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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 5th June 2018

NIGERIA: Ekiti governorship poll is vital test of strength for APC as President Buhari's record is questioned

Patrick Smith

This week we start with the critical governorship election in Ekiti State, Nigeria, and then to the United Nations which has published an important new report on migration trends within Africa. We also look at the claims of the power of the pro-Zuma clans within the South African government and ask why Kenya's anti-graft drive seems to have shifted gear.

NIGERIA: Ekiti governorship poll is vital test of strength for APC as President Buhari's record is questioned
Whether it was a rogue policeman or a would-be assassin, a volley of gunfire at candidate Kayode Fayemi and his entourage got the governorship elections in Ekiti State off to an ominous start. An officer who was said to have fired accidentally was later arrested, said a police spokesman.

The incident will focus attention on the 14 July governorship poll in Ekiti, which has one of the highest rates of educational attainment despite receiving one of the lowest levels of central government grant. The contest, which puts former Mines Minister Fayemi of the governing All Progressives' Congress against current Deputy Governor Kola Olusola of the opposition People's Democratic Party, will be a trial of strength between the two main parties with less than nine months before national elections.

The fight looks personal. Fayemi served one term as governor having fought a tortuous legal battle for several years, involving carefully collected forensic evidence, to overturn claimed victories by his PDP opponents. With a doctorate on international security institutions, Fayemi cast himself as a moderniser with allies such as Power Minister Babatunde Fashola. President Buhari is said to have personally encouraged Fayemi to run; the top brass of the APC are due to show up in Ekiti to back their candidate. That raises the stakes still further.

In contrast, outgoing governor Ayo Fayose is a populist and outspoken critic of President Buhari. He is also a relentless campaigner; much given to stopping his entourage on the road to meet and greet people, sometimes buying them lunch from local hawkers.

However, many of the civil servants in the state haven't been paid for the past eight months, a reality that challenges Fayose's claims to be a man of the people.

At the same time, Fayemi will have to defend the performance of the Buhari government, which has come under heavy attack in two recent opinion polls, one by NOI polls and the other by the Centre for Democracy and Development.

Both polls reported that less than a third of respondents thought Buhari was doing a good job on the economy, security or corruption. Disregarding such concerns, Buhari marked his three years in power with a national broadcast asserting there had been substantial progress against Boko Haram and against corruption while the government had launched the biggest infrastructure investment programme the country had ever seen.

AFRICA/UN: Migration within Africa strengthens economies and skills, says new UN trade study
As debate over migration polarises European politics, the issue is well down the list of priorities for African electorates. Yet in terms of total numbers and as a percentage of the host population, migrants are far bigger factor in most African countries than in their European counterparts.

A new study by UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) points to the practical gains from intra-Africa migration. It reports that 19 million people moved from one African country to another last year. About 17 million people left the continent and another five million came to live in Africa from other regions.

So far, the population shifts within Africa have been broadly positive, boosting skills levels and regional investment, according to UNCTAD. But the report's authors argue that such demographic shifts will require more economic planning to promote growth and diversification. To date, the only country where there have been widespread protests against migration has been South Africa under President Jacob Zuma's government.

SOUTH AFRICA: As his trial for corruption resumes, Jacob Zuma casts a long shadow over the Ramaphosa government
Former President Zuma still wields formidable political influence through tight-knit groups of top office-holders and intelligence agents. After heading various security organisations in the African National Congress during its exile years, Zuma has built up substantial grassroots loyalty which persists after his forced resignation as President.

Those loyalists will be put to the test when Zuma's trial for grand corruption linked to the country's US$6 billion arms procurement scandal resumes on Friday (8 June). At the initial hearing in KwaZulu-Natal, thousands of his supporters made a show of strength outside the court.

On Sunday (3 June), Minister of Transport Blade Nzimande claimed that Zuma has been working behind the scenes in the last few months to undermine the government's efforts to dismantle the corrupt networks that took over institutions such as the South African Revenue Service, Eskom and the National Prosecuting Authority.

Last month, Zuma publicly denied that he was planning to launch an alternative party to the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. Meanwhile, the government said it would intensify efforts to pursue Zuma's business allies, the Gupta family, who are said to have relocated their commercial headquarters to Dubai.

KENYA: Alarms on debt and accountability grow louder as officials scrutinise state institutions
The war on graft is finally on in Nairobi – at least, that's the official message. Five years ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to eliminate the corruption scourge from state institutions. He has been widely criticised for failing to follow through on that pledge. Since last year's disputed elections – and the celebrated handshake between Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga – the anti-corruption sleuths have been getting more active. In the week ending 2 June, over 20 officials and business people were charged for their role in the diversion of US$100 million in state funds.

Activist groups are now calling for investigations into the costings and contracts for big infrastructure projects such as the Nairobi-Mombasa railway and several of the road projects linking Nairobi to the hinterland.

This week, the government has launched a fresh round of vetting of the senior officials running the anti-corruption and revenue agencies, ostensibly to improve their efficiency. Some sceptics suggest the vetting might also be about ascertaining the officials' political loyalties.


EGYPT: Opposition parties sound warnings on public service cuts and price rises as President El Sisi starts second term

FRANCE/LIBYA: After meeting President Macron, Libyan politicians back presidential and parliamentary elections by 10 December

ETHIOPIA: Premier Abiy's government ends the state of emergency that helped drive his predecessor from power