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Nigeria: Midterm Results Disappoint

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jun 12, 2009 (090612)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Every Nigerian hopes Yar'Adua's administration will start delivering those political goods which every society is entitled to, and what Yar'Adua promised in his Inaugural Address. But the strength of the hope dwindles with each passing day. As Nigerians, we must raise our voices to demand for these goods, and pray for our leaders to appreciate that they are in office to solve societal problems - not just to make a few friends, relations and cronies better off." - Nasir El-Rufai

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains brief excerpts from the extensive background analysis by Nasir El-Rufai, "Umara Yar'Adua: Great Expectations, Disappointing Outcome," and a press release from Human Rights Watch calling for President Yar'Adua to act to improve Nigeria's human rights situation.

El-Rufai was a prominent member of the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, known as a "technocrat" and "reformer," serving in Obasanjo's second term as minister responsible for the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja). He was also active in planning the transition after the 2007 election, and is completing his master's in public administration at the Harvard Kennedy School. In addition to the brief sections excerpted here, El-Rufai's essay is of interest for the extensive details provided about the background of President Yar'Adua and an inside look at the political maneuvering connected with his election.

The full essay by El-Rufai is available on or A Human Rights Watch letter to President Yar'Adua and other background information are available at

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today ( focuses on the Niger Delta in particular, including the $15.5 million settlement in Wiwa v. Shell and the current military operations and civilian displacement.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Nigeria, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Umaru Yar`Adua: Great Expectation, Disappointing Outcome

Nasir El-Rufai

30 May 2009

1.The Challenge of Writing on Umaru Yar'Adua


And because Umaru Yar'Adua has been in office for so short a time, not much has been written about him. This essay will therefore be a summary of what the utterly free but unreliable Nigerian media and bloggers have published, tempered by my personal knowledge of Yar'Adua since I first met him in 1972, and what others that have grown up, lived and worked with him have related to me.


I will compare Yar' Adua's promises and commitments upon his swearing-in, with actual outcomes achieved. I will review his political, economic and foreign policy vision, policies and actions to establish how transformational he has been.

2. Nigeria in May 2007


Nigeria in May 2007 was in high spirits - we were about to successfully transfer power democratically from one elected government to another, handing over a sound economy that is almost debt-free with healthy reserves of over $45 billion. For the first time since Nigeria's first republic was terminated, there was a window of opportunity to break from the past. ...

For some of us in President Obasanjo's government, the elections were disappointing but the best candidate won. We have elected our first University graduate as President, a person we were convinced was a decent man, and raised the possibility that we will break the vicious cycle of bad leadership that has defined our nation. We were optimistic about the future.


It was a time of great relief for us too - we will soon be free to pursue our private lives. I was personally uneasy about the poor succession outcome, inadequate preparation of Umaru Yar'Adua for the office he was about to be sworn in, the flawed elections and the legitimacy burden arising therefrom, and the abysmally poor briefing of the incoming team of the opportunities and challenges before them.


11. The 2007 Presidential Elections, Transition and Handover

There were many concerns within Nigeria and abroad that the 2007 Elections may not hold. There were grounds for these concerns - Obasanjo had lost the trust of Nigerians after the inchoate attempt to amend the Constitution. The voters' register was still not ready and published 90 days to the Elections as required by law. Biometric voters' identification cards promised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had not been issued, and there were cases of massive disqualifications of candidates, replacement of candidates by parties and several lawsuits arising therefrom that the levels of uncertainty in January to March 2007 were quite high.

The Elections took place amidst poor preparation and horrendous logistic failures. All the politicians and political parties were determined to rig the results without regard to the will of the voters. As Minister of Abuja, I was determined that the elections in the Federal Capital Territory were free and fair. ... I was particularly harsh with the leadership of the ruling party which I was a member, as I knew they had the first-mover advantage in that area.

The FCT elections were violence-free and had very few reports of rigging. Nationwide, the elections were fraught with many documented irregularities. But most Nigerian citizens were generally relieved that the elections had actually taken place - warts and all, and that Obasanjo had not been given any excuse to declare any emergency to stay in power longer.


The transition is complete. Now we can all get on with our lives, assured that we have elected a good man, who will build on the foundations we laid under Obasanjo, correct any human errors and move Nigeria on the path of its manifest destiny. I was relieved.

How wrong we all turned out to be!

Part 3 - Umaru Yar'Adua as President

12. Optimism, Expectations, and Early Steps

The Inaugural Speech that President Umaru Yar'Adua gave was inspiring and raised the nation's hope and expectations. He admitted the flaws in the Elections that brought him to power and promised to set up a panel to study what happened so Nigerian can reform its electoral system. He promised a generational shift that will herald new governance from those born after Independence. ...

Yar'Adua undertook to rebuild infrastructure and human capital, accelerate economic reforms and address the Niger Delta issue. He pledged to create more jobs, lower interest rates, reduce inflation and maintain the stability of the exchange rate. He promised to make rail development a reality and achieve dramatic improvements in electricity supply. He said he was committed to being a 'servant-leaders' who will be a listener and a doer - who will tackle poverty and protect lives and property of all citizens. This speech will be the benchmark for evaluating Yar'Adua's performance in office now, and forever, and we will rely on it in this essay.


13. Promises vs. Accomplishments - Inaugural Speech v. Actual Deliverables

In what appears to be the most serious signal of retrogress, Yar'Adua's Attorney-General and Minister of Justice announced on August 6, 2007 that the ICPC and EFCC will now prosecute corruption and money laundering cases only with his express permission. The public reaction to this announcement was overwhelmingly against the administration. The next day, the administration backtracked and reversed itself. This became the beginning of a series of actions taken to weaken the war against corruption. A few months later, the BBC published a short story that described the state of the anti-corruption war, and things were to get much worse.


One of Yar'Adua's positive first steps was the inauguration on August 28, 2007 of the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) under the chairmanship of respected jurist and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed L. Uwais. At that and other occasions, Yar'Adua emphasized the need for financial autonomy for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), emphasized that only credible elections will guarantee peace, and promised that by December 2009, a reformed electoral system will be in place in the country. ...

The initial dawn of optimism waxed and intensified as it became clear that Yar'Adua was not only NOT Obasanjo's puppet, but intent on demystifying his predecessor's eight years in office. Within a year, this view and expectation had waned as it became clear that nothing was getting done. ...

It was in the reversal of the war against corruption that the Yar'Adua administration did the most damage to its credibility with Nigerians and the international community. The systematic destruction of the EFCC by the Yar'Adua administration began as soon as James Ibori - former governor of Delta State (and a recruiter, ally and financier of Yar'Adua), was charged for money laundering and corruption at the Federal High Court in December 2007. ... A quick succession of events led to the extra-legal removal, demotion, and dismissal of the EFCC's respected chairman - Nuhu Ribadu, and the deployment of all the investigating EFCC staff trained by the FBI and London Metropolitan Police. Two attempts were made on Ribadu's life and he is currently on exile as a visiting fellow at Oxford University, UK and Center for Global Development, USA. In a detailed interview with PBS, Ribadu recounted his experience, concluding that "when you fight corruption, it fights back".

Since the firing of Ribadu, all the case files on the so-called 31 corrupt governors have disappeared or declared non-existent by Farida Waziri, his successor at EFCC. ...Other well-known cases of corruption that the administration has blatantly refused to prosecute include bribery payments by Willbros - an oil services company, corruption involving Siemens - a German engineering company (in which senior PDP leaders collected $10 million in bribes) and the well-known Halliburton/KBR case in which $180 million were pocketed by various officials.

Yar'Adua's wife is widely believed to be engaged in influence-peddling and all manner of interventions in public procurement and executive appointments - something documented so clearly and accurately by Nigerian bloggers based mostly in the USA. ...

(Note - Perhaps the most influential and factual of all the bloggers is Omoyele Sowore of Saharareporters. A public administration graduate of Columbia University, he is based in New York and has been the scourge of both the Obasanjo and Yar'Adua administrations. See


14. Has Yar'Adua Delivered "Political Goods"?


As far as human security is concerned, it would appear that things have either remained the same at best or got a little worse. The Niger Delta issue has not been addressed. Attacks on pipelines and flow stations persist, and kidnappings have increased exponentially. The much-vaunted "Niger Delta Summit" is yet to take place. An important report produced by a technical committee set up by the Yar'Adua administration is yet to be approved for implementation since submission in November 2008. The quality of the Nigeria Police remains poor but a committee on Police Reform submitted a report which is expected to be implemented with financial contributions between the states and the Federal Government.

... Rule of law is one thing President Yar'Adua would like to be remembered for. How he will be remembered is of course too early to tell. There is a lot of sloganeering about rule of law, but with Andoakaa, Okiro and Waziri as the public faces of this, the Nigerian media and civil society are rightly skeptical. ...

The third political good is free and open participation in the political process - do Nigerians have political rights? Some rights certainly do exist, but one can say, not enough. Votes matter little in elections in many parts of Nigeria in 2007 and now. ...


Investments in human capital - education, health and social services, and in physical infrastructure are necessary for a productive populace and connection of markets for goods and services. The administration has done little to add to the inherited levels of the supply of these goods. In Nigeria today, electricity generation has fallen from 3,200MW in May 2007 to less than 1,000MW and all inherited power investments put on hold while being endlessly investigated and falsehood propagated to discredit badly-needed investment decisions. The railway investments have been suspended too, but the privately-owned telecoms sector continues to boom - over 50 million Nigerian now carry cell-phones.


Legitimacy: Yar'Adua came into the presidency through an election which observers within and outside Nigeria have condemned as the worst in our history. For nearly one-and-half years, his presidency was threatened by what the Election Tribunal will decide. These legitimacy challenges which were not helped by 4-3 split decision of the Nigerian Supreme Court on the presidential election. Yar'Adua enjoyed a wave of initial popularity that would have overcome this challenge, but he lost that within months due to some of his own ill-advised appointments, decisions and inactions. Though he is not personally ostentatious, the association with corrupt governors and dodgy businessmen, the elaborate weddings of his two daughters and the many stories of his wife have put question marks on his true levels of modesty, honesty and integrity.

16. Conclusions and Way Forward

As I write this essay, President Umaru Yar'Adua's associates have started his campaign for a second term in office. That he is still 'planning' the first term and there are concerns about his health have not discouraged the campaigners. As is usual with Yar'Adua, he will publicly decry their activities, but privately get his inner circle to encourage and fund the protagonists!

Every Nigerian hopes Yar'Adua's administration will start delivering those political goods which every society is entitled to, and what Yar'Adua promised in his Inaugural Address. But the strength of the hope dwindles with each passing day. As Nigerians, we must raise our voices to demand for these goods, and pray for our leaders to appreciate that they are in office to solve societal problems - not just to make a few friends, relations and cronies better off.

In my considered view, three issues cry for attention in Nigeria, and which if addressed will enable the country resolve its numerous challenges in the long run - electoral reform to make votes count, investments in physical and human infrstructure, and security and improved governance of the states in the Niger Delta. ...

Nigeria: Abusers Reign at Midterm

Ten Steps for Yar'Adua to Improve Human Rights Record

June 7, 2009

Human Rights Watch

(Dakar) - President Umaru Yar'Adua of Nigeria, halfway through his presidential mandate, has undermined the country's foremost anti-corruption body, done little to rein in an abusive police force, and failed to address the root causes of the escalating crisis in the Niger Delta, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Yar'Adua that there have been serious setbacks during the first two years in addressing Nigeria's chronic human rights problems and endemic corruption.

Human Rights Watch's letter includes proposals for concrete steps to address the country's pressing human rights concerns. It describes endemic government corruption and mismanagement, which rob ordinary Nigerians of their basic right to health and education; ongoing state-sponsored violence by the security forces, including extrajudicial killings and torture; the civilian fallout of clashes between the military and armed militants in the Niger Delta; and outbreaks of sectarian violence, which over the past two years have claimed hundreds of lives.

"President Yar'Adua has had two years to show that he meant business when he promised to strengthen the rule of law," said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "But instead, it is business as usual. The people responsible for the wholesale pillage of Nigeria's oil wealth and for arming Niger Delta militants have been left untouched, and the victims of police violence have seen no justice."

Human Rights Watch acknowledged tentative steps the Yar'Adua administration has taken to address Nigeria's human rights concerns, but noted that these efforts have so far amounted to little more than policy statements and a series of new committees, panels, and ministries that have had little, if any, positive impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians. Yar'Adua and his administration have failed to address the root causes of Nigeria's human rights problems or change the atmosphere that allows abuses to persist.

Human Rights Watch proposed a 10-point human rights agenda. The recommendations include: passing a proposed Freedom of Information Bill; improving oversight of state and local government expenditures; holding accountable government officials responsible for embezzling public funds or instigating political violence; passing legislation barring discrimination against "non-indigenes"; investigating and prosecuting members of the security forces implicated in extrajudicial killings, torture, or other serious human rights violations; dismissing the chair of the electoral commission; and appointing an inspector general of police committed to ending police abuses.

Yar'Adua pledged in his inaugural speech to pursue an impartial, "zero-tolerance" policy toward corrupt officials, but instead he has fired the dynamic chief of the anti-corruption commission and has not held accountable key ruling party politicians who have been credibly implicated in the massive looting of the state treasury. The National Assembly, controlled by the ruling party, has not passed the Freedom of Information Bill, which would empower Nigeria's citizens by giving them access to government financial records.

Two years after the violent and deeply flawed 2007 elections that brought Yar'Adua to power, elections are still determined by fraud and violence rather than the will of the people. The April 2009 gubernatorial election re-run in Ekiti State was marred, as Yar'Adua described it, by reports of "violence, intimidation of voters, bribery of electoral officials, and other breaches of the law."

Despite this acknowledgment, Yar'Adua has refused to remove the widely discredited chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Maurice Iwu, who presided over and legitimized the results of the Ekiti as well as the 2007 elections. In addition, the Yar'Adua administration has yet to investigate properly, much less hold to account, those who sponsored or carried out the 2007 election violence that left at least 300 dead.

The administration's strategy for the worsening crisis in the Niger Delta - an offer of amnesty to militants, military offensives, and the creation of a Niger Delta ministry - has failed to address the root causes of the worsening crisis there, Human Rights Watch said. The government officials who have sponsored violence for political gain in the region and the corrupt ruling party politicians who have squandered and embezzled its vast oil wealth remain free of scrutiny, inquiry, and prosecution.

Inter-communal violence, which has claimed 12,000 lives in Nigeria over the past decade, broke out again in November 2008 in Jos, Plateau state, leaving hundreds dead and thousands displaced. Yar'Adua has yet to end the impunity that perpetuates this violence or to address its root causes, most notably the discriminatory policies against "non-indigenes" - those who cannot trace their ancestry to the original inhabitants of the area where they live.

Human Rights Watch noted that the police force is in dire need of a new inspector general of police committed to reforming this notoriously corrupt institution.

The police force under the current inspector general, Mike Okiro, remains deeply mired in endemic corruption and widespread abuses. The Yar'Adua administration has made little effort to investigate and prosecute police officials responsible for scores of extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects as well as ordinary citizens, and for routine torture of criminal suspects during interrogation.

"President Yar'Adua should take immediate steps to address Nigeria's dismal human rights record," said Dufka. "If he wishes to build his legacy on the rule of law, he needs to exercise bold and courageous leadership to tackle the impunity that fuels abuses and address their root causes. The lives of ordinary Nigerians are in the balance."

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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