Nigerian Election

The Aftermath of the Nigerian Presidential Election

And Now the Hard Part

Most Nigerians are euphoric over the results of the presidential election that took place on Saturday, March 28, 2015.  The election was conducted honestly.  The state-by-state count was free and fair.  And most surprising of all, the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan, conceded defeat even before the final count was completed.  In a country where every election since 1999 was rigged, the May 28 event constituted nothing short of a revolution.

Civilian rule returned in 1999 after two decades of military dictatorship. It is impossible to say that the return of civilian rule, within democratic institutions, resulted in good governance.  On the contrary, Nigerian politicians in power reached new heights of corruption and dysfunctional government between 1999 and 2015.  The new President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, is facing an overwhelming challenge to clean things up and reform the entire governmental and military management system.

Here are the priorities:

1.  Make the oil accounts transparent:  Right now, Nigeria’s share of the daily production of about 2.5 million barrels of crude oil goes to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC). Only part of the revenue passes through the NNPC into the Central Bank.  The rest goes to the presidency for distribution to political supporters.  Buhari should abolish the NNPC and have all oil sales done by an independent authority that would be working for the Central Bank. All transactions, of course, have to be made available to the press on a daily basis.

2.  Institute an auditing system for payments to the 36 states: Right now, the 36 states are entitled to 52% of the oil revenue, with distribution based on population.  When the revenue reaches the states, the governors have complete control.  In many states, the revenue does not get into the state budget.  An auditing system controlled by the Central Bank should be instituted to require full transparency in the use of the revenue by each of the 36 states.

3.  Institute a plan to expand electricity production, transmission and distribution to reach 20,000 megawatts within four years.  Polls indicate that the need to be connected to mainline electricity is the highest priority for the majority of Nigerians.  Right now, this country of over 150 million people is generating only 5,000 megawatts.  This is a national scandal for such a wealthy country. The new President needs to bring in power managers who can develop a plan and implement it.

4.  Reform the military and police services:  Civilian rule has caused the morale and efficiency of the military and police services to deteriorate to low levels. The Nigerian army was unable to cope with the “Boko Haram” Islamist insurgency in the northeast that has killed over 10,000 innocent civilians.  The armies of Niger, Cameroon and Chad were required to come in and start the defeat of Boko Haram.  As a former military officer himself, Buhari should know what to do.

5.  Rebuild the Civil Service:  Under military rule, the once excellent Nigerian civil service has virtually been destroyed. There has to be a new salary structure and a system installed that will guarantee reliable payments to both active civil service and retirees.

Many of the special interests will fight back against reform efforts.  These are the highly placed people who steal large amounts of crude oil from pipelines in the middle of the night; the smugglers of refined oil products who receive unjustified government subsidies for imported products that are then exported to neighboring countries at higher prices; the police and army that stop people in cars at roadblocks and demand bribes; and the phantom payrolls in the civil service and security forces.

Nigeria has many highly qualified university graduates with high skills who need to be empowered to make Nigeria right again, and open the doors to prosperity for the Nigerian people who have waited too long. In addition to a monstrous power deficit, Nigeria is suffering from a monstrous management deficit. These two deficits constitute President-elect’s greatest challenge.  He deserves international support.




Normalization with Eritrea has become more important than ever before.  US national security interests in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula are at stake.

Back in December 2013, I wrote an article for “African Arguments” that called for the international community to “bring the State of Eritrea in from the cold.”  I argued that UN sanctions should be lifted, and that Eritrea and Ethiopia need to be reconciled for the economic benefit of both nations.

In view of current events in Yemen, my recommendation has become increasingly relevant and urgent.  United States Special Forces have been evacuated from Yemen.  They were there to support the legitimate government in Yemen that was facing a major threat from al-Qaeda insurgents operating in the eastern part of the country.

Since October 2014, Yemeni Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, have gained the upper hand in their fight against the government. These rebels are supported by Iran.  Their victories in the capital Sanaa forced the US to evacuate their troops who were there as advisers. At the same time, the American Embassy in Yemen has closed because the American personnel could no longer be protected.

So, how are we to observe what is going on in Yemen? In addition, how are we to take action in Yemen, if necessary? Certainly, about 2,000 US military personnel in the Republic of Djibouti across the narrow Bab-el-Mandeb strait opposite southwest Yemen are performing important intelligence functions, as well as occasional anti-terrorist functions.  But even in Djibouti, there is a terrorist threat that forced the temporary closing of the American Embassy in that country.

Eritrea, on the other hand, has a long coastline across the Red Sea from Yemen.  Eritrea’s internal security is total. It is a country with a population that is 50 percent Christian and 50% Moslem. But there is no internal terrorist threat.  Eritrea would serve as an ideal platform for US intelligence and other operations in Yemen. We have had military facilities in Eritrea before 1973.

The first step in normalizing relations with Eritrea would be to lift UN sanctions that were imposed in 2011 because Eritrea was allegedly assisting the al-Shebab Islamist insurgency in Somalia. These allegations have never been substantiated.  As of today, in 2015, there is total agreement that Eritrea has no involvement in Somalia.  Twelve out of thirteen Security Council members are ready to vote to lift sanctions against Eritrea. Only the United States is preventing the lifting of sanctions by threatening to veto any resolution to do so.  This US policy makes absolutely no sense. The US military would like very much to take advantage of Eritrea’s geographic situation opposite Yemen.  We cannot move on this issue because of  a high level policy blockage in the White House that is adamant that Eritrea will remain a pariah.