Wednesday 5th May 2010
North will retain Presidency?
Bayelsa and bombs
In Brief: Shell says it lost 14,000 tons of oil in 2009
In Brief: Exxon finds pipeline leak
In Brief: Vessel robbed near Lagos
An interview with a leading figure from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) published this week contained the PDP’s first official response to recent comments made by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the issue of a southerner running for president in 2011.
Obasanjo had said in an 29th April interview with Voice of America that there is no agreement which mandates the presidency be given to the north in 2011. In reply, PDP National Secretary Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje reaffirmed the PDP’s stance that a northerner will indeed take power when acting President Goodluck Jonathan steps down no later than May 2011, in line with an internal party agreement formed in 1999 between the PDP’s northern and southern interests.
PDP National Chairman Vincent Ogbulafor, a south-easterner whose trial for fraud and corruption began 4th May, had made a very public proclamation to this effect in March, saying that Jonathan would not be permitted to run in 2011 at the height of the controversy surrounding ailing President Yar’Adua’s “medical vacation,” a stance which Baraje said he supports.
While Obasanjo is one of the strongest behind-the-scenes powers in Nigeria, he is not the only one, and even his ambitions can be blocked, as occurred during his 2006 attempt to amend the constitution to pursue a third term as president.
But let’s show you an example of how political power plays are often played out in Nigeria…
Bayelsa and bombs
Ebebi is a known rival of the state’s governor, Timipre Sylva. Sylva likely organized the attack to send a message to his deputy and other possible opponents that although his re-election chances are slim, he will not go down without a fight.
The bomb was concealed in a Mazda sedan parked roughly 300 meters from the house, and no casualties have been reported. Few tactical details are currently known about the incident, but the vehicle’s distance from the deputy governor’s house, combined with the timing of its detonation (late at night), means that it likely was not a serious attempt to kill or injure Ebebi, but more likely a warning signal. Anyway – it’s irrelevant as he was in Abuja at the time.
So then add on that the explosion occurred in Yenagoa — which, although the capital of an oil-producing state, is not an oil industry hub. To us – this means that the person behind the attack was focused on politics over oil.
So as said… Ebebi is a known rival of Bayelsa state Gov. Timipre Sylva. Sylva is not believed to have a good chance at re-election in 2011, and it is possible that Sylva organized the attack as a reminder to his deputy and all other would-be rivals that he can direct militant attacks against his opponents, and he will not go down without a fight.
Car bombs are not really that common in the political violence that is a regular feature of life in the Niger Delta, though a March attack by MEND in Warri did employ this tactic. We highly doubt MEND were behind this latest incident however.
Political observers say that Sylva is increasingly isolated from the political elite at both the national and state level. Without high-level political cover, neither Sylva nor any other politician would be able to use MEND for an orchestrated, organized militant campaign.
BUT… It is not necessary for a politician to have direct links to MEND to be able to order attacks such as the Bayelsa bomb. Anyone who has reached Sylva’s position has access to gangs who are MORE than capable of perpetrating lower-level political violence, whether they be labeled as militants or common criminals.
Sylva is no exception. Infact, there have been myriad reports in the local media in recent months describing the tension between Sylva and Ebebi, which culminated during the November 2009 local government area primary elections. The vote triggered a week of retaliatory violence between both men’s supporters. This led to both Sylva and Ebebi being summoned to the Abuja headquarters of Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) National Working Committee to settle the dispute. While the two publicly professed to have smoothed over their differences, their rivalry has continued.
Sylva likely does not have as much influence as the other Niger Delta governors. In other words, his position is much more precarious than his counterparts’ in Delta and Rivers states. He has made many enemies in Nigeria, both within the PDP elite in Abuja (including former Bayelsa governor and current acting President Goodluck Jonathan, as Sylva openly backed ailing President Yar’Adua during the three-month “medical vacation” affair). PLUS – he has pissed off a few local leaders of the Ijaw tribe. And remember it is the Ijaws who make up the back bone of MEND.
Sylva also had a public falling out with his former political godfather, Edmund Daukoru, the head of the Nembe branch of the Ijaw and former Nigerian petroleum minister, and recently was challenged by a vote of no-confidence put forth in the state assembly by the influential Ijaw Youth Council.
As the 2011 election campaign season approaches (national elections likely will be held in January), Sylva must do all he can to ensure that he stays in power. For a person in his position, losing the election is not an appealing option, as this would likely leave him politically impotent for the rest of his career. It could also put his life at risk, as rivals in the Niger Delta tend to pursue settling old scores.
And this is just one man in one state. Nigeria is made up of 36. And all of them have loads of political power struggles currently playing out.
Election season is silly season in our book. We expect this one to be no different and see more than a little chance of violence similar to that being seen right now.
There is a lot of money at stake in the positons of power in Nigeria. So people are keen to collect their share..
But here are some things to look out for as the voting season starts to speed up…
The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has dominated politics since Nigeria’s return to democracy just over a decade ago, with its nominee winning all three presidential races since then and its members holding strong parliamentary majorities.
There is disagreement over who its candidate for the next election should be, raising the prospect of fiercely contested primaries, or even a split in the party which could lead to the presidential election being more than a one-horse race.
President Yar’Adua, who returned from a Saudi hospital in February, remains too sick to rule and is unlikely to seek a second term. AS already noted… PDP chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor, has said the party nominee should be from the Muslim north, abiding by the terms of an unwritten agreement in the party that power rotates between north and the mostly Christian south every two terms.
But Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner, has not ruled himself out of the race and some northerners have said they would support him. Ogbulafor’s position looks precarious after corruption charges were filed against him and a faction of the party, later suspended, launched a rebellion.
Some senior PDP figures have privately warned that a Jonathan candidacy would split the party. Former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar have both said they want the PDP nomination.
So here are a few significant factors to look out for…
If the elections are brought forward…
Nationwide polls, including the presidential race, are due by April 2011 but could be brought forward to as early as late this year if reforms before parliament are passed. That could mean the key ruling party primaries taking place as early as August. A smooth early election would end the current uncertainty.
If Jonathan gains more support…
Jonathan has not ruled out contesting the polls but wants at least three months to see how reforms take hold first. Campaign posters appeared in his support around Abuja, but Jonathan’s office said they were not authorised by him. Should Jonathan make progress on reforms in coming months, we may see a welcome consistency in policy for a change.
If Yar’Adua dies or is declared incapacitated…
If a two thirds majority of Jonathan’s new cabinet declares Yar’Adua permanently unfit to rule, and a medical panel supports this view, he ceases to hold office. This would mean Jonathan being sworn in as substantive president and the appointment of a new vice president, likely to be a northerner who could go on to be the ruling party candidate in the next elections.
And what about policy momentum?…
Jonathan appointed a new cabinet in April which his supporters say will enable him to move ahead with priorities including electoral reform, maintaining peace in the Niger Delta, tackling corruption and providing more reliable electricity supply. But critics are concerned the new ministers — including finance minister, Olusegun Aganga, a former Goldman Sachs executive, and Diezani Allison-Madueke, Nigeria’s first female oil minister — could take time to get to grips with their new roles, slowing government business down.
With elections due in less than a year, the administration has limited time to accomplish all this.
So here is what we are watching…
Electoral reforms: Legislation before parliament is supposed to help Nigeria avoid a repeat of the chaotic polls that brought Yar’Adua to power in 2007, marred by widespread ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation. The widely criticised Independent National Election Commission chairman, Maurice Iwu, who oversaw the 2007 polls, has been dismissed in a move seen as vital for electoral reform.
Petroleum Industry Bill: Wide-ranging overhaul of the energy industry which will redefine Nigeria’s relationship with foreign partners. It is touted by government as the solution to everything from funding shortfalls for exploration and production projects to budget-debilitating fuel subsidies, although some in the oil industry fear it will make Nigeria less competitive as an investment destination.
Banking reforms: The central bank badly needs a bill before parliament passed to create an asset management company to soak up bad loans, freeing up bank balance sheets so they can start lending again. This would also make rescued banks more attractive to new investors and support market confidence.
Politics can be complicated in any country – but doubly so in this one. We are in for some interesting times ahead. We recommend you don’t blink – you might miss something. As things can change quickly around here.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc says attacks and vandalism at its pipelines caused the company to lose nearly 14,000 tons of crude oil in the Niger Delta, last year.
The company says that’s a significant increase over last year in the amount of oil spilled in the region. The oil giant blamed the majority of the spills on two incidents, one where thieves damaged a wellhead at its Odidi field and another where a bomb exploded at the Trans Escravos pipeline.
In Brief: Exxon finds pipeline leak
ExxonMobil said on Tuesday it discovered a leak at one of its crude oil pipelines connected to its Qua Iboe export terminal but production was not affected.
The pipeline was shut down after the leak was discovered two days ago. Production was rerouted to other pipelines, a spokesman for the oil major said.
Factoid: Crude output at the Exxon-operated terminal averages around 400,000 barrels per day.
In Brief: Vessel robbed near Lagos
Reports received tell us that 7 men, armed with guns and blades boarded a bulk carrier off Lagos yesterday. The incident occurred at 02:00hrs.
This appears to have been no more than an armed robbery at sea and has no real militant or pirate link. The gunmen assaulted crew members and took money and personal belongings before leaving the boat.
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