News You Really Need To See: “Ex-Dictator’s Challenge Tests Nigeria Leader”

“Ex-Dictator’s Challenge Tests Nigeria Leader”

The Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2015, p.A8

Sixteen years into Nigeria’s fourth try at democracy, [Nigerian president Goodluck] Jonathan faces the prospect of becoming the first president in the country’s history to lose an election.  Voter surveys show Mr. Jonathan and his rival, retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a former dictator, in a dead heat ahead of the Feb. 14 election.  It isn’t just Mr. Jonathan’s political future that is at stake.  Also at issue is whether Africa’s biggest democracy can handle the pressure of its first competitive election, an achievement only a handful of African nations like Ghana and Zambia can claim.  Under Mr. Jonathan, balloting has become fairer, and his administration hasn’t reverted to widespread vote-rigging.  Consequently, the opposition has won 16 of the country’s 36 governorships.  The twin problems of a ferocious Islamist insurgency and a growing population that is vastly outpacing job growth—half of Nigeria’s 174 million people are under age 18—have undermined the incumbent’s popularity. … Also working against the incumbent are falling oil prices, which have sent the value of the country’s currency, the naira, to record lows. Civil servants have gone months without pay.  Job prospects for the young remain bleak, with a 2012 Gallup poll estimating that 91% of Nigeria’s working-age population lacks full-time employment.”

Quickie Analysis:  Not a lot of inspiring choices here: a candidate who has grown the economy at 7% per year but been largely ineffective at fighting either corruption or Boko Haram or a candidate who last came to power in a military coup in the early 1980s, before most Nigerians were born.  

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