive: How Nigeria’s ‘smooth’ election nearly went wrong http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/16/us-nigeria-election-idUSKBN0N71KI20150416?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/16/exclusive-how-nigerias-smooth-election-nearly-went-wrong/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:41:25 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/?p=1000 ABUJA (Reuters) – As Muhammadu Buhari closed in on Nigeria’s presidency, an aide to election commission chairman Attahiru Jega sent a text message to an independent voting monitor, warning of an imminent threat to the electoral process.

The aide had unearthed a plot by supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan to disrupt the public announcement of the national election results and kidnap Jega in a bid to wreck the count, according to pro-democracy advocates and a Nigeria-based diplomat.

Central to the plan, they said, were Jega’s security detail and Godsday Orubebe, a former cabinet minister from Jonathan’s Niger Delta, an area whose leaders feared a change of power would mean an end to the perks it enjoyed under Jonathan’s presidency.

Orubebe’s role was to cause a disturbance at the headquarters of the commission as cover for the abduction of Jega. Orubebe did not respond to requests for comment on the details of the plot.

The commission, called INEC, also declined to comment and turned down requests for an interview with Jega, whom Reuters was unable to reach independently. Reuters found no evidence to suggest that Jonathan, who conceded defeat in the election, was involved. His spokesman and his party, the PDP, did not respond to requests for comment.

While the plot would likely not have changed the result, it could have unleashed fury among Buhari supporters in the north, where 800 people were killed in rioting after his last election defeat in 2011.

But the plot’s failure enabled Africa’s most populous country to complete its first credible vote since independence in 1960.

“NIGERIA ON TRIAL”

The plot to derail the election in its closing moments was pieced together by Reuters from the text message, events on the ground and interviews with democracy advocates and diplomats in the capital, Abuja.

When he sent the SMS, the election official, whom the sources declined to name for his own protection, hoped the outside world would hear of the plot, the text of the message made clear.

“Fellow countrymen, Nigeria on Trial,” read the SMS sent on the morning of March 31 to Clement Nwankwo, head of the Situation Room, an Abuja-based coalition of human rights groups and democracy advocates monitoring the polls. Reuters later saw the SMS.

“Plans are on storm [sic] the podium at the ICC Collation Centre and disrupt the process,” it continued, the official dropping words and letters in his haste.

“Nobody is sue [sic] what will happen. Please share this as widely as possible.”

At that moment, INEC chairman Jega was about to preside over the announcement of results.

TALLY COUNT

Since the end of army rule in 1999, all four previous votes had been marred by violence and ballot-rigging.

The 2015 poll was different in two crucial aspects.

It was a genuine race, pitting Jonathan, saddled with an ailing economy and an Islamist insurgency, against a former general promising to get tough on corruption and the Boko Haram insurgents.

Voters had also been given biometric ID cards linked to their photographs and fingerprints, making it hard to inflate voter numbers significantly.

As tallies from around the country showed Buhari on course for a win, unidentified PDP hard-liners started to panic, seeking ways of manipulating the count, Nwankwo and the diplomat said, citing political contacts in the Delta and Abuja.

Realizing they could not engineer an outright win, PDP agents set about doctoring the tally at collation centers in pro-Jonathan areas to ensure Buhari failed to meet a requirement for 25 percent support in two thirds of states, Nwankwo said, citing reports from election monitors on the ground.

A Reuters reporter witnessed and photographed one tally list in Port Harcourt with suspiciously similar totals for registered voters at polling stations: 500, 500, 500, 500, 500, 500, 500, 500, 450. In another tally center in the city, 17,594 valid votes were recorded out of a registered voter population of 11,757, the Reuters reporter said.

Foreign election observers also noted the peculiarities – and contacted diplomats in Abuja who called in international intervention.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his British counterpart Philip Hammond – in Switzerland for talks on Iran – issued a tough statement saying vote counting “may be subject to deliberate political interference”.

“CREATE A FRACAS”

But as Buhari’s lead grew, some PDP supporters from the Delta, including Orubebe, decided on a final gamble: to create a disturbance in the main INEC hall and have thugs snatch Jega from the stage, according to Nwankwo and the Abuja-based diplomat.

What the group planned to do after the abduction is unclear, the diplomat and Nwankwo said, but the confusion could have triggered nationwide violence.

“It was a desperate thing, mostly by a group of people from the Niger Delta who were in the room,” Nwankwo said, describing events that unfolded publicly in the minutes after he received the SMS.

When Jega opened proceedings on the morning of March 31, Orubebe, the former Niger Delta minister, grabbed a microphone and launched into an 11-minute tirade accusing Jega of bias.

“Mr. Chairman, we have lost confidence in you,” he shouted, pushing away officials trying to make him surrender the microphone. “You are being very, very selective. You are partial,” he continued, surrounded by three or four supporters. “You are tribalistic. We cannot take it.”

Nigerians watched, aghast, on live television.

Meanwhile, Jega’s security detail was approached by unidentified individuals telling them to stand down, according to Nwankwo and the diplomat.

But the bodyguards refused.

“Some of the guards who had been guarding Jega for years demanded a written order,” Nwankwo said. “But it didn’t exist.”

Jega then rebuked Orubebe: “Let us not disrupt a process that has ended peacefully,” he said as Orubebe slumped in his chair.

“Mr. Orubebe, you are a former minister of the Federal Republic. You are a statesman in your own right. You should be careful about what you say or about what allegations you make,” he said.

Later, Orubebe congratulated Buhari on Twitter, expressing his “apologies to fellow Nigerians”.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Flynn and Julia Payne; Editing by Giles Elgood)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/16/exclusive-how-nigerias-smooth-election-nearly-went-wrong/feed/ 0
Nigerian governor elections see swing to president-elect’s party http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/13/nigeria-election-idUSL5N0XA1Z820150413?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/13/nigerian-governor-elections-see-swing-to-president-elects-party/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 12:53:55 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/?p=998 LAGOS, April 13 (Reuters) – Results in Nigeria’s
governorship vote saw a swing towards president-elect Muhammadu
Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) party on Monday, two
weeks after it made history by unseating the incumbent in a
presidential poll.

Eight states have so far abandoned the People’s Democratic
Party’s (PDP) of defeated president Goodluck Jonathan in favour
of the APC — which now has a total of 20 states, more than half
of the territories up for grabs against the PDP’s 13.

The results completed an unprecedented shift in Nigerian
politics, away from the PDP which has dominated since the end of
military rule in 1999. These elections mark the first time since
independence from Britain five decades ago that a ruling party
has been forced out by the ballot box.

Nigeria’s 36 state governors are among the most powerful
politicians in the country, controlling budgets bigger than
those of many African countries and wielding influence that can
decide which candidates go on presidential tickets.

Jonathan’s supporters took some heart by holding onto the
strategically vital southern oil hub of Rivers state, in a
landslide victory announced on Monday.

[For a breakdown of the states ]

The governorship polls were held in just 29 states on
Saturday, since seven had already been settled in by-elections
over the past few years.

Buhari, who won a decisive victory in the March 28
presidential poll and a majority in both legislative houses,
takes power on May 29.

As in past governorship polls, these ones were marred by
violence, intimidation and reports of fraud. Observers said they
were dirtier than the presidential ones, particularly in the
oil-producing delta region’s Akwa Ibom and Rivers states — but
better technology meant there was less outright fraud than in
past gubernatorial polls. At least ten people were killed in
violence across the country.

The U.S. embassy congratulated Nigeria for an electoral
process that it said “generally went well across the country.”

“We have seen the reports of violence and alleged
irregularities … and call on those dissatisfied to pursue
their grievances peacefully in the judicial arena,” it added.

Around 100 people gathered in the capital of Abia state, in
the Niger Delta, to protest against alleged fraud on Monday.

One state remained with the minor opposition All
Progressives Grand Alliance party, while one was deemed
inconclusive and one had yet to be announced by the electoral
commission by Monday by 12.30 p.m. (1130 GMT).

(Additional reporting by Anamesere Igboeroteonwu in Onitsha;
Editing by Andrew Heavens)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/13/nigerian-governor-elections-see-swing-to-president-elects-party/feed/ 0
Nigerians vote for powerful state governors http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/04/11/uk-nigeria-election-governors-idUKKBN0N20CC20150411?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/11/nigerians-vote-for-powerful-state-governors/#comments Sat, 11 Apr 2015 13:25:40 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/?p=996 LAGOS, (Reuters) – The final stage of Nigeria’s election began on Saturday with voting for powerful state governors, two weeks after a presidential poll saw an incumbent leader unseated at the ballot box for the first time.

The 36 governors are among the most influential politicians in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer and top economy, with budgets larger than those of small nations and influence that can decide who goes on presidential tickets.

With so much at stake, candidates in past governorship elections have often played dirty, snatching ballot boxes, manipulating turnout and engaging in thuggery and intimidation.

Voting began in most states of the most populous African state by midmorning but sporadic violence in coastal Rivers state, Nigeria’s oil hub, disrupted balloting in many districts.

Two people were killed in election-related incidents. A policeman in Port Harcourt was hacked to death on Friday night, Rivers police spokesman Ahmed Mohammad said. In Kebbi state in the northwest, gunmen killed an opposition party agent and wounded three others, police and hospital sources said.

Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) beat President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) last month with 15.4 million votes to 13.3 million.

The vote, which Buhari won on pledges to clean up Nigeria’s notoriously corrupt politics and crack down harder on the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency engulfing the northeast, was deemed free and less violent than past polls.

Yet for many Nigerians, who their governor is matters more than who sits in the capital Abuja. In the early going of Saturday’s vote, however, turnout appeared lower than for the presidential poll due to apathy in the south and southeast after the PDP defeat on March 28 and fears of violence.

‎”Many people have not come out to vote…They lost interest in the election because of the outcome of the presidential,” Ifechukwu Onyema, a voter in southern Anambra state, said.

INCIDENTS DISRUPT SOME VOTING

Early on Saturday, police fired shots into the air to clear an angry mob of 2,000 APC members and sympathisers in the Rivers state capital Port Harcourt, a Reuters witness said.

Shooting on the streets of two Rivers towns, Abonnema in the Akuku-Toru region and Buguma in Asari-Toru, forced voters to remain indoors, eyewitnesses and an observer said. The electoral commission office was set on fire in Abonnema and vehicles meant to distribute voting materials were burnt in Buguma.

In the northern state of Kaduna, a police spokesman said security forces fired tear gas at youths who tried to divert a vehicle transporting electoral materials in the Danmusa district, delaying the start of the vote.

Legislative elections also held on March 28 shifted power away from the PDP, which has run Nigeria since the end of military rule in 1999, to the APC, and left Buhari’s party with a majority in both houses of parliament.

The APC sought on Saturday to build on its gains, while the PDP hoped to claw back some power, especially in two battlegrounds — the megacity of Lagos, Nigeria’s economic engine generating up to a third of its GDP, and Rivers.

Outgoing Lagos APC governor Babatunde Fashola is credited with transforming the metropolis of 21 million people and an economy twice the size of Kenya’s with infrastructure projects, although he has also been criticised for slum clearance.

The new governors will take office in 29 states on May 29, as will Buhari.

Biometric ballot cards distributed to 56.7 million people were used for the first time in last month’s vote, and helped prevent fraudulent practices like multiple voting or ballot box stuffing. They were again being used on Saturday.

“The card reader is the only way that rigging on a large scale can be stopped in this country,” Abubakar Momoh, of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram and Oludare Mayowa in Lagos, Tife Owolabi in Port Harcourt, Lanre Ola in Maiduguri, Anamesere Igboeroteonwu in Onitsha and Garba Muhammed in Kebbi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/11/nigerians-vote-for-powerful-state-governors/feed/ 0
Nigerians to vote for powerful governors in state elections http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/10/nigeria-election-governors-idUSL5N0X71Z420150410?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/10/nigerians-to-vote-for-powerful-governors-in-state-elections/#comments Fri, 10 Apr 2015 18:44:19 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/?p=994 LAGOS, April 11, (Reuters) – The final stage of Nigeria’s
election will begin on Saturday with state governorship polls,
two weeks after a presidential vote saw an incumbent leader
unseated at the ballot box for the first time.

The 36 governors are among the most powerful politicians in
Africa’s biggest oil producer and top economy, controlling
budgets larger than those of small African nations and wielding
influence that can decide who goes on presidential tickets.

Voting starts at 8 a.m.

With so much at stake, candidates in past polls have often
played dirty, snatching ballot boxes, manipulating voter
turn-out and engaging in thuggery and intimidation.

Muhammadu Buhari beat President Goodluck Jonathan last month
with 15.4 million votes against 13.3 million, in a vote that was
considered free and less violent than past polls.

Yet for many Nigerians, who their governor is matters more
than who sits in the faraway capital Abuja.

“It will be slightly dirtier, a bit rougher in some places.
Locals are more invested in the process around them. The federal
government is like a no man’s land,” said Folarin Gbadebo-Smith,
head of Nigeria’s Centre for Public Policy Alternatives.

Legislative polls also shifted power away from the People’s
Democratic Party (PDP), which has run Nigeria since the end of
military rule in 1999, to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It left the APC with a majority in both houses.

The APC is seeking to build on its gains, while the PDP will
hope it can claw back power, especially in two battlegrounds —
the megacity of Lagos, the country’s economic engine generating
up to a third of its GDP, and the oil hub of Rivers.

Both are currently APC, Rivers only because its sitting
governor defected. Both could be magnets for trouble, as could
the northern swing state of Kaduna, which saw hundreds killed in
sectarian violence after the 2011 presidential election.

In all 30 states hold elections, with six sitting them out
since they had by-elections in the last few years.

“The Nigerian army has directed all units to remain
vigilant…to prevent any attempt to endanger the lives of
Nigerians,” the army said in a statement on Friday.

Biometric voting cards that were used for the first time in
last month’s poll and helped prevent fraudulent practices like
multiple voting or ballot box stuffing, will again be used.

“The card reader is the only way that rigging on a large
scale can be stopped in this country,” Abubakar Momoh, of the
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) told Reuters.

Outgoing APC Lagos governor Babatunde Fashola is credited
with transforming a megacity of some 21 million and an economy
twice the size of Kenya’s through infrastructure projects,
although he has also been criticised for slum clearance.

(Additional reporting by Oludare Mayowa in Lagos and Lanre Ola
in Maiduguri; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/10/nigerians-to-vote-for-powerful-governors-in-state-elections/feed/ 0
With Jonathan, Africa’s list of good losers gets longer http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/01/us-nigeria-election-defeat-idUSKBN0MS4X920150401?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/01/with-jonathan-africas-list-of-good-losers-gets-longer/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2015 16:33:04 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/?p=992 ABUJA (Reuters) – Graciously conceding defeat is not something candidates in African elections have traditionally been very good at.

In a macho political culture that sees a routing at the ballot box as a source of shame, refusal to accept a result often leads to protracted battles in court, on the streets or in the worst cases a military crackdown.

So when Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan magnanimously threw in the towel to challenger Muhammadu Buhari after the latter’s stunning victory in the weekend’s presidential election, he joined a growing list of African leaders for whom humbly admitting the game is up has become a cause for pride.

“I thank all Nigerians once again for the great opportunity I was given to lead this country,” a somber Jonathan said in his concession speech. “I have conveyed my personal best wishes to General Muhammadu Buhari.”

Such speeches used to be rare on a continent still getting used to winner-takes-all electoral contests and where power has frequently changed hands at the barrel of a gun.

Academics have long pondered the reasons – it could be the emphasis in a traditional African societies on consensus over competition or that losing political office can mean the difference between sleeping in a palace or a shack.

The wide margin of Buhari’s win, enabling the first peaceful transfer of power at the ballot box in Africa’s most populous nation, certainly helped.

But the idea leaders need to know when it is time to pack their bags has also gained ground over the last five years.

When former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede to Alassane Ouattara in 2010, re-igniting a civil war, one of Gbagbo’s most high profile campaigners, reggae star Alpha Blondy, publicly urged him to play fair and hand over.

He failed to listen and is now facing war crimes charges in The Hague.

Senegal’s former President Abdoulaye Wade in 2012 became the first West African leader in a while to concede defeat when he was thumped by former protege Macky Sall, enabling Sall to proclaim that “the big winner…is the Senegalese people”.

In Southern Africa too, the time has come where a “big man” was told by voters he was no longer popular – and has had to accept their verdict.

Ex-Malawian president Bakili Muluzi, who observed Nigeria’s elections for the Commonwealth, ran against dictator Hastings Banda in 1994 and succeeded in ending his 33-year-rule.

“He was unhappy. He said to me ‘You are like my son and now you are running against me,'” he told Reuters outside a polling station on Saturday. “But he couldn’t do anything about it.”

Zambia’s Rupiah Banda drew more than a few tears when, on losing his presidency to Michael Sata in 2011, he told the nation: “I have no ill feeling in my heart”.

“I wish him well in his years as president,” he continued. “Now is the time for a new leader. My time is done. It is time for me to say good bye.”

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/01/with-jonathan-africas-list-of-good-losers-gets-longer/feed/ 0
Nigeria’s Buhari wins historic election landslide http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/01/us-nigeria-election-idUSKBN0MR0VN20150401?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/01/nigerias-buhari-wins-historic-election-landslide/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2015 01:32:25 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/?p=990 ABUJA (Reuters) – Three decades after seizing power in a military coup, Muhammadu Buhari became the first Nigerian to oust a president through the ballot box, putting him in charge of Africa’s biggest economy and one of its most turbulent democracies.

As the scale of this weekend’s electoral landslide became clear, President Goodluck Jonathan called Buhari on Tuesday to concede defeat to the opposition leader, an unprecedented step that should help to defuse anger among Jonathan’s supporters.

In the religiously mixed northern city of Kaduna, where 800 people were killed in violence after the last elections in 2011, Buhari supporters streamed onto the streets, waving flags and dancing and singing in celebration.

In a short concessional statement, Jonathan wished his opponent well and urged his supporters to keep their cool, saying nobody’s political ambition was “worth the blood of any Nigerian”.

“The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else,” he said.

Yet his supporters in the volatile Niger Delta, his home region and the heart of Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, were despondent.

“Goodluck is a stupid man for conceding, a disappointment for Nigeria,” one waitress in the oil city of Port Harcourt said, throwing a beer bottle top at a fridge.

Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been in charge since the end of army rule in 1999 but had been losing popularity due to a string of corruption scandals and the rise of Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency in the northeast.

“At about five minutes to 5, President Jonathan called General Muhammadu Buhari, the winner of the elections, to congratulate him,” Lai Mohammed, a spokesman for Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC), told reporters at the party’s headquarters in the capital, Abuja.

“There had always been this fear that he might not want to concede but he will remain a hero for this move,” he added. “The tension will go down dramatically.”

Around him, women in brightly colored dresses danced and sang, ululating in celebration.

A final tally of the results compiled by Reuters gave the sandal-wearing and ascetic Buhari 15.4 million votes against 13.3 million for Jonathan, a margin of victory that is likely to render any legal challenges irrelevant.

SMOOTH RUNNING

Despite some technical glitches and the killing of more than a dozen voters by Boko Haram gunmen, the election has been the smoothest and most orderly in Nigeria’s history.

“There are probably lots of reasons why the PDP might have lost but I think the key one is that the elections just haven’t been rigged,” said Antony Goldman, a business consultant with high-level contacts in Nigeria.

As the results trickled in, Buhari, dressed in a white khaftan and prayer cap, sat calmly in a front a television at a house in the capital.

Buhari seized power in a 1983 coup only to be ousted 18 months later by another general. Since then he has declared himself a convert to democracy, running and losing several elections but always coming back for more on a ticket of cleaning up Nigeria’s dirty politics.

Before Jonathan conceded defeat, Buhari received a tacit endorsement from Washington, with a U.S. official acknowledging his role in building a “new” Nigeria, a pillar of a rapidly modernizing and growing continent.

“His leadership of the opposition over these years has demonstrated a commitment to democracy that would seem to suggest he is participating in Nigeria’s new era that began in 1999,” the U.S. official said.

“NEW DIRECTION”

Buhari’s inner circle acknowledged the hard work ahead in building bridges in a country of 170 million people split along ethnic, religious and regional lines.

He must also deal with the fallout from a dive in global oil prices in the last eight months which has hammered the economy, squeezed state revenues and forced two de facto devaluations of the currency, the naira.

“We should all work together to redirect the country. A lot of sacrifices will have to be made,” Kwara state senator and senior APC official Bukola Saraki said.

In a sign of the simmering PDP passions, Godsday Orubebe, a former Niger Delta minister, grabbed a microphone at the headquarters of the election commission to lambaste its chief in the reading of the final results.

“Mr. Chairman, we have lost confidence in what you are doing,” he shouted, as nervous security guards stood around, wondering what to do. “You are being very, very selective. You are partial.”

VIOLENCE LOWER

At least 15 people were shot dead during polling, most of them in the northeast where Boko Haram has declared war on democracy in its fight to revive a mediaeval caliphate in the southern Sahara.

However, the chaos was significantly less than in previous elections, a reality that pushed the stock market up more than 2 percent toward a three-month high. The naira also held steady at 218 against the dollar on the black market.

Although the economy has been growing at 7 percent or more, scandals over billions of dollars in missing oil funds and the rise of Boko Haram hit Jonathan hard in the polls.

His perceived slow reaction to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls last April caused widespread anger, and fueled a public appetite for decisive military action against Boko Haram from a strongman such as Buhari.

The war has turned in Jonathan’s favor in the past six weeks with external intervention by troops from neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Niger, but the victories appear to have been too late for Jonathan at the ballot box.

(Additional reporting by Julia Payne, Estelle Shirbon, Chijioke Ohuocha and Bate Felix; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Angus MacSwan, David Stamp and Lisa Shumaker)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/04/01/nigerias-buhari-wins-historic-election-landslide/feed/ 0
How Nigerians forgave Buhari’s high-handed military manner http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/31/us-nigeria-election-buhari-idUSKBN0MR2LG20150331?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/03/31/how-nigerians-forgave-buharis-high-handed-military-manner/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:44:38 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/?p=988 ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigerians had to forgive former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari many sins for him to win this weekend’s election.

“The General”, as his supporters now affectionately call him, kicked out an elected government in 1983, ushering in an era of military dictatorship in Africa’s most populous nation that was to last 15 years.

During his 18 months in charge, he imprisoned journalists and opposition activists without trial, executed drug traffickers by firing squad and ordered soldiers to thrash those who failed to queue in an orderly fashion at bus stops.

Fittingly, perhaps, he was himself deposed in another military coup.

“His rule was nasty, brutish and mercifully short,” the Economist magazine wrote in a column last month, describing the 72-year-old as less “awful” than incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, whose years in office have been plagued by corruption scandals.

Ladi Netimah, a senior civil servant condemned to 65 years in prison by Buhari’s junta for “doing business while in government”, has since forgiven the general.

She served nearly four years of her sentence and describes him as someone who “wanted things done properly but went about it in the wrong way”.

“He was too heavy handed,” she told Reuters.

But over the ensuing years, Buhari reinvented himself as a democrat, and his four attempts to take power peacefully demonstrated a commitment to the ballot box if nothing else.

With many Nigerians upset at Jonathan’s performance, especially over their two biggest bugbears, corruption and security, more and more were prepared to overlook Buhari’s past, and its cobwebs of military austerity and authoritarianism.

“Jonathan made it easy for Buhari by disappointing so many people,” popular Blogger Tolu Ogunlesi told Reuters. “It was a case of ‘Jonathan has to go and I will vote for anything else’.”

“TOO YOUNG TO REMEMBER”

The son of a canoe maker and the first president since the 1999 restoration of democracy never to have worn an army uniform, Jonathan started his first term with much good will in his favor.

But it was quickly eroded, as he failed to face up to an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and corruption flourished.

His administration was beset by multibillion dollar graft scandals in the oil business. When central bank governor Lamido Sanusi complained that up to $20 billion was unaccounted for at the state oil firm, Jonathan simply sacked him.

A perceived failure to take the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency seriously at first did not bother many Nigerians as most were not directly affected.

But when the militants kidnapped more than 200 school girls from the town of Chibok last April, provoking global outrage, his administration’s plodding response triggered protests that ultimately played a part his downfall.

By contrast, Buhari’s short rule in the 1980s earned him a reputation as strongman with no time for corruption or rebellion, both of which he squashed.

His image as an ascetic wearing a simple kaftan and spurning the champagne-fuelled lifestyle enjoyed by much of Nigeria’s elite, added to his appeal.

But demographics may also have been a deciding factor.

“More than two thirds of the population is under 40 and too young to remember Buhari,” said Max Siollun, author of “Soldiers of Fortune”, a history of post-colonial Nigeria.

More remarkable is the willingness of those mistreated or imprisoned by “The General” to give him another chance.

In January veteran journalist Tunde Thompson, jailed for eight months by Buhari’s junta under the Orwellian-sounding “Decree 4″, said he had forgiven him and that Buhari was someone “who can help bring discipline through democratic means”.

Similarly Netimah, who before her secret military trial spent three weeks in a concrete cell with no toilet and nothing to sleep on but a chair, said she bore no grudges.

When she met her tormentor-in-chief years later, the pair simply laughed about the curious twists of Nigeria’s turbulent history.

“I think he was just passionate about Nigeria,” she said.

(Editing by Ed Cropley and Louise Ireland)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/03/31/how-nigerians-forgave-buharis-high-handed-military-manner/feed/ 0
Nigeria’s Buhari closes in on historic election victory http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/31/nigeria-election-idUSL6N0WX2XG20150331?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/03/31/nigerias-buhari-closes-in-on-historic-election-victory/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:25:58 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/?p=986 ABUJA, March 31 (Reuters) – Nigerian opposition contender
Muhammadu Buhari, an ex-general who first won power three
decades ago in a military coup, closed in on a historic election
victory on Tuesday, maintaining a hefty lead in the vote count
in Africa’s most populous nation.

According to a Reuters tally collated from 33 of Nigeria’s
36 states, the 72-year-old Buhari had more than 14 million
votes, testament to the faith Nigerians have put in him as a
born-again democrat intent on cleaning up Nigeria’s corrupt
politics.

Buhari’s support compared to 11 million for President
Goodluck Jonathan, whose five years at the helm of the richest
country in Africa have been plagued by corruption scandals and
an insurgency by Islamist Boko Haram militants.

One of Jonathan’s big support bases in the oil-producing
Niger Delta is yet to report but the gap is so large that most
analysts said it was impossible to see the leader of the ruling
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) closing it.

Bar some technical glitches and the killing of more than a
dozen voters by Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast, the
election has been the smoothest since the end of military rule
in 1999 – a factor that appears to have played in the outcome.

“There are probably lots of reasons why the PDP might have
lost, but I think the key one is that the elections just haven’t
been rigged,” said Antony Goldman, a business consultant with
high-level contacts in Nigeria.

“If you leave it to the Nigerian people they will be ready
to make big decisions and to make Nigeria look something more
like a conventional democracy.”

(Additional reporting by Julia Payne, Estelle Shirbon and
Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/tim-cocks/2015/03/31/nigerias-buhari-closes-in-on-historic-election-victory/feed/ 0