GZERO Media logo

Nigeria's election: mediocrity with a chance of mayhem

Nigeria's election: mediocrity with a chance of mayhem

Four years ago, Nigeria made history. The 2015 presidential election marked the first time that a Nigerian president lost an election, accepted defeat, and passed power to the opposition. Given that Nigeria is the most populous country and largest economy in Africa, that was good news for the entire region.


Well, tomorrow voters will return to the polls to decide whether to grant a second term to current President Muhammadu Buhari, or to demand he hand over power to his opponent, the business tycoon Atiku Abubakar. The choice is decidedly underwhelming.

Mr. Buhari's record over the past four years has been mixed. The oil-dependent economy is only barely emerging from a deep recession, and the unemployment rate has doubled to more than 23 percent since he took office. Some 84 percent of Nigerians think the government is corrupt. The security situation remains dicey: although Mr. Buhari had early success against the Islamic militants of Boko Haram, the group has been on a fresh tear lately. Meanwhile, violence between farming and herding communities – often with a Christian vs Muslim overlay – has surged in recent years.

What's more, persistent rumors about Buhari's poor health have reinforced the sense that the country is run by a leader without sufficient vision or energy. It's never good when your president has to deny publicly that he has died and been replaced with a body double or clone.

But the alternative to Mr. Buhari inspires little enthusiasm. Mr. Abubakar is a former customs boss who has built a vast corporate conglomerate and used his fortune to curry political support. He says he wants to use privatizations as a way to spark economic growth – a critical challenge given that roughly half of Nigeria's 190 million people live in extreme poverty – but critics worry that he just wants to enrich his cronies by handing them lucrative state assets.

The vote is expected to be very close. On balance, Mr. Buhari probably has an edge – he enjoys the natural advantages of being an incumbent, and there has been some turbulence within Mr. Abubakar's campaign and party machine down the homestretch. But this election is still very much up for grabs.

The wildcard scenario: Mr. Abubakar has warned that the military might interfere with voting to help Buhari win, and there are lingering concerns about the potential for vote rigging. If the election result is inconclusive, or at least close enough that one side refuses to accept defeat, there is some risk of violence.

The bottom line: Just four years after a peaceful and orderly transfer of power that was a model for the region, Nigeria is in a tough spot: a reasonably smooth election would grant power to one of two deeply uninspiring leaders, while a contested ballot could deal a deep blow to democracy in Africa's largest country.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

More Show less

"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

More Show less
The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal