Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, January 26, 2015

Turning a blind eye to what's politically inconvenient?

The Nigerian president, running for reelection doesn't want to remind people of the failures of his government in combating Boko Haram. Will his rival bring up the issue?

[I have twice read that this presidential race is very hotly contested, but I have seen no polling data to back up that assertion.

As for the race being the hottest in Nigerian history, I seem to recall that one of the earliest elections was so close that the Supreme Court had to rule on which candidate had won.]

Blind to bloodshed
The attack [in Baga] on January 3rd may [have been] the bloodiest yet by Boko Haram, a jihadist group that has taken over swathes of north-eastern Nigeria…
Baga, Nigeria

What is clear, though, is that despite the horror, Nigeria’s rulers treat the war with indifference. President Goodluck Jonathan was quick to condemn the “monstrous” terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo in Paris. But as The Economist went to press, he had not uttered a word about Baga. *

His lieutenants argue that he cannot speak out because details of the attack are still hazy…

But there may be more cynical motives, too. Nigeria is due to hold elections on February 14th. Talking about the siege would draw attention to the government’s failure to curb the insurgents. The issue is particularly sensitive because Mr Jonathan, a southerner, is standing against a northern former army general, Muhammadu Buhari, who is tough on security.

The race is the tightest in the history of Nigerian civil rule…

Things are likely to get worse with the approach of the elections, often a time of violence in Nigeria. Some civil-rights activists worry that already-stretched army forces will be withdrawn from the northeast—either to protect polling stations around the country, or to help stuff the ballot boxes.

* Editor’s Note: After The Economist went to press, a press release from Mr Jonathan’s office said the president had made a surprise visit to Maiduguri on January 15th, nearly a fortnight after the attack on Baga, to hail the bravery of Nigerian troops and commiserate with a group of 900 displaced residents from Baga…

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