On February 14 Nigerians will go to the polls in what is arguably the most important election in the world this year. Here is a (small) collection of things you need to read before then:
1. Alex Thurston has a great backgrounder for CSIS on the upcoming Nigerian elections. Want to know about the coalitions angling for power in Abuja and state capitals all over Nigeria and how ongoing political maneuvers will impact the outcome of the presidential election? Then click here.
2. Earlier this month Nigerian journalist Tolu Ogunlesi wrote an excellent piece for FT that emphasized the fact that this will be Nigeria’s closest and most unpredictable election yet (a point echoed by Zainab Usman, a Nigerian DPhil Candidate at Oxford, over at African Arguments). The level of competition will no doubt put pressure on INEC, and the losing candidate, to ensure that the legitimacy of the process is not tarnished, regardless of the outcome.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has announced that he shall be running for president in next year’s general election, according to a post on his facebook page. Apparently the good sir takes social media seriously:
While some observers were surprised that Mr Jonathan had used Facebook to announce his candidacy, he said in July that comments on his page had influenced him in overturning his ban on the national football team . . . . . . . . . “People may scoff, but we take the interactions seriously, we track the [Facebook] feedback,” a presidential adviser told the Reuters news agency.
It will be interesting to see how the rank and file of the PDP reacts to this announcement. Under the party’s implicit North-South agreement the next president has to come from the North. Mr. Jonathan is a southerner.
The BBC reports that the Nigerian state owned oil company (NNPC) is insolvent, with a US $ 5 billion debt. Most of the money ($ 3b) is owed to the Federation Account a lootable cash cow that distributes money to different levels of government within the Nigerian state. The country is divided into 36 states (and one federal capital territory, Abuja) and 774 local governments, all of which have legally guaranteed claims to oil revenues.
The report also notes that: Despite Nigeria being a major crude oil producer, it must buy almost all the oil it uses on the international market because its own refineries are insufficient and dilapidated.
Recently the Nigerian government signed a deal with the Chinese that hopefully will result in the construction of an $ 8 billion refinery in Lagos to ease the country’s dependence on imported petroleum products. 80% of the cash will come from the Chinese and 20% from the Nigerians.
No prizes for guessing why on earth A LEADING INTERNATIONAL OIL EXPORTER should import almost all of its petroleum products or why it took so long for the Nigerian leadership to start thinking of expanding Nigeria’s refinery capacity…
Achebe’s assessment of the Nigerian condition in the early 1980s still rings true: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.”