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Published 21st November 2014

Vol 55 No 23


Nigeria

After the bombing, Jonathan declares

President Goodluck Jonathan during his declaration speech In Abuja.
President Goodluck Jonathan during his declaration speech In Abuja

Despite security and economic crises, Jonathan wins his party’s support for a second term while the opposition faces a leadership contest

The candidate's declaration speech is, by tradition, a key moment in the theatre of Nigerian politics. President Goodluck Jonathan's rally in Abuja on 11 November to announce that he would run for a second term in February captured many of its contradictions. The day before, a young man had walked into the morning assembly at the Government Technical College in Potiskum, Yobe State, and detonated a bomb in his rucksack, killing himself and 47 others. A flood of condemnation followed from top politicians and generals. Civic activists called for better security for schools and colleges. Yet politics as usual resumed the next day as party managers laid on a well choreographed rally at Eagle Square. Their aim was to reinvigorate a President who has been frequently on the defensive.

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BLUE LINES
THE INSIDE VIEW

Suddenly the political action has shifted to Africa's parliaments, as party alliances crack and legislators target the executive authority of presidents. The latest parliamentary fracas, in Nigeria, pitted the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) against riot police and ended in masked officers firing tear gas into the main lobby of the building on 20 November.

The clash started when the APC's latest recruit, Aminu Tambuwal, who has defected from the governing People's Democra...

Suddenly the political action has shifted to Africa's parliaments, as party alliances crack and legislators target the executive authority of presidents. The latest parliamentary fracas, in Nigeria, pitted the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) against riot police and ended in masked officers firing tear gas into the main lobby of the building on 20 November.

The clash started when the APC's latest recruit, Aminu Tambuwal, who has defected from the governing People's Democratic Party, turned up at the National Assembly. His attempt to carry on in his post as Speaker of the House of Representatives affronted his old allies and they locked him out of the building. Undaunted, opposition members of parliament scaled the walls to force a way in for Tambuwal. After hasty consultation, Senate President David Mark adjourned all sessions until 25 November.

A week earlier, riot police stormed South Africa's Parliament to remove Ngwanamakwetle Mashabela, an MP from the radical Economic Freedom Fighters. African National Congress MP and House Chairman Cedric Frolick ordered that she be forcibly evicted after she refused to withdraw her accusation that President Jacob Zuma was 'a thief'. More bizarre still, the centrist and hitherto mild Democratic Alliance MPs joined forces with more radical oppositionists and tried to shield Mashabela. Now the DA claims its MPs were injured in the ensuing altercation.

What lessons from these parliamentary punch-ups? Firstly, the use of force against political dissidents strengthens opposition morale and cooperation. Secondly, those who have seen police act arbitrarily against others may now spare some sympathy for parliamentary protestors.

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