February 6, 2015
Pham and Newman: Nigeria's Big Decision
At any time, elections in Nigeria — Africa’s most populous country, the continent’s largest economy and home to both its largest Muslim community as well as its largest Christian community — would be a pivotal moment, fraught with geopolitical, economic and strategic implications. However, while Nigerians have repeatedly danced dangerously close to the precipice throughout their history, the stakes have never been higher as voters prepare to go to the polls next week in what is perhaps the most competitive presidential race since the country’s transition from military to civilian rule in 1999 — and do so amid a “perfect storm” of security threats, humanitarian challenges and economic pressures.
In the northeast, the militant group Boko Haram continues to be on a roll, notwithstanding recent setbacks at the hands of forces from Nigeria’s neighbors Chad and Cameroon. The insurgents have successfully overrun and currently hold — or at least prevent authorities from governing — large parts of three states: Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, a total area larger than that of the state of Maryland. While the group’s assaults on the Borno State capital of Maiduguri have thus far been repulsed, just two weeks ago its fighters overwhelmed the garrison in Monguno (population 110,000) and took control of the town.