The incumbent Muhammadu Buhari is facing off against businessman Atiku Abubakar during a tenuous time for Nigeria’s economy and its security situation.
Update: Just hours before polls were due to open, Nigeria’s election commission announced it was postponing the election for one week, citing logistical concerns. The vote will now be held on Saturday, February 23.
The BBC reports that several of the commission’s offices around the country have been set on fire, resulting in thousands of electronic smart card readers and voter cards being destroyed. “There have also been claims of shortages of election material in some of the country’s 36 states,” the BBC notes.
Nigeria will get to choose a new president during the country’s national elections on Saturday, February 16.
Incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari, of the All Progressive Congress (APC), will face off against Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and business man, who is representing the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). (There are also a slew of minor party candidates, but the election is really a contest between the two.)
One major worry heading into Saturday’s elections is that the vote will be rigged, potentially to favor Buhari. Nigeria’s elections have also been marred by violence in the past, and while an expert currently in Nigeria told me the country is “cautiously optimistic” about peaceful voting, the threat of conflict breaking out remains.
Here’s a quick list of the key things to know about Saturday’s presidential election, and why it matters.Meet the two major candidates: Buhari and Atiku AP Photo/Sunday Alamba Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party attends an election campaign rally at the Ribadu Square in Yola, Nigeria, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019.
Lots of people are running for president, but only two seem to really have a chance: Buhari, and Atiku Abubakar, who most people just call “Atiku.”
Buhari is a former general who briefly ruled Nigeria in the early 1980s during a period of military dictatorship. He won a historic election in 2015 by promising to crack down on corruption and stamp out extremist groups such as Boko Haram.
The group gained international attention in 2014 after it abducted hundreds Nigerian schoolgirls, but has terrorized and killed thousands and displaced at least 2 million people in the northeastern part of the country since 2009.
Buhari’s victory in 2015 marked the first time an opposition candidate denied an incumbent president a second term, a turning point for Nigerian democracy.
Buhari says he’ll take Nigeria to the “next level” if he’s elected to a second term, but his four years in office have been somewhat lackluster: He has failed to deliver on his biggest promises about corruption and security, and the economy has struggled during his tenure.
Many of Buhari’s critics also see him as being a bit checked out, especially since the 76-year-old has been absent for long stretches due to poor health. (There was even a fake news story circulating that Buhari had died and been replaced by a body double, which he had to debunk.)
“Buhari’s tenure — most observers think that it has not been a good four years for Nigeria,” Ken Opalo, an associate professor at Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, told me. “He’s been unwell, he hasn’t been as bold as he had promised in terms of needed reforms that could push the Nigerian economy, and despite his personal record as a non-corrupt person, there’s definitely lots of corrupt people around him.”
Atiku is positioning himself as the alternative to Buhari on the economy, asking Nigerians if they’re better off now than four years ago. As a successful businessman, his record is appealing to those who hope he can be a potential job creator, and embracing the slogan “get Nigeria working again.”
Atiku has vied for the presidency in the past; five times, to be exact. He’s also been dogged by allegations of corruption, and has been banned from traveling to the US due to his ties to corruption cases. (He received a temporary reprieve recently and was allowed to visit Washington, DC.)Nigeria’s economy and security situation are big issues among voters
The Nigerian economy has struggled during Buhari’s tenure. Nigeria slipped into a recession in 2016, and though the economy has rebounded in some areas, poverty and joblessness remain high. Nigeria had the worst-performing stock market in the world last year.
Buhari is promising more state-driven reforms and public investment, whereas Atiku is promoting his business acumen and advocating for more private-sector initiatives, including privatizing Nigeria’s state-run oil corporation, which could shake up the oil-dependent economy.
Security problems also loom over the race. Buhari promised to uproot Boko Haram, and the terrorist group did lose a lot of its territory during his tenure, but the group and others like it are far from being eliminated.
Nigeria has also seen a recent uptick in violence. Boko Haram also splintered, giving birth to an ISIS-linked militant group, the Islamic State in West Africa Province. This group has staged multiple brazen attacks, including one on a Nigerian governor’s convoy this week near the border with Cameroon.
The central part of Nigeria is also becoming mired in clashes between farmers and herders over land for grazing; statics from Amnesty International say the conflict claimed more than 3,600 lives last year.
Regional and identity politics are also important factors in Nigeria’s election. Atiku and Buhari are both Muslims from the north of the country, and they’ve managed to form political alliances with other regions — Buhari with the southwest and Atiku with the southeast — to try to gain more support.There are concerns over whether the elections will be free and fair AP Photo People protest the suspension of Nigeria’s Chief Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen, in Abuja, Nigeria, on Monday, January 28, 2019.
It’s not really clear who is leading the race right now, but experts say Buhari, as the incumbent, is likely to have an edge.
There are also widespread fears that the election will be rigged.
Nigeria’s elections have been rigged in the past — that’s why Buhari’s win in 2015 seemed so remarkable. Atiku’s opposition party, PDP, has alleged wrongdoing, though Buhari has insisted he’s upholding free and fair elections.
Still, worries persist. A recent Guardian analysis of voters registered in Nigeria since January 2018 found that new voter registration increased by almost exactly the same percentage in all of Nigeria’s states. One analyst called that “statistically impossible,” which could indicate potential irregularities.
Another red flag: In January, weeks before the election, Buhari suspended the top judge on Nigeria’s Supreme Court over his alleged failure to declare some foreign assets. The suspended judge would have been in charge of ruling over any election-related disputes. But many critics — including Atiku — called the move anti-democratic.
Patrick Ukata, a lecturer at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington, said he had a sense that Atiku would win if the elections were free and fair. “No one in their right mind would vote for more of the same,” Ukata told me on Friday.
A rigged election could also potentially be dangerous. The 2015 election, which Buhari won as the opposition candidate, was largely peaceful — but in 2011, an estimated 800 people died in post-election violence.
Experts I spoke to said sporadic violence is always a risk, especially on the local level, but conflict on a national scale seems unlikely. For one, Atiku and Buhari are both from the same region, religion, and ethnic group, which make it less likely that anger over the elections will escalate into sectarian conflict.
Western governments, including the US, have encouraged the candidates to embrace the results, whatever the outcome. A US State Department spokesperson released a statement Friday saying that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had spoken to both candidates and they had made a “public commitment to renounce violence and to accept the results of a credible process.”
Ukata said Nigeria seems cautiously optimistic that Saturday’s elections will be largely peaceful. But, he added, the “expectation of violence is always there.”
Security, AsiaIt could be brutal.
For its part, the Indian army plans to immediately take the offensive under a doctrine called “Cold Start.” Cold Start envisions rapid mobilization followed by a major offensive into Pakistan before the country can respond with tactical nuclear weapons. Such an offensive—and Pakistan’s likely conventional defeat—could make the use of tactical nuclear weapons all the more likely.
The Indian subcontinent is home to two of the largest armies on Earth. Not only are the armies of India and Pakistan both larger in personnel than the U.S. Army, but they have stood at alert facing one another since the dissolution of the British Indian Army in 1947. The two armies have clashed four times in the past seventy years, and may yet do so again in the future.
(This first appeared in 2017 and is being reposted due to breaking events.)
The Indian army is the primary land force of the Indian armed forces. The army numbers 1.2 million active duty personnel and 990,000 reservists, for a total force strength of 2.1 million. The army’s primary tasks are guarding the borders with Pakistan and China and domestic security—particularly in Kashmir and the Northeast. The army is also a frequent contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions abroad.
The army is structured into fourteen army corps, which are further made up of forty infantry, armored, mountain and RAPID (mechanized infantry) divisions. There is approximately one separate artillery brigade per corps, five separate armored brigades, seven infantry brigades and five brigade-sized air defense formations.
Infantry and mountain divisions are mostly assigned to the mountainous North and Northeast regions, where manpower intensive counterinsurgency and mountain warfare forces are important, while infantry, RAPID, and armored formations sit on the border opposite Pakistan. Perhaps unusually the Indian army has only one airborne unit, the Parachute Regiment, which is actually an umbrella headquarters for army airborne and special forces. The Parachute Regiment controls seven special-forces battalions and three airborne brigades.Read full article
At least five people were killed and multiple others were injured.
A shooter killed at least five people and injured multiple others, including police officers, at the Henry Pratt Company building in Aurora, Illinois, on Friday afternoon.
Police responded to the shooting, killing the gunman. The shooter is believed to have been a worker who was being fired at the Henry Pratt Company, a manufacturing warehouse.
The story is still developing. Here’s what we know, and don’t, so far.What we know
- Around 1:20 pm local time, police officers responded to reports of a shooting at the Henry Pratt Company building in Aurora, Illinois, city Chief of Police Kristen Ziman said at a press conference. They quickly responded to the shooting, with five officers suffering gunshot injuries.
- Officers engaged with the gunman and killed him.
- The shooter killed at least five other people, Ziman said. One other person was injured.
- The injured police officers were stabilized, a city spokesperson told WGN-TV.
- The shooter was identified as Gary Martin, believed to be an employee at the Henry Pratt Company. He was being fired on Friday, Ziman said.
- Prior to the shooting in Aurora, Illinois, there had been 38 mass shootings so far in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The organization defines mass shootings as events in which four or more people, excluding the shooter, were shot but not necessarily killed in a similar time and place.
- The shooting comes one day after the first anniversary of the Parkland, Florida, shooting.
- President Donald Trump tweeted in response to the shooting.
Great job by law enforcement in Aurora, Illinois. Heartfelt condolences to all of the victims and their families. America is with you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2019
- Both US senators from Illinois tweeted as well.
My heart breaks for Aurora. I'm tracking updates on the situation with my staff. Thank you to the members of law enforcement who are responding to the emergency.— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) February 15, 2019
I am monitoring the situation in Aurora, Illinois. This is a scary, sad day for all Illinoisans and Americans. Thank you to the brave first responders who risked their lives this afternoon and apprehended the shooter.— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) February 15, 2019 What we don’t know
- The identities of the victims
Daniel R. DePetris
Security, AsiaWe ought to take a step back from the ledge and put all these reports in context. Here are three things we should keep in mind as we peruse the avalanche of negativity that will make its way into the media in the week ahead.
The reports on North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program keep on coming.
First, in November 2018, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterrey, California discovered a new missile base with an underground compartment near the previously known Yeongjeo-dong facility close to the Chinese border. Then, in January 2019, the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC probed the undeclared Sino-ri missile operating facility, one of an estimated 20 missile facilities the North Koreans have yet to officially declare to the international community.
Now, this week, we have a third report from Stanford University’s Siegfried Hecker, Robert Carlin, and Elliot Serbin concluding that Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program remains highly active in the midst of denuclearization talks with the United States. The three nuclear experts observe that North Korea has likely produced an additional 5-8 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium and about 150 kilograms of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium last year. “We also expect that the production of warheads most likely continued during the year,“ the report says, all of which occurred despite discussions U.S. and North Korean officials have been having since the middle of last year.
With all of this information in our inboxes, should we be as alarmed as the headlines suggest? Is it time for President Donald Trump to just walk away from the diplomatic process entirely in protest of Kim’s supposed deviousness? Is Kim practicing the art of “grand deception,” as New York Times national security correspondent David Sanger hinted last month?Read full article
War Is Boring
Security,The Pentagon behaves as if aircraft carriers will rule forever … they won’t.
“History,” it has been written, “does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Today it’s rhyming with Gen. Billy Mitchell. In the 1920s, Mitchell challenged conventional thinking by advocating air power at sea in the face of a naval establishment dominated by battleship proponents.
The hubris of the “battleship Navy” was such that just nine days before Pearl Harbor, the official program for the 1941 Army-Navy game displayed a full page photograph of the battleship USS Arizona with language virtually extolling its invincibility.
Of course, the reason that no one had yet sunk a battleship from the air — in combat — was that no one had yet tried.
In fact, Mitchell sank a captured German battleship, the Ostfriesland, in an aerial demonstration back in 1921, but the Navy said that the test proved nothing. Two of the observers that day were officials from Japan.
In addition, the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, Isoroku Yamamoto, was a student at Harvard at the time and no doubt read accounts of the event that were widely reported in the newspapers.
The aircraft carrier decisively replaced the battleship as the Navy’s sea control capital ship, but its reign in that capacity was, in reality, quite brief. The aircraft carrier established its ascendancy in the Battle of Midway and was the centerpiece of five major sea battles between 1942 and 1944.
Yet, following the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, the U.S. Navy repositioned the aircraft carrier as a platform to project power ashore. The United States did not lose a fleet carrier in the war after the Hornet went down in 1942, because Japan’s surface fleet had been devastated. Nor did Tokyo effectively use its submarines.
That track record, just as the boast in the Army/Navy game program, however, is not an indication that a carrier cannot be sunk — or put out of commission — but rather the fact that since 1945, the U.S. Navy has never engaged another navy in battle that tried.
“Projecting the past into the future is risky business — especially when we’re unsure what that past was,” James Holmes, a naval warfare expert at the U.S. Naval War College wrote.Read full article
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan plans to borrow another 200 billion rupees ($1.44bn) to help clear power sector debt destabilising the finances of the government and private power producers, a senior official tasked with energy reforms said.
Pakistan’s economy and society have been racked by a decade of chronic electricity shortages which have crippled its manufacturing sector and stoked voter anger in the South Asian nation of 208 million people.
Electricity shortages have erased in the last 12 months but years of mismanagement and funding shortfalls for subsidies have led to accumulated power sector payment arrears, or “circular debt”, soaring to 1.4 trillion rupees ($10.1bn).
Independent power producers (IPPs) angry with late government payments have warned they face a financial crisis, while economists fear rising circular debt will further widen Pakistan’s yawning fiscal deficit, a key part of ongoing bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund.
Pakistan earlier this month raised 200bn rupees through an Islamic bond to ease financial crunch in its power sector, but critics say much more needs to be done.
Nadeem Babar, head of the Task Force on Energy Reforms created by new Prime Minister Imran Khan, told Reuters the government plans to ease financial pressures on power generation companies by taking another 200bn rupee loan by April.
“That total of 400bn will not bring the outstanding amount down to zero, but it will pay it down substantially to a point where no generator will be at risk of shutting down or having liquidity issues,” Babar told Reuters on Thursday.
The loans are a key part of the government’s strategy to rethink how it deals with power arrears and will give the government breathing room to enact wide-ranging reforms, Babar added.
He said Khan’s government is looking to save money by moving power sector arrears from the balance sheet of the IPPs on to the balance sheet of government-owned distribution companies.
Under Pakistan’s power purchasing system, IPPs bill the government monthly for the power they produce, but when the government fails to pay up, power generators take commercial bank loans to stay afloat and the government is hit with financial penalties for late payments.
“In the past, to keep debt off the government’s power companies’ balance sheet, the government has allowed a run up of the same debt on IPP balance sheets - but at what cost?,” said Babar, who is currently writing Pakistan’s 25-year future energy policy.
“The finance minister has understood and agreed that it is nonsensical that we are paying about three per cent higher interest rate to keep this debt off our balance sheet when we acknowledge that it is our debt,” said Babar.
Pakistan hiked electricity prices in January and the new tariff, set to gradually increase over the next two-and-half years, will drastically slow the accumulation of circular debt and will eventually help eradicate it, Babar said.
Transmission losses and theft are also being aggressively targeted by the government, he added.
Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2019
ISLAMABAD: United States Chargé d’Affaires Ambassador Paul Jones on Friday called on Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua to convey “an important message” from the Trump administration, a Foreign Office source said.
The meeting took place in the aftermath of a suicide attack in India-held Kashmir, which has raised tensions between Pakistan and India.
“The US Embassy had sought the meeting,” said embassy’s spokesman Richard Snelsire, but he did not divulge the contents of the meeting.
A source, however, said the message pertained to the post-attack situation.
The White House had, in its reaction to the attack on the Central Reserve Police Force bus in Pulwama on Thursday that left 44 paramilitary personnel dead, asked Pakistan “to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil”.
The statement had said the goal of those terrorist groups was “to sow chaos, violence, and terror in the region”.
The attack, the White House said, strengthened its resolve to bolster counterterrorism cooperation and coordination with India.
A State Department statement, meanwhile, said: “We call on all countries to uphold their responsibilities pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions to deny safe haven and support for terrorists.”
American National Security Adviser John Bolton also spoke to his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Beijing wanted relevant countries in the region to make joint efforts to combat terrorism and preserve regional peace and security.
“China will continue to deal with the relevant listing issue in a constructive and responsible manner,” he said while responding to a question about Beijing’s technical hold on listing of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar by the United Nations.
Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2019
GILGIT: Emergency measures are being taken to mitigate the effects of a possible disaster which may be caused by Shisper Glacier surge and possible burst of an artificial lake in Hasanabad village in Hunza.
The Shisper Glacier, a few kilometres from Hasanabad village, started to surge in May last year. The unusual surge has blocked water flow from a stream originating in nearby Muchuhur Glacier, which normally falls into Hunza river at Hasanabad, thus forming an artificial lake.
The glacier is moving towards Hunza at a speed of seven metres per day and water level in the dammed lake is also increasing with each passing day, posing a threat to downstream areas.
Authorities conduct aerial visit of Shisper Glacier surge, artificial lake created by it
Commander of the Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA) Maj Gen Ehsan Mehmood Khan, Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Secretary retired captain Khurram Agha, Director General of the Gilgit-Baltistan Disaster Management Authority (GBDMA) Farid Ahmed and heads of the departments concerned along with representatives of local community carried out an aerial visit of the Shishper Glacier on Thursday to assess the emerging situation.
Addressing a community gathering in Hasanabad, the chief secretary and the FCNA commander assured the local people of their support in case of any untoward incident.
The chief secretary directed the relevant departments to carry out an assessment of houses and means of livelihood of the vulnerable people of Hasanabad.
He said that as per the contingency plan the GB government had stockpiled 40,000 wheat bags and medicines to cope with any crisis in case of a disaster.
According to an official press release, a team of experts, also from several national organisations, has been monitoring the movement of the glacier and its effects through satellite and ground visits since November 2018.
According to the experts, blasting/leakage of the Shisper Glacier through any means is not possible due to the surging nature of the glacier and its vast width.
After going through the reports, the experts and the GBDMA have come to the conclusion that three scenarios are possible in coming weeks in the event of a lake burst and/or further surging of the glacier towards human settlements.
Under the first scenario, it is expected that the lake will gradually release through crevices and the glacier may also melt gradually, resulting in normal to slightly above normal discharge of water. This situation will not create any hazard to the local people and installations downstream.
Under scenarios 2 and 3, medium to heavy discharge of water is expected which depends on weather conditions. A sudden rise in temperature during June and July may result in rapid melting of the glacier and a lake burst. This may create a hazardous situation, which can affect the people and installations downstream.
The press release said a contingency plan had been prepared to cope with any emergency situation.
According to it, the GB government is undertaking several proactive measures. Mock exercises for evacuation of people are being carried out. Safe routes for evacuation and safe havens have been identified to relocate the residents of Hasanabad in case of high water discharge from the lake during summer.
Protective work to safeguard public and private properties is underway and will be completed in given time frame. Funds to the tune of Rs31 million have been released to carry out protective works of urgent nature.
Arrangements to safeguard the irrigation channels and water supply networks from Hasanabad stream to central Hunza are to be undertaken.
In case of blockade of the Karakoram Highway at Hasanabad, a road network will remain linked to upper parts of the region through an alternative route via the Sas Valley, Nagar.
A makeshift bridge has been arranged by the National Highway Authority which will be shifted to the site of a bridge that may be washed away in case of a lake burst.
To reduce the risk of food shortage, the food department is stocking up food supplies for four to five months.
Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2019
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Friday invited German companies to take advantage of Pakistan’s investor-friendly policies, especially in the fields of energy, infrastructure development and agriculture.
During a meeting with his German counterpart Heiko Maas on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, the foreign minister also urged the German firms to take advantage of Pakistan’s investment policies in the fields of food processing, energy, mining, manufacturing, water and waste management, a Foreign Office statement issued here said.
The two expressed satisfaction over the current level of bilateral relations and agreed to translate this friendship and mutual goodwill into a strong political and economic partnership.
The foreign minister appreciated trade and investment relations and welcomed the entry of Volkswagen into the Pakistani market.
The two foreign ministers discussed a wide range of regional and international issues.
Underscoring the importance of peace and stability in Afghanistan, Mr Qureshi said that Pakistan was facilitating the ongoing talks between the United States and Taliban as a shared responsibility and in good faith.
He expressed the hope that the talks would result in an intra-Afghan dialogue leading to lasting peace in the country.
Mr Qureshi highlighted the continued atrocities perpetrated by the security forces in India-held Kashmir.
The two foreign ministers agreed to work closely to enhance bilateral cooperation in all areas of mutual interest.
Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2019