All politics is local, and more

Many have seen the BBC map below of the outcome of the just-concluded Nigerian presidential elections. The south voted for incumbent Jonathan while the north went for Buhari.

The state elections were a different kettle of fish. In these elections the president’s party – the PDP – held its own in the north. Available results show that PDP candidates won in Bauchi, Kaduna, Niger, Gombe, Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano and Buhari’s home state Katsina – in total eight out of the 12 states shaded blue in the picture above.

How is this possible, given the clear north-south divide in the presidential vote?

The answer to this question is threefold (and is here).

First, all politics is local. Given that both the PDP and CPC rode on personality politics with little ideological differentiation, once the presidential race was settled the game reverted back to local personality politics. PDP bigwigs could therefore hold their own in most of these states based on their own local connections.

Second, it could be due to the sequencing of Nigerian elections. In Nigeria, the gubernatorial elections take place weeks after the presidential election. Because patronage politics is the only real game in town, the rational thing for voters to do is pick the president’s man for governorship. This way one can increase the probability that pork will flow to one’s state when President Jonathan sets out to reward those who voted for him and the PDP.

Third, Jonathan might have panicked about having lost the north in the presidential election and therefore put extra effort into winning as many gubernatorial races as he could in the north in order to guarantee his administration a sense of national legitimacy.

In a sense the gubernatorial results are encouraging. It is calming to know that there are powerful local elites in northern Nigeria who are willing and able to work with Jonathan to help Nigeria realize its potential.

Can the fight against aids be won?

There is hope that the fight against AIDS can be won.

Over the last 30 years the disease has killed millions and created millions of orphans.

It’s lasting impact persists in lost human capital and reduced labor productivity (see paper on this here). But if the optimism of the Economist (and they are not known for their love of the bright side of things) is anything to go by, things might be changing for the better.

The 30th anniversary of the disease’s discovery has been taken by many as an occasion for hand-wringing. Yet the war on AIDS is going far better than anyone dared hope. A decade ago, half of the people in several southern African countries were expected to die of AIDS. Now, the death rate is dropping. In 2005 the disease killed 2.1m people. In 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, the number was 1.8m. Some 5m lives have already been saved by drug treatment. In 33 of the worst-affected countries the rate of new infections is down by 25% or more from its peak.

Even more hopeful is a recent study which suggests that the drugs used to treat AIDS may also stop its transmission (see article). If that proves true, the drugs could achieve much of what a vaccine would. The question for the world will no longer be whether it can wipe out the plague, but whether it is prepared to pay the price.

More on this here.