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Research Report

Nigeria:: Is the end of Mafia politics in sight?

Jérome Spinoza
Olivier Vallée
Copyright Date: Mar. 1, 2008
Published by: Egmont Institute
Pages: 28
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-4)
    Jérome Spinoza and Olivier Vallée

    In spite of improvements to the electoral law, the last general elections in Nigeria, Africa’s demographic giant, turned out to be a masquerade even worse than those of 2003. They allowed Olegusun Obasanjo, unable himself to seek a third mandate, to retain his grip on the client-based state system indirectly, thanks to the victory of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, a regional political leader close to the northern military aristocracy in the Presidential election, and that of the People’s Democratic Party in most of the State elections;

    Confronted by the duplicity of a political class wedded to the preservation of its rents,...

  2. (pp. 5-12)

    Outside observers saw the 2007 elections as a test of how far democracy in Nigeria has come since the end of the military regime eight years ago. In practice, the vote simply highlighted the persistence of a political system which brings together, in a vicious circle, the inherent weakness of the state and the distribution of the oil receipts, fallen as though from heaven. Whatever regimes may succeed the current one, the Nigerian elites are members of client networks, and the economy remains largely dependent on the oil industry.

    Obasanjo was elected President in 1999, after the end of the...

  3. (pp. 13-18)

    In spite of years of quasi-democracy under civilian or military tutelage, Nigerian society still displays a political consciousness asking for better governance and is critical of the excessive roles of community and client based systems in the country, even if, of necessity, they themselves have to participate in them. The powerful Nigerian media, with its politically liberal British influences, illustrates, by the freedom with which they comment, that civil society does have a capacity for critical thought, as well as as aspirations towards a fairer and more effective democratic system. Similarly, the massive level of abstentions in the Presidential elections...

  4. (pp. 19-22)

    Thus, western expectations, a mixture of prudence and national interests, continue to give Nigeria room for manoeuvre. Caution on the part of outside powers is traded against hope for stability in the country itself. Seen from Abuja, this situation encourages the oligarchy to work together, in spite of their internal rivalries. As in the days of Obasanjo, the oligarchy will undertake a number of quasi-reforms intended to satisfy the emerging middle classes and calming the suspicions of the international community, even whilst ensuring that there is no question of losing control over the oil revenues. In fact, the lack of...

  5. (pp. 23-24)
    Robert Rotberg

    Although the fear of Nigerian hegemony in Africa is often mentioned, this seems hardly realistic. Rather, it is the problems in Abuja, linked to the internal political dynamic of the country, which should concern us. If the tolerance of the Nigerian oligarchy displayed by those Western nations concerned can be justified in the short term, it remains true that this approach involves a certain shortsightedness, since there is little chance of preparing for the critical moment when the oil starts to run out.

    Its possible to share the view of the banking community that Nigeria will be able to adapt,...