Thursday, April 26, 2007
My hands-down favorite post-election roundup has to be the article written yesterday by Global Voices Online regional editor for sub-Saharan Africa Ndesanjo Macha, “Blogs and the Nigerian elections”. Ndesanjo, who hails from Tanzania and lives and works in Massachusetts U.S.A., has covered the blogger buzz on the Nigerian elections so well that you really don’t need to search any further for news.
Sokari Ekine of the Black Looks blog pointed out in her comment here a few days ago that we should not forget to follow the editorials and articles about Nigeria published at the award-winning Pambazuka News website, where Sokari serves as the online news editor and as a regular columnist.
I would also like to remind my readers to follow the writing by professional and citizen journalists at the Nigeria Election Hotline, a free speech and online news project sponsored by the Open Society Institute and managed by veteran Africa journalists and media professionals such as Akwe Amosu, a former executive manager at allAfrica.com. For those readers who are not familiar with the pioneering online news website allAfrica.com, read this article about allAfrica.com’s founders and staff receiving the prestigious Africa-America Institute Media Award in Novermber 2001.
Melissa at Africa Media, a blog that focuses on how the traditional media and online journalists and bloggers cover news and feature stories from Africa, has published a new article titled Nigerian Elections: How come when Africans creatively use technology it isn’t news? Well Melissa, the German news magazine Der Spiegel did cover that angle of the Nigerian elections in their article titled “Nigeria: Wahlbeobachten per SMS”.
The NDI (National Democratic Institute for International Affairs), a Washington D.C. based non-profit organization that works together with civic and political leaders to advance democratic values and institutions worldwide, has published a preliminary report from the NDI international election observer delegation for Nigeria. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright headed the NDI delegation and was joined by some of the world’s most notable political figures:
“The delegation to the April 21 presidential and national assembly elections was led by: Madeleine Albright, Chairman of the NDI Board of Directors and former U.S. Secretary of State; Mahamane Ousmane, Speaker of the ECOWAS parliament and former President of Niger; Amos Sawyer, former President of Liberia; Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada; Jeanne Shaheen, Director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University and former Governor of New Hampshire; Justice Yvonne Mokgoro of the Constitutional Court of South Africa; and Kenneth Wollack, president of NDI. The delegation visited Nigeria from April 16 to 23 to assess preparations for, and observe, the 2007 general elections. The delegation included political and civic leaders, election experts and regional specialists from 16 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, as well as a team of long-term observers who, since March 15, have visited all six of the country's geo-political zones to observe the campaign period and the April 14 state elections.”
Comment from BRE: “Wow! That’s quite a lineup of respected world figures.”
The National Democratic Institute report opens with the following statements:
I. SUMMARY OF OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In many places, and in a number of ways, the electoral process failed the Nigerian people. The cumulative effect of the serious problems the delegation witnessed substantially compromised the integrity of the electoral process. As a result, at this stage, it is unclear whether the April 21 elections reflect the will of the Nigerian people.
A major problem that marred this stage of the electoral process was that polling stations in many states opened hours late, closed early or failed to open at all. This represented a fundamental barrier to popular political participation and most likely disenfranchised many prospective voters. In all of the elections that NDI has observed in every region of the world, such a delay in the delivery of essential electoral material and in the opening of polling sites is unprecedented. The delegation also observed the additional electoral malpractices listed below. Similar electoral violations were cited by NDI's observer delegation to the 2003 national elections. Moreover, the pre-election period was characterized by the inability or refusal of the election authorities to release basic information about the electoral process to the contestants and the electorate.
You can read the full NDI report on the Nigerian elections at allAfrica.com or you can download a PDF file version at the NDI website. Don’t miss the NDI Nigeria Election Watch reports archive and be sure to visit the NDI iKnow Politics portal, an online international knowledge network to help women become more active and effective in politics and elections. Also please read this article about Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf addressing the opening of the African Democracy Forum in Monrovia.
BBC News online has been doing a very good job in keeping up with news about the elections and the post-election fallout. BBC News Have Your Say program has loads of comments from Nigerian citizens, ex-pats, and from readers worldwide.
CNN… where’s Jeff? Where the heck are Jeff Koinange’s Nigerian election reports? Well, I need to lighten’ up on Jeff because he is a good senior TV news correspondent and he has been “on the job” in Africa over the past few weeks. Where is he you ask? Jeff is down in South Africa dogging Zimbabwean despot Robert Mugabe. CNN has been “out of the running” on the Nigerian 2007 elections for some strange reason, but the new CNNI correspondent Isha Sesay has been doing her best to keep us in the know from inside Nigeria. CNNI fans and viewers will just have to wait for the next Inside Africa program this weekend to see any comprehensive reporting on Nigeria.
Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times has published a post-election report titled Nigeria Opposition Rejects Election Results and a related news analysis article titled Africa’s Crisis of Democracy. I advised readers in an earlier post that Lydia is an up-and-coming journalist to watch and she is all over the continent of Africa often reporting from places where the Boyz fear to tread.
Germany’s newspaper Die Zeit online has a very good article about the elections titled Das Egal der Wahl (translation - The Irrelevance of the Vote). Die Zeit online also has an editors' blog (Kosmoblog) with a mixture of English and German news articles and posts that you may find interesting.
The German language version of Der Spiegel magazine has run a series of articles about the Nigerian elections, a few of which I have listed below:
Mindestens 200 Tote bei Nigeria-Wahl, 23.04.07
Nigeria: Wahlen im Chaosland, 21.04.07
Nigeria: Wahlbeobachten per SMS, 20.04.07
Energienotstand in Nigeria: Öldorado geht der Strom aus, 27.03.07
Der Spiegel magazine’s international edition (English) on the other hand has practically ZERO coverage about these important elections and instead is focusing on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s renewed efforts to push the G8 to live up to its Africa aid pledges made back at the G8 Summit of 2005 in Gleneagles, Scotland. The international edition of Der Spiegel online uses American and British staff members to translate and edit articles from the magazine’s German-speaking writers and editors.
Note: A good watchdog blog that tracks German media coverage of U.S. and international affairs is David’s Medienkritik, authored by David Kaspar and Ray D. See their blogroll for Germany and Europa-based blog authors writing in both German and English.
My colleague Jörg Wolf of the Atlantic Review blog also has a good blogroll listing German and European blogs that may be covering these elections. I invite our German-speaking readers and fellow blog authors in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland to help us out a bit by pointing to comprehensive and interesting coverage of the Nigerian 2007 elections in your national press, broadcast news media, and in the blogosphere.
Related news and reports about the elections:
Nigerian and African daily newspapers online
Vanguard, This Day, allAfrica.com - Nigeria
SABC News (South Africa Broadcasting Corporation)
Nigeria’s Yar’Adua gets SA backing, defends poll win
NPR – National Public Radio (U.S.A.)
Nigerian vote beset by chaos, tension (audio)
VOA News (Voice of America, U.S. Department of State)
NDI election monitors issue initial findings on Nigeria presidential vote (audio)
The Huffington Post – the Blog
The Nigerian elections and the U.S.: the High Price of April Fools
The Daily Kos (home of the Kossacks!)
Black Kos week in Review – April 13, 2007 (see The Battle for Nigeria)
Aljazeera (international edition) coverage of the Nigerian elections 2007
Topix.net – World News – Nigerian elections
France 24 - Africa – Nigeria – Discontent over “flawed” election
Technorati tags: Africa Nigeria elections democracy politics corruption media journalism blogging Global Voices
Friday, April 20, 2007
In his recently published 56-page report Nigeria: Elections and Continuing Challenges Robert I. Rotberg writes the following (pgs. 3-6):
Nigeria’s vital importance for Africa’s political development, for U.S. and European interests, and for world order cannot be exaggerated. Nigeria’s sheer aggregate numbers—possibly as many as 150 million of the full continent’s 800 million—and its proportionate weight in sub-Saharan Africa’s troubled affairs, make the country’s continuing evolution from military dictatorship to stable, sustained democracy critical.
Moreover, four factors are salient. First, Nigeria’s sizable production of petroleum, 3.22 percent of world output and 8.5 percent of all U.S. imports, emphasizes Washington’s deep interest in sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous country. Second, that Nigeria is a committed Muslim land as well as a fervently Christian polity raises questions about Islamism and potential sanctuaries for global terrorists. So far, however, even if northern Nigerians have expressed views favorable to Islam in public opinion surveys, there has been no known embrace of Islamist terror. Indeed, if encouraged and well led, Nigeria could become an effective example of Muslim-Christian cooperation within a plural nation. Third, from a health security vantage point, HIV/AIDS is ravaging Nigeria, as are malaria and tuberculosis. Avian influenza’s reservoirs exist significantly in Nigeria and threaten other countries. Likewise, just as Nigeria’s role in exporting polio and measles after failed inoculation campaigns demonstrated, borders no longer bar contagion. What infects Nigerians potentially endangers all of Africa and the world. Fourth, Nigeria has abundant economic potential beyond oil. It is the fastest-growing telecoms market in the world. Its stock market is thriving. Nigerians do not lack for entrepreneurial talent.
But despite oil wealth, despite its vast human capacity, despite its demonstrated heft in the African Union and its significant role in reversing coups in West Africa and helping to broker the Darfurian and other peace initiatives, Nigeria is still a poor, struggling country, even by the standards of its continent. In 2006, Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was $800. That modest figure, less than Mauritania, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal, but more than Benin and Ghana, camouflages vast disparities of wealth—Nigeria’s Gini coefficient was 0.44 in 2003, among the least equal income spreads in Africa. The Economist Intelligence Unit reports that 70 percent of Nigerians live on less than $1 per day. Nor are Nigeria’s social attainments commensurate with its oil and gas wealth. Although $500 billion of oil has been extracted since 1970, life expectancy at birth was only forty-three in 2006, a poor number even within Africa.
These numbers, and Nigeria’s reputation as one of the world’s most corrupt places, mask the reality that Nigeria, together with South Africa, remains the pivot of Africa. If Nigeria can harness its oil wealth for the good of all of its people, if it can banish (or at least reduce) poverty and squalor, if it can diminish the palpable sense that an overlord class is stripping the people of their rightful shares of prosperity, and if these changes can be funneled into a sustainable effort, then Nigeria can probably become more secure and a strong leader for good in tomorrow’s Africa.
Nigerians want that result. So does the rest of Africa and the international community. But there are severe hurdles to overcome before Nigeria can begin to achieve its national potential—namely, holding free, fair, and credible (incident-free would be too much to hope for) national elections this April, institutionalizing the fledgling steps toward improved governance and transparency begun in the past eight years, and delivering a modicum of political goods to its citizens in all parts of the country. Good governance is just that: the provision of adequate qualities and quantities of the prime political goods of security, rule of law, political freedom, economic opportunity, and access to infrastructure, education, health, and an empowered civil society.
As Nigeria approaches these crucial elections and a series of decisions that may well alter the trajectory of democracy there and throughout Africa, it draws on a strong well of recent national political accomplishment. The woes of Nigerians may be many, but so are its achievements as a reconstructed nation-state since 1999, when President Olusegun Obasanjo led the nation back to democracy after decades of excessively corrupt military tyranny. Nigeria and Nigerians have been resilient. There is a large, expanding middle class that cherishes and demands more, rather than less, stability. The ranks of the hegemonic bourgeoisie are expanding; entrepreneurs less and less depend on the largesse of the state. The government’s dominance of the economy is shrinking, giving space for Nigeria’s numerous, skillful entrepreneurs to take the initiative within an increasingly participatory framework.
Most of all, Nigeria has demonstrated since 1999 that it can survive the kinds of major crises that would have derailed less secure, less mature polities. As a “secular” state, Nigeria has managed without too much dissonance to endure and embrace the introduction of sharia law into its north. Contentious as was that insertion of religious law, the nation itself never crumbled. The nation also survived another census, historically a source of competition and conflict. Last year’s exercise was received with a little less opprobrium than its predecessors in 1962–63, 1973, and 1991, and was endorsed by the Council of State. It was, comparatively, a successful milestone despite ample cries of disdain in the press and from Lagos.
Similarly, Obasanjo’s quest for a third presidential term, breaching constitutional provisions, could have rent the national fabric. Instead, the legislative branch of government diffused hostility and anger, denying Obasanjo what he wanted but without pushing the nation into violence. Shifts in political power from north to south and now, potentially, back again, seem to be accepted as normal—a potential affirmation of Nigeria’s growing political maturity. Power sharing, in other words, has become a recognized norm.
The professionalism of the higher judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, has by and large been a force for good, and for moderation, at the national level. Important constitutional challenges have been debated and judged there rather than settled in the streets or by coups. Obasanjo’s administration has managed to institute improved budgeting practices, begin reforming the banking system, and massively reduce Nigeria’s foreign debt. Furthermore, probity in the petroleum sector has been enhanced thanks to the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). Outside of the government, Nigeria has a thriving civil society. Active nongovernmental organizations, and especially a vibrant media, mean that public accountability mechanisms function.
For policymakers everywhere, Nigeria should be the central African question. No country’s fate is so decisive for the continent. No other country across a range of issues has the power so thoroughly to shape outcomes elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. If Nigeria works well, so might Africa. If the democratic experiment in Nigeria stalls, and development and governance stagnate, the rest of Africa suffers and loses hope. This report carefully examines Nigeria’s abundant advances since 1999, discusses some of the constraints on further progress, and recommends a range of policy priorities for Abuja, Washington, Brussels, and London in 2007 and thereafter.
In urgent particular, this report argues that Washington should immediately turn policy eyes to Nigerian questions now, in time to help Nigerians to hold democratically confirming elections in April. A presidential-appointed mission or task force is required, together with high-level attention to many of the near-term and medium-term questions set out in this report and in the appended recommendations. A rapid injection of democracy and governance funding is indicated to assist the Nigerian government in strengthening civil society and accountability before, during, and after the election season. Longer term, the United States and other donors should find the means to offer enduring assistance to Nigeria across the range of governance problems specified throughout this report. A high-level forum—a U.S.-Nigeria commission modeled on the U.S.-China, U.S.-India, and U.S.-Brazil commission models—should be established by Congress to encourage regular dialogue between senior American and Nigerian officials and businesspeople.
[End of excerpt from CFR report]
Visit the Council on Foreign Relations website to read more about this report and regularly updated articles about Nigeria written by members of its distinguished staff and board. Also checkout the additional resources I have listed below for more information about the 2007 elections in Nigeria and the ongoing struggle for democracy and good governance in Africa.
Related articles and reports
Council on Foreign Relations – Nigeria reports and articles
Nigeria: Elections and Continuing Challenges by Robert I. Rotberg
Nigeria’s ‘Godfather Syndrome’ by Stephanie Hanson
Nigeria’s Creaky Political System by Stephanie Hanson
Nigeria’s Election Tumult by Stephanie Hanson
Profile of Robert I. Rotberg
United States Institute of Peace
Nigeria’s 2007 Elections: The Fitful Path to Democratic Citizenship by Jibrin Ibrahim
(Hat Tip to the Nigerian Village Square post and summary)
Nigeria’s 2007 Elections: The Fitful Path to Democratic Citizenship – 02/02/07
INEC – Nigerian Independent Electoral Commission
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Democracy Inaction by Josh Kurlantzick – The New Republic 03/21/07
IFES – International democracy assistance organization
Nigerian elections 2007 project, news, and reports
allAfrica.com – top Africa news site and press aggregator
Nigerian 2007 election news and editorials from Africa’s leading newspapers
Nigeria Frets Over How to Give Voters a Real Say by Lydia Polgreen – 04/19/07
(Tip for my readers: Lydia Polgreen is one of the best young foreign correspondents covering Africa for the NY Times in a generation. Read everything she writes and watch her video reports from the continent too.)
Voting in Nigeria Marked by Tumult – 04/15/07
The Battle for Nigeria by June Thomas – 04/11/07
PINR (Power and Interest News Report)
Nigeria avoids a governance crisis – 06/21/06
Foreign Policy magazine and FP Passport blog
And now for some good news from Africa – 05/17/06
Thursday, April 19, 2007
This will be a big weekend for national elections in both Europe and Africa as the voters of France and Nigeria go to the polls to elect their next president. Two elections couldn’t be more different in terms of fairness and transparency and public order in carrying out the most important right of citizens living in a democratic country, the right to choose one’s political leaders.
The international media networks have been focusing a great deal on both elections. CNN International is rolling out massive coverage of the French elections with reporting by its top foreign correspondents and anchors and including coverage by some high-profile French blog authors. Whereas the CNN coverage of the Nigerian elections on their website and on-the-air shows clearly where the CNN network executives have placed their news reporting priorities this month (Hint: it ain’t in Nigeria, that’s for sure).
I’m surprised that CNNI’s Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange and Inside Africa program host Femi Oke have not been reporting daily from Nigeria about the elections since the hotly debated coverage of the Niger Delta militia story last February and I am surprised that CNN has chosen not to devote more resources and reporters to cover these critical elections in Africa’s most populous and arguably most important nation. One out of every five Africans hails from Nigeria and what happens there is important. Inside Africa is sure to cover the Nigerian elections this weekend as the program’s host Femi Oke is a British born-and-bred Nigerian-European.
BBC Online has been publishing a series of in-depth articles on the Nigerian elections including the debacle last Saturday following the state parliamentary/gubernatorial polls and the growing anxiety and tension over this Saturday’s presidential polls. The comparison of coverage from the BBC vs. that of CNN on the Nigerian 2007 elections is rather stark___ and for many CNNI viewers it should also be very embarrassing.
The new Reuters Africa news service which integrates blog feeds from Global Voices Online’s network of worldwide citizen journalists probably has the most extensive coverage of the Nigerian 2007 elections available anywhere, online or offline. You can read more about the Reuters/Global Voices professional and citizen journalist hookup for Africa at the following great blogs:
Africa Media – Africa: Giving Reuters the Business
Global Voices – World meet Africa! A new way of reporting the continent
My Heart’s in Accra – Reuters and Global Voices new Africa coverage
Rebecca’s Rconversation – Reuters Africa: breaking new ground
Media Shift – Reuters Looks to Africa and a Decentralized Future for Media
OpenDemocracy – Reporting Africa blog by blog
I cannot think of any one group of people from an African nation that have been more influential and active in the growth of the blogosphere over the past 3-4 years than the Nigerian blog authors and their readers worldwide. When I want to learn the latest news about what’s happening down in Nigeria I automatically check with high-profile bloggers Imnakoya of Grandiose Parlor, Chippla Vandu of Chippla’s Blog, and Sokari Erkine of Black Looks. There are many, many more good online authors who hail from Nigeria and/or write extensively about Nigeria but these three people are my first GoTo bloggers for information about the country. Tobias Eigen of Saidia.org wrote about Nigerian blog authors covering the elections in his Blueprint for a Nigerian Civil Society Election Blog post and one should not miss Nigerianbloggers.com and the The Nigerian Village Square for the latest news and opinions.
What may not be so well known to authors and readers throughout the blogosphere is the Nigerian Election Hotline initiative started by Akwe Amosu of the Open Society Institute in Washington, D.C. to cover the ongoing elections and post-election news in Nigeria. Akwe Amosu (bio) is a Senior Policy Analyst on Africa at the Open Society Institute (see *1) and has over 20 years experience in journalism, broadcasting and publishing of Africa news and affairs. Akwe joined allAfrica.com. a leading online news and news aggregator network, as its founding executive editor in 2000 and has many more outstanding accomplishments in her professional career.
Akwe wrote in an email distributed to select Africa/African blog authors on April 17th:
Please check out Nigeria Election Hotline's stories and link to them if/when you feel so moved... we put this project together to help ensure a platform for stories that might not otherwise make it into the mainstream. The content on NEH is also published by allAfrica.com. There is an RSS link to make access easy.
The Nigerian Election Hotline news website mission statement reads as follows:
Nigeria Election Hotline is a news website that aims to publish stories on the 2007 vote that might not otherwise reach the reading public. Despite a vibrant tradition of independent journalism, many Nigerian journalists are concerned at the level of interference in the media by political interests who are seeking to control the flow of information in the press. Nigeria Election Hotline is an effort to make sure that Nigerian voters have access to the information they need to make an informed choice at the polls. Nigeria Election Hotline is moderated by the newsletter Africa Confidential and funded by the Open Society Institute. It is written by a team of correspondents from throughout the Federation. Contributions are welcomed. [End]
So my tip to Africa’s and the rest of the world’s best citizen journalists, blog authors, aspiring online journalists and media producers is, “Don’t be stupid, help these people out and quick. How often do we get a chance at this level of exposure and support to speak our minds? Zak-zak!”
Do visit the OSI Washington D.C. website to learn more about the organization and to read Akwe’s very impressive bio as well, and don’t forget to stop by the brand new Nigerian Election Hotline blog at Blogspot.com
*1- The Open Society Institute (OSI) is a private operating and grant-making foundation setup to “to shape public policy to promote democratic governance, human rights, and economic, legal, and social reform. On a local level, OSI implements a range of initiatives to support the rule of law, education, public health, and independent media. At the same time, OSI works to build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as combating corruption and rights abuses.” OSI is a member of the Soros Foundation network created by the famous entrepreneur, political activist and social philanthropist George Soros. You can read more at the website http://www.soros.org/.
Part 2 coming very soon:
The Battle for Nigeria – views from America’s news media gatekeepers
Related articles and posts:
Jewels in the Jungle
Africa Open for Business: Nation-branding in sub-Saharan Africa. Perception vs. Reality
CNN International Correspondents feature Nigerian author and columnist Uche Nowrah
CNN on the Niger Delta: Not much to report
CNN – Behind the Scenes
Koinange: Big guns, big oil collide in Nigeria – 02/10/07
CNN denies Nigerian allegations of staging report – 02/13/07
Africa Nigeria elections democracy politics corruption media journalism blogging Global Voices Reuters BBC CNN