Demonstrators protest police brutality at the Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020, in Lagos, Nigeria. Security forces later opened fire to disperse the crowd, killing several people. Adetona Omokanye/Getty Images

As the sun began to rise over the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria, a group of young people dressed in t-shirts and jeans were already gathered outside a polling station.

Joining the slow-moving queue, these young, educated voters had one common goal – to make a difference.

They had grown up in a country plagued by corruption, poverty and political instability, and were tired of waiting for change to come from the top. They remember the day, in October 2020, when the sound of gunshots and screams filled the air as the military opened fire on unarmed protesters in Lagos, the second-largest city in Africa – in what became known as the “Lekki toll gate shooting”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Bola Tinubu and Yemi Osinbajo during the presentation of the certificate of return to the president-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja, Nigeria. Photo by Kola Sulaimon/AFP via Getty Images.

Nigeria’s just concluded presidential elections have been focusing minds in London and Washington. Like tens of millions of Nigerian voters, Anglo-American officials realized what was at stake. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and is on track to be the third most populous country in the world by 2045.

The UK and the US have enduring strategic interests in Nigeria, which are threatened by Nigeria’s kleptocratic ruling class’s tolerance of – and complicity in – democratic backsliding, grand corruption and gross human rights violations. The new administration faces a daunting array of challenges, from underdevelopment to insecurity, fiscal pressures and poor governance, which went unaddressed under outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari.…  Seguir leyendo »

A party observer argued with police officers as a polling station opened late during Nigeria’s election on Saturday. Michele Spatari/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Imagine standing patiently in line, waiting to vote, and suddenly men with guns arrive on motorcycles and start shooting. Imagine men dashing into your polling unit, violently seizing ballot boxes and taking them away. Imagine other ballot boxes being destroyed. Imagine being beaten to keep you from voting for a particular candidate. Imagine a crowd of people chanting “We must vote! We must vote!” when polling workers failed to arrive as expected. Imagine the police doing very little. All these things happened during the Nigerian presidential elections on Saturday. Through it all, there was a chilling lack of transparency from the Independent National Electoral Commission, or I.N.E.C.,…  Seguir leyendo »

Ahead of Nigeria’s most technologically advanced election, the security of its election infrastructure is under intense scrutiny.

Election technology has been deployed in a growing list of African countries, from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Ghana and Kenya, raising hopes for improved transparency, integrity and trust in electoral democracy.

But technology alone is not a guarantee of credibility and security. It’s also a new frontier for election fraud amid concerns over vulnerabilities to hacking and manipulation. Complaints of interference by Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC) and security issues with the DRC’s electronic voting system highlight how technology can lead to contested results and damage public trust.

On the eve of Nigeria’s most technologically advanced election, the security of its election infrastructure and data systems is now under intense scrutiny.…  Seguir leyendo »

Campaign season in Lagos, Nigeria, February 2015. Joe Penney / Reuters

Over the past two decades, Nigeria’s democracy has grown much more competitive. Elections have become more transparent and less susceptible to elite manipulation. The press is as free as it has ever been. And President Muhammadu Buhari is about to step down after his second four-year term and make way for the winner of this week’s election, a move that will make him the third consecutive president to complete a peaceful transfer of power. Nigeria’s next leader could even be a third-party candidate, Peter Obi, who has run a surprisingly competitive campaign against the nominees from the country’s two major political parties.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Peter Obi during a march in Lekki, Lagos, on Saturday. Polls for the presidential election have put the former governor well ahead of his rivals © Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images Supporters of Peter Obi during a march in Lekki, Lagos, on Saturday. Polls for the presidential election have put the former governor well ahead of his rivals © Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images

I​​t was in January that the comedy routine of Mr Makati began to change. His weekly Saturday night standup at the Memento Lounge in Lagos, Nigeria’s pulsing commercial capital, switched from gags about the daily hassles of living in Africa’s most populous nation to the practicalities of voting.

“He was telling jokes about how to obtain your PVC [Permanent Voter Card], getting people to register to vote”, says the novelist A Igoni Barrett, a regular at the club. Although no names were mentioned, Barrett says, everyone knew what the voter registration drive was all about.

“Ninety per cent of the audience supports Peter Obi”, Barrett estimates, referring to the relative political newcomer whose emergence as a credible candidate has electrified young voters and shifted the odds in this month’s presidential election.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nigeria faces strong economic headwinds in the wake of the coronavirus and the war in Ukraine. To compound difficulties, the Central Bank of Nigeria has dismally implemented a demonetisation policy, causing an acute cash crisis just weeks before our elections. Ordinary Nigerians are struggling to buy food and other basics.

The central bank’s governor must immediately restore liquidity in our real economy to alleviate widespread hardship. Moving forward, my country needs sound implementation of prudent economic policies. Only realism and competence will now suffice.

The ideas that form my economic programme have sound empirical foundations. Some are painfully obvious. For instance, without adding value to Nigeria’s resources before they leave our shores, we export our prosperity—our long-standing overreliance on crude oil is emblematic.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nigeria witnessed several events last year that shook it to the core. These included militia attacks, abductions and extrajudicial killings. Terrorists stormed a state-run train heading out of Abuja, our country’s capital, and abducted scores of travellers. A militant group staged a daring prison break at a major prison in Abuja. The violence dominated headlines throughout the year, and our security agencies appeared hapless.

At the same time, our state-owned universities were shut for eight months as the union for academic staff faced off with the federal government over decades-old unmet promises. Nigeria’s crude-oil revenue plummeted from a steady average of $3bn a month in 2014 to nothing last year as oil theft rose dramatically.…  Seguir leyendo »

Elecciones decisivas en Nigeria

Las elecciones del 25 de febrero en Nigeria tal vez sean las más críticas desde su independencia en 1960. Después de ocho años de agitación con el presidente saliente Muhammadu Buhari, el próximo gobierno tiene la oportunidad de embarcarse en reformas necesarias, que debieron haberse adoptado mucho antes y que, si se las implementa correctamente, podrían marcar el principio de una era de crecimiento económico explosivo —y, esperemos, inclusivo—.

Las elecciones llegan en un momento difícil para el país más poblado de África, que constituye su mayor economía. Nigeria está en medio de una creciente crisis de la deuda: el 100 % de los ingresos del país se destina al pago de servicios de la deuda nacional de casi USD 200 000 millones, lo que implica endeudamiento adicional para financiar el gasto actual.…  Seguir leyendo »

A girl walks in front of electoral posters in support of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party at Ribadu Square, Jimeta, Adamawa State, Nigeria where the PDP is set to hold a rally, on February 14, 2019. LUIS TATO/AFP via Getty Images

In 2023, the list of national elections around the world stretches so long that the countries that will hold them, from Andorra to Zimbabwe, almost flirt with covering the alphabet. None of them are major Western nations, giant economies, or geopolitical heavyweights. But even if some of them were, my choice for next year’s most important election would probably stay the same.

The vote that stands out for me—and not just for this year but perhaps for many years to come—may surprise readers because it will be held in a country that few spend much time thinking about. It is the presidential contest set for late February in Nigeria.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of the People’s Democratic Party attend a campaign rally in Lafia, Nigeria, January 2019. Afolabi Sotunde / Reuters

Next February, Nigeria will hold its seventh election since transitioning to democracy in 1999. Nearly 100 million Nigerians are registered to vote, most of them under 25. By 2050, according to UN projections, Nigeria will be the third-most populous country in the world after China and India. But despite having the world’s ninth- and tenth-largest natural gas and crude oil reserves, respectively; one of the world’s largest swaths of arable land; and a young and entrepreneurial population, Nigeria has fallen far behind peer countries such as Indonesia and South Korea when it comes to gross national income, GDP per capita, and industrial production.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nigerian soldiers load a military truck with weapons recovered from bandits in north-central Nigeria on April 21. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images

The degree of insecurity in Nigeria is unprecedented. In addition to an ongoing terrorist insurgency in the northeastern part of the country—which has seen government troops battling the likes of Boko Haram and an offshoot of the Islamic State—there is widespread farmer-herder violence and banditry in every region of the country. It’s not just external analysts, such as former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell, who are arguing that Nigeria is a failed state. Nigerian public and government officials regularly say as much themselves, and act accordingly.

For instance, the governor of Kaduna state, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, threatened earlier this year to hire foreign mercenaries to protect the state after several attacks there.…  Seguir leyendo »

Algunos pensarán que la reciente matanza de cristianos en Nigeria es un hecho aislado y que nos pilla muy lejos de la Unión Europea.

La violencia contra los cristianos en este país africano no cesa, superando los más de 3.500 asesinatos anuales. Los yihadistas y grupos radicales afines no descansan y masacran a la población cristiana ante unas autoridades incapaces de frenar esta barbarie.

No se trata de un hecho aislado. Más de 300 millones de cristianos sufren persecución en el mundo. Pero la situación es especialmente grave en África. Sobre todo en Nigeria, donde la quema de iglesias y el ataque a los cristianos se intensifica día a día.…  Seguir leyendo »

This combination of file pictures shows Nigerian presidential candidates Bola Ahmed Tinubu (left), speaking on June 8, and Atiku Abubakar (right), speaking on May 28, both in Abuja, Nigeria. Kola Sulaimon and Pius Utomi Expei/AFP

Last month, the ruling All Progressives Congress party in Nigeria settled on a former governor of Lagos state, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as its flagbearer for the 2023 elections. Slightly over a week earlier, the largest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had chosen former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its own. Both choices ended the possibility that the next president of Africa’s most populous country would be someone belonging to an emerging—rather than dying—generation. Tinubu claims to be 70, although his opponents say he’s at least 80, while Abubakar is 75.

To be sure, older presidential candidates are a familiar sight in many countries, not least the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesting in Lagos, Nigeria, October 2020, Seun Sanni / Reuters

Nigeria has always seemed like an impossibility. From the moment of its independence in 1960, observers questioned the country’s viability as a multiethnic, multireligious state. How could a country divided among two major religions and hundreds of different ethnic groups possibly stay together? When the devastating Nigerian civil war broke out in 1967, that skepticism appeared warranted. Perhaps, many concluded, Nigeria wasn’t meant to be.

Ever since the war, one of the chief aims of Nigeria’s political project has been to prove the doubters, both foreign and domestic, wrong. A long line of civilian and military leaders have sought, sometimes with brute force, to preserve the unified state, which they have held up as a good unto itself regardless of its effect on the people.…  Seguir leyendo »

Demonstrators in Lagos, Nigeria, protest police brutality in October 2020. (Sunday Alamba/AP)

Last October, thousands of Nigerians turned out to protest police brutality and poor governance. Demanding the dissolution of the predatory Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), the #EndSARS protests rattled Nigerian elites. As #EndSARS captured global headlines and went viral on social media, President Muhammadu Buhari pushed back hard. He dismissed the peaceful activists’ concerns and blamed protesters for fomenting unrest. Crackdowns and curfews followed, culminating in soldiers killing several unarmed protesters at the Lekki tollgate on Oct. 20, 2020.

In the wake of the killings, several groups describing themselves as “nongovernmental organizations” echoed official claims that #EndSARS was a violent movement and denied that the Lekki killings actually happened.…  Seguir leyendo »

An ex-combatant leans against a window of a dormitory room at an internment camp for ex-Boko Haram fighters, in Goudoumaria, Niger, in August 2018. (Jane Hahn/For The Washington Post)

My last international trip before the covid-19 lockdown was to Nigeria’s neighbor Chad. It wasn’t my first visit to the north-central African nation of some 16 million, which ranks last on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index, but it was unique. I ventured to the Lac region, the country’s principal agricultural region, an area impoverished by climate change, corruption, diseases, dictatorship — and now, the militant group Boko Haram. Having monitored the advent and transformation of Boko Haram in Nigeria, I knew that the group had inflicted substantial damage across the Lake Chad region, but I wanted to see and feel the situation for myself.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ogechi Egemonu, an entrepreneur based in Lagos, Nigeria, opens the Twitter app on a smartphone at her office June 10. Many Nigerian companies use Twitter to conduct business, which means the official Twitter ban puts their work at risk. (Seun Sanni/Reuters)

On June 4, the Nigerian government announced that it had suspended Twitter’s operations in the country. The announcement came two days after the social media company removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, in which Buhari issued a thinly veiled threat against secessionist groups in the southeast “to treat them in the language they understand.”

Since announcing the ban, the government has issued directives to federal prosecutors to arrest anyone still using Twitter — and ordered Internet providers to block access to the platform. After some initial confusion as to whether Twitter remained accessible, it appears as of mid-June that most Nigerians can no longer access the platform.…  Seguir leyendo »

Outside the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Nigeria, where 279 students were abducted in February. Since December, more than 800 students have been kidnapped. Credit EPA via Shutterstock

On all sides, Nigeria is buffeted by crisis.

A series of mass abductions — most recently on May 30, when 136 schoolchildren were carried off by gunmen — have swept the country’s north-central and northwest regions: Since December, more than 800 students have been kidnapped. States in the southeast and southwest, meanwhile, have witnessed the rise of separatist militias, as conflicts between farmers and pastoralists have grown ever more deadly. And Boko Haram and its rival factions continue to terrorize the country’s northeast.

Each of these issues is longstanding, with roots going back years if not decades. But they have come together to create a gathering sense of crisis — for which President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in 2015 on the promise to restore the country’s security, has been roundly blamed.…  Seguir leyendo »

A group of schoolboys is escorted by Nigerian military and officials following their release after they were kidnapped, in Katsina, Nigeria, on Dec. 18. (Sunday Alamba/AP)

There has never been a more trying time to be Nigerian.

That sounds cliched, but there are simply no words to convey Nigerians’ horror at the endless cycle of national grief. Our country has so far been spared the worst of the covid-19 pandemic, but extremist violence, communal clashes and rising criminality are producing an epidemic of insecurity.

The latest alarming trend is a wave of mass kidnappings of students, endangering millions of children’s futures. At the end of May, dozens of kidnappers on motorcycles stormed a school in north-central Nigeria and whisked away 136 children aged 5 to 14 and three teachers, after killing one person.…  Seguir leyendo »