President Buhari Undisguised Weapon to Win Nigeria Vote: Incumbency

BLOOMBERG

• President seen using carrot and stick to win electoral battle

• Stemming party defections key to repeating his victory of 2015

Muhammadu Buhari Photographer: Pool/Bloomberg

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s party may be wracked by defections and his battles against corruption and an Islamist rebellion under fire, but he has one crucial advantage in securing re-election: incumbency.

The 75-year-old leader is going to need all the tools available to repeat his 2015 victory — the first time an opposition party won power at the ballot box in Africa’s biggest oil producer. At his disposal, analysts say, is a record with some policy successes, as well as the state power to reward or punish.

Buhari “seems prepared to deploy the institutions of state to his advantage,” said Clement Nwankwo, executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre in the capital, Abuja. “It’s kind of a plan to beat people into line.”

Buhari — who was briefly Nigeria’s military ruler in the 1980s — will be fighting against perceptions the country hasn’t gotten any safer nor less corrupt during his tenure. A promise to shatter Boko Haram’s northern Islamist insurgency may have been partly fulfilled, but inter-communal violence has replaced it as . Nigeria’s corruption perception ranking soared this year despite a much-touted war on graft.

Buhari is benefiting from a recovering economy with rising crude prices after a 2016 recession triggered by the sharp fall in the price of the commodity that is the country’s main export. Foreign-exchange reforms by the government have helped to stabilize the naira. Inflation decelerated for the 18th straight month in July as food prices climbed at the slowest rate since March 2016.

Improved Economy

“Oil output has been fairly steady and prices are better than anticipated,” said Antony Goldman, West Africa analyst at London-based PM Consulting. “Economic fundamentals are better than when Buhari was elected.”

When the head of the Senate, Bukola Saraki — Nigeria’s third-most powerful politician — joined more than 50 APC members in leaving for the opposition People’s Democratic Party over the past month, the reaction was swift. First his home was blockaded; days later security officers barred entry to the legislature itself. It’s an exodus that Buhari needs stemmed if he’s to keep afloat a party with a campaign machine spanning Africa’s most populous nation of almost 200 million people.

The PDP said the move was an attempt to smuggle in Buhari loyalists and remove Saraki, who’d adjourned sittings until late September. Amid public outrage, the government and APC condemned the deployment as unconstitutional and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who’s acting head of state while Buhari’s overseas, dismissed the state security chief.

‘Damage Control’

“It was a crucial act of damage control by the acting president,” said Nwankwo.

Saraki said he’s considering challenging for Buhari’s job in the coming vote on the platform of the PDP, as the country needs a business-friendly leadership that is currently lacking.

Buhari’s war on corruption gives him a way to coerce his opponents, according to Cheta Nwanze, an analyst at Lagos-based business advisory, SBM Intelligence.

Buhari signed an executive order in July empowering him to freeze the bank accounts of those implicated in graft investigations. The opposition says that it will be used to punish defectors, undermines Nigeria’s courts and violates the principle of presumption of innocence.

Critics point to the case of Benue state Governor Samuel Ortom. Shortly after he left the ruling party for the PDP, the Buhari-controlled financial crimes agency moved in to freeze Benue state’s bank accounts, citing a corruption investigation. Ortom’s office has asked why the probe only happened once the governor had left the APC.

‘Concrete Achievements’

Buhari has other elements in his favor. Amaka Anku, an Africa analyst at Washington D.C.-based risk advisers Eurasia Group, pointed to national railway lines and a metro system in the capital completed during his first term.

“Buhari will have concrete achievements to point to on the campaign trail,” she said.

The president may also get a boost from the opposition’s disunity. Still to name a presidential candidate, the PDP has at least a dozen would-be contenders.

While former President Olusegun Obasanjo — a powerful voice — is campaigning against Buhari’s re-election, he’s also, due to long-standing differences, opposed to the candidacy of his former deputy, Atiku Abubakar. A northerner, like Buhari, who may be able to win support on the incumbent’s home turf, Abubakar is widely seen as the only challenger proposing coherent policies.

“Compared to 2015, the president has lost some support, but the challenge for the opposition will be to win that support,” Goldman said. “The PDP is still in search of a personality to unite the party.”

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Chamisa rules out GNU, escalates ED war

MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa has rejected calls from his opposite number to accept election outcome and work together for the common good.

This follows calls by Mnangagwa for the opposition movement to consider that  they have a role to play in the “present and the future of the country”, a statement immediately interpreted to mean he was mulling a GNU with the opposition party.

Chamisa then said: “Mnangagwa must learn to be different from Mugabe, but anyhow, when he was defeated by president Tsvangirai in 2008, Mugabe wanted to hand over power to Tsvangirai, but it was Mnangagwa who reversed that.

“He is not a new person in this matter. He is the master of deceit. He must not pretend to be good to the world, he knows what he did. He rigged the elections and he now wants to extend an olive branch. Can that be politics? It is a culture that is developing in Africa, and we cannot allow that kind of thing. Let a winner be a winner.”

Earlier on, Morgan Komichi, a top official in the opposition movement ruled out a Government of National Unity with Zanu PF.

He said unity governments should be a voluntary thing and not forced through election theft.

“We don’t want people to abuse their power, to abuse the guns to rig elections in order to (force a unity government). let the GNU come out of free and fair elections, let it come out of a voluntary process where the winner should lead the GNU,” Komichi said.

DR’S Bemba to return to Europe after filing for presidential bid


Ex-rebel DR Congo leader Jean-Pierre Bemba will head back to Europe after returning to the African country this week to launch his bid for the presidency in December’s long-delayed elections, a leader of his party said Saturday.

The former DRC vice president arrived in the capital Kinshasa on Wednesday after 11 years abroad — a decade of it behind bars — and on Thursday officially launched his bid to succeed long-serving President Joseph Kabila.

Bemba, 55, then arrived in the town of Gemena in his stronghold in the northwest on Saturday.

Senator Bemba is coming back tomorrow (Sunday) to Kinshasa and immediately leaves for Brussels,” Jacques Djoli, a leader of Bemba’s MLC party, told AFP.

“His next visit to DRC is scheduled for September to take part in work in the Senate and further electoral activities,” Djoli added.

Bemba was acquitted of war-crimes charges in June by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

Now a senator, he had been in Belgium — the DRC’s former colonial power — since his acquittal.

Another rival of Kabila, opposition leader Moise Katumbi, is attempting to launch his own bid for the presidential election, ahead of the August 8 cut-off date for candidates to submit their applications.

Analysts say Bemba’s return has introduced even more uncertainty into an already volatile election process.

The DRC has never known a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence in 1960 — and some experts fear that the December 23 elections may trigger a bloody conflict.

Kabila, 47, has been at the helm since 2001, presiding over a vast mineral-rich country with a reputation for corruption, inequality and unrest.

He was scheduled to stand down at the end of 2016 after his second elected term, technically the last permitted under the constitution.

Kabila has refused to spell out whether he will seek a new term in the vote.

On Saturday, a pro-Kabila group said it was making “final adjustments” before it chooses its candidate for the December 23 presidential election.

Zimbabwe opposition in court over post-vote violence

Members of Zimbabwe’s defeated opposition party were due to appear in court Saturday, accused of involvement in the deadly violence that followed this week’s historic elections.

The appearance by 24 people arrested in a police raid at opposition MDC headquarters comes a day after President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner of a vote which his rival Nelson Chamisa says was rigged.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, a non-profit group, said the opposition members were charged with “committing public violence” during Wednesday’s protests in Harare.

At least six people died after troops opened fire on demonstrators alleging that Mnangagwa had stolen Monday’s election from Chamisa.

The crackdown sparked an international outcry, raising grim memories of the violence that marred polls under autocrat Robert Mugabe who was ousted last year after 37 years of iron-fisted rule.

Mnangagwa has accused the opposition of fomenting the unrest, but said on Friday that he would set up an independent commission to investigate the killings.

“No democratic process is flawless,” Mnangagwa said, but he insisted the election was “free, fair and credible”, a far cry from the fraud-tainted polls of the Mugabe era.

He also called for unity, telling Chamisa: “You have a crucial role to play in Zimbabwe’s present and in its unfolding future.”

– Court challenge –

Chamisa, a 40-year-old pastor and lawyer, has urged his supporters to refrain from violence as he prepares to challenge the results in court.

“We won but they declared the opposite. You voted but they cheated,” he said on Twitter on Saturday.

Mnangagwa, 75, has said Chamisa is free to mount a legal challenge, though such a move appears to have little chance of success in changing the results.

Mnangagwa won 50.8 percent against Chamisa’s 44.3 percent, according to the Zimbabwe Election Commission — just scraping over the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a second run-off round.

Paul Mangwana, a spokesman for the ruling ZANU-PF party, said the courts would have 14 days to consider any legal challenge, after which the winner would be inaugurated within two days.

– Fresh start for Zimbabwe? –
A former right-hand man to Mugabe, Mnangagwa was chosen to lead ZANU-PF after the brief military intervention last November that ousted the veteran leader.

Mnangagwa was allegedly involved in state violence during the 2008 elections when the opposition pulled out of the run-off, following the deaths of at least 200 supporters in attacks.

Mnangagwa has hailed the first post-Mugabe polls as a “new beginning” and pledged to represent all Zimbabweans, including those who did not vote for him.

But rights groups have expressed concern that heavy-handed policing to prevent more post-election protests indicate how he intends to govern.

Amnesty International said more than 60 people had been “arbitrarily arrested” in a post-election clampdown on the opposition.

“President Mnangagwa must make good on his commitment to settling political differences peacefully, respectfully, and within the confines of the law,” said Amnesty’s southern Africa director Deprose Muchena.

Seeking to end Zimbabwe’s international isolation, Mnangagwa has made a priority of attracting badly needed foreign investment.

He pronounced the country “open for business” on Friday, adding: “We want to leapfrog and catch up with other developing countries.”

Mugabe, who had ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, left Zimbabwe’s economy in tatters, presiding over the seizure of white-owned farms and hyperinflation.

Health and education services, once strong, are in ruins, while millions of people have fled abroad to seek work.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of neighbouring South Africa was the first key partner to congratulate Mnangagwa, calling on all Zimbabweans to accept the result.

The United States, meanwhile, urged Mnangagwa to show “magnanimity” and the opposition to show “graciousness in defeat”.

International observers have largely praised the conduct on election day itself, when ZANU-PF also won a large majority in parliamentary elections.

EU monitors have however said that Mnangagwa, who enjoyed tacit military support and control of state resources, benefited from an “un-level playing field”.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a non-partisan observer group, estimated Chamisa could have won up to 47.8 percent of the vote based on its monitoring work

Zimbabwe Victor Urges Unity; Rival Challenges Election Result

Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, listens as a journalist asks a question, Aug. 4, 2108 in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Emmerson Mnangagwa called Friday on his country to unite, a day after he was declared the narrow winner of Zimbabwe’s presidential election, while the opposition leader said the poll was a fraud and pledged to challenge the result.

Both Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa held news conferences in Harare claiming they had won the election, the first poll since longtime leader Robert Mugabe’s removal from power.

The election commission said Mnangagwa took 50.8 percent of the vote, while Chamisa received 44.3 percent. Because Mnangagwa won more than 50 percent of the vote, he avoids a runoff election.

Mnangagwa pledged Friday to be president for all Zimbabweans and said Chamisa would have a vital role to perform in the country’s future.

The Movement for Democratic Change Alliance says it will hold protests as part of its effort to push the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release “proper results” of the July 30 general election. On Wednesday, protesters demanded the release of poll results in Harare.

Chamisa said his Movement for Democratic Change party wanted a “proper result to be announced.”

“We are not accepting this fiction,” he said.

Chamisa also condemned the killing of six people at an opposition protest this week and said authorities should be held accountable.

Chamisa supporters erupt

Mnangagwa called for an independent investigation into the election violence, which began when hundreds of Chamisa supporters, angry that announcement of the election results had been postponed, threw rocks at police outside commission headquarters Wednesday.

Police responded with tear gas and water cannons. The army was called in, and witnesses said soldiers beat and shot at marchers. In addition to the fatalities, 14 people were wounded.

Mnangagwa said the violence was “unfortunate.”

The United States said Friday that it was reviewing Zimbabwe’s election results and called on political leaders to “show magnanimity in victory and graciousness in defeat.” The State Department said it would continue to review the data before making “a complete assessment of the overall election.”

“We encourage all stakeholders and citizens to pursue any grievances peacefully and through established legal channels,” the department’s statement said.

Police blocked the roads to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission offices after protests rocked Harare, Aug. 1, 2018.

Zimbabwe’s election commission has said turnout for Monday’s election was high in most provinces, but that a large number of votes had to be rejected.

Mnangagwa was vice president and took over for the authoritarian Mugabe after the latter was forced from office last year.

Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF party must try to fix Zimbabwe’s ailing economy and poor international image while also dealing with a population demanding change after 40 years of Mugabe.

Zimbabwe election: Mnangagwa narrowly wins historic presidential poll after Mugabe exit

Zanu-PF leader took 50.8% of the vote, says electoral commission chair, who urges country to ‘move on’

Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s president and the leader of the ruling Zanu-PF party, has won the country’s historic and hotly contested presidential election.

From exile to election; Emmerson Mnangagwa’s timeline to victory.

Officials from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced early on Friday that Mnangagwa had received 2.46m votes or 50.8% of the 4.8m votes cast. Nelson Chamisa, the candidate of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), won 2.14m votes and 44.3% of the overall, the ZEC said. Mnangagwa needed to win by more than 50% to avoid a run-off vote.

Priscilla Chigumba, the chair of the ZEC, urged the country to “move on” with the hopeful spirit of election day and beyond the “blemishes” of Wednesday’s “chaos”, when the army opened fire on protestors in Harare, the capital, killing six people. “May God bless this nation and its people,” she said.

Mnangagwa tweeted that he was “humbled” by the result. “This is a new beginning. Let us join hands, in peace, unity & love, & together build a new Zimbabwe for all!” he said.

On Friday morning Chamisa called the results “fake” and said the electoral commission should release “proper and verified” numbers. “The level of opaqueness, truth deficiency, moral decay & values deficit is baffling,” he said on his Twitter account.

A few Mnangagwa supporters celebrated near the entrance to the conference centre where the results were declared but there was little in the way of public celebrations in Harare other than some car horns.

Charity Manyeruke, who teaches political science at the University of Zimbabwe, said she was delighted. “There is continuity, stability,” she said at the conference centre. “Zimbabwe is poised for nation-building.”

The Zimbabwean capital was calm on Friday morning, with pavements full of people going to work. Many gathered around newspaper stands. The army had a visible presence early but had withdrawn by 7am. A police presence remained, with two vehicles equipped with water cannon outside the MDC headquarters and an armoured vehicle full of riot police.

Most MDC supporters appeared resigned to the result and unwilling to take to the streets to protest.

The election was the first to be held in the former British colony since Robert Mugabe, the 94-year-old autocrat who ruled for 37 years, was ousted by the army nine months ago.The result may determine the future of the impoverished nation of 16 million people for decades to come.

Mnangagwa, 75, was a close aide of Mugabe and is implicated in atrocities committed under his rule. Chamisa, 40, is a former lawyer and pastor.

“We are just accepting whatever is there for the sake of peace, for the sake of business and calm. Life goes on. I wouldn’t support a protest. Check what happened this week when people tried it,” said Shepherd Warikandwe, a 38 year old chef.

Hazel Moyo, a 25-year-old supermarket cashier who had voted for the first time, said that protesting would make no difference.

“We will just have to put up with it. We need change but will have to wait some more,” she said.

The count took more than three days, leading to growing tensions and calls from the international community for a swift resolution.

Although the campaign has been free of the systematic violence that marred previous polls, the MDC has repeatedly claimed it has been hindered by a flawed electoral roll, ballot paper malpractice, voter intimidation, bias in the electoral commission and handouts to voters from the ruling party. Several of its complaints have been upheld by monitors’ reports.

Eighteen opposition officials were detained by police during a raid on the MDC’s headquarters in Harare on Thursday afternoon.

Professor Stephen Chan, an expert in African politics the University of London, said the election could be judged “plausible to credible” but could not be called “free and fair”.

Chan, who is in Zimbabwe, said he believed the problems with the count were due to incompetence rather than conspiracy but that the alleged irregularities before the poll could have been significant, especially in avoiding a run-off.

“The narrowness of the result suggests that Mnangagwa is the last of the Zanu-PF giants and that at the next election the opposition will have everything to play for,” he said.

The MDC had rejected the results even before they had been announced in full. Minutes before the final result, the MDC’s chairman, Morgan Komichi, made an impromptu televised statement at the commission, saying the election was “fraudulent” and that the party would challenge the results in court. He was then removed from the stage by police.

Mnangagwa’s share of the vote was lower than some expected. Zanu-PF had swept to a two-thirds majority in simultaneous parliamentary elections and was broadly considered the favourite by analysts. However, the opposition campaign had gathered significant momentum in the last days of campaigning.

The announcement was delayed while figures for Mashonaland West, a major province that is a Zanu-PF stronghold were finalised, and was disrupted by an MDC spokesman who said the party rejected the results because they had not been verified by polling agents.

All polling station data would be made available to the media and party officials, ZEC said.

Zimbabwe now faces new uncertainty and probably instability.

Chamisa told reporters before the results were announced that he was confident of victory and that his party would do “lots of things within the confines of legality and the constitution to defend our vote”.

Asked if he would tell his followers to protest, the MDC leader said that his people were already on the streets. “That’s where they stay. If anything I will need to call them off the streets … There has to be a government of the people,” he said.

Zimbabwe hopes to reintegrate into the international community after years of isolation. Foreign powers will now have to decide whether the elections give Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF the legitimacy needed to seek to rejoin institutions such as the Commonwealth.

Without a massive and rapid infusion of foreign aid, the country faces total economic breakdown.

Polls had earlier given Mnangagwa, the 75-year-old, dour former spy chief known as ” the Crocodile” for his reputation for ruthless cunning, a slim lead over Chamisa, 40, a brilliant if sometimes wayward orator.

Support for Zanu-PF has historically been strongest in rural areas, where more than two-thirds of Zimbabwe’s voters live. The party dominated its traditional heartland provinces of Mashonaland Central and East, while the MDC won the major cities of Harare and Bulawayo convincingly.

Ruling party loyalists defended the lengthy delay before the results were announced.

“The world is watching. We cannot go outside the law. We cannot make a mistake. We want to make Zimbabwe an example of democracy in Africa,” said Bright Matonga, a former Zanu-PF information minister.

For the first time since Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980 after a brutal guerrilla war against a white supremacist regime, Mugabe was not on the ballot paper. In an astonishing intervention on Sunday, the former president said he would not vote for his former party, Zanu-PF, or the current president, and endorsed Chamisa.

Saraki, Ortom, Tambuwal, Kwankwaso, others at PDP NEC meeting in Abuja

The 81st National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is holding today, at the party’s national secretariat in Wadata Plaza, Wuse Zone 5, Abuja.

Some of those in attendance, include the Governors who recently joined from the All Progressives Congress (APC).

They are: Governor Samuel Ortom (Benue) and Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto). Others are Governor Ben Ayade (Cross River), Governor Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), etc.

Senator Dino Melaye, Senator Barnabas Gemade and Senator Kwankwaso, were joined by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.

A tweet from PDP’s official handle read: “81st NEC Meeting: In attendance are, the Governors of Benue, Dr. Samuel Ortom, Sokoto, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Akwa Ibom, @MrUdomEmmanuel, Cross River, Prof. Benedict Ayade, etc. Also in attendance is @dino_melaye, Senator Barnabas Gemade, Senator Kwankwaso and others.”

DAILY POST was reliably informed that Ortom was given a rousing reception. As soon as the Governor’s convoy arrived at the National Secretariat, many party members who were outside the Wadata House began to chant ‘Ortom, Ortom, Ortom’, ‘We love you’, ‘Welcome home’ etc.

Inside the meeting hall, party stalwarts across the country warmly received the Governor with cheers and hugs.

Breaking: Alhassan resigns from Buhari’s cabinet to vote for governorship ON AUGUST 1, 2018

The minister of women affairs and social development, Senator Aisha Alhassan has resigned her position in order to contest the 2019 governorship election.
In the letter, however, President Buhari raised a condition of supporting her so long as she vies on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Alhassan had famously last September vowed that she would not support Buhari’s second term ambition on the claim that he had promised to serve only one term and that she would only support former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Abubakar who was at that time in the APC has now defected to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. It was yet unclear yesterday if she would follow Abubakar to the PDP. Alhassan was the candidate of the APC in the 2015 governorship election and lost it by the whiskers. In his acceptance of her resignation letter, Buhari said: I have today received your letter notifying me of your intention to contest for the governorship of Taraba State in the 2019 election. Let me thank you on behalf of the Federal Executive Council and Nigerians for your services as minister under this administration. I note with passion your past contribution to our great party APC during and after the 2015 elections. As you are aware I am totally committed to free and fair elections. Our policy is to support all APC candidates. I wish you well in your ambition to be governor of your state. Rest assured that all security agencies as well as INEC will have my full support to conduct free, fair and transparent elections in 2019

Breaking: Kwara Assembly Speaker, others defect to PDP

The Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly, Ali Ahmad, has defected to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Mr Ahmad defected alongside other members of the Kwara state assembly on Wednesday.

His defection is coming less than 24 hours after Senate President Bukola Saraki and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed also defected to the opposition party.

“Today, as I and other members of the Kwara State House of Assembly dump the APC for good, I heaved a sigh of relief,” Mr Ahmad posted on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.

“In 2014, I was terribly sad leaving PDP reluctantly with 36 other members of the House of Representatives. Today, I am the happiest leaving the APC for good.”

Details later…

POLITICSBREAKING: APC spokesman, Bolaji Abdullahi confirms exit from party

Despite insisting he would not leave the ruling party through the backdoor on Tuesday night, Abdullahi took to his Twitter page to confirm his exit on Wednesday.

“In view of recent political developments in the country and within the All Progressives Congress (APC), I have decided to resign my position as the National Publicity Secretary as well as my membership of the party with effect from today.

“In the last few days, I have had to endure the flagrant usurpation of my role as the spokesman of the party in a manner that I consider unbefitting of a ruling party and inconsistent with my ethical standards.

“I have served the APC honestly and to the best of my ability and when I stood for and won my election at the last convention, it was a keen desire to continue to do so.

“However, in a situation whereby my loyalty is constantly brought into question; my subordinates deployed to subvert my office; and my views constantly second-guessed on the basis of my political affiliation, it has become imperative for me to review my position,” he wrote.