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Gregory R. Copley

Gregory R. Copley

Historian, author, and strategic analyst — and onetime industrialist — Gregory R. Copley, who was born in 1946, has for almost five decades worked at…

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Nigerian Presidential Race Potentially Impacts Global Energy Market

The conclave of Northern Nigerian elders, known as the Mallam Adamu Ciroma Committee of the Northern Political Leaders' Forum (NPLF), delivered, on November 22, 2010, its decision on the selection of a “consensus candidate” for the Nigerian Presidential elections of 2011, a decision which all four potential Northern candidates agreed to accept. The selection, however, was ultimately made along “financial lines”, supporting the candidate who agreed, apparently, to make all nine elders wealthy: former Vice-President Turaki Atiku Abubakar.

See Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, November 16, 2010: Nigerian Political Situation Again Moves Toward a Watershed.

The decision certainly had an impact on Nigerian political and social groups, as well as on knowledgeable members of the energy community, given that Atiku had amassed his multi-billion dollar fortune during his time as Vice-President of Nigeria under then-President (and now adversary) Olusegun Obasanjo. Atiku, significantly, had been rejected by the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as the Presidential candidate four years ago, having been expelled from party membership at the time. He has little appeal in the Nigerian electorate as a whole, and certainly even less in the South and South-South of the country.

His selection as the North’s man to contest the Presidency on behalf of the PDP, challenging incumbent PDP Pres. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan — a Christian from the South-South — sparks a division within the PDP. One Northern political source who had believed that the Northern elders would select on the basis of finding a candidate who would be nationally viable told GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs: “It turned out to be that they succumbed, and we got merely the best candidate money could buy, but not one who would work for the best interests of Nigeria as a whole.”

Significantly, the fracturing of the PDP caused by Pres. Jonathan (who had insisted on running in his own right for the Presidency he had inherited when the Northern-born President, Umaru Yar’Adua, died), and now the candidacy of Atiku, parallels (or has inspired) a growing tension between ethnic and regional groups in the nation, and major, long-term investors in Nigeria’s energy sector, such as Royal Dutch Shell and BP, have been moving to reduce their holdings in the country. This reflects the growing doubt as to the stability of Nigeria as a global oil and gas supplier under the Jonathan Administration — which has not been able to contain violence and unrest in the South-South region, the home of the energy industry — or under a potential Atiku Administration.

Nigeria and the surrounding Gulf of Guinea region (particularly São Tomé and Príncipé and Equatorial Guinea) currently provide some 25 percent of US energy imports, but the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is rapidly — with India — displacing the US and Europe as the primary investors in, and clients of, the Nigerian energy industry.

Even internal Nigerian sources admit that the risk of ethnically-based conflict in the country is rising rapidly and would worsen if Jonathan went ahead with his insistence on breaking the PDP’s alternating North-South leadership pattern by running for the 2011 elections, or if Atiku was to split the PDP by going head-to-head with Jonathan. The specter of civil war has been raised again, even though Nigeria was traumatized by this phenomenon during the 1960s’ attempted breakaway of the energy producing area, as a proposed state of Biafra.

However, as is typical of Nigeria’s complex political maneuverings, the selection of Atiku as the Northern “compromise candidate” is not yet the end of the story.

Immediately after the annointing of Atiku, the campaign manager for another Northern Presidential aspirant, the moderate and untarnished former National Security Advisor Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, Senator Ben Obi, was named as Director-General of the PDP’s “unified campaign” for the 2011 Presidential election. It is not known whether Sen. Obi had anything to do with it, but now PDP leaders have begun questioning whether the new “consensus candidate” had actually met the requirements to be associated with the PDP. Atiku had been expelled from the PDP during the latter stages of the Obasanjo Presidency.

Significantly, Lt.-Gen. Aliyu Mohammed (Gusau) and other former Northern political contenders have worked together to ensure that the running mate for the next Northern candidate — ostensibly Atiku at this stage — would come from the South-East: ie: he would almost certainly be an Igbo. Sen. Obi has been suggested for this post.

Depending on how the internal battle now shapes up within the PDP between Atiku and Jonathan, it is possible that some degree of stability could be retained in the coming administration if, yet again, Lt.-Gen. Mohammed was to resume the post of National Security Advisor and given the authority to do what the politicians have been too busy to do: create stability and security in the Niger Delta area, and resume reliable deliveries of oil and gas. Aliyu Mohammed is the only Nigerian official with a sufficiently capable and honest background capable of keeping the peace in the Delta and in the Northern and other areas hit by militant unrest, while at the same time having close friendships among the heads of most major governments around the world. But even he would not be able to suppress the rampant corruption of either Jonathan or Atiku in the Presidency.

Whatever happens — and the race for the Presidential nomination is by no means over — Aliyu Mohammed seems to be the only factor capable of reassuring the international energy sector, and delivering a stable Nigeria in the future. He would be vital to any new administration, should he agree to resume life as a public servant.


The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced on November 23, 2010, that Presidential elections would be held on April 9, 2011. Attahiru Jega, Chairman of the INEC, also stated that campaigning by political parties would commence on December 1, 2010, and that all political parties could conduct their primary elections between December 1, 2010, and January 15, 2011. The runoff elections for the office of Governor or President would, if required, be held seven days after the announcement of the results.

Analysis by Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs.

(c) 2010 International Strategic Studies Association, www.StrategicStudies.org

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