What to expect as 84 million Nigerians go to the polls

1 day 23 hours ago
Nigerians get ready to cast their vote on February 16. EPA-EFE/Stringer

Nigerians go to the polls on February 16 in the first of two sets of elections to choose the president, national assembly and state legislators. Olayinka Ajala sets the scene for Africa’s largest democratic undertaking and highlights the main logistical and political challenges that come with it.

How many Nigerians are registered to vote, and what are their main demographics?

There are 84,004,084 registered to vote in the 2019 election in 36 states and the federal capital territory, Abuja. Of this number, more than 15 million are new voters.

Young voters form a clear majority. More than half of the registered voters – 51.11% – are aged between 18 and 35; 29.97% are between 36 and 50; 15.22% are between between 51 and 70, and 3.69% are older than 70.

Although the electoral commission has not released the total breakdown of the registration in the final register, more women than men registered to vote in the 2019 elections for the first time.

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Nigeria has a history of dodgy elections: will it be different this time?

4 days 17 hours ago
President Muhammadu Buhari attends a campaign rally ahead of the 16 February elections. EPA-EFE/Stringer

Nigeria is preparing for its general election. But will it be credible? Nigerian voters are well aware that the elections will not be won solely by votes or popular consensus. There are several other variables that influence election results.

These include the incumbent’s control of state security apparatuses, grassroots structures, and control of institutions such as market traders associations, and the National Union for Road Transport Workers.

The road transport workers’ union, which acts as a canopy for bus drivers, conductors, and motor park touts in Southwestern Nigeria, has a history of providing foot soldiers for employment as election thugs with skills in ballot box snatching and voter intimidation tactics.

In addition, the possibility that the election could be rigged cannot be ignored.

Questions around the credibility of elections in post-independence Nigeria can be traced as far back as the “First Republic” which lasted from 1960 - 1966. After allegations of massive rigging in the 1965 elections the country’s western region was engulfed in the infamous “Operation Wet-ie” riots.

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Data shows South Africans will welcome Ramaphosa's tough talk on graft

1 week ago
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa putting final touches to his state of the nation address in which he took a hard stance on corruption. GCIS

South Africans have been shocked by the tidal wave of corruption testimony emerging from the commission tasked with probing allegations of state capture by private business interests.

Claims of systematic and widespread corruption involving patronage networks built around former President Jacob Zuma are testing the public’s faith in the country’s Constitution, democratic system and public representatives. Government ministers, senior civil servants and politicians from the governing African National Congress’s (ANC) have also been implicated.

It is clear from the 2019 state of the nation address delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the penny has dropped and that the government will finally take a hard stance against corruption. Speaking at length about state capture, Ramaphosa described the commission’s revelations as “deeply disturbing”.

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A democracy or a kleptocracy? How South Africa stacks up

1 week 2 days ago
The commission chaired by Justice Raymond Zondo has heard shocking testimony on the extent of corruption in government. EFE-EPA/Kim Ludbrook

South Africans have been held spellbound by the torrent of evidence of corruption emerging from two parallel commissions of inquiry – into state capture, and the fitness to hold office of two senior officials of the National Prosecuting Authority.

These strengthen perceptions that South Africa under former President Jacob Zuma – from May 2009 to March 2018 – transformed from a democracy into a “kleptocracy”: a country ruled by thieves.

The country scored only 43 out of 100 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018, down from 47 in 2009.

So the question is: is it indeed the case that South Africa has become a kleptocracy? Has it travelled far along the road to joining states such as Russia and Equatorial Guinea, notorious for being ruled by authoritarian leaders in league with corrupt oligarchs at the expense of ordinary people? If this is so, is that condition reversible?

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South Africans are finally set to know who funds their political parties

1 week 2 days ago
A new law will promote transparency in the funding of political parties in South Africa. EFE-EPA/Nic Bothma

South African President Ramaphosa has finally signed into law a new bill aimed at regulating the funding of political parties. It was approved by Parliament in June 2018.

The Political Party Funding Bill, when it eventually becomes law on April 1, will enable South Africans to know who funds their political parties.

The new law is long overdue. It’s remarkable that the country didn’t regulate political party funding after the first democratic elections 25 years ago. The lack of action made South Africa unique among democracies for not regulating private political party funding.

Funding is crucial for the survival of political parties and their ability to campaign for elections. But this needs to be regulated because the electorate needs to know where funds are coming from. Countries that have introduced similar laws have done so to preserve their sovereignty as well as the integrity and autonomy of domestic politics.

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What a constitutional clause reveals about Liberians' ideas of citizenship

1 week 4 days ago
Liberia's President George Weah has ruffled feathers by proposing changes to citizenship laws. EPA-EFE/AHMED JALLANZO

In 1973 Liberia introduced its Aliens and Nationality Law. This, and the country’s 1986 Constitution, allow only people of “Negro descent” – those who are black – to obtain Liberian citizenship by birth, ancestry or naturalisation. The 1973 law also banned dual citizenship.

Many Liberians at home and abroad have questioned the citizenship regulations. But historical and contemporary developments explain why the laws are seen by some as “protectionary”. They are viewed as guarding Liberians against any kind of foreign domination.

What has become locally known as the “Negro clause” was driven by free blacks and manumitted slaves who fled 19th century racism and economic servitude in the US and the Caribbean. They established Liberia as a haven where they would be the sole owners of capital, land and the means of production.

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How change happened in Ethiopia: a review of how Abiy rose to power

1 week 5 days ago
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's rise to power was not without challenges. Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis

Last year was an historical one for Ethiopian politics. Most Ethiopians now feel hopeful about the prospect of peace and democratic progress. This is despite the fact that the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front – which has a long history of authoritarianism – is still in power. Nonetheless, a new progressive leadership with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the helm, and a series of reforms he’s introduced, could mean that the ruling party of old is gone for good.

The reformed party, chaired by Abiy and his deputy Demeke Mekonnen, is enjoying wider acceptance and renewed political legitimacy.

At the same time, Ethiopians are very aware that the recent political change has been achieved on the back of relentless popular protests. This suggests that there are still many issues that remain unresolved.

And few Ethiopians expect the ruling coalition to change from within given that it had fashioned itself as the lone voice in a closed political space. Moreover, the fact that the coalition is just made up of four political parties representing only four of the nine regions imply that most groups in the political periphery remain marginalised.

In reviewing events one requires a real understanding of the driving factors, as well as the remaining challenges.

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8 hours 41 minutes ago
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